G. Niblock on the L41 TipSUP Noserider. Photo: J. Chandler

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

3 Hours On the SIMSUP In The Fading Southie

Monday June 28, 2010

Jamie and Greg paddled out just before I did this morning at 0600. Thick and heavy fog put a bear hug on the coastline and I couldn't see the break at Sarges as I knee paddled the SIMSUP through the sea grass and kelp stalks, into the deeper water.

As usual the south was pushing the waves in much further down reef, and I managed to paddle right into an incoming set of four or five waves. Two pieces of good news there: 1) There's waves! and 2) Good practice for negotiating the whitewater with the Simmy. I almost stayed dry but the last wave of the set got me because my rear foot was too far back on the tail and the wave threw the nose up so I fell. I'm still getting used to having two less feet of board under me.

J and G were nowhere in sight. Kinda they disappeared into the fog. (Que the creepy music.) But in reality they were down at Yellow's. That left me by myself for an hour in waist/chest high, fairly consistent waves. Enough waves to get a good feel for the Simmy in decent surf.

But first, the new paddling technique. I'm sure that my "Tahitian" stroke is laughable works! For whatever reason I seem to have an affinity for the written word, so after I watched Todd's vids, I read, re-read and re-re-read Dave's three articles on paddling. As Dave says, the first two articles are good for any kind of stroke, but mastering the Tahitian stroke will require total absorption of the third article. I have by no means totally absorbed anything, but I've started and that's a good first step.

I tried to remember everything but knew I couldn't so I focused on a couple things. 1) Reach. Since I have a pretty long paddle overall for my height, I was able to reach way out there. The tip of my paddle blade would catch about six inches in from the tip of the board. 2) "Stack my shoulders." It took me several reads to get this but I think I do. It was difficult to keep the shaft vertical but I did my best, then I focused on rotating the shoulders, then hips, trying to insert the blade as vertically as possible into the water. 3) Short, underpowered pulls. This was the most difficult thing to remember and do. Dave talked about muscle memory, and my muscles remember that one pulls HARD. If I lost concentration on this step I reverted, auto-pilot, to 100% power. 4) For some reason I kept thinking about Todd's phrase "spinning the ball," and Dave's image of making the almond eye rotation with your top hand. Those images for me summarize the essence of the stroke, which is short, fast rotations and quick cadence, 70% power strokes.

The payoff is that this stuff is effective! From the gitgo, merely the practice of this stroke made a huge difference in holding a straight line, especially on take-offs. So many elements of what Todd and Dave taught became evident as I practiced. The board actually does move forward quickly with the "wimpier" strokes. Amazing! I caught a lot of waves today and not once did I over paddle and veer off to the left in catching the right handers while paddling on the right side of the board. My basic strategy was to use the Tahitian stroke to paddle into position and start my run for the wave. As I gained momentum and the wave lifted and moved my board forward, I could then switch into surfing stance. I found that once I was moving in a straighter line, I could in fact dig hard if necessary to make the final move onto the wave face.

I also saw how this stroke could be used for any type of paddling or surfing. Flat water, down wind, or in the waves, it will work. Additionally I did not fatigue as easily as I have using the old way of paddling. In all honesty though, my shoulders, legs and glutes are sore (24-hours later), but I think that is normal for the amount of time I put in (three hours); is the logical result of practicing a new stroke (Todd said you'll feel it in your quads and he was right); and for the interval of time since I SUP surfed last...about a week.

So I'm definitely on the right track re paddling. How then, did the board surf? The board surfed much better than I did. What I mean by that is, the SIMSUP is not your standard rounded pin with wings and it surfs differently. My unbridled enthusiasm is tempered by the knowledge that I really don't know how to surf this board well...yet.

I haven't reached any definitive conclusions because I need more time on the board in different kinds of waves and conditions. But here are a few nascent thoughts based upon the waves I surfed yesterday. Waves: 2-4 ft. soft to steeper faces with some fast and hollow sections in super low tide, heavy kelp conditions. 1) Stability - the SIMSUP is incredibly stable, amazingly so. You have to try it and your mind will be blown. It is stable to paddle, in the white water and on the wave face. At this writing, having about five hours total in on the Simmy, I would say that it is 95% as stable as my 10-0 Angulo Custom. And that's 130L vs. 150L of volume.

2) Maneuverability/Agility - Turns easily on rail (not a pivot turner), carves almost without effort. Off the lip, floaters no problem, very easy to land and the board maintains stability without issue.

