Entry: Friday May 13, 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.