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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Angulo Sea Shaka Fin & NB/Point RT Paddle

LinkWednesday June 29, 2011
I bagged one of the last of the first run Angulo Sea Shaka fins the day before the Jay Race. It seems that people bought up the first run batch of Sea Shaka's in a hurry and I felt fortunate to have gotten one of the last ones. But a new batch of fins is coming hot outta the RFC Factory in short order and should be available very soon if not now. For more on the Sea Shaka Fin or any Angulo products, contact Andy or Ed here.

The video has my review of the Angulo Sea Shaka fin and a brief summary of my round trip paddle from New Brighton to The Point. Again my tracking app, Every Trail, failed to track the entire trip. I suspect that is because part of that route is notorious for dropping cell phone reception. Once that connection is lost, the GPS goes down too. It's only happened twice, but both times in that location.

Today's round trip from New Brighton to The Point took about an hour and twenty minutes. Total distance as measured on the Google map was a shade over five miles. This averaged out to about 3.7 miles per hour which I consider good for me as there was a brisk head wind for the "uphill" 2.5 mile paddle from NB to the point. According to the Wunderground personal weather station located at the point, the wind was southwest at 6-13 mph with gusts only slightly greater than max wind. The wind never let up and neither did I. It was a damn good cardio and physical workout. But still, it felt really good to rest at the point, then let the wind turn me around and stroke downwind for New Brighton. My paddle felt like a hot knife cutting through butter for those first couple hundred downwind yards.

I'm really excited about how beneficial fitness stand up paddling is, much more productive than I originally speculated. Not only physically in strength, cardio and overall endurance, but spiritually as well. Being on the ocean is being in a wild and untamed place. Fifty yards from shore is the wilderness. Even more so a mile from shore on a small human powered vessel. It is a working, dynamic meditation. It is being closer to the power that created it, and us. The vastness of place, and the insignificance of person is real. The experience can order and/or re-order our thought processes and priorities. It's as close as we'll ever come to walking on water. The result is humbling.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Jay Day

Saturday June 25, 2011
Kudos to everyone, sponsors, organizers and participants for making the Jay Race No Ka Oi! And to all my friends for keeping me young.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Jay Race 2-Mile Practice Run

Another nice day on the Bay so I thought I'd launch from New Brighton and paddle down to the Jay Race site in Tola for a practice run at the 2-mile course. The race buoys aren't up but the route is easy, especially since the maps were published a few days ago. I probably went a little short but I got to double check the kelp bed locations which really aren't in the way much. If the south swell peaks as forecast for tomorrow it should make for some interesting conditions entering and exiting the water.

I attended the get together at Covewater with Candice Appleby and Anthony Vela which was informative and valuable. It's not too often you get to hang out with a couple champions who are so willing to talk about their experiences, boards, training programs, the whole nine yards. I was impressed by their knowledge and how articulately they expressed themselves. They are multi-discipline champs and surprisingly (to me at any rate) they will both be paddling traditional (prone) paddleboards in the 12-mile Jay Race. Thanks to Scott and Leslie at Covewater for hosting and for Surftech's Duke Brouwer for mc'ing the event.

Jay Race 2-Mile Practice Run

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Covewater Happy Hour with SUP Paddle Champions Appleby and Vela

Hosted SUP Happy Hour (yes, that's right...HOSTED) at Covewater this Thursday with the world's top female paddler, Candice Appleby and Anthony Vela! Stop by Covewater Paddle Surf Thursday eve (6-7) for pupus from Pono Hawaiian Grill, beverages, and a talk with three-time Battle of the Paddle champion and female SUP ambassador Candice Apppleby and last year's Jay Race winner, Anthony Vela! More info in the link below. Don't miss this, it'll be a rare opportunity to talk with and listen to a couple of world champion SUP racers. And Covewater's buying. Deal!

Click here for more....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Yacht Harbor to Cowells RT

Tuesday June 21, 2011

Today, the first day of Summer 2011, was custom made and I'm so thankful that I was able to enjoy it. It was perfect in every way. Temperatures are 5-15 degrees above normal with not a cloud in the sky. The sea breeze was light, barely ruffling the sea while allowing expansive shards of mirror glass to cover the watery playing field.

