Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What is Downwind SUP? - Part 1

I've done a few downwind lessons and guided runs with people who are relatively new to this aspect of SUP and I've usually walked away thinking "something got lost in my message and I'm not sure what it is."  I don't like this feeling at all; mainly because I want to be a good instructor, but just as importantly, because I want them to feel what I feel!  I want them to know that feeling and to love it like I do.  So, what's missing?  It hit me one day when driving home from work.  Some people don't know WHY they are downwinding.  They think they are out there for the sole purpose of paddling with the wind at their back because it's faster and easier.  That's not it though, that's just a tiny piece of it.

They are out there to get their board on a plane and keep it there.  The "why" is to feel the surge, the hit of speed that only occurs when riding a wave.  That's what we are trying to do, we are trying to ride waves.  Period.  When we are not on a wave (or bump) we are resting a bit and looking for another one.

If you have downwinded before (and caught a bump) then you know what planing is.  If you have surfed before then you definitely know about planing.  If you have ridden in a high performance ski boat, fishing boat, or pleasure craft then you know what planing is.  Look at the picture below.  This is planing.

Pleasure boat planing.  Look at how much of the boat is out of the water, look at the smiles on their faces!  Why are they smiling?  One reason is that Donzi wants to show you how much fun their boats are, the other reason is that planing means going fast and going fast is FUN.
Let's think about planing the next time we are out in windy conditions.  Sometimes, there's just not enough wind to create the wave energy to get on a plane.  To get the board the board to plane, we need power to create speed.  Speed creates lift, lift creates planing.  Planing creates fun.  Imagine if the Donzi in the picture only had a 25 HP outboard, it would never plane.  What a shame!

One of the best downwind boards on the market, the SIC Bullet.  This is a planing shape, specifically designed for catching and surfing bumps.
  At rest and at low speeds, both the boat and the board are in displacement mode (i.e., not planing).  At high speed, they plane.  The boat gets on a plane pretty easily from it's big V8, in contrast, we cannot plane under our own power, we need lots of help.  We get that help from wave push and gravity when we catch a bump in the ocean or a wave on the beach.  It's energy, and we need it!

Here are some points about planing.  I don't claim to know anything about hull shapes or physics but I know what feels good and I think these points help to explain what planing is:


  • When at rest, a vessels's weight is supported entirely by buoyant force. Simply stated, a vessel will float or remain buoyant when it's weight + cargo weight is less than the weight of the water is displaces.  It's all good. This is us 99% of the time.  This is displacement mode.

  •  At high enough speed, the reactionary force of the water pushing up on the board is great than the force of gravity and the board will plane.  When on a bump, the horizontal force is converted to vertical force upwards.  This lift also decreases the wet surface area of the board and thus reduces friction which helps the board accelerate.  To plane, a speed boats needs a powerful engine, a sailboat needs good sail area, and we need a wave!

It part 2, let's look at the anatomy of a board on a plane and a board in displacement mode.



(Additional commentary from my buddy Daniel Alvarez:  Jeff Burton it's a nice article. It's hard to say much more without getting really technical about hull speeds, weight to power ratios and prismatic coefficients 
smile emoticon. In sailing we refer to most boats as 5 knot shit boxes. Most sailboats can't escape their displacement hull speeds no matter what you do. Enter the ultralight revolution that started in Santa Cruz which designed much lighter boats with big spinnakers to allow them with some swell assistance to sustain prolonged surfs. Sounds familiar? The Santa Cruz ultralights were the original downwinders and popular with many of the offshore downwind races. Now they can be a hate mission going upwind in a blow. SUPs are effectively 5 knot shitboxes under all but perhaps some elite paddlers. So if we want to go faster we need help. Our sail area is pretty limited (though it feels humongous when paddling upwind) so wind alone is not sufficient to get us going that much faster. But gravity is. Being at the top of a wave can provide enough force (with some aggressive paddling) to get the board on a plane and enjoy a nice surf. So on a good downwind run, you can get the exhilaration of surfing without getting worked. Though I have to say, as a longtime windsurfer I sometimes wonder why I'm paddling in a blow. I guess it is just a different feeling and challenge connecting with the waves.)



Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Imagine Connector Review

I walked into 101 Surf Sports yesterday to get some new fins for "previously loved" SIC Recon surf SUP and got to talk to David Wells a little bit about quad fins and also about new downwind boards showing up on the market.  In addition to the new rough water board from Focus (the Bluefin) we also talked about new Imagine Connectors which are beautifully strung to the ceiling of the shop away from sweaty hands of people like me.  If you are in the market for a new 14' DW board you have to check this one out.  Since the beginning of time, SIC has owned the downwind board market but you have to stop and take notice of this one from Dave Kalama and Imagine.  For one thing, it looks fantastic.  The new models are full carbon and come in two different widths.  Imagine could have taken the lazy way out and copied a SIC Bullet template but they didn't.  They created something entirely different (take a look at the rocker on this thing).

I have not yet had the pleasure of paddling one but if I do, I will be sure to write about it on this blog.  Here's is a nice blog post from the Joel Yang and the Village of Stoke about this board.  Sure sounds like a winner to me.

