Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Primary mission today was twofold. I needed to get a distance paddle in and I wanted to "test" paddle the Kialoa 9" blade. I borrowed the paddle from Michael who I had sold it to a couple years ago when I sold him my first Angulo 10-4 SUP. It's a great paddle, all carbon and very light but it was hard on my shoulders. So I sold him the whole thing as a package and ended up buying an Infinity 6.5" otter tail which I use in the surf and really love. But for distance paddling I wanted a paddle with a little more meat than 6.5". But how much more meat?
Since I'm learning to paddle more efficiently (well, trying to at least) I thought maybe a 9" blade would be good, and it probably would for a bigger, stronger guy. Since the last time I bought a paddle, technology and technique have come a long way. There's tons of info on all the major paddle manufacturers sites about paddles and paddling, as well as this site Zen Waterman. I've been reading a lot as well as talking to as many people I can who are into distance/racing paddling.
Generally, the bigger the paddler, the bigger the blade. For example, if I'm looking at Quickblade paddles, say the Kanaha All Carbon, they come in three basic sizes: 90 square inches/8.3" width; 100 sq. in. 8.7" width and 110 sq in. 9" width. (Note: the Surftech San-O is in fact a Quickblade paddle.) Also, most people I'm talking with are saying that it is preferable to maintain a higher cadence when paddling than lower, so having a paddle that has less resistance when pulling it through the water is better for establishing and maintaining a quick or more rapid cadence (strokes per minute if you will). There is a lot to all this and a lot of personal preference involved so I won't go into all the details. If you want the info it's out there.
Actually since paddles are expensive I'd rather have a "one size fits all" paddle. But my otter tail really is too narrow. Great for surfing, not so great for paddling long distance efficiently.
The first thing I noticed about paddling the Kialoa today had nothing to do with blade width though. Michael is a little shorter than I and had cut the shaft down and re-glued the handle. Since I like long paddle shafts anyway, this is the first thing I noticed right off. Another general rule of thumb is that paddles used for surfing are shorter than paddles used for distance/race paddling. But for me, personal preference trumps common wisdom 'cause I like the longer paddle shaft. I had to lean too far over with the Kialoa and that ended up fatiguing my lower back. I didn't think the blade width was all that difficult to pull, or even noticeable at first. But after about 45 minutes I started to feel more tired than I think I would have with a narrower blade. Also, about an hour after the paddle, my shoulders and mid-back were more sore than they should have been.
I'm somewhat intrigued by dihedral shaped into the paddle, and the notion that it makes the paddle easier to pull through (greater efficiency) as well as limiting paddle flutter (improved blade stability) that can occur when pulling the paddle through the water. If this is the case then perhaps one could go with a slightly wider paddle than normal and with the same energy expended reap greater efficiency? Don't know but I've got a paddle with dihedral lined up to demo so I'll have some idea about all that soon.
I remember when I first started the SUP adventure in Hawaii, August 2007. As I got more into it, and moved into buying my first SUP I wondered if there would ever be a need for a SUP quiver. No need to wonder anymore. A SUP quiver, and a paddle quiver.
I got into SUP as a way to rehab my back and stay in the game of surfing. It was getting to the point where a couple hours spent on my prone boards would lead to two days rehabing a painful back. SUP has changed all that. This Summer will most likely see the sale of my last three prone surfboards and the solidification of my SUP quiver to four. Two shortboards (SIMSUP and SimmyD); my 10' Angulo all around "longboard" SUP and the Surftech Bark Competitor.
I guess if there's one thing that stays the same, it's change.
We met at Andy's house, only a couple blocks from the beach, and walked our boards down to the launch site. At 9AM the smallish pocket cove was calm, but you could see the wind line just outside the point. And further outside that the white caps were starting up. I was hoping the seas wouldn't get too frothy and the wind wouldn't crank up to gale force. This was supposed to be a test/demo to evaluate the boards not "Survivor."
