Race on Water – Standup Paddleboard Race at the Lake Arthur Regatta

Ian Smith of SurfSUP Adventures & Micalla Mikus of Freeport Paddleboarding getting ready to race (Photo Credit: Mike Briggs)

Ian Smith of SurfSUP Adventures & Micalla Mikus of Freeport Paddleboarding getting ready to race (Photo Credit: Mike Briggs)

A few years ago when my sister was in law school, she spent a summer working in Hawaii.  She returned to the east coast with some legal knowledge, a tan and a love of surfboard sports.

I have become a huge fan of kayaking around Pittsburgh – if you haven’t seen Downtown Pittsburgh from a kayak, you are missing out.  And I am now an even bigger fan of standup paddleboarding on the three rivers.

Fortunately for me, there are some great people in Pittsburgh who are helping to get more people on the river and I am no longer the only person who drives around town with a surfboard on their car.  Over the past year, I’ve spent a bunch of time paddling on the river and lakes of Western PA with Ian Smith of SurfSUP Adventures.

Last summer I was talking with Micalla Mikus, who is the owner of Freeport Paddleboarding Company.  Micalla had just returned from competing in a SUP race in Maryland.  I’m not a huge fan of running 5ks, but a paddle board race peaked my interest.

Two weeks ago – I participated in my first race at the Brady’s Run Gear and Cheer Festival.  Thanks to Micalla and Ian my first race was a success and a ton of fun.

It was a 1 mile race and it took me 16 minutes to paddle the mile, the winner finishing in 9 minutes.  If I can paddle a mile, I promise you pretty much anyone can do this.  I would love to see more people try paddle boarding and I think this race will be a ton of fun.  If you have questions about standup paddleboarding or the race this weekend.  Please leave a comment below.

First Annual SUP Race at the Lake Arthur Regatta at Moraine State Park

lake-arthur-regatta-new-logoThis weekend is the annual Lake Arthur Regatta – Surfsup Adventures and Freeport Paddleboard Company are hosting a Stand Up Paddleboard race that promises to be a fun time.  You don’t need to have a board or any experience to compete.

Lake Arthur SUP Race

Saturday, August 2, 2014
Registration – 3pm
Location: Lake Arthur, Moraine State Park, 225 Pleasant Valley Road
Entry: $20 – Register online here

If you need a board – register online and send an email to info@surfsupadventures.com.  I know there will be plenty of boards available.

Urban Hike Heads to Millvale – Macaroons, Murals and More

Maxo Vanka Murals, Millvale - 1

Maxo Vanka Murals, Millvale – 1 (Photo credit: the justified sinner)

Urban Hike is one of the best ways to check out the city and meet some new folks.  The Urban Hike organizers have mapped out a route, found the best places to eat and lined up some local experts to share some local history.  This hike to Millvale will make a stop to see one of the best kept secrets in Western PA – the Maxo Vanka Murals.

Urban Hike Millvale

Saturday, July 19, 2014

10am – meet at Jean-March Chatellier’s French Bakery, 212 North Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15209

Facebook Event – https://www.facebook.com/events/1439057913021684/

Join us for a 4-mile walk in Millvale this Saturday, July 19th. The hike begins at 10:00 a.m., but we suggest you arrive early to grab a treat from the highly-regarded Jean-Marc Chatellier’s French Bakery. As we hike, we’ll catch a couple of highlights in the business district, peak in on the Max Vanko murals, speak to some Franciscan nuns about their peaceful and eco-friendly Millvale home, and, as always, walk on residential streets to get the real feel of the neighborhood.

This hike is a bit flatter than most, but it’s still Pittsburgh, so there will be some hills and city steps. Come prepared with your walking shoes, a bottle of water and, if needed, an umbrella. We hike rain or shine.

Don’t let the parking meters on North and Grant Avenues fool you, they are free on weekends. Park wherever you can find a spot near the bakery.

If you have time after the hike, stick around for lunch at Sidelines Bar and Grill with the Urban Hike crew or brunch on your own at the original Pamela’s — the P&G Diner — which is within a block of our starting spot at Jean-Marc’s.

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday!

