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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 strange...like 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 but...it 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...

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