I had to go into town to run an errand so I planned a round trip paddle, launching at the Yacht Harbor then traveling west to the Lane and inside Cowells. The ocean was as calm and gentle as I've ever seen it. A very special day.

Yacht Harbor To Cowells RT

Monday, June 20, 2011

Natural Bridges To Capitola Pier 8.25 Miles

Saturday June 18, 2011

Da Boyz and I planned a paddle in what turned out to be great conditions, launching from Natural Bridges and finishing up at Hoopers Beach in Capitola. Winds were light and mostly at our backs for the entire distance. The sea surface was probably about as mellow as it gets with lightly rolling seas and nary a white cap in sight.

The idea has been to slightly increase the distance each week so we don't overdo it physically for any one paddle event. Today was a good confidence builder for all of us although I must say I was pretty tired on Sunday and needed all of it as a rest day. But today, Monday, I'm feeling good and will get in for a paddle tomorrow.

We ran into Kyle and his friends at the take-out and he's in for our next weekend paddle which will probably be in a couple weeks as the Jay Race is next Saturday, June 25. Sam is gonna do the 12-miler, but the rest of us are holding off, feeling not quite ready for that distance...yet. We'll be doing the 2-mile and the relay and looking forward to a fun day.
Natural Bridges to Capitola Pier at EveryTrail
EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in California

Thursday, June 16, 2011

2011 Jay Race Course Maps

Training Paddle #2 New Brighton to Pleasure Point RT

Thursday June 16, 2011

The anticipated but steep angled south swell #4 never showed up (there's a surprise) so the best alternative was to go paddling. My plan re this fitness paddling phase of my SUP life is to aim for a minimum of three fitness paddling sessions per week. Two long ones and a short one. The long ones would fall into the LSD category. Long Slow Distance. Great for overall cardio fitness and core strength training. The short paddle is more or less a sprint. But the idea is to mix LSD (aerobic) with pedal to the metal workouts (anaerobic) to develop long term stamina as well as speed. I'll mix it up to keep it from getting boring and see what happens.

New Brighton to PP RT

EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

The Every Trial tracking app gives me the ability to design a course with both distance and degree of difficulty in mind. It is a much more demanding workout to paddle in the open ocean than in flat water. So two paddles of equal distance, one in flat water nearshore and one in the rolling seas of the open ocean are not equal workouts. Downwind paddles in high winds are also much more demanding physically. At my point of fitness and skill, I can paddle vigorously and put all I've got into sprinting in flat water, but try that in choppy seas and I'd be falling off a lot. I love learning new stuff.

The Every Trail app malfunctioned on today's trip. It ended about a mile before I actually finished the paddle. This could have been my fault as I had some trouble getting the phone to respond in the Dry Case at the finish. I may have inadvertently stopped the app by accident. Whatever. Best practice in future will be to remove the camera from the Dry Case and stop it. Todays distance was more like 6.5 miles.

So far, the plan I envisioned and have implemented for distance/fitness paddling is working out. Since surfing is nature dependent one has a limited number of opportunities to paddle surf in the ocean. But as long as the ocean is there and the weather isn't adverse, I can get out and workout in the gym. God's Gym. Perfect!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mile Buoy RT

Tuesday June 14, 2011

I wanted to do a short distance today in preparation for the 2-mile Jay Race on the 25th, just to get an idea of how long it would take. Since I don't really know how far out to sea a mile is, I chose the "mile buoy" as my goal. No rocket science needed. However I somehow managed to miss this skyscraper of a buoy in the fog. ("In the fog"...that's my excuse and I'm stickin' to it.)

Mile Buoy RT

EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in the Bay Area, California

I paddled straight out to sea from the beach, keeping my eyes peeled once I was well past the end of the wharf which is a half-mile long. In the fog it was a bit hard to see, but not that bad I thought. So...the first thing that came into view that looked like a buoy, I paddled for. I didn't know it for sure at the time, but it wasn't it. So having accomplished half my mission of reaching the buoy and feeling pretty sure that I'd paddled at least a mile, I rounded the wrong buoy and headed back. I never did see the "real" mile buoy. (The RT paddle turned out to be 2.3 miles so I accomplished my primary goal.)