The video tells most of the story. (Sorry for some of the excessive wind noise.) We did get a good demo in, and it was an excellent opportunity to evaluate all three boards. Here's what I learned. 1) Joe Bark makes very good paddleboards and Surftech has parlayed their partnership into a real quality and value boon for the consumer. 2) I really like wide tail boards, for surfing and for distance paddling. When shaped correctly, wide tails create stability without sacrificing speed. Period. 3) Since I'm not going to be a full on competitive racer, I don't need a super light (carbon) board. I'd rather have something more durable that I can "throw around" a little and not worry about having to repair. 4) The combination displacement hull/planing hull shape of the Competitor is the most efficient design for my needs which are distance/fitness paddling nearshore and in the open ocean, participating in downwind events and transiting the surf line. 5) The 12-6 Competitor is the best "one size fits all" board out there for me at 64 years old and in the 150-155 lbs. weight range.
The Angulo boards ran a close second, but I'm not ready for a carbon race board and the 14' Shaka doesn't fit me as well as the 12-6. If the Shaka came in 12-6 it would have been a more difficult decision because the quality and the build of the Angulos are impressive. But in the end it was the plan shape, the displacement/planing hull (and wide tail) that won me over.
So after all the evaluations and the board demos I went ahead and ordered a 12-6 Bark Competitor from John at Freeline. Arrival date is Friday May 27. First paddle date is set for Saturday, an entry level downwinder from Natural Bridges to the Harbor, about 4.5 miles. I am so stoked!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
We greatly enjoyed Mexico. All the Mexicans we met were wonderful from the lady who sold us our almost daily purchase of tamales to David the caretaker and grounds keeper at Los Almendos without whom we could have easily missed our flight home due to a time change in Nayarit we knew nothing about.
Many people are afraid to travel to Mexico because of all the drug business that dominates the headlines regarding Mexico. But we think the Puerto Vallarta area is one of the safest places in Mexico, if not the world, to travel, vacation and enjoy. The area is one of the economic engines of the Mexican tourist industry and the government has a vested interest in keeping it safe and viable for travellers from throughout the world.
Sayulita also has it's shares of American and Canadian expats who either live there permanently, or for most of the dry season when the weather is best. All the of these folks were very friendly and quick to offer advice and make recommendations of the good places to visit.
In short, we would go back to Sayulita tomorrow. Viva Mexico!
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Location: Nb's and Gdubs
Swell: 4.8 at 9.0 NW(320) & 1.3 at 12.0 SW (180)
Conditions: Clear, warm and sunny with light to calm winds
Tide: 0.8 Rising to 1.6 ft.
It was my good luck to get so much paddling, surfing and pure enjoyment out of such a beautiful Spring day. Especially since Winter is gonna give one final blast on it's trumpet before exiting stage left until next season.
In the morning I paddled my 10' custom Angulo from NB's up to Gdubs and back. The wind was light in my face going up and coming back. The water was clear and clean and there were a few intermittent knee/waist high waves coming through. Paul was on it again in his OC-1, riding the small little bumps at Sarges into the holes in the reef near shore. Frank was taking down a few peelers on his standup, and Joe was out in the kelp beds enjoying the day. A handful of people were at Gdubs and the other spots where there was in fact rideable surf. As I paddled back to NB's I was already planning my afternoon surf at Gdubs on SimmyD.
I loaded up the Angulo after a brief chat with Paul and another retired firefighter, Chris, in the parking lot. I made it home quick, swapped out the Gu for SimmyD, grabbed my 5/4 Mutant (water temp on the inside buoy is 50.3 degrees) and headed back to the ocean.
The surf was much smaller and less consistent than my first session on Simmy last Tuesday. But the weather was drop dead perfect. I paddled out with one of those coiled leashes just to try it out. (The verdict is still out.) It didn't really matter to me that the surf wasn't all that great, there was still plenty to ride even though 99% of it was only in the thigh/calf range. The sea surface was glass. I had plenty of time to practice balancing and paddling the new craft in easy conditions, as well as sliding the steep little inside sections that were breaking in one to two feet of water over the copious kelp and rock formations that make up the bottom of this spot.
