G. Niblock on the Original SIMSUP S3. Photo: J. Chamberlain

Friday, April 18, 2014

Four Mile to Mitchells Downwind Run - April 17 2014

Thursday April 17 2014 - DW 4 Mile - Mitchells - Shaka (Just over an hour). A weird wind day as the NWS missed a cutoff low coming up from the SW that pushed southerly wind into the Bay, Santa Cruz and almost the North Coast. It was overcast and cloudy well into the afternoon and I feared that the Salinas Valley low pressure would be too slow in forming to create the necessary pressure gradient to crank up the 4 Mile run. But the NWS was insisting on small craft advisories for nearshore and outer waters so in spite of no wind showing on the Lane cam I loaded up and headed to Mitchells.

I arrived early and parked at the Lane so I could watch for the wind to come and have a device connection. In the slowly clearing cloud cover there was almost no wind and it was nearly glassy. I drove over to Natural Bridges to check it and same thing, almost no white caps showing north of NB's and Longs. I was pretty sure it was over for today. So I headed back to Mitchells to wait for the other paddlers.

Jens, Mike and Jeff showed up on time and they still wanted to go. I was thinking no go. Mark called and said he was going to be late so I said we'd wait. This turned out to be a good thing as the wind was steadily showing some improvement with weak whitecapping now showing on the outside. Mark arrived and by then I figured that there would be decent enough wind around the corner and WTH, I'm here, lets go. That turned out to be a good decision as the wind was in the 20's at launch and stayed steady for almost the entire run. I put the wind at just a little bit less than on Tuesday's run, but still plenty to have fun on. (Lesson learned, trust the NWS forecast and know that it's going to be windier up north.) I felt more comfortable than ever on the Shaka, did a lot of walking around on the board, and caught a bunch of bumps and glides.

Downloaded and subscribed to a new weather, wind, swell app called Predict Wind. http://forecast.predictwind.com/ It uses two models to make forecasts and appears to be comprehensive and accurate. Time will tell. At $19 it's expensive and designed for rich sailboat people, or middle class weather geeks like me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Downwinder of the Season & The SIC F-14 Wide Glide vs. Angulo Shaka

It's been a weird Spring. The wind usually picks up in April and the water temps are usually cold. Low 50's. It's not uncommon to get the windiest runs of the year in April. But not this April. That's the bad news.

But the good news is that things are looking better. A pressure gradient formed north of San Francisco and created small craft advisories and blustery conditions in the outer waters. It blew up a decent short interval wind swell and combined with the Salinas Valley thermal low served up 20kt. plus winds for the Four Mile to Mitchell's Cove North Coast downwind run.

We put the word out on the Santa Cruz Paddleboard Association Facebook page, and sent out an email blast the day before the run. Six paddlers showed up the next day at Mitchells for the shuttle up to Four Mile. This was the first of run season for about half of us (including a prone paddler) and everyone was pumped and stoked to be out there again.

Thanks to Scott at Covewater Paddle Surf in Santa Cruz for offering up the 2014 SIC F-14 Wide Glide (without A.S.S. active steering system) for me to demo. Covewater co-worker Keith knew a lot about the board and gave me a few pre-paddling tips that turned out to be right on. He also made a very good case for taking the FCS 10 inch Weed Fin instead of the stock SIC fin, so I did. I was skeptical at first because even though the fin is billed as a "kelp" fin, it's 10 inch depth had me concerned. But the fin has substantial rake and is very narrow with a thin foil, which finally made me more curious than skeptical. The fin is well constructed with carbon fiber and looks like it could take a beating, which at that depth it probably would sooner or later. The final selling point though is the fin shape itself, with that deep 10 inch depth and the narrow base carried throughout for holding the tail in and acting as a pivot point when maneuvering on the bumps, glides and waves of a downwinder. I was intrigued and I took it with me. I'm glad I did. In addition to the excitement of the first downwind run of the season, I was jacked to try the new Wide Glide and to see how it compared to my Angulo Shaka.

By the time we got our shuttle preferences in order and arrived at the highway-side lot at Four Mile the wind was cranking. Two person board offloading is a must unless you want your high value SUP peeling off and cartwheeling into 65 mph traffic on Highway One. We staged up in the field adjacent to the lot and paired up for the buddy board carry down to the beach. When it's windy, solo carrying a downwind board the third of a mile trail walk to the beach is a challenge few really want to accept.