In hind sight and after communicating with more experienced paddlers I figure I was too far west. I should have taken a more easterly track at the end of the wharf instead of heading west. Live and learn. Next time I'm on it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pier To Pier Practice Run

Saturday June 11, 2011

The original plan was to launch from Natural Bridges and downwind to the Pleasure Point area. But the wind was up early and blowing 20-30 mph at launch time. So we scratched that plan and launched from Cowell's Beach at the Santa Cruz Wharf. In addition to it being much less windy, at least for the first five minutes in the lee of the half-mile wharf, it was good practice for the Pier to Pier race.

The paddle from the beach to the first Coast Guard buoy was a delightful tour past the relaxed tourists on the wharf and the frenzied barking of the sea lions that have taken over the eastside boat dock. But conditions turned quickly as we made our way into the wind stream.

The thing about downwinders is that, so far, I haven't really experienced one. Not the one that I envisioned anyway. One imagines a straight coastline and paddling down it in a straight line, with the wind blowing straight behind you. That is probably the "mind downwinding" equivalent of "mind surfing". In my very brief experience doing downwinders the coastline is rarely straight and the wind (and the seas the wind blows up) are never lined up neatly behind you. And as was the case today, the wind and the seas were at a 45-degree angle to the shoreline, or blowing offshore, that is from the opposite side of the aforementioned wind direction, or sometimes even (miracles of miracles) right in my desired direction of travel.

Pier To Pier

EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking near San Jose, California

I battled this sideways chop and wind that blew up whitecaps all around until I'd had enough. That's when I paddled truly downwind and into a rolling but relatively calm kelp bed off Blacks Point. The bad about that was the backwash coming off the point. It quickly became evident that I had to resume paddling in choppy seas or else hit the beach. So I slogged on through the messy and anything but smooth potato patch between Blacks and Pleasure Point.

Fortunately there was no real ground swell of note today so I could take this "low road" strategy. Even still, I had to head back out to sea to avoid the breakers off Little Windansea and Sewer Peak because by now I was too far inside to guarantee my course's wavelessness. I was paddling in thick kelp but surprisingly this went well. With a strong wind at your back you can pretty much sail right across the seaweed. And that's when the real fun began.

Just past Sewers, with the wind directly at my back, I could set a straight line course direct to the Capitola Pier. I had a good feeling of speed as I jetted across the kelp patches and open spots of ocean. When I quickly arrived off Privates the wind went offshore for the next mile or so to the Pier. But it was a good run and a good experience.

I fell off twice today. Once in a pitching sea when side chop surprised me by how steeply (and quickly) it put my board up on a rail, and the other when some kelp finally took me down. But that's not bad considering all the times I could have fallen off, and I learned a lot from today's practice.

Our original plan was to stay clear of the kelp beds by paddling outside them. But for me that was too much work and too much confused seas and white caps. If the wind had been less brisk it would have been a different story.

We paddled back to the takeout at Privates where we'd parked the shuttle vehicles. Andy's wife Nancy and the kids, Bobby and Jilly were there playing in the shorebreak and paddling Andy's Uli board.

The next paddle is scheduled for next Saturday. Route undecided.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Training Paddle #1 & Gear Review

Friday June 10. 2011

Today I did my first longer distance training paddle. I didn't have a specific distance in mind but I wanted it to be longer by a lot than any of my other paddles. (The longest to date was about 3.5 miles.) I solicited advice and mana'o from several paddlers and friends who had passed on info in conversation. Paul, Big Dave, Robert, Sam, Andy and others all added to my neophyte's reservoir of knowledge.

Paul was the first to tell me about the buoys, which I could use as way points for different paddle routes. Big Dave followed up with reinforcing info and some specifics that helped out in today's paddle. He told me about following the edge of the kelp beds and following the fishing boats, then turning seaward and making for the buoy named SC3 when I was abeam of Jack's house. And Robert gave me the hot tip about the Every Trail tracking app.

