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Austin Kieffer Racing in Bellingham
Dan Harris Challenge: the Fenn SL still on top!

Finally, another race!
With the SoCal series finished, I have been longing for a start line for over a month. Training alone can be fun and certainly affords me a measure of flexibility, but when you are always racing the clock in practice, you come to savor the opportunities to line up against actual competitors.
This weekend, I traveled up to Bellingham to compete in the Dan Harris Challenge, a nine-mile out and back in the Bellingham Bay. I was excited to be back in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, paddle with the Bellingham paddlers (the largest surfski community in the country!). I was a little uncertain about racing, though. I was feeling a little beat up after a car hit me on my road bike less than a week ago, I was unable to bring up my own Fenn Elite Glide on the plane, and paddling legend Greg Barton would be racing too. Thankfully my crash wounds seemed relatively minor and DJ hooked me up with a Fenn Elite SL! With one of Ocean Paddlesports’ best boats waiting for me, all I had to do was bring up my paddle and gear and race on!
Race morning was windy, rainy, and chilly, but when the horn went off I didn’t even notice the weather. A double surfski, powered by two 1000m-sprint athletes, took off, off the line and I fell in comfortably on their side wake. I was happy to let them do the work, but as the chop picked up and their initial pace slowed down, I was itching to pull. About a mile into the race I decided to gamble and take the lead. I wanted to focus on my own rhythm and dictate the pace from the front. The double and Greg fell in behind and I pulled upwind, through chop, to the half way island. As we rounded the island and the runs began to build, Greg pulled up on my side and drew even with me. I knew it was time I had to put down the hammer. I put my head down and let the SL find a rhythm. I surged and surfed through gradually building waves and my surfing felt strong all the way to the finish. I crossed the line elated, over a minute ahead of second place, and happy with a strong victory. And the SL paddled beautifully! Pitted against the V14, it handled comfortably in the upwind slop and really shined on the building bump! OPS News item image

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