A quick safety briefing and basic orientation to the paddle out, the reefs (and adjacent surf), and the kelp beds prefaced our launch at 2:32PM. Everyone paddled out in front of me and I was the last to hit the water. When the wind is pumping rarely am I able to hug the channel's north side kelp bed long enough to avoid the massive south side kelp bed. Today was no exception and even though I put in my first 500 strokes on the lee side of the board, I soon found myself losing the battle against the wind and side chop and heading for the kelp beds. No worries I told myself. This is a good test of the weed fin. It was.

The first thing I noticed about the F-14 was stability. This board is rock steady and handled all the side wind and chop the conditions and bumpy seas could throw at us. During this part of the channel, before you turn downwind, the swells are coming at you perpendicular to the board. So in addition to the choppy, wind blown seas, the paddler is negotiating the larger ocean swells. In this the board was perfectly stable. So far so good. This is a very comfortable board.

I was chomping at the bit to turn downwind but not before paddling through the last of the south of channel kelp beds. It's always helpful to have a like product to compare a current product with, and I had both fin and board to compare with the F-14. The Angulo Shaka 14 and the Angulo Sea Shaka fin. So far both board and fin were very similar to each other, and in the same basic camp and category. I didn't notice much real difference between the two fins paddling through the kelp. The Weed Fin (WF) caught a couple times but considering the thickness of the sea vegetation, it wasn't bad at all. Next test, downwind gliding.

Again the boards are very comparable and what I like best about both boards is their stability. Even though the boards are both 14 feet long, the F-14 is "larger" (and a bit heavier) with 298L of volume vs. the Shaka's 250L. But this just ensures the stability that is the primary feature of these two downwind boards.

This was my first run of the season and I should have been a bit rusty but on the F-14 I took off like a shot in the downwind bumps and proceeded to take full advantage of the wind, swells, glides and the F-14's progressive design. SIC has made a board that is both stable, and fast in the bumps. At least part of this can be attributed to the relaxed rocker overall. I didn't fall ever, and only came close once when I back peddled to pull the nose up and wobbled a bit on the narrower tail. To be sure, the Shaka is a bump catcher, but I like the way the F-14 "surfs" better. This is due I think to hard rails on the F-14 that start about a third of the way up from the tail. The Shaka has soft rails all the way around which gives it less bite in the wave face. The hard rail provides two advantages. One, when you have to surf the board on an actual nearshore wave, you've got a good surfing and controllable board under your feet. Two, the hard rail stabilizes the tail in crazy wind chop and keeps it from sliding out. Again, this is another rock steady feature of the F-14, along with it's overall paddling stability.

Another design element both these boards utilize is the pin tail. The pin vs. square tail is no match-up in my book as the pin tail is much less susceptible to multiple waves pushing the tail around at the same time. The square tail is less stable and more liable to slide out, or sideways on the bumps than the pin. The pin definitely enhances the board's stability in the kind of conditions you want to be in for good downwinders.

Getting back to the Weed Fin vs. the Sea Shaka fin the margin of difference wasn't noticeably dramatic. I would use either fin in either board and it would be all good I think. The WF seemed to also add to the ability of the tail to keep from sliding out and perhaps to give the board a pivot point off that long 10 inches of depth. I give both fins a thumbs up for sure. (The fin, like all fins these days, is expensive at nearly $100 (online) and if I get one, I'll throw it in the Shaka for comparison's sake. I'll update if and when that happens.)

I try not to let the hype all board companies claim about their boards influence me too much, but in the case of the SIC F-14 I found this bit of marketing to be pretty much right on.

"Building on a legacy of gliding and derived from the most winning open-ocean race
board, the F-16, this all new F-14 (14’0”) features, speed, glide-ability and stability that is
unmatched. With a focus on the less experienced paddler looking to find the perfect glide,
however, needing a shape that is more forgiving, capable of taking on sloppy seas and
giving the stability that allows one to get on glide and minimize fatigue, the F-14 brings
gliding to the masses and is also an amazing all-round fitness board."


So now we come to the two major points of difference between the Shaka and the F-14 as I see it. Price and availability.

Price. I have always thought that the SIC boards were expensive...really expensive. Some people (especially those into racing) are willing to pay what I call that "premium" price but I tend to be more of a value (aka budget) shopper and I'm not into racing. Fun and fitness on a durable high quality product that matches my skills and needs is what I'm after. At $2400 (online) retail, the F-14 definitely falls into the "pricey" category. When you compare that price against the Angulo Shaka at (online) $1400-$1600 (EST build) and $1600-$1700 (XLT build) you can easily see what I mean by premium price.