The Every Trail free app enabled me to track exactly the distance, time and mph of my paddle. At this stage of my development it will enable me to establish different training routes, based upon distance and degree of difficulty. As it turns out, 6.5 miles was a perfect distance for me to not only gauge how I would hold up over the route, but how long it would take me to paddle it given the investment in energy it would take. This is valuable info in preparing a training regimen suited to my age and fitness level. It also let me know that I'm going to easily be able to paddle the July 16th Covewater Classic 7-mile Open race, and that I'm not really ready for the Jay 12-miler on June 25....this year that is.

Training Paddle #1

EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Forest of Nisene Marks State Park

In addition to gauging my physical condition and readiness for ocean paddling, I was able to test some new gear that I bought specifically for safety, and to enhance the distance/fitness SUP paddling experience.

Until today I didn't really think I would need the Nathan HPL #008 Hydration Vest for the majority of my training paddles. But I was wrong. I filled the 1.5 liter water bladder halfway just to add some weight to the garment, primarily so I could test it for fit and comfort. I ended up drinking most of it. This Nathan hydration pack was not specifically designed for SUP paddlers, rather for foot racers but it's Spartan yet utilitarian design as well as the materials used and quality construction drew me to it. It is light, seemingly durable (only time will tell) and extremely comfortable to wear. It comes with enough storage in front and in back to hold everything I will need now and in the foreseeable future. The small, compact and secure pocket on the back easily holds my dry case and phone and while I haven't yet used the music playback feature of my phone while paddling, the waterproof ear buds can be configured to be out of my way should I choose to listen to music. Thanks to Sam for showing me the logic of that configuration on his hydration pack.

I was convinced about the Dry Case waterproof case for my phone after an "out in the ocean" conversation I had with a SUP surfer as I was paddling through a surf spot about a month ago. He was out for a surf and was listening to music (I thought) on his headphones. Since I was doing research on a waterproof case, I paddled up and asked what he had and how he liked it. He asked me to hang on for a second, said a few words into his "headphones," and then turned to me. He'd just gotten off the phone. He was attending a company board meeting. How cool is that! He had a Dry Case, said he loved it, it worked great, had no complaints and had originally purchased it in Hawaii. He'd had it a while and no problems. Done deal.

Using the Dry Case today went as planned. My Android LG Vortex fits in the bag with room to spare. The case comes with a squeeze bulb that pumps the air out of the case when sealed. If you don't do this I found that the touch screen on the phone won't always respond. Creating a vacuum sucks the plastic skin of the face to the phone for a smooth seal and the phone works like it should. The #1 reason for having the phone with me is safety, the mp3 player is secondary, at this point anyway.

The video is about eight minutes. In it I take a look at the Nathan HPL #008 Hydration Vest and the Dry Case waterproof case for my smart phone in addition to my usual comments from the ocean. The Kodak Playsport Zx3 is in Illinois for repair. This vid was shot using the Olympus Stylus Tough 6000.

When I launched, I had a rough idea of my route. I set out from New Brighton and took the low route, next to the cliffs, to what I call the Capitola Gap. From there I looked at the voluminous kelp bed and for the fishing boats Big Dave told me about. Since a straight line is the shortest distance between two points I did my best to keep my course straight (to the fishing boats) but out of the kelp as well. When I arrived at the outermost fishing boat I looked into shore to see where I was in relation to Jack's house. Then I looked out to sea for the buoy. This little teeny dot on the horizon I spied waaaaaay out there. Was that a buoy? Why not? I paddled for it and it became clear after not too long that it was, in fact, a buoy.

Conditions today were probably about perfect. There was a light southwest wind blowing in my face that wasn't troublesome. Seas were light and smooth for the most part, especially near the kelp beds. Once I cleared the fishing boats and turned towards the buoy the deeper water ground swell became more evident but it was rolling and gentle. The Bark 12-6 Competitor had no difficulty handling it. I felt at home.