3) Trim - Hang on and fly! Once the board finds the power pocket in trim, you're gone. The board design is deliberately based on Bob Simmons/Lloyd Lindsey "hydrodynamics." All I can say is that it works as designed and you can take that to the bank.

4) Fins - I bought the Gerry Lopez SUP quads (Future Fins) after riding them on Kirk's L41 8-8 SUP because they worked so well, and rarely hung up in the kelp. There was/is no down side. I'm not one bit disappointed in them.

5) Late take-offs/taking the high line - Here is where I felt the first potentially negative effect of the Simmons influenced SUP design. Without riding speed, a steep faced and ready to break wave will picked up the wide thick tail, placing the board at an disadvantaged angle to move forward and catch the wave. This happened a couple times by accident, and I wasn't ready for it nor do I have experience on THIS BOARD re how to make maneuvers, or shift my weight in order to overcome the situation. Therefore I need to specifically put myself in late takeoff situations and see what's up. Also, I wonder about taking a higher line with the fat tail. It could be that the board likes it better lower on the wave, but that is speculation based on very limited experience at the moment.

And as far as I know, the SIMSUP is the only SUP of it's kind in the world today, whose design, outline and features were directly inspired by Bob Simmons and the Kenvin, Elwell, etc. crew. I'm not trying to brag about this, ride on anyone's coat tails or make myself seem more than I am, which is just an everyday, ordinary surfer/SUP surfer who loves to try and understand design stuff. But the SIMSUP is different than ANY other SUP I know about. It's fun to experiment and I'm very happy that, so far, this experiment is working out so well. More to follow...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

(Re)Learning Paddling Basics with Todd Bradley

Evan created way back in the beginning of the modern SUP revival...what? Three years ago? He was in early, has documented all the changes and is one of the best resources around.

Since I am (re)learning how to paddle, I checked out his blog/website and found three great Todd Bradley tutorials that go hand in hand with my earlier post about Dave Kalama's teaching. There is a lot of good, basic info for beginner's and those who have been practicing for a while too.

When I started SUP paddling and surfing in August 2007, there wasn't a lot of information around about "how to" stuff. Now there's a lot so...gotta keep up. It doesn't hurt to revisit our technique, make improvements and continue to grow. As Bob Dylan sang..."He not busy being born, is busy dying."

SIMSUP - (Re)Learning How To Paddle

Monday June 21, 2010

Even though there wasn't much in the way of waves to surf, I paddled out dawn patrol to practice surfing the SIMSUP, but mostly really, to practice paddling with the shorter SUP. I picked up an excellent set of paddling tips from Dave Kalama's blog.

I zeroed in on three "how to" lessons made by Dave: The Catch; Applying Power; and Recover. The first two lessons are useful no matter how well or poorly you paddle, but if learned well they will lead into the third lesson which is designed to teach you the "Tahitian" stroke. This paddling technique is supposed to be faster and more efficient making for energy savings that translate into winning race times. But what I found is that the technique helps a lot in keeping the short SUP going in a straight line. This is exactly what I need to learn when paddling the 8-0 SIMSUP quad.

You CAN teach and old dog new tricks, it just takes a lot longer. Woof! I think I understand, and am working on the first lesson, The Catch. I think I understood about half the second one, and I didn't understand much of the third teaching at all. But...first things first, 'cuz I've still got a lot of practicing to do on lesson one.

I will say that I had success utilizing the lessons learned (or learning) from The Catch. I still default to my old way of paddling for waves, which causes me to veer off to the side instead of holding a straighter line when digging hard to pick up the bump, but old habits die hard. The idea is to keep working, get better and never give up!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Blame Laird

8-0 L41 SIMSUP - The Next Step Up Is Down

Thursday June 17, 2010

Took possession of the new down-sized quad SUP at 0800 this morning. Installed the Hydro-Turf traction in Kirk's garage and left the tail pad for me to do later. Bagged the comped L41 t-shirt and stickers (represent!) and rolled home to finish the prep work before heading out for a paddle and surf.

First thing I did after I got home was to cut and fit the tail pad strips. This is the first grooved pad I've used. I was going to cut diamonds into another mosaic pattern like the 10-0 Angulo custom, but the grooves offer so much traction and bite, the strips on half-inch centers seemed more than adequate.

After laying down the tail pad I did a complete photo shoot on the board for a comprehensive board specs and performance review blog post to follow later. I want to put in a lot more hours surfing and paddling the board before I write anything up. But I was anxious to get it into the water, primarily to see if all our planning, theorizing and conceptualizing was going to conform to our hoped for reality, or was this just an expensive experiment?