Availability. SIC has built itself into a proven powerhouse in all areas. Mark Raaphorst's
SIC designs are second to none worldwide. The company has chosen to prove itself in the competitive arena and more often than not, SIC comes out on top. They have built their business into a solid, profitable enterprise with a distribution system that ensures you can get a board just about anywhere in the world where SUP is happening. Check SIC's website for retail locations and if you're in NorCal or Santa Cruz, Covewater carries a full line of SIC boards and they have demos so you can try before you buy.

Ed Angulo is a senior shaper and one of the most experienced designers in the world of wind surfing, surfing and SUPs. Way back in the day on Maui, Mark worked for Ed. But today, Angulo Designs is the weaker business compared to SIC. Production and availability seem to be limited for the Shaka which is too bad because it's a great board at a reasonable price. Therefore, depending upon where you live, getting a Shaka could be difficult. Check the Angulo Designs website for contact info and availability.

Summary. Both boards will do what I want them to do. One is more expensive than the other. One may be more readily available than the other. Build quality appears to be very comparable. If you want the most red hot design emanating out what is arguably the most red hot, cutting edge company in the SUP world today and are willing to pay a few more dollars, then SIC may be your call. But if value is your most important criteria then you may want to chose the Shaka. Either way, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Board Review: Original SIMSUP S3/S5 Hybrid (The SNAzY)

Dimensions: 7'10" double winger (toeside), 7'8" asymmetrical (heelside) by 29.5" by 4.5" by 122L

From the minds of creative, knowledgeable and imaginative people come innovations that always precede, then exceed expectations. Bob Simmons begot the modern planing hull, while years later, Joe Bauguess & Richard Kenvin begot the mini-Simmons. Staying with the surfboard genre Dan Thomson built upon Simmons original premise and proffered the current era planing hull as found in the Vanguard and Vader. And in the SUP world Kirk McGinty burst forth with the Original SIMSUP series of boards. Starting with the S1 through S3 series, he continued his creative juggernaut with the S4 and S5 editions. These innovations have led to the birthing of an utterly unique amalgam of modern SIMSUP hybrids, blending tradition with modern hydrodynamics and always based upon his core values of maximizing speed and maneuverability without loss of stability. The board you see here which I have dubbed the SNAzY (Shovel Nose Asymmetrical simmY) is the vibrant result of my latest adventure with Kirk and the Original SIMSUP.

I picked the board up Sunday afternoon and had it in the water at my local beach break at dawn Monday morning. My initial impressions of the board are as follows: generally, it paddles like a bigger board, and surfs like a smaller board. It took some getting used to the shovel nose. It just doesn't look "right" and makes the board feel like a much bigger board when in fact it's the shortest SUP I've ever ridden, and at 29.5", narrower than what I usually ride. Not only is it the shortest at 7'10" on the toeside (double winger side) but it's only 7'8" on the asymmetrical (heel side). That should feel short in the water but it doesn't at all. Happily, I did not even notice a difference standing on, or paddling the board between my current 8' S3 and the SNAzY. Well that's not quite true. The SNAzY is slightly more tippy than my 8' S3 at 30.5" wide, but I didn't really feel any greater effort was needed to paddle, sprint, surf or maneuver the SNAzY. The sea surface was pretty glassy with some offshore wind ruffles, but there were rips moving around as well as some backwash from the beach which was sending some diagonal humps back through the lineup, especially after big sets washed through. Even on the areas of uneven sea surface I never fell off the board standing, paddling or sprinting for waves or rushing to get out the back and over set waves. The board paddles through foamy breaking waves better than any board I've ever ridden. The accelerated rocker in the shovel nose smoothly lifts the board up and over the whitewater and the landings are stable.

The unique plan shape that you see is deliberate and purposeful. The general specifics of the design and dimensions were made in collaboration with Kirk and with the indirect help of Michael Marina who had the first SNAzY I ever saw and graciously allowed me to ride it. It only took one session on the board and I was committed to this unique plan shape and the asymmetrical design.

The toeside wings are more pronounced than on my other Simmys and I was worried that they would somehow make the board slower or stiffer than my other double winger (S3), but no worries. The SNAzY turns and holds off the bottom without hesitation and there is no drag or lagging at all. The SNAzY rides the high line and goes fast, just as fast as my S2 and S3. Turnbacks/cutbacks are sleep walking. The board changes direction on the 7'8" asymmetrical tail like a hot knife cutting through butter, just as we'd planned. The board banks off the top and is steady and stable re-entering from the crest at the steepest part of the wave. Wider and heavier surfboards (think SUPs) have a tendency to catch the outside rail in the trough of the wave before the rider can put the board on rail and accelerate "around the corner" and into the clean wave face. This was an issue we specifically addressed with the SNAzY design by the 29.5" width and the slightly accelerated nose rocker. It works perfectly. While making the transition from the steep drop re-entry into the bottom turn, the nose stays well clear of the acute trough angle. The combination of the the k-rail and the double concave planing hull provides for nearly instantaneous speed with little (if any) noticeable deceleration. When the board has the occasion to ride the foam line it does so with no slowing, catching, jerking or loss of speed. In those situations it was almost too easy to slide the foam and turn up into the clean corner for more up and down action, or to flick out and paddle out the back for more.

