Saturday July 2, 2011
Had we launched at the originally scheduled hour winds would have been a third of what they were when the seven of us pushed out from the beach at 1030. Instead of 3 with gusts of 6, according to the data recorded at Longs Marine Lab for the date and hour, it was more like wind at 10-15 mph, gusting to 18. The more experienced of our crew, Dan, John and Mike rounded the yellow buoy first and took the lead early on but kept close enough for the rest of us to try and emulate their skills. At the halfway point, the mile buoy, we got a quick primer in downwind surfing.
But by then the windiest part of the run was over and the closer we got to our destination, New Brighton State Park, the calmer it got and we finished up in glassy flat conditions, coasting in to a beach full of holiday revelers enjoying the first real extended taste of Summer we've had in two years.
The more I get into this stand up paddleboard sport the more I am amazed at the variety of experiences it provides. While I used to think that straight out paddling was monotonous and boring, I now see that there is a lot more than going from Point A to Point B. And there is also much variety in workouts depending upon where you're paddling and in what kind of conditions. For example, flat water sprinting is a whole different workout than going downwind. While your core is always involved, flat water really emphasizes upper body involvement and anaerobic cardio. But going downwind in surfable waves or bumps, along with negotiating choppy seas and whitecaps, is an intense lower body workout and balance marathon and not much heavy breathing. Either way, the benefits of SUP exercise are prolific.
This was my first "real" downwind experience in that it was possible to catch and ride bump after bump in the brisk wind and sea conditions. Downwind surfing on a long SUP brings a whole new perspective to the term "nearshore wind swell." Not that I did it very well, but I only splashed in twice (although there were numerous near misses) and I was able to stitch together a few genuine, longish rides on bona fide waves.
Since I was closest to John he gave me a couple really good tips. 1) Don't stand so far forward. I moved back about a half foot and that helped a lot to keep the nose from pearling, the board in trim and ready to catch swells. 2) Depending upon the wave you're gonna half to move your feet, step back and assume a surfing stance for as long as necessary. That was probably the best and trickiest piece of advice, and the hardest to follow...at least for me.
Parallel stance is the most stable on a SUP. And in downwind conditions you're getting hit by waves and chop from multiple directions, usually split seconds apart. Your balance is in a constant state of flux. Action, reaction. Adjust, readjust is the name of the game. Now throw in surfing and paddling. There's just a lot going on and frankly, you have to do it, practice it, and practice it some more to get good at it. The better you get, the more fun you have. Not much different really than learning to SUP in the first place.
Unlike surfing, SUP paddling is an activity you can do with a whole bunch of people at the same time. The more the merrier, especially going downwind. Imagine getting 50 waves in an hour with seven guys out and no one is even surfing the same break you're on, but they're 20 feet away. Yeah, it kinda expands your horizons.
NOTE: The video never seems to show how it felt out there, i.e. it felt a lot more gnarly. But it's a genuine look at the way it was even though I'm not able to shoot for very long while standing on my SUP. The loss of forward momentum while wallowing in the swells and troughs makes balancing and attempting to hold the camera steady somewhat of a challenge. That's why I am so blown away by watching the Maliko run on Maui. Check it here and here. At this stage of my experience it's like watching the men and women surfing Mavs. If ya know what I mean.