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Paddling Bermuda

Nate Humberston tells us about his circumnavigation of the island of Bermuda.

“If you haven’t paddled in Bermuda, make it a priority” were the first words Nate said to us after his spectacular 40-mile paddle around Bermuda. We caught up with Nate and asked him some questions about his experience.

Do the locals paddle around Bermuda often?

The local paddlers are on the water quite regularly, but the circumnavigation is not something done very often. Paddling around the island requires a certain commitment in terms of time and preparation, and this contributes to a sense of adventure and achievement.

Tell us about the time you managed. Can you compare it to the longest races you have done.

Every circumnavigation will differ according to variables such as wind, tide, start/finish point, etc. Starting and finishing at Spanish Point, I made it just under six hours. I was happy that conditions allowed for a rounding of the whole island, but I will certainly do a few things differently the next time. I am confident that I could get the time closer to five hours.

In any case, this was the longest paddle I have done (time or distance), topping my participation in the 31-mile Chattajack race in Tennessee last October.

You always seem to be willing to try new challenges. You won this race last year, but came back for another grueling test of your endurance? Why?

Yes, I love finding new challenges. Apart from being exciting, they help give us direction in life. It’s good to have a sense of working toward something.

Last year’s race course was modified due to unusually forceful winds affecting the south coast of the island. We had a blast paddling 29 miles through waters that we would not have seen during a circumnavigation, but I was determined to return one day to make it all the way around the island. Once I encounter a challenge that inspires me, I can’t just let it go.

How did the day unfold?

Around 7 a.m. my Bermudian host and I walked down the hill from his house to launch our skis and to make the short 2-kilometer paddle out to Spanish Point to meet another paddler joining us for the first leg of the circumnavigation. The colors cast by the rising sun over the intensely blue water, vibrantly painted homes, and lush vegetation of the island were spectacular. We took a counterclockwise direction and actually had a bit of early excitement as we picked up the pace to sneak in front of a massive cruise ship making its way into the Royal Naval Dockyard.

It’s incredible what a diversity of landscapes one sees while rounding the island: rugged cliffs, bright towns with gleaming white rooftops, lighthouses, stone fortresses, forests, secluded beaches, unique rock formations, etc. And then, of course, there is the crystal clear water beneath that takes on brilliant shades of blue as it spreads toward the horizon. One paddles over white sand, pink sand, coral, and rock reef. I had some fun chasing runs up the south coast before making my way around the eastern end of the island where iconic

Bermudian longtail escort

Bermudian longtail birds escorted me through impressive cliffs and rock features. A strong headwind hit me as I turned to paddle the north shore back to Spanish Point, but even the slow going of the final two hours couldn’t take the smile off my face. My speed skyrocketed over the last kilometer back to Spanish Point and upon passing the channel pole marking my circumnavigation I was flooded with a sense of both pride and gratitude stronger than I could have anticipated – pride in what I had accomplished, and gratitude for the stunning natural beauty of Bermuda and for my Bermudian friends who supported me in so many ways during my stay on the island. It was a great day.

How did you prepare for the event?

Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised that I handled 40 miles as well as I did. I train mostly for races that don’t exceed 15 miles, and recently I’ve been devoting more sessions to sprint training. On average, I train about one hour per day during the work week, and I find time for longer paddles on the weekend. I did a handful of 2-3 hour paddles with the North Florida Watermen in the weeks leading up to Bermuda. While it is important to get a few longer sessions under your belt to avoid shocking your body with 40 miles, my opinion is that you really don’t need to do lots of massive paddles leading up to something like this. The key is to be mindful and efficient with whatever time you do have on the water. “No junk miles!” as my coach, Lee McGregor, is fond of reminding his paddlers.

Oh…and bring plenty of hydration!

Your normal ski is the V12. How did you fair on the all new Epic V10?

Yes, I’m a big fan of my V12 but I was very happy with the brand new V10 loaned to me during my stay in Bermuda. The new V10 rides similarly to the V12, with the updated hull design seeming to guide the ski onto runs almost before the eyes can find the line. The V10 was noticeably more stable than the V12, and this certainly didn’t bother me while paddling nearly six hours through a variety of ocean conditions. The new V10 is a fast boat that should be perfect for paddlers looking for something more stable than the V12.

We always get invited to Bermuda to paddle. There is a small, but very passionate surfski community there? Can you tell us more about that?

Accept the invitation! Members of the Bermudian surfski community recognize their luck to have a such beautiful, accessible, and diverse paddling home and they are so eager to share it with visitors. These paddlers will help you find a boat, accommodation, and the best places to visit in Bermuda. They genuinely love their island and they couldn’t possibly be more hospitable.

A beautiful place to paddle and dive!

Are you doing it again next year? We hear there might be a relay?

Absolutely! My competitive side wants to better my time, but it’s also just a ton of fun staying on the island. As I mentioned, the Bermudian paddlers are keen to share their waters and they are looking to draw more surfskiers to the next event with the relay option. This should create some great competition as well as make the event more accessible to those paddlers somewhat less sure about a solo rounding. Keep an eye out for details coming in the near future.

Any pointers for anyone who wants to do this paddle?

The most important point to make is that paddling Bermuda is far more attainable than most people might believe. Flight costs from major airports on the east coast are quite reasonable, and the local surfski community is very willing to help with finding a boat on the island and with other logistics.

More specific to the circumnavigation, I have several recommendations for an efficient route. Prevailing winds in Bermuda tend to be out of the southwest and generally build through the day. Ideally, you could start at first light on one of the beaches by Fort St. Catherine in the northeast of the island. Paddling clockwise from this point in the early hours of the day would be best to complete the generally rougher south coast and headwind section of the route while winds would are lightest. Favorable conditions would see the southwest wind build into the second half of the circumnavigation to bring you home with a solid downwind paddle back to Fort St. Catherine. Of course, this is not at all what I did and I still enjoyed the paddle tremendously.

Were you ever in the Bermuda Triangle?

I certainly was. You can’t make it around the island without passing through part of the Triangle. I guess I got lucky. But then again, I suppose I could have been abducted by aliens and this is all just a dream as I hurtle through space to a galaxy far, far away…

Am I in the triangle?

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