I am now a solid proponent of k-rails (as Kirk calls them) or s-rails, as others call them for performance SUPs. Basically s-rails are a stepped down rail shaped to provide more traction and to allow the water to flow more efficiently over the shaped surface. The noticeable difference between SimmyD and the original SIMSUP in surfing performance is almost shocking. Maneuverability, down-the-line speed and stability on the wave, in critically steep sections and when negotiating white water sections has taken a quantum leap forward. I'll go back to the boxier rails when you pry my cold dead hands off my k-rails.
The increase in fun and performance more than makes up for the paddling instability that the s-rails provoke. But just as I had to get used to and adjust to the much shorter original SIMSUP with quad fins and no center fin a year ago to the month, I am now moving up the learning curve and making adjustments on the new and improved SimmyD.
One other design element is important to mention, and that is reduced weight due to more efficient glassing techniques and using a lighter, stingerless EPS (styrofoam) blank. SIMSUP weighed in at about 23.5 pounds while SimmyD tipped the scale at 19.8. While adding greatly to the maneuverability of the board, the lighter weight lends itself to greater instability. This element has been easier to adjust to than the k-rails though. The other thing about lighter is the loss of some paddling inertia. When you get a 23.5 pound board moving in one direction it tends to want to stay moving in that direction even when power is no longer applied. A lighter board simply has less inertia, therefore catching waves isn't as "easy". Again, not that big a deal, but a noticeable difference between the two boards that requires adjustment.
So basically we are looking at two areas of concentration: 1) overcoming instability while standing 2) adjusting my paddle stroke technique. Tuesday my feet were at the very edges of the 23" wide deck pad, so much so that they were angled off onto the sloping tops of the s-rails. This felt pretty weird. But yesterday I was off the s-rail and several inches in from the edges of the pad and feeling very comfortable. Secondly, I've learned that I need to stand just a bit forward of the place I stood on SIMSUP for regular paddling. I'm not sure why exactly but this is the best place to stand. Also, I am learning a new paddling technique that Kyle (Angulo Demo Day) taught me which allows me to save energy and paddle more efficiently by bending more at the waist. This works great on my 10' Angulo and the bigger boards, but when you put that much weight forward on an 8' SUP it tends to want to sink the nose. Since SimmyD is something like a paipo with a paddle, i.e. not a whole lot of rocker, then further paddling adjustments are in my future. But no big deal really, I can always default back to my old style of centering my weight in more of an upright posture and doing more arm paddling. (Although this tends to make my shoulders a lot more tired.) The last challenge is that the board is tippier during that last few seconds shift in footwork from parallel (for paddling) to left foot forward, regular foot stance (for surfing). But, the more I practice the better I get and I felt much more comfortable in all areas today than last Tuesday.
Barry, owner/operator of Making The Drop "surfing lessons for life" was out with me for most of the session and we had plenty of time to talk. Barry is a professional surfer and also loves the mini-Simmons design surfboard. As a matter of fact he was surfing on one. It's always good to get a second, third, etc. opinion from someone who knows and Barry was very intrigued by SimmyD both as a design and after watching how it surfed. So I've gotten some very positive feedback on both days of surfing the board. Tuesday from Peti, and now today from Barry. The life of a pro surf instructor is tough of course. Next week he has to take clients to El Salvador for surfing. Yes, next week...during you know what. Well....someone's got to do it....
