The “LOST” Mills! Where do I start!? …. I am sure you have already heard but we really ALL got LOST at Lost Mills
Having Barrika Surf Camp as my European home base in the Basque Country has been perfect. There has been big SUP Races every weekend here in Europe and its been a great place to relax and train for the European Tour, as well as catch some fun waves surfing every day!! After Oleron I spent the week training and relaxing for The Lost Mills Race in Germany, I was super excited for this event since guys like Connor Baxter, Danny Ching, Georges Cronsteadt and Chase Kosterlitz were going to be there; a truly elite group of paddlers who don’t attend much Waterman League World Race Series events.
When I arrived to Lost Mills it seemed to be it was going to be a great weekend, all kind of activities at the event site and plenty of people around. I met with the Starboard Rep, Roland, after trying to find my way through the Metro train system, getting lost on the way from the airport! (This might have been a fore shadowing of what was to happen haha) Roland set me up with a 2014 14’ x 24” Sprint for the event and a paddle to borrow.. Once again I was riding equipment I was not familiar with but still was feeling strong and confident to finish well.
The first day of racing was the 200 meter time trial sprints, each person raced on their own, one at a time, which was a trip, something I have never tried before so I was excited to give it a go! It was a really tough race because there was a lot of inconsistent wind; some competitors got strong downwind gusts and others didn’t, and this actually had a big effect on the times! Danny Ching won a full 3 seconds ahead of everyone else, I ended up finishing in 7th place, just 1 second away from being in the top 3, the times were so close!! This event was not part of the Champions tour points but it was a great race and good fun. Saturday’s distance event was the big race that counted for the points and prize money. Some of the competitors like George Constead and Chase Kosterlitz chose not to race in the 200meter sprints to save their energy for the distance..
I was hungry for this 18km distance race, I’ve really been liking the long distance competitions lately and felt confident I could finish top 3 or 4 in this event! The energy at the start of the race was really cool, probably close to 100 paddlers and everyone was stoked up! At the start it was close to a sprint pace for the first kilometer, separating the packs and defining the draft groups. I was up in the top of the pack in the leading train off to the side of Danny Ching, Connor Baxter, and Jake Jensen for most of the way down the lake, about the first half of the race.
What makes this race real tricky is the 200 meter beach run with the 14 foot boards around the damn, and this really winded a lot of the competitors including myself!! After the first beach run, we came to the end of the lake, close to where we are supposed to turn around and head back up. But this is where we all had a very unpleasant surprise.. The top 20 or so lead paddlers turned at the wrong buoy and we didn’t realize it until we probably paddled about 200-400 meters off course.. Casper and Pual Jacson (Jacko) notice our mistake when they turned their shoulder and saw that Eric Terrain’s train way in the back was continuing in the opposite direction..
They whistled at us and we all just stopped paddling for what seemed like a minute and we were all baffled.. Then it was back to reality when some of us decided to continue fighting to catch up and others decided to finish the race with a leisure paddle after being bummed with our loss in time and at least 40 positions.. My biggest mistake was obviously not knowing the course and trusting the best paddlers in the world to know it, but none of us had it right..
My next mistake I made was delaying a bit too long after we realized we had been lead off course, I should have right away flipped around and motor boated towards Danny and Connor because they had been firing their way back towards the right direction.. I hesitated, because I was confused, before following them again. It felt like NasCar passing so many people, I have never in my life of racing seen so many people in front of me, but I was able to make up a lot of ground and go from top 3 to around 50th place and then back up to the top 15..
It was a really long sprint picking off train group by train group to gain our ground back and I was leading a train of a big pack of racers back up to the top train, but after sprinting an extra 500 meters to gain ground, what really killed me was the second 200 meter beach run… Every step I took my legs were cramping sucking my knees up to my chest and I had to force each step back to the ground… When I got to the water I lost a big gap on the lead train so again I had to work so hard to catch up to them, but it wasn’t over.. I called for my Starboard team mate Dylan Frick who was now just behind me from the last big train to pull to my lead so I could draft him for a bit and drink some water and wait for my legs to stop cramping!!
By the time I found my next wind to push, the top 5 or so had really pulled away from making their own train and we got stuck for a while picking off people in the 2nd train, but it was just too late as the finish line was coming closer and closer.. I ended up finishing in 14th overall and definitely was not stoked, but I was proud of all of us paddlers in the top that went the extra mile and pushed hard to make up our ground from our mistake.. Most distance races for safety concerns and for Athletes peace of mind will have an escort boat to make sure everyone is on the right course and is safe, but they did not have an escort boat at the Lost Mills event and this was the only thing that I thought was a big mistake for the event, because it cost some of the worlds best paddlers their race.
And there was even more drama for Chase Kosterlitz and Georges Cronsteadt. When they crossed they approached the finish line they dropped their board and PADDLE. The rules state you must carry your paddle across the finish line at every race so Chase had to run back and get his paddle and cross the line again giving up at least 2 positions, but George was either to exhausted, or just was too frustrated after all the drama of the race and just didn’t go back to get his paddle and recross the finish line so even though he crossed in the top 10 spots, he was disqualified.
Another lesson learned: Learn from us, learn the course, and remember your paddle across the finish line!!! Haha Once we finished there was huffing and puffing, people throwing up , everyone complaining about not having an escort boat, and all kind of hum bug towards the event directors for this. But at the end of it all we were all laughing it off and chalked it off as a very important lesson well learned after a few beers and some Vitargo.. Huge congrats to Eric Terrien on his second Lost Mills win, he raced smart and fast! And of course congratulations to Danny Ching, Connor Baxter and Beau O’Brien for not hesitating for a second to turn around and continue fighting and make it all the way back up to the top 5 after our big mistake that lead us way off course! Good Work boyz!!!!! Next year we’ll know the course.
Until the next one!! See you on the water!! And follow all our crazy adventures around the world on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ZaneKekoaSchweitzer?ref=hl or Instagram: zaniac1
Aloha and Mahalo,
Zane Kekoa Schweitzer