My most immediate concern was stability. All of the shorter performance SUPs I know of are "nervous," i.e. tippy and hard to stand on, especially when it's bumpy. At 8 ft. the SIMSUP is the smallest, commercially viable SUP I've seen. People are riding small SUPs, but they're almost all pros, not everyday surfers like me. My fears however, were whisked away like mist in the wind shortly after I launched from the beach into a calm sea and light swell.

I pushed off from the shallows and slid to my knees to paddle the board from that position in order to get a feel for the float and the balance points. Kirk and I determined that the float requirement for my weight and ability could go as low as 130 liters. My Angulo custom is about 150L, and Kirk's 8-8 is 136L. I rode the 8-8 for four hours one day in a small but legit south swell primarily to determine how small I could go. By the end of the four hours I had volume to spare and we knew I could SUP surf a shorter board. In the end, the length of the board was determined by the volume (130L) and the width (I didn't want to go narrower than 30 inches). Kirk plugged in the general outline dimensions based on those minimum dims, and his expertise in surfboard CAD design engineering.

Props, kudos, thanks, respect all go out to RK and crew, and to John Elwell for spearheading the revivalist Simmons (mini-Simmons) movement. I first learned about Simmons theories by reading RK's article in the Winter 2008 Surfers Journal. He had me with the pictures. I dug into the design and absorbed everything I could find. Kenvin's blog was particularly helpful and as others became disciples, they're postings added info like fuel to the flame. By last Summer John Mel and I conspired to build his version of the mini-Sims, the Ghostbuster. Then John further riffed on that by building longer GB's, based on the Simmons outline and hydrodynamics.

The main attraction from a practical point of view was that an aging surfer like me, could ride a short, maneuverable board, yet have a much greater degree of overall stability on the miniSimmons design. Why couldn't one apply the design to a SUP? To be sure, there were some issues that had to be worked out. The main issue, keeping the miniSimmons outline in mind, was how can you get a board with such a wide tail to turn, especially to go on rail? Enter L41 Surfboards/Kirk McGinty.

After much discussion, 60 or 70 emails and several .brd file iterations we came up with the final design. I use the word "we" self benevolently, because it was Kirk who solved the riddle of how to make the board fast and maneuverable and capable of going on rail, by designing bottom contours that are functional and beautiful to see. Which brings me back to paddling out for the first time on the SIMSUP yesterday.

There wasn't much swell. 1-2 ft. at 11 seconds WNW local windswell. Very little energy to work with from a surfing point of view, but enough to get a feel for how the board surfs. I would have paddled out if it had been dead flat though, because if I couldn't paddle the board without tiring myself out, then the board wasn't going to work for me. Happily this wasn't the case.

After a few minutes spent sussing the glide, balance points and feel of the board from my knees, I popped up to my feet and got underway. Since I had already ridden Kirk's 8-8, the fact that there wasn't very much nose in front of me wasn't a surprise. Rather, the pleasant surprise was in how extremely stable the board is to stand up paddle. Plenty of space showing between the bottom of the nose and the sea surface, and the tail was riding clean above the sea surface. First goal accomplished. There was simply no issue whatsoever with paddling the board. So it didn't take long to get hungry for a few waves. How was this thing going to surf? Herein re performance SUP surfing, lies the core of the necessary adjustments that will have to be made in technique from riding a longer board, especially one with no center fin.

A group of seven longboarders of all ages were sitting around the main peak at GDubs, where a few longboard waves were pushing through on a fairly regular basis. Not wanting to ruffle any feathers (it may be short, but it's still a SUP) I set up wide and inside to pick off the ones nobody wanted or could get. Paddling for the small, gutless waves helped me acclimatize for wave catching. Here is the biggest difference I experienced between the shortboard SUP and the longboard SUP. The SIMSUP turns on a dime (not so the longboard SUP), so when digging hard to catch a wave, you can only take several full strength strokes and still maintain a straight course. Any more than that and you're headed off in the opposite direction from the side you're paddling on. Paddle on the right side and take too many strokes and all of a sudden you're going left, and vice versa. This is particularly magnified when you change up from feet parallel stance to a surfing stance (one foot forward, one foot back). This is going to take some time to figure out, but it's totally doable. The payoff is in how well the board rides.

It was gratifying to know that I could catch a lot of low energy waves on the 8-0. The SIMSUP handled the really small waves well, very stable with lot's of long, paddle assisted rides available. But I got a taste of how well it will perform in higher energy waves on the few lines that came through with pockets that provided the engine needed to release the board's wave riding potential. Suffice it to say for now that the board maneuvers with ease and stability and in fact it does go on rail. The ease in which it rolled over on edge with speed caught me off guard on one wave. The board nearly ran away from me on one burst of acceleration. This was a pleasing moment which left me both surprised and stoked!

