Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I Gotta Tell You About Philippe!

So I gotta tell you about Philippe! This guy totally blew my mind. He was a member of the BOSS masters team (athletes over the age of 40), and his team came in 3rd place overall. Those are some fast guys, I don't care how old they are!

Philippe Boccara is a six-time olympian kayaker. He competed for France, and later for the US in kayaking, starting in 1980, and going all the way until the year 2000. Yes you read that right: SIX-TIME OLYMPIAN!! Honestly, when I heard that, it didn't quite make sense; you might as well say he's from planet Krypton. However, when you lay eyes on Philippe, it all makes sense: he is approximately eight feet tall, and his shoulders are so wide, and his hands are so big, he doesn't even use a paddle -- he just windmill's his arms through the water at like 20 knots! I never saw Philippe without a giant smile on his face. Philippe strikes me as the kind of guy who could prove himself handy in a wide variety of situations. "Uh-oh I'm trapped under a boulder -- Philippe, could you move that for me?" or perhaps "Uh-oh, I'm in a bar-fight against six other guys -- quickly Philippe, make fists with your hands and spin 'round like a top. I shall duck!"

Here he is, smiling kayaker god that he is:
Note: the man Philippe is standing next to is not short. In fact he's above average height. 

While Philippe is obviously a kayaking wonder, he's also clearly a little spacey. First off there was a rumor swirling around Ski to Sea that Philippe once slept through one of his olympic events. This has yet to be confirmed, but if it did happen, I'm sure the French didn't mind too much: "ah c'est la vie Philippe -- I 'ope at least you 'ad a nice snooze!"

Second, according to numerous sources, Philippe was engaged in conversation when his team's mountain biker finished his leg. Someone came running down to alert him: "Philippe, it's time to paddle!" Off he went, kayak in hand. He still got his boat to the water in time, but barely. 

Third, Philipe nearly missed the final buoy. We were all sitting on the beach, waiting for him arrive. Instead of heading straight for the buoy some 300 meters off the shore, Philippe emerges following the coastline tightly. People yell and point, and eventually Philippe realizes his error. He has to double back, certainly costing him the "top gun" award for the fastest kayaker (he lost it by a mere 18 seconds -- the results are skewed). 

Lastly, after exiting his kayak, Philippe comes charging up the hill with his trademark grin: 

He flies through the finishing chute, awarding high-fives to spectators along the way, and runs straight past the bell. Once again, the crowd alerts Philippe to his error, and once again, Philippe has plenty of time to double back and ring the bell, thus officially stopping the clock for his team. 

"Philippe, you must ring the bell!"

Philippe Boccara is a man who will loom large in my memories from hence forth.  Thank you Philippe -- spacey or not, you are a god among men. Keep paddling!

1 comment:

Brandon and Heather Nelson said...

Sam, that is an AWESOME description of a man-god whom I shall also never forget. I'm proud to say I have a role in your blog post about him, and in his Ski to Sea experience last year. I was the person Philippe was chatting with "in the chute" when his mountain biker arrived. We all had a great laugh when he was startled suddenly into race mode. Then, approximately 40 minutes later, as I paddled the last half-mile of the kayak leg, I looked up to see a lone paddler heading straight OUT from the finish line beach. I was having a great run, so it lifted my spirits tremendously! It was Philippe making his way back to the final buoy -- and opening the door for me to slip into the "Top Gun" spot as fastest kayaker of the race. Ahh... Philippe!!! Don't worry... to this day I tell the story of how I became Top Gun as a total fluke, because the half-speed-boat-half-man-god kayaker made a critical navigation error, or he would have beat me by a full minute, no doubt. Great memories, man.