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!