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© 2018 by VanillaGorilla Paddle Surf.

  • The Vanilla Gorilla

The road to the WPA Championships

Am I crazy? After taking a 4 hour cab ride to get on my first 10 hour flight, I asked myself this question, and the answer was no. After sitting in an airport in Mexico City for 6 hours waiting to get on my 2-hour flight after my second 10-hour flight that was preceded by another 8-hour layover I asked myself this question, and the answer was, “YES, I’m a freakin KOOK!”

The total travel time from my residence in Pune, India to the Club Solaris Resort for the WPA Championships in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico was over 40 hours.

Why would anyone in his or her right mind travel that far to be a part of an event?

I’ll tell you why…


Although, it has taken me a while to sit and recap this trip due to the weeks of jet lag, it is an event worth revisiting. Aside from my obvious love for paddling EVERYWHERE, I wanted to be a part of the WPA Championships, do some surfing, and, most importantly, I wanted to see friends! It was my first full year paddling, and I couldn’t wait to go see where I was with my paddling skills, and visit with many of the paddlers I’ve met at other competitions throughout the year. It couldn’t have been better! We were in beautiful San Jose del Cabo, I paddled a great stretch against some awesome competition, and I got to catch up with great friends like Lexy Malone, Ed Pierce, Betsy Risner, Kristin Thomas, Don and Jenny Alderman, Mike Evatt, Mickey and Peggy Munoz, and EJ and the YOLO team. Then, it only got better when I met new friends like Pierre, Alfredo Salifranca. Each had their own story, and I had a lot of catching up to do!

Lexy came all the way from NC to be the official Mullet Support Crew for the East Coasters (and Betsy, we won’t hold her residence in Utah against her)! With her insane driving skills, KT taping abilities, and all-around positive attitude, she got out of a few sticky situations and made sure we didn’t ache too badly after the competition.


Ed decided to come at the last second, and it was funny how he had made the decision. Very unfortunately, Ed had recently lost his wife, Barbara in a boating accident. Unable to attend any of the paddle-outs organized in Wilmington, because I was living in India, I sent Ed a custom painted elephant. However, I had Corey send it out, and it arrived with no name from an address Ed had never seen. It was driving him nuts! He found Corey’s name, but before Corey left for India, Ed had only met him once, and spent the entire Key West race ahead of him. Needless to say, Corey remembered the backside of Ed quite well, but Ed didn’t get to chase Corey for 12 miles so there was no lasting imprint. Thanks to Facebook, Ed was able to find a Corey Curtis and see that he was “engaged” to me, April Zilg! Ah-HA! His mystery was solved; he went to my Facebook to thank me for the elephant, where he saw all my posts telling all of my friends to “GET THERE” (to the WPA Championships). He had no idea he was qualified to go until he saw my posts, and with that, he bought a plane ticket and joined us the next week! I am so glad Ed decided to join us; it wouldn’t have been the same without him!


Oh, goodness, Betsy. Where would I begin? If I started, where would I end? The trip would not have been Crazy Cabo without the flamboyant-words and quick-wits of a Risner (I think I made that sound good and G-rated!).


It was fantastic catching up with Kristin, who is currently working on a big project! You probably hear her interview on Radio Chum, but I was excited to hear all about what she was up to.

Don and Jenny Alderman arrived from South Carolina with kids in tow. Don killed it on the elite course, and Jenny took first in the recreational technical race. Don was also out there every day after the event for some surfing. Somehow they managed to pack all of that in, and go sightseeing and snorkeling with the kids. I think they get active-life parents of the year award! Mike came from good ole SC as well, gave an awesome performance in the races, and was always up for some surf!


Mickey paddled the grueling elite course on Saturday, and I’ve never seen such amazing skills on a dance floor until I saw Peggy dance at the awards Sunday night! These guys rock! Turns out the secret to being so cool, according to Mickey, involves beach walks, a form of “fake tai chi,” and beach meditation. I can’t give away the exact recipe, but I’m going to give it a try.

So… What about the RACES??


I suppose I should do some sort of race recap, that is what we all went for, sort-of. I went for some surfing too, as did others, but I digress.

The Saturday race consisted of a mass beach start. Elite racers hit the water first, followed by the open class. The winds were coming slightly over the left shoulder, but provided just enough downwind push for those able to string swells together that day. Some paddlers were pushed a little too far towards the tourist beaches to the right of the course, and they had a tough finish. Others, myself included, opted to stay in the middle of the course. This was initially rewarding with plenty of bumps, but the constant corrections finally came at a cost. Those opting to swing out to the left had slightly slower start, but were able to do a straight downwind for the entire second half of the course – this was the line of the day with the lead pack traveling at just under nine minute miles. After 11 miles, racers finished at Palmilla Beach. Joel Mason from Australia led the entire race on a prone board, Chase Kosterlitz led the male SUPers, and Jenny Kalmbach led the women.


Sunday brought the technical race, with whipping winds and white-capped waves. The open racers battled first; this was a tough “open” race. After the open run was complete, elite racers had to watch as the course buoys were spread even further apart! I had 2012 Cold Stroke Classic flashbacks. Racers also had to hit the beach in between laps, adding to the overall challenge. Overall, I loved the performance of my new Hobie 12’6” Race Raw, it did an excellent job in the chop, and its profile was low in the high winds making it easy to control. Maybe one day I can do the board justice! Fernando Stalla and Ryan Helm had been practicing downwind runs by first going upwind, which paid off for this race because they were moving! Candice Appleby showed off her water-woman skills and took first place.

Aside from the main races, there was the kids’ race, a relay race, the after party, and the turtle release. There was definitely something for everyone at the WPA Championships, and if you also like to surf, it was an excellent destination!!