Picture from the Village of Stoke blog showing the rocker of the (previous model) board and needle nose.

Monday, April 20, 2015

SUP Downwinders on Tomales Bay

Tomales Bay is a great place to enjoy the thrill of downwind SUP.  Spring winds generally come from the NW which will generate some nice bumps down the length of Tomales Bay.  Beautiful landscape, warm(ish) water, abundant wildlife, absence of boat traffic and other hazards, make Tomales Bay an ideal location to surf whitecaps.  If you have never gotten your board to plane then you are really missing out!  Downwinding combines the best elements of surfing, racing, and touring. If you want to try it, go to Tomales Bay.  It's always best to go with some experienced people.  You can find them by joining the DownFrienders group on Facebook.

In the meantime, take a look at the map showing some important locations on Tomales Bay.  Enjoy all that Tomales Bay has to offer but please be smart!  Check the forecasts, go with small group, match the conditions to your experience and fitness level, and always wear a leash and PFD.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Northern California Downwinder Season!

Ladies and Gentlemen, it's here.  The wind.  The wind is here for real (the Tomales Bay buoy showed 28 mph at around 4:25 pm).  Today I'm sitting in my home office working, and there is a contractor here cleaning lint from my dryer.  I'm constantly checking facebook to see who is doing what today and where they are doing it.  Some are doing a "Windy Wednesday" with the Barbary Ghost, some are on Tomales Bay, some are just surfing little bumps on the river.  Me?  Just working.  A little sad that I'm missing out for sure but I know this is just the beginning.  There are many "SUP Safari" adventures aboard the Ghost, the Davenport race, and Tomales Bay runs with my DownFrienders. My friend Matt Palmariello and I are even running a three day downwinder camp on Tomales Bay in about three weeks.

Let the downwind season begin!  I can be patient.  I know there are plenty of bumps for everyone. Surfing for miles at a time with no line-up, no waiting, and no problems.  Not a care in the world.



Sunday, March 29, 2015

Clif Organic Energy Food Review (Pizza Margherita)

Now that I'm in my mid 40s, I have a better understanding of how my body works and what I need in order to feel right.  I love taking my lunch to work because I can snack any time and I can eat lunch any time too.  It's nice to have that freedom.  In school, I remember being hungry before lunch a LOT.  I wonder how much better my grades would have been if I were allowed to eat throughout the day?  Do you know that foggy feeling?  Confused, irritated, angry, frustrated feeling?  Not much fun.  Ever "bonked"?  I have a couple of times.  Pretty scary.

While paddling, I always have some emergency calories stashed in my PFD.  I keep two GU packets in my right pocket.  In a pinch, I can even consume them without water.  I also like to keep some Clif Shot Bloks in my chest pocket.  I like these because they are more fun to each, like big gummy bears.  I really like the Margarita flavor.  Citrus is good too.

I like gels, they pack a nice calorie punch and some have caffeine, but I get tired of the syrupy taste and texture.  Sometimes you just want to taste some real food!  I was at REI the other day and found something new, Clif Organic Energy Food and picked up two packets of Pizza Margherita.  I was so curious to try it, I ate the first one in the parking lot.  I have to say, the flavor was interesting, like eating flavored tomato paste or pizza flavored baby food.  If you are a picky eater you might not like it but I thought it was okay.  Not great, but pretty good.  Sometimes you just want something that tastes like real food and not Karo Syrup.  I really liked the twist off cap too, very easy to do while on the water.  Give it a try, you might like it!  

Go here to read the nutrition label

Not bad at all.  Might even taste better warm?  Leave it out in the sun for a few minutes?




4/2 Update:  I just ate the Banana, Mango, Coconut.  Delicious.  It's like a little dessert in a pouch.  Might as pretend you are in Hawaii or Costa Rica while out paddling.  I didn't feel the need to wash it down with water either.  Not too thick, not too sweet. Just right.  I might get a box of these.

Home run from Clif



Saturday, February 7, 2015

Epic Weed Deflector Installed

Just installed the Epic Weed Deflector on my SIC Bullet 17. I cleaned the surface with alcohol and applied using only the peel and stick adhesive and some gorilla tape. It should be easy to remove and reposition if required. If it works, I will epoxy it in place. It is close enough to the rudder to fit through the hole in the board bag. Wind in the forecast tomorrow. We shall see!!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Weed Deflector (Eel Grass Ginsu) for my SIC Bullet 17

I picked up this little carbon beauty from the good people at Epic Kayaks. I figure it should work fine on my Bullet. My rudder pulls up eel grass from Tomales Bay like a John Deere pulls dandelions from a little league outfield. I can't have that. Eel grass keeps Tomales Bay healthy, clean, and full of little fishies.  What's good for the bay is bad for my board, it adds a LOT of drag.

I will take some pictures after installation and also let you know how it works.  $20 investment, so what the heck?  I will nickname it the "EGG" (Eel Grass Ginsu), or how about "The Kelp Kutter"?

Carbon Fiber is cool, and sharp.