[fb_embed_post href=”https://www.facebook.com/events/1439057913021684//” width=”550″/]

View of Millvale (Photo Credit: Millvale Bogough Facebook Page)

View of Millvale (Photo Credit: Millvale Bogough Facebook Page)

Urban Hike Links

Discounted Tickets for Banff Mountain Film Fest this Sunday!

BMFFPoster2013If you are a lover of the outdoors or a lover of outdoor documentary films – you don’t want to miss the Banff Mountain Film Festival which will be stopping in Pittsburgh this weekend.  Hosted by Venture Outdoors this is a great chance to check out the best in outdoor films and to support Venture Outdoors programming.

This is the view of the Los Angeles river from behind my hotel in Studio City, CA

This is the view of the Los Angeles river from behind my hotel in Studio City, CA

Even if you don’t consider yourself an outdoor lover – I think you will enjoy these films – which include some spectacular cinematography.  I’ll admit that I didn’t think I would like outdoor films, but after attending Banff a few years ago, I have attended the Fly Fishing Film Festival and the Paddling Film Festival last year.  I am still talking about the Los Angeles River documentary that was screened at the paddling film festival.

Banff Mountain Film Festival Pittsburgh Screenings

  • Saturday, April 5, 2014 – 7pm
  • Sunday, April 6, 2014- 5pm

Tickets range from $14-$20. Click here to purchase tickets through ShowClix.

[use code IHEARTPGH To save 10% on Sunday tickets]

Banff After Party at The Porch

porchI want to invite everyone to head over to the Porch following the Saturday night screening for a little after party and a chance to learn more about Venture Outdoors.  I will be there, along with several other Venture Outdoors board members and staff.  (If you are interested in getting more involved with Venture Outdoors – please let me know – we are always looking for volunteers, trip leaders and new board members).

Banff After Party 
Saturday, April 5, 2014 9:30pm-11pm
The Porch at Schenley Park
Free to attend – cash bar
RSVP on Facebook

Banff Mountain Film Festival Trailer

How John Norton sails The Point and the three rivers… and survives

Image courtesy of John Norton.

Image courtesy of John Norton.

John Norton came to Pittsburgh from Australia in the early ‘80s, but it wasn’t until he moved Downtown in 2005 that he seriously began considering sailing the three rivers.

As he explained at a lunchtime talk on June 28 at Bruno Works, being immersed in downtown life and exploring the river trails made him wonder why he couldn’t have a sailboat. After all, there were already kayaks on the rivers. Why couldn’t the experienced sailor have a sailboat docked nearby, ready to be set out on whenever the conditions best suited him?

Few had seriously considered sailing the waters by The Point before (the Pittsburgh Sailing League is now defunct, plus, they would “cheat” and block the waterways for their excursions), so the University of Pittsburgh professor faced several problems. First of all, people thought he was crazy for trying. The complicated wind and water conditions, tricky topography of Pittsburgh, and bustling river traffic made the endeavor unfavorable, to say the least.

Sailors, by nature, are very cautious people, and those who have ever sailed before can understand why. A sailboat is completely at the mercy of swiftly-changing weather patterns. An experienced sailor needs to be able to react quickly and accurately. At The Point and on the rivers, while unpowered watercrafts have the right-of-way, they still are at the mercy of powerful speed and river boats.

Image courtesy of John Norton.

Image courtesy of John Norton.

Potentially worst of all are the barges, which do have the right-of-way since they are so large, fast, and hard to maneuver. Whenever John notices a barge, he immediately pulls over to the shore and waits for it to pass, since the situation can quickly and irrevocably become dangerous– potentially fatal. There is a lot of barge traffic on the rivers but they do move in definite channels, and maps of their routes are available online. Generally avoiding the center of the rivers is favorable.

Secondly, a lot of prime waterfront has already been spoken for, making it difficult to find a marina. He wanted a dock that was downstream from The Point, so that if the wind conditions died during his sail he could simply float back home. He managed to find a suitable spot by the West End Bridge to keep his Hobie Bravo, a 1-2 person catamaran he chose for its rugged construction, speed, ease-of-use, and lack of center hull (which has a less chance of getting stuck on something).

Image courtesy of John Norton.

Image courtesy of John Norton.