As I neared the buoy I was getting curious. Which of the buoys Big Dave told me about was this one? It turned out to be SC3. It felt like an adventure to be out there on my board, by myself, surrounded by wilderness. Paddling up to the buoy to ID it was a lot like finding the markers atop the high sierra mountains I'd climbed. As I rounded the buoy and plotted a straight line course back to New Brighton I heard the startling and familiar sounds of an exhaling mammal behind me. I turned back to see what I'd hoped was a whale but no, only two curious sea lions. Always good for an adrenaline jolt when you're not expecting it.

This leg of the paddle was the straightest and most uneventful. I found myself paying more attention to my fatigue and continuously working muscles than I should. This made the paddle seem tedious and strenuous. I found it helpful on the first and shorter legs of the route to set small goals. Get to the gap, paddle for the edge of the kelp just past the pier, make it past the fishing boats, head for the buoy. On a longer stretch, with few markers, setting goals became more difficult. But I forced my mind away from the tedium and concentrated on the graceful forms the water took as it pealed off the bow of my paddle powered vessel, or at the vast expanse of watery real estate all around me and the powerful rolling swells relentlessly enduring my presence, or at the shore which was an arc of cliff, sea and mountains reaching up thousands of feet into the sky from which their Creator's Spirit was no doubt gazing down upon this eternally loved speck of me. Not a bad distraction.

Tomorrow the Boyz and I have planned our second Nat'l Bridge to the Harbor downwinder. I wasn't sure how ready my body would be after today's workout. But as I write this five hours after the paddle, I feel good. Long, evenly paced and moderate distance paddling feels less tiring than a three or four hour surf. The difference is in standing. When surfing you get off your feet all the time. Today I stood for nearly two-hours, taking no rest stops to get off my feet. That may be one of the reasons my glutes were aching near the end of the paddle. I may have to plan some rest stops on the longer paddles.

The take-out was uneventful although it is always a bit tenuous to hit dry land while negotiating the incoming waves, grabbing on to a big board and managing the paddle too. I was tired, happy and my head was buzzing with the addiction of new experience.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

2011 Olukai Ho'Olaule'a Event

This is a short video re-cap of the 2011 Olukai Ho'Olaule'a event which is held on Maui and features SUP and OC1 paddlers taking on the Maliko run. The top paddlers usually finish the 8-mile race in 40-50 minutes! They say the winner is always the one who catches the most bumps.

2011 OluKai Ho'olaule'a from OluKai Premium Footwear on Vimeo.

South Swell #3 Rumba

Tuesday and Wednesday June 7 and 8, 2011

Think back for a moment about the most fickle girlfriend or boyfriend you ever had. I know mine (I've had more than one) weren't around long and you definitely couldn't count on 'em. That's what south swells are like on the L41.

Now Southie #3 was something of an exception but in order for us to see a super high quality, dependable south swell it has to have impeccable cred, so much so that if it were human, he/she'd be a saint.

The L41 is a safe harbor, there's one practically in the line-up. Therefore it's not known for it's booming XL surf, and it rarely gets any size up in that category, especially during the Summer south swell months when it's Winter in the South Pacific. At the south end of our bay is a landmass that when viewed from the L41 is on the compass at 180 degrees. No front line in the NFL can touch it when it comes to blocking. It's safe to say that nothing dependable can rinse our shores in the 180 to 185 degree angle either, still too much blocking or shadowing action going on.

South swells have to travel hundreds of miles through island archipelagos and underwater mountain ranges that scrape the guts and juice out of those highly sought deep water swells. And I have a theory that the deep water canyon located in the middle of the bay, eats up a lot of deep water energy that may or may not re-emerge from it. But if the angle is just right, and there's enough wave/swell energy entrained, we get our fickle girlfriend or boyfriend in the house. And like anyone who is helplessly in love, we put up with a lot to get just a little and still come back for more. You know it's true.

My Kodak Playsport Zx3 malfunctioned on my first clip Wednesday, the superior wave riding day. I missed a lot of very good shots. It's now in for repair.

South swell #1 made us wait, but the dancing was good. We partied, we had some fun. South swell #2 made us wait and then showed up without taking a shower or using any deodorant. Basically, he stunk the place up and was a bit of a mess. South swell #3 however was friendlier and more reliable. She showed up right on time and for kind of a plain Jane type, she was looking good and could rumba too. I spent some time with her yesterday and today.