My last wave of the hour and a half session was a gift that lifted up from out to sea in the first real set of the afternoon. It blasted in just slightly wide of the take-off and lined up fast and perfect for a ride that took me up and over the shallow inside reefs still riding the reeling fast wall, and then almost all the way to the Tweenies pocket beach. I left my camera on by accident just before paddling for the wave. The picture is black but you can hear the last bits of my conversation with Barry, and then the rush of the wave as I'm heading down the line. An artsy accident.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
The 14' Angulo Shaka is the foundational all-around distance/downwind/expedition board, and everyone I talked to that owns one loves it. It's stable and steady. The other three boards are hot off the press so to speak, super light carbon prototypes that are soon to go into production. Angulo Designs is also working on a very innovative option for buyers that would allow them to receive a custom race board built exactly to their needs and specifications at a very attractive price point. Stay tuned to the Angulo Designs website for more on this.
The Angulo Designs team has a lot going on these days in terms of new boards and advanced shapes. Ed is not one to ever stand still, always thinking and coming up with better and better designs. You can check it all out and contact the Angulo Team on Facebook, Angulo SUP and the Angulo Designs website.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Swell: 5.7 at 9.0 NW(320) & 1.4 at 14.0 SW (200)
Conditions: Fog clearing to partly cloudy
Tide: 0.8 Rising to 1.0 ft.
L41 SimmyD 8'0" X 30.25" X 4.5" Weight: 19.8 lbs Vol: 127L
I paddled with Libby and Paul this morning, Paul on his OC-1, Libby on the prone Bark paddleboard and me on Paul's custom 14' Bark Expedition. The ocean was calm and beautiful and until the fog cleared it was a wee bit chilly. We launched from NB and paddled up to Sarges where to our great surprise we found some real waves.
I had thrown my new wave riding SUP (SIMSUP 2 aka SIMSUP "Deuce" and to be known forever now as SimmyD) in the back of the van just to try it out after our paddle. I wasn't expecting any surf today. But finding waves we headed out past the kelp beds and then made a straight line for NB, quikening our pace so we could surf. But before the paddling session ended, I learned what I needed to know about the Bark Expedition as a possible option for my selection of a race/distance/fitness paddler. More on that later...
Because I hadn't expected waves I didn't bring my full wetsuit. Just my 2 mil shortie, boardshorts and a rash guard. But I didn't want to waste time getting my full suit. It was low tide and I figured the swell could get erased by the higher tide so I wanted to get in the water asap. I'd already paddled for a couple hours and figured I'd be tired anyway. Instead, I got juiced with SimmyD and surfed a two hour session in small, fast waist/chest high fun zippers at Gdubs.
SimmyD is a nasty freak who is fast, loose and gets me wet. This ride is a screamer who wants to run and let her hair blow back in the wind. She don't allow no whining. Figure her out, or get off. It took me about a half hour and two waves to bond. I know enough of her moves to want a lot more and I know I'm gonna get some.
SimmyD is exactly like the SIMSUP but for the following. 1) Krails (s-rails, whatever you want to call 'em.) Kirk shaved a total of 3L of foam off the deck side or top of the rails. This leaves a rail line that is greatly reduced from the usual thick and boxy rails found on most SUPs. It also leaves you with rails that look and surf more like a surfboard, not a SUP. Those rails combine with the second important change. 2) Weight. SimmyD is svelte and knows it. She weighs four pounds less than her older sister and acts a lot younger. Fast and loose is her new language and she loves to dish it. Her weight loss is due to an new and improved glass schedule from Paradise that is durable but lighter and a stringerless 1.5 pound EPS blank. Before adding the deckpad and fins she weighed in at about 17 pounds. Now she sits right at 19.8 lbs.
SimmyD is more temperamental, like the fast race horse she resembles. At 127L volume there is plenty of float for this 154 pound old man, but what makes her a bit more difficult to handle is the reduced volume of the rail (not as much float and stability directly on the rails) and the lighter weight. Being high strung and quick makes her more nervous, but the payoff is in extraordinary maneuverability and head snapping down the line speed. One of Kirk's buddies Peti was out with me and said, "that board is fast!" Yeah bruddah.
Water temps are right around 51 degrees and I thought I'd freeze out right quick but SimmyD made me hot to trot and her wave riding seductions were too much for me to resist. Finally though, after two hours, when my teeth were chattering and my legs wobbling, she took me home and put me away wet and all lathered up.