So in 2009, John set out on his 12-foot boat to sail The Point. Trial and error played a large part in those early sails. He began maintaining and evaluating reports of the river currents and wind conditions on the days he was sailing, noting how they affected his journey. Ideally for sailing, the current is flowing one way and the wind is blowing, more strongly, in the other direction. However, the winds and currents where the rivers meet change frequently and unexpectedly.

Northwest winds are the best for sailing the Ohio and the Monongahela Rivers, but not the Allegheny, as the buildings of the North Shore block the gusts. Mount Washington also causes significant problems in terms of wind direction. The ridge blocks southwest winds (which there are an abundance of this time of year), and gaps in the hills cause erratic winds from every which direction to swoop down the river.

“You spend a lot of time looking at flags,” John said about figuring out the wind direction when he’s on his boat. “I wish they put flags all on the river. I’m hoping the [Point State Park] fountain will be a bit of a flag.”

John maps his sail and posts them on his website. This one is of a particularly fast sail, with speeds shown in different colors. Image courtesy of John Norton.

John maps his sail and posts them on his website. This one is of a particularly fast sail, with speeds shown in different colors. Image courtesy of John Norton.

Forecasts for both the wind and current are available online on multiple websites, although they should be cautiously interpreted as they aren’t always reliable. John has spent a significant amount of time and effort figuring out these patterns and what it means for sailing The Point. He posts all this data, plus his overall experiences and a GPS map of his routes, on his website and encourages others to use it to educate themselves.

So why does John do it? Risk all those potential dangers, meticulously noting and scrutinizing weather conditions? For the fun, of course. He describes it as a visceral, challenging, yet rewarding, wonderful experience, beautifully explained in a bit of prose he wrote on his website titled “Why We Sail”:

“We look down at the water and watch the little bits of weed and debris pass. We look back at our rising wake and listen to the quiet gurgle of water moving under the hull. ‘We’re sailing,’ we say. It is a magical feeling.”

Image courtesy of John Norton.

Image courtesy of John Norton.

New Perk – StandUp Paddleboarding in Pittsburgh

Standup Paddleboarding in Western, PA

Standup Paddleboarding in Western, PA

I’ve got just 6 days to raise the money for a seat on the inaugural Millennial Trains trip.  What has been most incredible is the response that I have received from the Pittsburgh community.  Thanks to all of our readers who have been sharing and supporting this project.

As you can see I’ve got a ways to go to raise the rest of the $5000 for the trip.

I’ve just added a new perk to the Millennial Trains Project fundraising page – A StandUp Paddleboard tour!  Have you seen some crazy folks driving around Pittsburgh with a surfboard on their car?  Have you been wondering where you can use a surfboard on the three rivers?

Over the past two years, I’ve spent many an afternoon paddling the Allegheny River from a standup paddleboard.  And I’ve made some new paddleboard loving friends – like Ian Smith, owner of SurfSup Adventure.  Ian has generously offered to help support my project by offering a paddleboard tour as one of the perks for supporting my project.

If you contribute $80 or more to the crowd-funding page – you can join SurfSup Adventures for a standup paddleboard lesson and tour.  Once we’ve successfully reached our funding goal – we’ll pick a date/time that works for those who are interested (likely a weedkday evening or weekend morning).  Beginners welcome, no prior paddleboarding experience necessary.

Click here to make a contribution to my Millennial Trains Project and reserve a spot on this paddleboard tour.

Ian and I took some paddleboards to help Paddle Without Pollution with a river clean up

Ian and I took some paddleboards to help Paddle Without Pollution with a river clean up

About SurfSup Adventure: SurfSUP Adventures is an independently owned outfitter specializing in guided Standup Paddle Boarding excursions, eco-tours, instructional workshops, SUP yoga, and board and equipment sales in the Pittsburgh area and throughout Pennsylvania.  With SurfSUP, experiences are customized for individuals and groups of all ages, skill levels and desired locations.  Standup Paddle Boarding, also known as SUPing, offers a unique and exhilarating new way to enjoy our local waterways.  From serene lakes and gentle rivers to wild class III whitewater, SurfSUP Adventures provides an experience you will not forget.

You can learn more about the Millennial Trains Project here.