Tuesday #3 was walking in the door. I played with her at the low tide, and rather than paddle up to GDubs where she was shining most brightly (and playing the field with all her buddies) I stayed downcoast at Sarges and hung out just with her in the fast paced, low tide zippers. Basically it was surfing a beach break, short fast and walled up, over a kelp choked reef. But the two hour session was fun and I thought of it as a warm-up for Wednesday's date.

Wednesday I'd have been better off following my own advice and getting out there at first light. Kirk did and scored some of the best waves of the morning in the just right and dropping tide. I watched him take down more than a few long, fast walls on his new 8-6 split tail SUP. The man can surf (here and here) and he builds boards that can keep up with him and vice versa.

But it wasn't a total loss for me, I just lost out on an hour's worth of waves. I started out at GDubs around 0715 and basically took the tour. I surfed every spot on the L41 from GDubs to the Yellow House during my four hour session. I gotta admit #3 more me out.

Tuesday night the swell began filling in and Wednesday morning it was as booming as it was gonna get. Well populated sets of 8-12 waves charged in at very acceptable intervals for a long period southie. Waiting for the right wall that bent in over the multiple reefs could offer the rider a long and section filled thrill ride from GDubs to Sarges. They were relatively scarce, but when dropped into, it was one unbroken ride for one good surfer.

As the tide dropped I headed down coast, not necessarily because the waves were any better, it was still good at G's on the right wave, but now the low tide exposed kelp was getting insane. Take-offs and drops were in a thick carpet like layer of kelp. Sometimes the wave would give you room to make a bottom turn and gather speed, but usually the strategy was to just drop over the steep lip and turn at the top, staying high in the speed line using the waves power to amass velocity, and staying out of the kelp which was abundant mid-face and in the trough. But that kind of surfing is SimmyD's specialty.

I too often paddled into the first or second wave of a multiple wave set which gave me a good ride but closed me out into the rush of the set's remainders. You don't be duck diving a SUP. You don't be log rolling a SUP, even a short one like the 8-0 SimmyD. My tactic if the whitewash isn't too voluminous, is to throw the paddle on the deck longitudinally and hang on to the back half of the board and the paddle shaft. This way I can time it so that I weight the tail and bring the nose up and over the incoming line of wash. This works OK most of the time. When it doesn't there can be consequences. Like one yesterday that shot a fin into my right thigh. I thought for sure I'd see a gash in my wetsuit. But there wasn't one. Instead a got a deep bruise that hobbled but didn't end my session.

That one set washed me through Sarges and into Middles where I saw several perfect peelers wind through at Brown House. So I headed there, joining Barry on his shortboard. First wave was a screamer that yielded a steep and fast take-off, backing off for a second before setting up for a speed run through the bowl (and usual take-off spot) at Yellow House. That was fun so I finished off my session there.

Today as I write everything is sore. But that's one of the things I love about SUP surfing. You get this amazing whole body workout and (the most important point) you're having fun doing it. As much as I lament my fickle south swell friends, I hafta say #3 showed me a good time and I'll miss her.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

New Quickblade Kanaha FG90 & FCS SUP Specific Adjustable Leash

Monday May 30, 2011

I was looking forward to using my new Quickblade Kanaha FG90 which I bought from Covewater a few days ago. Scott made quick work of cutting the shaft to size. I wanted the option of making it smaller so I deliberately asked him to cut it long. I can make another cut at home. Scott also gave me one of the new FCS SUP specific adjustable leashes to try.

I knew almost immediately after launching that the paddle shaft was too long. So at home I'll cut another inch or so off it and try again. Until I find the right size I use waterproof electrical tape wrapped around the paddle shaft and handle to hold it in place. It works great and doesn't move around. The handle is easy to remove in case further adjustments are needed.

The upwind leg to the L41 was a chore but I was surprised at how well the 12-6 plowed through the headwind and chop, and how I was able to move steadily forward to the destination. I definitely was glad to turn around and speed back downwind though. The 3.4 mile round trip (RT) took 35 minutes up, and 25 minutes back.

