This year’s Cow Patty Paddle race was one that will not soon be forgotten. While it takes a special paddler just to attempt this race in a normal year this year’s event looked a bit more like a mud filled carnage fest. (pictured short course starting line - all photos by River Town Racers)

If you haven’t heard of this race before its definitely one you need to have on your radar. The two courses, one 5.5 and the other 11 miles long, are on the Estero Americano. The race starts just outside the town of Valley Ford and winds down to the ocean sandwiched between rolling green hills and open cow and sheep filled pastures. Those cow pastures are what gives the race its name. Cows as you know make patties. “The water is not as bad as it looks, it’s worse.” Quipped John Dyea at the skippers meeting .

 Paddling in Estero American

The event is a charity event that sees all proceeds go to the Sonoma Land Trust and the Valley Ford Volunteer Fire Department and at 27 years running is one of the longest paddle races around. Given the venue the race draws the characters of our sport and many are sporting bovine based costumes.

To add excitement to this year’s the race was held at a pretty low tide. While its impossible to get lost, make a wrong turn and you’d find your self in only inches of water. Actually, even if you made a right turn you found yourself in inches of water. “Resistance training” was the order of business as dragging fins and paddles stuck in the mud made for an extra-long race.

The 2019 Cow Patty Start finish line

At one point I adjusted my stroke to ‘Gondola’ mode. Flipping my paddle upside down and literally polling my way down the Estero. I even flipped my board upside down and paddled it fin up to reduce the draw and that’s when it hit me. My fin was sporting the new FCS 2 Connect fin system that requires no tools for removal. So out the fin came and now I was literally on the ideal craft. Surfski’s that were foundering ahead of me started to get reeled in as I hydroplaned over only an inch or two of water. While my path was meandering all over the place I actually learned some new tricks using rail rolls to keep the board straight. I would guess I paddled about 7 miles of the course sans fin.

Cow Patty 2019 Epic Surfski v11

As we approached the turnaround the scenery was amazing. As we eased around the last grassy corner the smell of and sound of the ocean made for an amazing contrast. The Estero was breached which made paddling straight on out to the ocean a tempting option.

Carter Johnson goes canoe mode

The ocean however marks the turn-around spot and to summarize the spirit of the race one only must see the “buoy turn”. Racers paddle straight on up on to the sandy beach that separates Estero from ocean where two cowstumed race officials are ready with cow-based poems racers must recite. Recitations must be done with feeling and passion or these cowficials will simply force racers to read some more.

This year’s paddle of the day has to go to Carter Johnson (pictured at right). The etiquette at this year’s start was not exactly cowurteous. The bleeting sheep in the background must have muffled the starters countdown as many of the racers jumped the gun to make the narrow slot that is the 'starting line'. Carter got fleet rolled byt the early starters and moved off to one side where his paddle struck a rock and the blade exploded. With out hesitation he split his paddle in two and completed the entire race using only one blade putting his surfski in Super-Canoe mode.

This was not the only cowarnage (pictured below) on the day. Crashed boats, broken rudders, dinged paddles, mud-swallowed-footwear, and even a scraped-up human or two was just the cost of good times.

Race Carnage

After racing the fleet retired to Dinucci’s Italian restaurant just off the starting line in Valley Ford. It’s a legendary after party that lives by the motto “What happens at Dinucci’s, Moo’s at Dunucci’s”.

Results really aren’t relevant at a race like this unless you are scoring who had the most fun and with all the smiles around it looked like it was a photo finish. Just finishing this years race was a testament to one's perseverance.

Special thanks to all the volunteers who make this race happen. It’s one we try not to miss each year and we hope you to will put this on your calendar. While its one tough mudder of a race you will not soon forget it.

Results Click here

Photo Gallery Click here

cow patty race on estero americano


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