Easton raid. Readers may recall my coverage of the 2008 police raid in Easton, Connecticut, wherein cops hungry for a big drug bust stormed into a house, killed one of two occupants — and found only residual drug traces. Susana Guizan, the mother of the slain man, filed a civil suit against the six towns which contributed men and materiel to the raid. A newspaper reported the case was supposed to go to trial in October 2011 but the attorney for the Guizan family told me it is currently scheduled for May or June of this year. Discovery is complete and the court is now litigating motions for summary judgment.

Smedley’s gravestone. Permitting is underway to have Samuel Smedley’s fallen gravestone removed and reinscribed. Vanguard Bill Lee, who painted the art composing the cover of Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer, is scheduled to appear before the town selectmen this week as part of the process. While there’s no doubt Smedley will have a refreshed gravestone sometime this year, I don’t believe it will be ready by June 13.

Paddleboarding. My boys and I had another strong season of adventure, albeit one cut short by Irene and the ensuing high bacteria counts in the water. Alas, the increasing mass of my two lieutenants means we’re edging closer to our Versa Board’s maximum weight allowance of 300 lbs. The Versa is still great on rivers or in the marshes but on the Sound with all three of us it’s like paddling a rock. I think this year I’ll pick up an inexpensive inflatable board for my oldest and then either keep the Versa for a final summer or sell it and buy a lighter board for me and the youngest. So if you’re in the market for a used but well-maintained Versa Board, make me an offer. Unique visitors in 2011 were nearly double those in 2010, with just under 37,000 more hits as well. The top five countries of origin also made more sense than in 2010: USA; Germany and the Netherlands (logical considering my last name); and China and Russia. These last two results can only be a combination of hackers, spammers, and government censors. Seriously — you should see the spam queue.

Fly Swatting

For reasons near and dear, I enjoyed this narrative of a dad entering a standup-paddling race with his six-year-old:

As the starting horn blasts, we hang near the back of the pack to stay clear of the really gung-ho racers. But soon I realize most of these folks are pretty new to SUP. Like a cheetah in a herd of wildebeest, I’m off. My inner competitor is awakened.

I start stroking. And we start passing. I decide then and there I’m not going to let anyone pass us. Nobody.

“Shit. The guy with the kid just passed us,” I hear a pair of twenty-something guys laughing. “That’s not good.”

Others weren’t as chill about it. In particular, a fit brunette in her early 40s on a tricked-out SUP whines as we pass.

“That’s not fair. His kid is paddling too.”

She’s serious.

Oh really? I think to myself. Wanna borrow my 45 pounds of extra baggage?

I haven’t done any SUP racing (yet) but I can totally imagine this same scenario playing out in my life. The woman is healthy and wealthy and yet somehow believes she’s being disadvantaged.

Over the last few years I’ve been enrolling in fewer road races even though I’ve been running just as much or — especially in 2009, when I was training for the NYC Marathon — more so than ever. I think that as my running has become more internalized, more ingrained and inscribed — it’s not something I do, it’s something I can’t not do, if that makes any sense — I’ve begun to prize the solitude of it above all else. Just experiencing the mile I’m in is what I want. A few months back I blocked an account on Twitter — the feed of some big racing group — because its manic aphorisms were being retweeted into my timeline, stuff like, “If you didn’t come to win, go home,” and I was like, Oh fuck you. Block. I’ve encountered similar stuff in real life too, from people like the woman above to race officials — most often from race officials, in fact, who are usually school coaches too small-minded to divorce the act of running from competition. The only people who need to worry about winning are elites, and just because the majority of runners aren’t elites doesn’t mean we should cower at home in shame. You compete against yourself. That’s the beauty of running.

Last night Mrs. Kuhl and I watched Fight Club, which I hadn’t seen since its 1999 theatrical release. And just as before, I was enthralled by a film so existentialist it might as well beat you into the basement concrete with a copy of Existentialism and Human Emotions. Yet if you click over to Wikipedia and read the various critical interpretations of the movie, you’ll find nary a word about Sartre or Camus or inauthentic living. The closest you’ll find is a reference to Tyler Durden being a “Nietzschean Ubermensch” — which he is, although it’s clear the writer means it only in the physical sense of Brad Pitt’s six-pack.

