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

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Covewater Opens New Locations: New Brighton and Capitola

Welcome to Stand Up Paddle Capitola! We offer stand up paddleboarding classes and tours from beautiful Capitola beach. Whether you're a first timer wanting to learn to stand up paddle on our gorgeous Monterey Bay, a paddler with some experience wanting a SUP tour with the sea otters and seals of our beautiful coast, or a private party looking for an unforgettable experience, we’re here to take good care of you.


Welcome to Stand Up Paddle New Brighton! We offer affordable stand up paddleboard and kayak
rentals at Santa Cruz County’s calmest and most spectacular beach — New Brighton State Beach in Capitola! Whether you're a first timer, or an experienced paddler, you will love the fun of paddling on the beautiful Monterey Bay.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

First Maliko to Kanaha Run of 2014

Saturday June 14 2014 F14 Wide Glide - First Maliko to Kanaha DW of 2014 about 1.5h - I studied Google maps and thought hard about what I learned last year re coming in over the reef at Kanaha in preparation for today's run. I chose a spot Bill Boyum showed me on a no wind, no waves paddle from the canoe hale to the keyhole in the reef. (Channel #1). That was my primary choice as I was able to note the obvious landmarks and the channel itself quite
easily on G-maps. (Seeing it from the water, especially if the swell and wind are up, isn't nearly as cut and dry.) On the day of the Olukai last year, the swell was
up and Bill told me an alternate route through the reef that he thought was safer. (Channel #2). It was good advice. I tried to take that channel during the race but I didn't have the experience to know exactly where it was and though I think I was close, I wasn't on it. I learned where it was from Kim today.

As much planning as one does in the abstract, does not always account for what often happens in reality, both good and bad. The shuttle was packed and instead of just me waiting at Kanaha, there were three others who had booked. While waiting I chatted it up with a woman (Kim) in her 50's who was paddling an SIC Bullet 16 with steering. Over the time it took to pick up the rest of the paddlers at the harbor, and then drive up to the gulch we got acquainted enough to know that we were fairly equal in paddling strength (I'm giving myself the benefit of the doubt here) and paddling/downwinding views. Of course she is a faster paddler than I (who isn't) but she generously offered to show me her favorite channel at Kanaha. (The second one Bill told me about.) We paddled together for the entire run, she waiting for me when I couldn't keep up, and then went in first, showing me the way at the "Camp One Channel". The channel was very wide and very distinct and is located about a half mile north of Channel #1. It was the best choice today and perhaps because it is so easy to find, the best choice overall. Once again, God comes through with a blessing that confirms the 23rd Psalm..."surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..." (It always helps to have a positive attitude, and inspiration, whether it be personal and Providential or blind "luck", comes from wherever it finds you.)

The run on the inside of the reef from the channel to the canoe hale felt like a ride on a conveyor belt. From what LPB wrote below on the Zone re today's run, there was a strong east to west current flowing, which augmented the wind and the small bumps that were omnipresent. I was having so much fun running those small bumps that
I ran all the way to the lifeguard station instead of watching where Kim took out. It was a treacherous, board tossingly windy, but short walk from the water to the tree lined, wind sheltered path to the hale. Since I overshot the landing, it was a fairly long walk to where our cars were parked in the lot. Kim of course had it dialed and she landed right in front of the showers and her parking spot. We met up at the cars and made some plans to paddle and shuttle together using our own cars in the future.

Prior to this first run I was concerned about finding people of equal skills, ability and paddling speed to make the runs with. Although I don't mind paddling solo, it's always best, safest and most prudent to be at least within a couple hundred yards of someone else and for them to know you're around and vice versa. I didn't stop to think that Kelly's shuttle service might be a great place to meet fellow paddlers. And today was a full van which provided the opportunity to meet folks.

Re the run itself I was surprised at how quiet it was paddling out from the mouth of the gulch. While there was the usual bump and chop, the sea surface was almost glassy and there were practically no whitecaps. This was in vivid contrast to what I had seen at Baby Beach and on the shuttle ride up to Maliko as we drove along the stretch of north coast we would be paddling, . But as we paddled west, the wind slowly began to pick up, the gusts got stronger and somewhere just past Ho'okipa it got good. I hadn't done a downwinder since May in Santa Cruz. There has been some small but fun south swell here and I've been surfing the SNAz every morning that there's been waves. So it felt good to get out on my first DW run. It was perfect really because the wind was decent, blowing good but not nuking. There were plenty of bumps which gave me a chance to work on, and really think about what I was doing out there to get better at catching and riding bumps. It's amazing how much more relaxed one is in 78 degree water vs. 53 degree water. Falling is almost desirable.

The F14 is a very forgiving and stable board, and no slug when it comes to getting glides or surfing waves. I surfed in through the channel on a small wave which just kept going. I didn't want to go into the beach so walked back to the tail and just tried to weight the nose up enough to ease out of the whitewater, which it (finally) did. Then I knee paddled parallel to the beach and surfline to get clear of any incoming whitewater before jumping back up to my feet and making the super fun and fast mile run back to the lifeguard station.

The run today was really exactly what I was hoping for. Nothing too radical, but definitely not just a hot, windless, dirge of a paddle to Kanaha. Wind should be good again Sunday and I'm booked on the shuttle out of Kanaha. I'm a little tired, but not too sore. I think I've got another run in me for today but Monday may be a rest day. We'll see. I'd like to go every day but that may only be something I could have done 20+ years ago. But one never knows the day or the hour when this earthly ride will be over. So I say, go for it!

(From La Perouse Bay on the Zone re today's run: "Today was a blast. Excellent current running all down Kanaha. Inside line at .7 miles out at the airport. Pier one snuck up on me. I heard it coming and was glad I looked back. Not a dangerous wave, but enough to knock me over for sure. Barely made it. I won't wear music for that reason. Super fun day.")

Postscript - A couple well deserved shoutouts to Scott Ruble at Covewater for hooking me up with Kevin at Second Wind in Kahului. Without Elua Makani, no SIC F14. And thanks to Kevin for stocking SIC downwind boards. (Scott has 'em too in Santa Cruz for rent and to buy.) Thanks to Kelly for providing the shuttle service that gets so many people on their way to so many good downwind runs. Thanks to Bill Boyum for all the good advice I got from him last year re the Maliko. And finally thanks to Kim for adopting this mainlander and getting him oriented in 2014. Mahalo to all!

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.