Paddling is fun. Paddling to honor a friend is meaningful. Showing up at 3:00 am on a cold January morning makes for a memorable beginning to an epic morning on the water. I drove down to Baby Beach in Dana Point Harbor from Los Angeles late Sunday evening and camped out in the back of my Jeep so I would be “on location” for the early morning launch of the second annual Paddle 4 Ray. I had paddled at a handful of events with Ray Nosse and we always made a point to connect wherever we were from the Adler Paddler in Long Beach to Race the Lake of the Sky in Lake Tahoe. I missed the inaugural Paddle 4 Ray organized by Performance Paddling and was crossing the Catalina Channel in an OC-6 on the day of his celebration of life last September. I therefore wanted to do everything I could to make it down for the paddle this year.
I had been suffering from a cold all last week, I still have a lingering, phlegm laced cough that just won’t go away, and despite having spent considerably more time paddling an OC-1 than a SUP over the course of the past few months, I didn’t hesitate at the thought of joining the Performance Paddling crew for a 32 mile paddle (16 laps around Dana Point Harbor) to remember our friend.
Ray Nosse commemorative stone – Paddle 4 Ray.
Twelve paddlers, plus Mama C. – a Baby Beach icon, arrived for the 3:00 am start and after a few obligatory pre-event photos we were led out into the dark water by Performance Paddling founder Anthony Vela. Vela has spent so much time paddling in Dana Point Harbor he can probably navigate the area with his eyes closed and he proved to be the perfect host/lap counter for the event which quickly took on the air of an expedition. In a move to keep the circular course interesting, we alternated between a clockwise and counterclockwise course each lap. We moved along at an approximately 4.5 mph pace, at times forming draft trains and at other times moving en masse across the water.
The wind gradually picked up creating an up wind and downwind leg of equal length as our procession continued its transit through the harbor. Somewhere between the 20-24 mile a bit of soreness began to creep into my shoulders as I occasionally adjusted my hand position on my paddle to relieve the pressure on my lower back – the latter a tip passed on from Vela which originated with Danny Ching, a guy who is no stranger to grinding, long distance paddles.
I’m not sure if everyone from the original 12 stayed until the end – each lap became a bit of a blur, but numerous additional paddlers popped in and out throughout our memorial paddle. We briefly paused for roughly two minutes after each lap to share nutrition, hydration, hugs and high fives. Jenny Kingsley brought a batch of homemade golf ball shaped nutrition snacks, aka Power Balls – they were incredibly good and I’m confident they taste equally amazing when you’re not worn out from paddling.
New paddlers were ceremoniously welcomed upon arrival and departed friends sent off with equal veneration. It didn’t matter if you paddled two miles or 32, what mattered is that you were there.
You are missed by many Ray Nosse, but your memory lives on.