Catalina: A Magic in the Misery

Story reposted from Carter Graves: Life of a Waterwoman

story: Carter Graves / photo: RaceMill

Carter Graves was kind enough to share this post with us from her blog, Carter Graves: Life of a Waterwoman.  When it comes to kicking arse, she had one hell of a year.  She won the Molokai to Oahu race in July and then 4 short weeks later returned to California to not only defend her title, but broke the women’s stock record in the process.  Carter, congrats on a great season and thanks for sharing your story with us and the endurance world!

The Catalina Classic was a tough race, but extremely rewarding.  These 32 miles were the last miles of the paddle season for me and I could not wait for a true celebration afterwards.  I arrived on Catalina Island feeling excited and confident, as I was in my element in the home California waters.  After Molokai and the unknown big Hawaii water, I was looking forward to racing on the coastline I train everyday in.  It was nice coming into a race that I had done already as well.  I knew the drill and the logistics came much easier after a year under my belt.  I loved coming to the island and seeing my whole paddling family stoked on the sport we are doing and sharing our passion for the ocean.

The Catalina Classic is considered the granddaddy of all paddling races and has been going on since the 1950s.  It is a 32 mile prone paddleboard only race from Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach.  Not too far right!  Haha… most people think we are crazy for paddling this far, but even more crazy because we come to this race for “fun” and enjoyment.   There is a certain shared respect among the paddling community and our sport becomes so much more than who wins or loses, but the process of racing and enjoying the moments in the ocean.  The Catalina Classic epitomizes this feeling as I enjoyed every moment of it… even in the pain at the end.

This year’s Catalina Classic showed me why I paddled distance and why endurance racing is my favorite.  Yeah like I said most people think I am crazy for what I do… paddling 32 miles across the ocean… 6 hours plus of physical and mental struggle… sharks swimming under us… umm I’d say I am a little extreme.  But the thing is, I love it and that pain I put my mind and body in is so worth it at the end of these races.  All other endurance athletes get what I am saying… the intense focus you are forced to channel into your paddling is a meditation to me.  There is nothing else on my mind except the next stroke I am taking.  I am completely in the moment for 6 hours of my life and that is a beautiful and joyful feeling. Ultra marathon runner and author Dean Karnazes says it best, “People think I'm crazy to put myself through such torture, though I would argue otherwise. Somewhere along the line we seem to have confused comfort with happiness. Dostoyevsky had it right: 'Suffering is the sole origin of consciousness.' Never are my senses more engaged than when the pain sets in. There is a magic in misery. Just ask any [paddler].”

Emotions and feelings come out during these races as well as you are forced to be in your own head for these six hours… and there is no one to talk to except your boat captain yelling at you.  I feel God strongly during these long paddles as my body begins to weaken throughout the race, and I am completely reliant on my mind not giving up.  I pray a lot and repeat scripture over and over in my head.  Coming so close to God in the middle of the ocean on a paddleboard is what I live for…

This years Catalina Classic was especially sweet as I finished in a record breaking time of 6 hours and 8 minutes and was able to defend my title from last year.  I was also stoked to claim the “single-double” which is winning the Molokai 2 Oahu World Championships and the Catalina Classic in the same year.  I could not believe it when I reached Manhattan Beach Pier, but I knew I had put the work into this year’s training and raced for my heart and the little girl inside me.  I learned that when you forget about everything else, and focus on what you heart is telling you and live for those feelings, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.  Paddling is just sport for me, but it is so much more as I learn everyday to be a better human and live for my heart.  I have so many thank you’s, but I want to give this one to God and thank Him for blessing me and allowing me to share His love with the world.

XOXO Charger

To follow Carter on her journey down-under, visit
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