Another important design element in considering a short, fast and maneuverable SUP is weight. The SNAzY is protected by a state of the art glassing application emanating from the Stretch factory in Santa Cruz CA. This process utilizes Technora Fiber seen via the unique crosshatch pattern inherent in the material known as Vectornet. It is defined as follows: "Aramid fibers are a class of strong, synthetic fibers. Improves flex memory on the bottom of surfboards, and core-crush and point-load impact resistance on surfboard decks. Also used in aerospace, military applications, body armor and ballistic composites."(1) In truth Vectornet has been around for a while and has been coming into greater use in the surfboard/SUP industry because of it's high strength to low weight ration. (I also dig the way it looks, especially on the SNAzY. Sexy!)

So, why did I go from a 8' X 28.5" X 4.5" X 119L S2 to the SNAzY S3/S5 hybrid? The primary reason is that I'm just not physically strong enough to keep from getting quickly exhausted when out on the board. If it was just surfing there would be no issue. The board surfs better than any SUP I've ever ridden, mainly because of low volume and the narrow width. But those two elements require more strength to balance on at rest and when paddling and catching waves. I like surfing beach breaks which typically have more chop and roll than point breaks protected from the wind or by land. It was just too much work to paddle and balance at rest on the board. Consequently my sessions were always shorter due to fatigue. I just wasn't having enough fun. SUP boards, paddling and surfing are like flying. It's a constant process of adjustment. Looking for that perfect balance between stability and surfability is part of that never ending process. That's (in my opinion) why we call them "custom" boards. They are custom built to the SUP surfers desires, needs and perhaps most importantly, abilities.This is self evident for those who have been SUP surfing for a while. Are you still riding the first board you bought when you started? I'll bet not.

Kirk and I collaborated to build a high performance surfing SUP that would surf as well or nearly as well as the S2, but would be less tippy and more stable in rougher conditions. The SNAzY is the result of that collaboration and although I've ridden it only once, I think we went a long ways towards resolving the issues I felt needed improvement. The shovel nose design allowed for more board width overall without compromising surfability. We kept the wide point at 29.5" (a compromise between 28.5" (S2) and 30.5" (S3) which is still excellent for putting the board on rail and therefore enhancing maneuverability.The asymmetrical tail was designed for ease in cutbacks. Not only did the overall plan shape allow for more maneuverability, it allowed us to go shorter, from 8' to 7'10" toeside/7'8" heelside, and still maintain acceptable volume (122L vs. 119L (S2) and 125L (S3). We were able to do this with minimal loss of stability. This is my fifth SIMSUP and each build has been an adventure as well as fun and exciting. Each new board aims for a new balance with the goal of extracting as much fun and pure joy from the SUP surfing experience as possible.

Over the last four years Kirk has invested significant amounts of time and energy into researching and developing the SIMSUP. (His design knowledge also includes building surfboards through L41 Surfboards, which he has been doing for years.) His high performance S4 and S5 models are built upon the plan shapes of the original S1-S3 series but they are incredibly advanced compared to those early boards. He has incorporated his knowledge and design innovations and continues to make products that the SUP world simply has never seen before. They say the highest form of flattery is imitation and there have been those who have tried to imitate the Original SIMSUP. But Kirk is the original, the creator. He's a genuine son of the Santa Cruz surf culture and the history of surfing and stand up paddling.

About me: 67 year old retired firefighter in pretty good shape. Live next to the Monterey Bay. Been surfing on and off since 1963. Paddled my first SUP in Hawaii in August 2007. Started SUP surfing in September that same year. Collaborated with Kirk (he's the one with the know-how) to build the first SIMSUP S1 which launched in June 2010. The SNAzY is my fifth SIMSUP. Hope to be able to SUP hard 'til I can't.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Lots Goin' On at Covewater. Check it Out!


WE'RE PRACTICALLY GIVING EQUIPMENT AWAY!

Our Winter Sale begins Saturday, February 1st. There are some HUGE markdowns on new and used boards, paddles and board bags - some as much as 60%! If you've been waiting to get a new paddle, maybe a second board, or would like to take care of your SUP with a board bag, here's your best deals of the year.