Kirk at L41 Surfboards knows how to build 'em and our collaboration on this second iteration of an idea I came to him with has been extraordinarily successful. Beyond my imaginings, because I didn't really know where it was going when we started. I thank him for taking this project on when a lot of shapers would have just said, "it won't work." But Kirk knew exactly how to make it work, and then improved upon the original. If you're looking for a custom board, you owe it to yourself to hit him up. You won't be disappointed.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Location: NB to the L41, to the Kelp Beds & Back
Swell: 7.5 at 11.4 NW (46042) 3.6 at 11.8 WNW (46236)
Conditions: Clear, hot and sunny with light southwesterlies
Tide: 3.2 Rising to 3.8 ft.
It's a good thing it isn't like this every day. I'd never get anything done. With record breaking temps forecast and in the making, I headed back to NB's for another upcoast paddle. Today the surf jumped up a tick, but the steep swell angle kept it from being a surf day. On the 10' custom Angulo all-arounder I knew I could score a good paddle and surf too if anything rolled in.
Lot's of folks in the NB parking lot and straight off I ran into Paul and Libby coming in from a paddle. Paul had paddled his one-man racing outrigger canoe, and Libby was on the Bark prone paddleboard. We had a good conversation and Paul offered his Bark 14' Expedition for me to try. Deal. He's also been busy converting his garage into a shaping room. He's shaped six surfboards so far and is making beautiful wooden paddles, one of which he had with him today. This deserves it's own post so I'll get to that another day. Paul is an amazing guy with an inspiring story. He was a kick-ass firefighter/paramedic who suffered a heart attack way before his time. He fought his way back but was forced to retire. Since then he's taken his passion and avocation and developed it far beyond where most of us ever go. It will be an interesting video.
I paddled at 50-70% power upcoast, just enjoying the day and trying to keep a steady and consistent rhythm and pace going. I hung out at a couple places to check the waves and surf a few. Sheriff Joe was out at the L41, and honestly, looked like he was having the most fun of all on his 8-11 Lopez Li'l Darling SUP. Occasionally there would be a waist high wave, but it was inconsistent. The beauty of the day made it all worthwhile, especially since I had another dimension than the conventional surfers. No SUP, no waves, no fun.
After surfing I headed straight out to sea, almost to the end of the kelp beds, about a quarter to half-mile offshore. Very quiet, lots of otters. Water visibility still extraordinary. The paddle back down to NB was all gentle downwind. As I was still in the kelp beds, and the winds were light, there weren't any real bumps to ride. I'm gonna be trying a few different distance/racing SUPs in the next few days. I've got a Surftech Bark Competitor lined up for Saturday, and Friday I'll be trying out all three distance Angulo SUPs, the 14 ft. Shaka and the 12-6 and 14 ft. Tiger Shaka models. I'm really looking forward to that. I can hardly wait to get outside the influence of the land mass where the "real" ocean conditions are as Jens would say.
For anyone interested in the video stuff, today's vid was shot with the GE DV1 waterproof video camera. I'll write more on it later but so far I like the Kodak PlaySport Zx3 a little better. Kudos to Amazon for their service. In all I've owned four PlaySports and one DV1. I sent both Zx5 PlaySports back (they have a fatal engineering flaw), one for exchange and one for a full refund. After field testing the two I have now, the Zx3 and the DV1, I'll send one back for a refund within Amazon's 30-day return policy. They make it difficult to shop anywhere else, especially for these cameras.
What happened to the second PlaySport Zx3 you might ask. I lost it at sea. Pilot error. I failed to secure it properly to my person and on one particularly turbulent wipeout, Neptune claimed it.
Here's a very good video from Ocean Paddler re the last Olukai Maliko race. It really shows up close and personal how much fun (and challenging) a good downwinder can be.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Location: NB to the L41 and Back
Swell: 2.3 at 12.9 NW (46042) 2.0 at 12.5 WNW (46236)
Conditions: Clear and sunny with light ruffles, glassy in the kelp
Tide: 3.8 falling to 3.5 ft.
