Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cape Town South Africa Downwinders

It's been forever since I added something to the blog!  It's been a busy few months with the holidays and the move to a new office in SF.  I want to share this video on my blog because these guys are pioneers in the DW world.  They do a very good job explaining why downwinders are so challenging and fun.  Really good tips.  Downwinders at the end of the world.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Downwind SUP Skills

When we learn to paddle SUP, we usually start in calm water in a protected area away from wind, waves, current, and boat traffic.  As we progress, many of us venture out into rougher conditions or environments that are wildly different from where we first learned to paddle. Sometimes, we find a certain aspect of SUP that we gravitate towards.  For me, that has been downwind SUP.  I love downwind paddling because I think it combines the best elements of touring, racing, and surfing.

Skills in one area of SUP transfer to other areas of SUP paddling.  A low brace on the river is really no different than a low brace in the surf.  A pivot turn in a race is no different than a pivot turn in the surf.  This skill set overlap is why I think downwind paddling is the most fun and most rewarding.

From racing, we take the following:

  • Fitness (both aerobic and anaerobic)
  • Stroke technique
  • Stroke efficiency
  • Turning skills
  • Pacing
  • Reading the water

From touring, we take the following:

  • Weather forecasting and awareness
  • Trip planning and shuttling
  • Endurance
  • Self-reliance

From surfing, we take the following:

  • Board control skills
  • Paddle control skills
  • Bracing skills
  • Turning skills
  • Venue awareness
Where these skill sets overlap, we find DOWNWIND paddling.  It's not just paddling with the wind at your back, it's open water surfing, and a lot more!

SUP skill set overlap with Downwind in the intersection.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What is Downwind SUP? - Part 3 - Tips

A dozen 13 tips that I hope help you become a downwind expert!

  1. We need waves for hydrodynamic lift (Planing). To plane is to SURF!  Surfing is FUN!
  2. Downwind boards are planing shapes but function as a displacement shape at low speeds.  They really come alive when on a plane (i.e., surfing a bump) and that is the goal is downwind SUP, to catch waves and get the board on a plane.
  3. You catch waves, don’t let waves catch you.
  4. Paddle downhill.
  5. Keep your head on a swivel.  Look forward, not behind.
  6. Downwinding is not straight-lining.  You are often zigzagging when going from one bump to another.
  7. Develop two paddle speeds (one for cruising, one for acceleration to catch the bump).
  8. Paddle with purpose.  Don't just put your head down and motor the whole time.  Be efficient.  Relax as much as you can, save your energy for short powerful bursts to catch bumps.
  9. Alter stance to maintain trim.  This is crucial, gracefully move from parallel stance to off-set stance to surf stance and back again.  You are constantly moving.
  10. Develop a solid, reliable low brace.  You will use it a lot!
  11. Be aggressive!  Want it more than you fear it.
  12. Use small bumps to catch large bumps, and link large bumps together.  The goal is to plane as much as possible.
  13. Stay loose.  Find a way to relax, keep your legs soft and just go with the ocean, don't fight it.
Here's a bonus; a video of Jeremy Riggs explaining how read bumps:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What is Downwind SUP? - Part 2

In part one we briefly looked at planing vs. non-planing.  This time, let's look at some cool pictures and compare the same board and same paddler in both states of being.

Connor Baxter Planing

Here we see Connor Baxter during the M2O race on a huge bump.  Notice how far back on the board he is.  Most of his weight is over his back foot, hands and paddle are low in preparation for a toe-side low brace or a cross tail heel-side low brace.  Sweet!  Over half of the board is out of the water.

 Connor Baxter Not Planing (displacement mode)

Here's Connor near the finish of the M2O race working very hard.  Notice how much of the board is in the water.  Notice his feet placement compared to the first picture.  He's paddling very hard here.  He's one of the fastest SUP paddlers (in any conditions) in the business.

 Jeremy Riggs Planing

This is a less extreme example of planing.  Jeremy Riggs showing beautiful form on a nice Maui bump.  Notice his feet.  He's not way back on the tail because he doesn't need to be.  The board is planing nicely.  Paddle is in perfect position for a draw, a quick forward stroke or a high brace.  Jeremy Riggs is loose, smooth, and so relaxed.

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.

(Stolen from Area10 on the StandupZone where he is explaining what he considers "planing"):
Well, certainly you can do what I call "surge-riding", which happens quite a lot with raceboards that don't plane easily - you are definitely getting a push but you are sitting high on the bump and going at the same pace as it. But what I think of as downwinding is an experience that is pretty much indistinguishable from surfing: the board is moving far faster than the bump and this allows you to plow over the bump in front and into the next trough, and so on. The board feels loose and free, and is throwing up spray at the sides and you need your foot over the fin to move it around to avoid poking the nose into the bump in front. So I don't know if that is what you'd call planing, but that is what I'm aiming for in my downwinding. You can connect bumps by turning and following the direction of the troughs, or you can do it by getting so much momentum up that you are skipping over them, and that's when the real excitement happens, to my mind.

(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.