Saturday April 28, 2012 - 1.5 hour, 7.5 mile Naish 14' Glide (courtesy of Covewater Santa Cruz). Downwinder from 4-Mile to Cowells. (From a Facebook post...My two cents worth.......Downwinders in 20-30 mph winds is the big leagues so KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Don't go by yourself. Think safety first, last, always. Stay together, it isn't a race. Have a plan that includes shuttle and equipment logistics as well as paddle route and conditions, and communicate it. Make sure everyone understands. Surfing big ocean swells in big wind successfully is thrilling as well as physically and mentally challenging. Prepare to become addicted.)
Narrative added Thursday May 3, 2012 - I remember wondering, back in 2007 when I first got into SUP surfing, whether or not one would need a SUP quiver at some point. How shallow that speculation and shortsighted that vision turned out is now evident in 2012. That stand up paddleboarding has been the salvation of the surfing industry, both corporate and for individual small business, is no longer even debatable. SUP pulled Surftech back from the brink and more than many small business shapers and designers jumped into the SUP end of the pool, realizing that the creative horizon was open as far as the mind could imagine. It didn't hurt that the margins on building a SUP board were also much healthier than most conventional surfboards, especially shortboards.
Now the adventurous SUP surfer can ride waves on longboard and shortboard SUPs, flatwater race and fitness paddle, take on rivers and rapids, have fun with the family on any body of water from Minnesota to Louisiana, Maine to Oregon; and juke their inner adrenaline junkie in the chaos, beauty and turbulence that is downwind SUP surfing and paddling.
Each genre of the SUP experience really does require it's own specialized equipment, just like surfing requires a quiver of boards to best ride different sizes and types of surf. The most prohibitive aspect of broader participation in SUP activities is probably price. These boards are expensive.
As I began moving out of the SUP surfing genre and into the racing and fitness SUP niche last year, I realized that my SUP surfboard(s) weren't going to cut it. Yes, I could use them but couldn't get the results or the expanded experiences I was after. So I did the research and I bought a 12-6 Bark Competitor. The board provides tons of value in fun and fitness. It's cost effective and user friendly for fitness paddling, racing and moderate open ocean touring. But it isn't great for downwinders. While one can use it on downwind runs, it isn't the board for the downwind genre. It doesn't surf well and the canoe/kayak bow is easily buried in the backs of the waves which slows the board greatly. I tried a couple moderate (and short distance) downwinders last year and wasn't thrilled.
But this year I'd had plenty of time to think it over and realize that I needed the right board for the job. Enter Covewater Paddle Surf Santa Cruz and the 14 ft. Naish Glide, a board designed and built for downwind paddling. Now all I needed was a windy day. Me and da Boyz got that on Saturday the 28th.
My friend Butch never tires of letting me know that I don't know shizzle about real downwinders. Having spent 20 years on Maui with a regular diet of Maliko run downwinders gives him some credibility I suppose but in checking the wind data, our run on the 28th, here on the north coast of Cali, put us in the same league as the Maui crew. Not the same skill level for sure, but the same playing field, only I'd say more challenging because of the harsher conditions. That said, let me be clear, I'll take 75 degree water any day over 52 degree brine.
Me and da Boyz completely enjoyed the challenges, adrenaline and satisfaction that our Four Mile to Cowells run provided. And we're looking for many more to come. It's opened up a "new frontier" in SUP surfing and paddling for me, and another option in this all inclusive sport of many colors and sizes. With the right quiver a SUP practitioner can be out on the water every day enjoying something different and fun while staying seriously stoked. It doesn't get much better than this.
SUP just could be the perfect all around sport. Stay tuned for more as the search for my own downwind board continues.....