Is there any of Nietzsche’s concepts so misunderstood as the Ubermensch? Maybe will-to-power. The Ubermensch has been distorted into a villain, into a Greek god, genetically sculpted yet callous to anything but his own wants. Whereas what Nietzsche intended was neither somatic nor carnal; rather the Ubermensch is that person who transcends the pettiness of others, who rises above social conformity to embrace his passions ideals, whether they’re running or paddling or veterinarian medicine or whatever. To exist and enjoy existence, like a father and son on a paddleboard, free of the moral judgments of those who desire to reduce you. “I see you wearied by poisonous flies,” spoke Zarathustra, “Before you they feel petty, and their baseness glows and smolders against you in invisible revenge… Flee, my friend, into your solitude and to where raw and bracing air flows. It is not your lot to be a swatter of flies.”

Jackson Don’t Surf!

The WSJ on “the fitness rage of the summer:”

In lakes, rivers and bays where the surf is never up, Americans in skyrocketing numbers are standing on boards and paddling, a balancing act that strengthens the muscles of the legs, buttocks, back, shoulders and arms.

“Stand-up paddle surfing is a valuable new form of cross-training, in part because it’s so low impact,” says Cindi Bannink, a triathlon coach in Madison, Wis.

For an industry long dependent on California and Hawaii, the trend is rapidly forging new sales territories. “Suddenly, our fastest-growing markets are places like Chicago, Boise and Austin, Texas,” says Ty Zulim, sales manager for Surftech International, a surf-board maker and distributor based in Santa Cruz, Calif.

For years I dithered over buying a canoe or kayak until finally, this past May, I pulled the trigger on something else entirely: a Versa Board.

The manufacturer, LiquidLogic, advertises the Versa Board as a hybrid kayak/paddle board, though it might be more accurate to describe it as a stand-up kayak. It’s hollow and made of polyethylene, just like a sit-on-top kayak, with more of a prow and keel than a surfboard. It also has a retractable skeg to help you maintain a straighter course and avoid fishtailing. But it’s also much flatter than most SOTs with barely any gunwales.

Regardless, the end result is stand-up paddle surfing — and I love both the Versa and the sport.

My indecision over whether to buy a canoe or kayak hinged on several factors. I wanted a vessel light enough to port without the help of another adult but also large enough to accommodate my two peeps, each of whom weighs about 50 lbs. I also wanted something that would be equally at home in the salt marshes and creeks near my house and off the beach in Long Island Sound. I’ve done canoeing and kayaking, often in salt marshes, and enjoy them equally. Canoes can accommodate people and gear, but are notoriously susceptible to waves and difficult to re-enter (or even launch) in swell. They’re also awkward to move about on land alone. Kayaks are a better option for my conditions, but are limited in the number of riders who can hop aboard. My best choice for a kayak was to buy a two-person SOT and then try and squeeze my extra son onboard. But I hesitated, unsatisfied.

Then, back in the spring, I was at the beach when a young couple appeared, walked down to the water, launched a pair of paddle boards, and proceeded to serenely paddle across the cove. The third option struck me.

SUP is a phenomenal workout for arms and shoulders but especially the core. As the trainer above notes, it’s very low impact — you’re so distracted by the scenery and getting to where you’re going that you don’t realize until the next morning how sore your muscles are. It’s easy on the back too, unlike kayaking. Whereas in a kayak all power comes from arms, shoulders, and back, on a paddle board the torque of the stroke is diffused throughout the body, easing the strain. And, again, it’s the best core workout I’ve ever experienced. I’ve always had a weak middle without any definition to my abdominals. That’s changing.

Paddle boarding can be tricky. Offshore, you need a good pair of sea legs, and I’ve had several rough moments when the chop has swamped my Versa. The toughest is when the swell hits on the beam, as is often the case when I’m paralleling the beach — and this in the relative calm of the Sound. The Versa is perfect for my needs, but if you intend to spend most of your time on open water and you’re not packing 50 lbs. of chicken nuggets and chocolate milk fore and aft, you may want to buy a more traditional board. It’s instructive that the photo accompanying the Journal story shows Laird Hamilton and his daughter paddling on a river, not offshore. Ditto for Gerry Lopez in this New York Times article.

Paddle boarding is receiving crazy amounts of media attention these days. It deserves it. If you’re on the outside looking in, go get yourself a board and paddle. The water’s great.