The paddle is perfect, not too big and not too small. My opinion about the dihedral is that it allows you to paddle a bigger blade with less effort and stress. QB's come in three sizes. 90, 100 and 110 square inches. Because I was able to demo Covewater's QB Kanaha 100, and realized that it was a bit too much paddle for me, I knew the 90 would be a good fit. With paddles and SUPs "try before you buy" has to be the mantra of any cautious consumer.

I liked the leash a lot. It was easy to attach and adjust and calf leashes are my favorite. I literally did not feel it on my leg. It just hung effortlessly behind me and didn't get in my way or impede water flowing over or around the board. This is especially nice in kelpy waters like ours where leashes can catch on stalks of kelp and drag you to a screeching halt. Check the FCS video out for info on the leash.

South Swell #2 We Woulda Liked To Know Ya Better

Wednesday June 1, 2011
Southie #2 came to us from too steep an angle to really make itself well known. As per the last and first forecast south swell, #2 was late by about 40 hours. And when it did arrive the weather begrudgingly relented a bit, but never provided the hospitable winds needed to make this a cleaner and crisper wave riding day either today or tomorrow, June 2.

From the gitgo the winds were never good on Wednesday. I was out at 0830 after waiting for a little less drained out tide and winds were brisk from the southwest. Each paddle back into the line-up was into a steadily increasing head wind as winds just got worse by the hour. Surf was sectiony and crumbly due to the unpleasant mix of NW ground swell, near shore wind swell and possibley some secondary south swell that I couldn't really feel out in the water.

After an hour I decided to save my energy in hopes of better conditions and a more recognizable arrival of the southie tomorrow.

Thursday June 2, 2011
Because the south swell had been advertised so widely it was fairly crowded by 0830 Thursday morning. I paddled out to the Brown House in hopes of getting a few with fewer people. That strategy proved to be a mistake because the wind and ground swells had backed way off, and the south swell, which was finally showing a bit, wasn't really banging in yet. So I spent a frustrating first half hour trying to chase down some ridable waves.

Meanwhile, up-reef at Sarges it looked like a sweepers convention. At one point the ratio of SUP surfers to prone surfers (oh yeah, sorry, I mean "real" surfers) was 3 to 1. Which is one of the reasons I stayed away, at least for a while, hoping things would balance out a bit and helping to keep the peace. It did even out when I abandoned my fruitless adventure down coast and paddled into a couple hours of fun waist/chest high waves at Sarges.

By then the really testy prone-nation folks has gone to work, leaving a much mellower group behind. But everyone got waves, looked like they were having a good time, and the vibe was upbeat and positive, at least on the surface.

Again, the wind was never really good. It started light from the southeast before shifting light southwest and increasing slowly all morning. But much better than yesterday. The waves had cleaned up a lot too and upcoast, Gdubs was pretty packed. Waves were very good there with the only downside being the onshore/sideshore wind which was making for some crumbly tops. But the mostly long rides made up for the less than stellar shape.

The south started showing well around 9AM with well populated sets pouring through at very acceptable intervals. I got my fill at Sarges and finished off the morning at Middies in the rising tide which was slowing the action down a bit.

Nick was out on a new to him (used) longboard he was demoing and was just killing it. It looked like he'd been riding that board for years, putting on the noseriding exhibition of the day. Met a couple SUP guys, one from Morrow Bay who knew my buddy Jeff...aka "The Legend." Andy was in the line-up in boardshorts only, taking down his fair share as usual and dreading any swims he might be forced to take in the 53 degree water. Steve and I chatted up about his new L41 performance SUP which is at the glassers. He's gonna love it.

Southie #2 finally started showing on the farshore buoy around 10AM and it wasn't until a few hours later that it showed on the inside buoy at about 1 to 1.3 ft. at 14-15 seconds. That reading indicated how weak the swell was, not much more than very commonplace background south. I know I was disappointed overall, but once again learned a lot from tracking it, and as we all know, "life is for learning," Joni Mitchell. "Those not busy being born are busy dying." Bob Dylan. "WTF?" Numerous.

