The 2019 California OC-6 racing season came to a close this month with the annual Catalina Channel Crossing. The season ran just over five months from April to early September and is divided into three components: Iron Season – which concluded with the California State Championship in late June; Sprint Season – takes place in July and is a bit of a dying breed here in California; 9-man Season, which involves a crew of nine paddlers and an escort boat. Practices took place in the evenings and weekend mornings, therefore the gear I wore was impacted by the time of day as much as the time of year.
Vaikobi VDRY Vest: Designed with a highly breathable, lightweight shell and mesh interior, the Vaikobi VDRY Vest proved to be a game changer during evening OC-6 practices in April and May. The water in Southern California isn’t warm and when you combine the cold water with a practice slot from 5:30 pm to sundown, there isn’t a lot of heat left in the day to keep your body warm. Gone were the days of racing from the canoe at the end of practice to put on warm, dry clothes. The Vaikobi VDRY Vest proved to be the perfect outer layer to keep the wind and ocean spray at bay.
Shelta Raptor V2: My go-to high performance sun hat for all of my outdoor pursuits. The Raptor V2 is my favorite Shelta Hat due to its extraordinary ability to wick away moisture and keep me cool while paddling. The narrow brim width is perfect for paddling and helps block ocean spray as well as the sun’s harmful rays. I don’t go on the water without it.
Vaikobi VCOLD Pants & Shorts: I’ve been wearing Vaikobi’s VCOLD paddling pants for years and picked up a pair of their new VCOLD Flex shorts this season. I wore the VCOLD pants through June before I transitioned to the shorts. Even then, I know I pulled on the pants for at least one cold and overcast Sunday morning practice later in the year. Vaikobi’s VCOLD pants and shorts are hands down the most comfortable, performance driven paddling gear on the market today.
Vaikobi VCOLD Base Layer: A thin athletic cut long sleeved top that can be easily layered with other gear. This was another essential item during cool to cold evening workouts in April and May. I’ve been wearing my Vaikobi VCOLD base layer for years. It’s the perfect item for taking the chill out of the air during cold paddles.
Vaikobi VCOLD Vest: Made from a similar construction as Vaikobi’s VCOLD pants and shorts, the Vaikobi VCOLD Vest was another go-to item for keeping me warm during those cold and wet evening practices. The best part about the VCOLD vest is it can be layered up or down depending on the conditions. I wore mine as a stand alone top, beneath my Bluesmiths hydrophobic paddling shirt, on top of the Vaikobi VCOLD Base Layer, and with the Vaikobi VDRY Vest. The Vaikobi VCOLD Vest is without a doubt one of the most versatile pieces of paddling gear around.
Vaikobi VCOLD Top: When the air and water temperature are cold and I know it isn’t going to get any warmer, I reach for my Vaikobi VCOLD Top. I have an older style that has been superseded by the VCOLD Flex and VCOLD Hydroflex, but it still gets the job done. While this model is no longer available, the overall durability of the construction of this top speaks to the quality of Vaikobi’s product line.
Bluesmiths Lane Hydrophobic Shirt: I’ve been wearing the same Bluesmiths Lane Hydrophobic shirt for at least four years. I like it so much I regularly rinse it in a bucket, hang it up to dry overnight, and wear it again the next day. What makes it so good? The hydrophobic construction doesn’t retain any water. When paddling in cold water, this means you don’t end up with a cold, soggy shirt by the end of practice (or realistically, once the first wave rolls up over the gunnel of the canoe).
Body Glove 3T Barefoot Requiem Water Shoes: Sure a lot of traditionalists still prefer to go barefoot, but realistically the advantages of wearing the right footwear outweigh the alternative any day of the week. A key component of outrigger paddling is effective leg drive. This means firmly planting your feet. The Body Glove 3Ts allow you do plant your foot with confidence and focus on paddling. They also protect your feet at the end of the race. You also never really know where you might end up after crossing the finish line. Sometimes you might pull up on a sandy beach. Sometimes you are directed to a boat ramp. Sometimes you might have a long walk back to the spot you left your gear. Sometimes you go straight from the finish line to loading all your club’s canoes. Either way, having a great pair of lightweight water shoes will make the journey much more enjoyable.