Saturday June 9, 2012 - I thought today's dw-er was going to get canceled like Thursdays until at the last moment Jean-Michel said he was "in" and we were good to go. I met he and his lovely wife Isabel at Mitchells to load the boards when all of a sudden who shows up? Another Frenchie. Only in Santa Cruz could I go from an almost "no go", to downwinding with a small part of the French world in America. Gotta love it.
Olivier had his F-One with him again, and Jean-Michel was on his brand new (we just picked it up from Covewater) Naish Glide 14 and he was super stoked. I was on the Covewater rental Glide as my new Angulo Shaka won't be here until July now.
It was an incredibly beautiful day with a moderate northwest wind which would later turn offshore as the high pressure system moved in to stay for a few days. Already the air temp was hinting at warm days to come. A decent northwest wind swell was in the water to top things off and all this in combination was the makings for a fun downwinder.
Since it was the weekend Four Mile beach was being put to good use by sun worshipers and surfers. Waist/shoulder high surf was pushing through the surf zone but the channel was calm and the paddle out into the wind line looked routine. This was Jean-Michel's first "real" downwind run so he was excited to try out his new board and get into the game. We had a short safety meeting and route orientation, agreeing to stay together and wait if anyone got too far ahead.
Jean Michel and I elected to take a line that necessitated a hard paddle straight out from the beach, skirting the surfers and the kelp bed upwind of us, hoping to make as much progress out towards the open ocean as possible. Olivier took a more angled track which put him into the kelp beds downwind of the channel sooner, but as he said you've got to paddle through the kelp anyway.
The more experience you rack up doing downwinders the better you get. That is just the axiomatic truth of the matter. I felt pretty comfortable in the wind today, and put together quite a few bumps, even hooking into a number of multiple bumps aka "railroading". You can talk about how to paddle downwind all you want, and it's probably not a bad idea to know what you're getting into, but when it comes to learning how to do it, you just have to go do it. But it is so much fun it is definitley addictive. It also adds another event into the SUP surfing/paddling/downwinding quiver. I suppose the only downside to downwinding is that you need two people to do it because of the shuttle aspect. It's also safer and more prudent to have a buddy with you out in the water.
At 27 3/4 inches wide, the Glide is tippier than the Shaka which has 30" of width. But the real problem I have with the Glide is the tall rails and hard edges. The board just seems to want to flip over more easily, especially in a side chop which is where I took my first of four falls. The other three came because the board wants to "rail-up" and turn sideways in the trough when pushed around by several swells at once. The Shaka just doesn't want to do this and the Shaka also wants to run on the bumps. I felt like the Glide needed to be paddled into the wave more than the Shaka. But Jean-Michel was having no problems and although he may have fallen, I didn't see him fall once during the paddle. As a matter of fact, he took to downwinding naturally. Between JM and Olivier I had my work cut out trying to keep up, but I did and this was a way to measure my own personal progress.
In the end we were all stoked and fired up to do more runs in the future. And the comparison between the Glide and the Shaka may just be personal preference. Jean-Michel loves the Glide, I love the Shaka. Vive la difference!