Friday, June 3, 2011

First Paddle On The New Bark Is A Downwinder

Saturday May 28, 2011

Andy and I planned our first downwinder for Saturday and the wind didn't disappoint. It was also the first time for me to paddle my new 12-6 Surftech Bark Competitor, and this was only the second or third time for Andy on his new 14' Surftech Bark Dominator.

We launched in a strong southwest wind from the beach at Natural Bridges State Park. White caps were clearly evident outside the kelp beds. Since this was my inaugural voyage in the wind, I didn't really know what to expect. To date I only had reading and videos providing my experience. To quote from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, "there ain't nothin' like the real thing baby".

Since we launched perpendicular to the wind flow, the first thing I didn't expect was how voracious and difficult it is to paddle in an side wind. Wind velocity was a steady 12-15 mph (Class 4 or 5 on the Beaufort Scale) and until we cleared the kelp beds and turned downwind I paddled hard and without ceasing on the left side of my board. This in an effort to keep it from nosing over too soon and having to plow through the copious kelp forests that littered the ocean's surface. Needles to say, after a hundred or so strokes my left leg and glutes were screaming for mercy. Mercifully we cleared the seagoing vegetation fairly quickly and started the 3.4 mile downwind leg towards the harbor.

It didn't take long to get there. With a steady wind at our backs (actually from our starboard quarter most of the way) we made it to our destination in a little under 50 minutes. Slow from an experienced paddlers perspective I'm sure. But we did it and I don't think either one of us fell off once which was in itself an accomplishment.

With very little background experience to draw from I thought the 12-6 Bark performed well which covered a host of my newbie beginner struggles. While not a dedicated downwind board, the Bark hull plowed through the whitecaps and wind chop with a steadiness that underscores the stability of the board in choppy seas. A lot of the time I was able to concentrate on my stroke, and paddling efficiently. At others times I was just trying to stay on my feet as I was battered by strong gusts of wind, or relentless wind chop that came from three different directions at once, or just turning around to try and get a shot of Andy paddling. I even managed to catch a couple bumps and get a short ride, but I think this was more by accident than by design or skill. I'll catch on eventually, but reading the bumps when they are so numerous and multi-directional is a real challenge.

Near the end of our paddle, off Seabright Beach, a guy on an fully ruddered SIC (16ft. I think) literally "blew" by us like we were standing still. His grace, dexterity and prowess were a thing of beauty. It looked like he was dancing on his board with nimble foot adjustments and paddling cadences that seemed to always put him where he should be. He caught a couple series of bumps that were not only amazing to watch, but which pushed him far into the distance towards the harbor beach. (I found out later from Kiter Mike that the guy, still don't know his name, is one of the premier SUP racing/downwind paddlers in the area. He was in fact in a race and he was the first place finisher. Truth is, he looks a lot like Danny Ching which Mike also confirmed.)

After 50 minutes and with the harbor entrance within throwing distance I was really looking forward to some smooth water. It had been a good workout for me. My legs, glutes and knees were stressed the most, and it felt good to relax and paddle within the still but wind riffled confines of the harbor. Andy and I did a couple laps just to work on paddling technique and enjoy the boards in a calm setting.

We were both really excited though and looking forward to more of these planned adventures in the future. The more I get into this racing/downwind experience, the more people I'm meeting who want to share it. A regular community is forming all around us. Or perhaps I should say that I am becoming more aware of this community of ocean paddlers in our midst. New beginnings are always such stokers!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

COVEWATER - Norcal's First Fully Dedicated SUP Surf & Paddle Shop

I surprised Scot and his wife late on Memorial Day and got a tour of the shop as well as tons of info about Covewater, and a great look at the boards, paddles and accessories they carry. Scott also filled me in on the WPA sponsored Covewater Classic SUP race coming this July 15 and 16. This 20 minute interview covers just about everything you want to know about Covewater. Check it out and then drop in and see for yourself.

Covewater online and the Covewater Classic online. Covewater is located at 725 Water Street in Santa Cruz. Phone 'em at 831-600-7230.