Since paddling wasn't an issue, I surfed for an hour before the incoming tide began to erase the wide sets and really drain the energy out of the small wind swell offerings. I paddled back to Sarges downwind (again, no complaints or problems) and the return trip only took moments. This was a happy day. For my part I proved to myself that the concept of a miniSimmons SUP, a SIMSUP, was realistic. As for Kirk, he made it work...a board that paddles like a SUP and surfs a lot like a miniSimmons!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Steep Angles from the North and South

Tuesday June 15, 2010

I was hoping for a redux of last Thursday's Gulf remnant swell but the swell angle was too steep too really blast into the bay. What little south was in the water (and there was a little), was hardly showing. The low, low minus tide didn't help but there was some wiggle room to surf before it got so drained out that the reefs we usually ride over, were flat little exposed islands dotting the playing field.

I paddled out at 0610 for what turned out to be a four hour session on the Angulo custom. I knew it wasn't going to be as good as last week, but I also knew that it wasn't going to get much better tomorrow or the rest of the week so I figured I'd take what I got and make a day out of it.

Jamie and I paddled out together and started pulling down little peelers in the 1-3 ft. range right away. After a while Middles looked pretty good and there even seemed to be some clear water showing, like little pools in the carpet of kelp that seemed to layout almost seamlessly from Sarges to Scimi's in a solid mass. After Jamie paddled in for work, there were only SUP surfers in the water for a quarter mile in either direction. SF Kevin was out on his Hawaii born SUP, and Greg paddled up from Seaville on his Stretch custom quad SUP.

Finally the tide just got too low to surf, so I headed down to the Yellow House to wait it out and pick up a few strays that wandered through the line-up. I had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful morning and contemplate not much except for how fortunate I am to be here now, and my feet. As the tide filled back in I headed back to Sarges to finish off the session, riding wide the little peelers off the south section stairs.

I used to be frustrated by the immensity of the kelp beds, but after four years I've finally accepted them. If nature operates in cycles then they'll be gone or greatly diminished one of these days. In the meantime, they're there, and so am I. Another thing that used to bug me is water temp. It's cold again. Temps are in the low, low 50's. But the solution is just staying in Winter rubber big thing, just the way it is.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Late Season Gulf Swell in Offshore Conditions

A little diligence paid off this morning, even though I almost blew it last night. I initially set the alarm for 0415, then since it was late, I upped it to 5AM. So by the time I got to the beach it was way past light enough to surf. But even still, I was paddling out into cleanly peeling low tide zippers in a brisk offshore wind by 0615. Short story is I surfed for over two hours in completely crowdless conditions. Definitely a midweek score.

Riley gave me an early morning face licking, included gratis with his typically enthusiastic greeting before walking his human and letting her play throw the ball. I wish I had a tenth of his energy. If so I'd of had a four hour session which would have included a six mile round trip paddle to anywhere just for fun. But he was good and barked farewell as I threw the Angulo custom into the shallows for the paddle out through the kelp.

Real southies have been few and far between so far this season, although we have had a couple good ones...not great but good. The late season Gulf storm driven swells have filled in the gaps for what has been a good Spring. Although the weather has been spotty, with some late season rain which is highly unusual, generally the sun has been shining and the temps warm.

Surf today was very consistent, in the 2-4 ft. range for the duration of my surf. About half hour into the session Matthew paddled out on his longboard for a forty-five minute pre-work surf. What a great way to start the day. I surfed alone again for another half hour until The Don paddled out on his noserider extraordinaire, which he immediately put to work. As usual he pulled down numerous long noserides as the incoming tide began to take some of the punch out of the waves, especially down the line as the reef started to bloat with rising sea water.

I called it a day after a few more people paddled out, swelling the crowd to five. After all, I already surfed a couple dozen or so fun waves. No reason to be greedy...who knows, maybe there will be more tomorrow?

I love days like today. Jeff calls 'em "Tweeners". They can be fun waves "tween" ground swells, or good waves "tween" crowds. They're kinda rare and totally bitchen.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More Beach Break Days

Sunday June 6, 2010

The swell dropped off a lot last night and the water temperature shot up. Shed my booties and swapped out the integrated hood in my Mutant for the open neck zippered pull over. Even though the water temp rocketed up almost three degrees to 55.9F, I still opted for a light neoprene cap. It kept me just right for the two hour dawn patrol session. It's so great to be back in bare feet again.