I love the first full blown days of Spring when the sun shines without blemish, the sky is crystal deep blue and the wind takes it's own Spring Break. There is so much promise in time like this for a future Summer of warm days and "warm" water. (Sixty degree water would be a veritable hot springs.)
For all surfers and especially for SUP surfers and practitioners, it's time for surfing to take a (partial) back seat to the expanded opportunities and joys that stand up paddleboarding has to offer. When there is no surf, there is an entire ocean coastline to explore, there are productive and meaningful paddle races to seek out where all level of ability and contestants can be found from the laid back prosaic to the rabid professionals and recreational cruisers. It is a time to get excited about the newness of it all. The new season, the new conditions and the new experiences and adventures that are now hidden but waiting to be found. I can hardly wait to seek, enjoy and savor the coming days. (But please, please, please, please, please...not so much fog this year!)
Something even newer than a fresh Summer season may be in the making as I wonder about expanding my SUP practice from only surfing to distance paddling, touring, downwinders and maybe even a race or two. I have to blame Andy and Sam for this. They both expanded their horizons gradually during the last several seasons. Andy by nature is a pretty competitive guy so after a couple races on his SUP surfboard where he got left in the dust I think his competitive spirit as well as his keen mind started, well, racing. He tested a few race boards before settling on a Bark Dominator which he got from Sam who seems to be the more fanatic of the duo. Sam travels the state, racing from Santa Barbara to Tahoe and has evolved and fine tuned his taste into his second custom Bark Dominator. But lucky for me these guys are friends and a veritable treasure chest of information on what's happening with the scene and the boards.
We're gonna paddle this Saturday, Andy and Sam on their own boards, and I'm renting a Bark Competitor (Tuflite) from Covewater. It should be a fun paddle and interesting to swap boards around for comparison. This is a pricey endeavor though, so I am cogitating on finances to see how I can make this all happen. I'm not going to be surprised if I end up with no conventional surfboards and a full SUP quiver that includes a SUP shortboard (8-0 L41 SIMSUP2), SUP all-arounder (10-0 Angulo Custom), SUP distance/race board (to be determined) and a SUP noserider (oh, did I forget to mention that?). That's another project in the works with L41 maestro Kirk. The ultimate SUP noserider aka "Tip Time SUP." Stay tuned.
I launched at NB's heading upcoast for what was supposed to be a "fitness" paddle. What that means is that I just try to keep going at a steady cadence. But as per usual, sight-seeing, all the interesting stuff one encounters on the sea surface, and friends foiled "the plan".
I had numerous sea life sightings and in addition to the usual suspects like seals and sea otters, herons and sea gulls, I had my first glimpse of a bat ray this season, a leopard shark and a beautiful and delicate jelly coasting through the kelp beds.
There were a lot of paddlers out today, and as I neared the L41, I saw someone floating in the big kelp bed off Sarge's. It was Joe whom I haven't seen in quite a while. We worked together at the Fire Department for many years. I hailed him and paddled out for the first major diversion of the session. We paddled up to the lower L41, watched a few waves, chatting all the way before oaring our way out into the kelp beds further offshore and then letting the gentle southwest wind blow us back down coast to wherever it would take us. Standing on water, our eyes and sense being drawn into the pale green pastel depths, we let ourselves be amazed at the vertiginous canyons descending between the kelp islands. After a while Joe's friend arrived on scene so we just all sat down on our boards, hanging on to the kelp and solved the problems of the world. It didn't take long. SUP more, stress less. Done!
After 45 minutes of this leisurely enjoyment I bid them a good day and headed back down to NB's and the take out. It never ceases to amaze me how you can go up coast and down coast in a headwind. Time it just right, and that's what you get. But both ways the winds were light, adding just that teeny bit extra resistance that makes you stronger in the long run.
It's gonna be a good Summer.