Chattajack is held the last weekend of October and affords the opportunity to take in the gorge’s spectacular fall colors. Fall season in East Tennessee hills is something everyone should witness at least once in their lifetime, but every once in a while a cold snap can leave folks running for their warmest winter coat or technical cold weather paddling gear.
This year the Chattajack weekend did exactly that. As racers began watching extended forecasts the week before the race it was looking like we were in for a significant cold front. At one point temperatures were predicted to be as low as mid to high 20’s race day morning. The one redeeming thing was water temps were still in the high 70’s. Having spent the last 2 winters paddling year round in Chattanooga I knew it wasn’t too much of an issue, but for a number of paddlers it was a wake up call.
Registered racers contemplated what technical garments to wear on race day. Some racers went with conservative options in case of falls, such as wet suits or dry suits. Seasoned racers confident of not falling in took greater chances wearing anything from shorts and no booties to running vests and/or compression garments.
The race was delayed due to heavy fog leaving racers cold but once the horn blew heart rates went sky high. Folks were shedding layers as quick as their stroke cadence. People at the back of the race pack said it looked like a yard sale of gear with gloves, thermal hats, and various garments that fell off boards.
Heavy fog delayed race start.
Chattajack 2013 will go down as a great day in the history books for the east coast race scene thanks to Mother Nature’s curve balls. Kokatat was a sponsor of the race this year and awarded a men and women’s Tropos Light Breeze paddle top, which is a great technical piece for SUP training in cold weather conditions. I personally like tops like these for a variety of reasons. They’re lightweight and pack easy but can trap in heat when you really need the core warmth. The key to winter endurance standup paddling is first to avoid falls. If you do fall in, get back up on your board and put something on to block the wind as quick as possible. Once you’ve done that immediately start paddling at a high tempo to elevate your heart rate. Your body heat will become trapped in your top and help buy you some time till you can get a hot shower. That’s my personal strategy for when I’m going longer distances in the winter. If winds are going to boost and you’re going to be surfing the bumps, consider something a little more significant since falls can be more frequent.
Kokatat Tropos Light Breeze tops were awarded to the male and female who got the coldest during the race this year. A female suffered a fall before the race event started, creating a difficult challenge to an already challenging racecourse. She still managed to persevere and completed the 31 miles! Congrat’s April. The male recipient was Dalton, one of our juniors, who had chattering teeth for a good deal of the race day but still managed to finish in 10th place in the biggest division, Men’s 14’ SUP.
Thanks Kokatat! - Ben Friberg ,Team Kokatat