Yesterday's 4.3 foot at 12 second WNW wind swell had fallen off to a 2 feet at 10 seconds West swell, but that's about the same as last Thursday and I had fun then. It was enough motivation to set the iPod alarm for 5AM and an early start. Still late for true dawn patrollers, but I thought it would work OK for my beach break. I paddled out at 0630 and surfed for an hour by myself before another shortboarder joined me for the rest of the session. As the line up started to fill up around 0815 I headed in.

Waves today were not peeling as uniformly as the last three days. Lot's of close outs. Not many rights either. But the shortboarder surfing with me was goofy, and I saw him get a lot of waves, some not bad lefts too. Maybe it's just me or maybe a change in swell direction, the shape seemed better with the WNW direction. But who knows, with beach break you show up and get what you get. No promises.

Talked with Paul as he was about to catch a few on his big yellow longboard. His son Will is doing really well on the longboard contest circuit, and has been bitten hard by the competition bug. Who knows, maybe a pro longboarder? Helluva noserider that's for sure. Lot's of hard work and dedication ahead if that's the road he wants to travel. Will started surfing late in life, fifteen or so and only three years ago. We both marveled at how far and fast he has come.

Also chatted with Jeffrey for a bit, him recovering from a motorcycle injury. I teased him that at his age his bike days should be over. He got racked pretty good and this was his first time back in the water in over a month. He reminded me of the water pics I had taken of him a while back at GDubs. Yesterday Melissa reminded me of the pics I taken of her at Ray's...a long time ago. It felt good to me that they enjoy the shots. It's just for fun, and after all, that's what it's all about. Fun, fitness and stoke. It'll make your day, every day.

As Herby says, "Without vision the people perish; with Stoke, the people flourish!" Say Amen somebody!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Some NPAC Leftovers in Real Summer Wx

June 3-4-5 2010 (Thursday, Friday and Saturday)

Hadn't been out on my laydown paddlers in a while and with the small swell conditions thought I'd hit the beaches with the 7-0 Freeline Ghostbuster. I was on it at 0645, no one but me and the dolphins, seals,bait fish and numerous flying and floating creatures in the food chain. It was small but dazzlingly glassy on this mild, clear and flawlessly clean dawn patrol. A big net fishing boat outta MoCo was pulling in it's nets with a hundred thousand sea gulls and pelicans harassing the humans for their fair share. Surfed for an hour fifteen in beachie for sure, but with a few fast left hand peelers making it fun.

Friday morning I got on it late (0745) and there were already four in the line-up. That's what I get for being lazy. The surf was a bit bigger and yesterday's clear morning had turned to fog. It seemed like the shape wasn't as clean as yesterday too, but there were still fun waves to be had. A westerly swell generated from another late season north pacific storm was on the rise, putting up waves in the waist to chest high range. Another fun morning on the 7-0 Ghostbuster.

Saturday morning had it all, clear and bright early morning sunshine segueing into a skinny but thick sleeve of fog obscuring the land only 200 feet away, but then burning off to unwrap another jewel of a day. Since the swell had continued to come up I thought I'd surf the 5-11 Ghostbuster miniSim. I brought along the 7-0 just in case I wanted something a little bigger. Good thing too because after an hour and nearly a dozen waves, my back was telling me to switch out my board or I'd be paying the price. This I did and my wave count about doubled. It's amazing what an extra 12" of surfboard will do for your wave count. Even though the surf had gone from knee high to chest high, overall shape held up pretty well with the biggest sets closing out the usual take-off spot. I surfed for two hours with just a couple folks out, everyone getting lot's of waves. I was surprised at how long it took for the water to fill up with surfers, it being a Summer time school's out Saturday and all. But, my good fortune. Back in the lot I ran into Melissa and Mel, friends of Priscilla and Nancy. They were just heading into the water with their longboards and were stoked. How could they not be on a day like today?

I haven't surfed fun beachies in summer-like conditions for three days in a row in a couple years. The La Nina drought was such a drag. I'm so glad we were gifted with a moderate El Nino for the winter. It looks like we're back into a semi-La Nina pattern again, but the El Nino effects are still hanging on. Lot's of south swell coming up from the southern hemi, and the NPAC refuses to go flat out comatose, although that has to be coming soon. In the meantime the swells are supposed to drop off a little tomorrow and maybe pick up again on Monday, and the great weather is looking like it will hold all week. This is good news for surfers and beach rats alike.