Alexandra McLain, a Bowdoin College sophomore from Stockton Springs, recently finished second in the U.S. Surfski Championships in San Francisco.
Only an Olympian from South Africa topped McLain in the championships, held Sept. 20-21, which means McLain is the fastest American female Surfski paddler.
According to a Bowdoin press release, a Surfski is the fastest type of ocean kayak. Built for speed, they are long (up to 21 feet) and narrow (only 15 inches). Paddlers sit on top of the Surfski, and as their name suggests, can actually surf the ocean’s swells.
“All the 6 a.m. practices and lifting sessions have been more than worth it for the outcome of my race,” McLain said in the press release. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
McLain had quite a summer, wining the Maine state championship for the third year in a row, as well as topping the fields in the New England and East Coast championships.
In San Francisco, with her father/coach watching from the shore, McLain lined up with 100 men and women of all ages for a mass start for the 17-mile race in the rough waters of San Francisco Bay.
“I had a terrible start and was with the last few boats about three miles in,” McLain said. “I think I was still just getting the jitters out. Then as we went under the Golden Gate bridge, the waves got a lot rougher.”
But McLain, who prides herself on handling harsh conditions with ease, began passing women and gaining on faster men. Racers went out of the bay and into the open ocean about five miles, then turned around. With the wind, waves and current with her on the way back, McLain says she surfed the whole way to the finish.
“I had no idea what place I was in when I finally hit shore, jumped out of my boat, and ran the 15 yards to the finish line,” McLain said. “Right as I crossed the finish line, someone yells to me that I was the second female in. I cannot describe to you how I felt knowing that I had gotten second place.”
McLain finished the course in 2 hours, 47 minutes. She was the only paddler from the East Coast and the youngest paddler in the race.
“I was the only female competing who has not yet gone to the Olympics. The only female I lost to was Nikki Mocke who was from South Africa and just got back from competing in Beijing,” McLain said.
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