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.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sandwich Island Composites (SIC) 2015

Seems like just a couple of years ago, Sandwich Island Composites (SIC) was a relatively small player in the world of SUP board manufacturing.  They were best known for their custom, Maui-made ocean racing and downwind boards, the F-16,  and the Bullet.  Now?  Well, they still make the best downwind boards in the world but they also make flat water racing boards, surf boards, even inflatables.

If you are looking for a board specifically for downwinders, be sure to put SIC at the top of your list.  There are multiple downwind boards in their line-up, including the Bullet 12'6", Bullet 14', and F-14 Wide Glide.  For ruddered boards, take a look at the F-16, and of course the flagship of the downwinder world, the outstanding Bullet 17'4".  Don't be alarmed by the narrow width (26.6 inches), as the standing area is exactly the same width as my 30 inch wide 14 foot board.  On the Bullet, the deck pad extends all the way to the edge of the rail.

Check out the 2015 SIC Catalog to see the whole range:

If you are fortunate enough to live in the North Bay, go to 101 Surf Sports in San Rafael.  They carry the full range of SIC boards.  If you can't drop by or if you are out of the area, be sure to give them a call and ask for David or Tom.  They will take care of you.

Friday, October 31, 2014

What is a Downwinder?

If you have ever tried to explain it to your friends, you know it's pretty difficult isn't it?  It's slighty easier if you try to explain "what is a downwinder" to your friends who paddle.  I think part of the problem is the word itself.  "Downwind" is the direction of travel and "er" describes the action but does not convey what you are actually doing.  Here's my attempt at explaining a downwinder in as few words as possible:

A downwinder is a fast, one-way paddle in a following sea with the goal of getting your board to plane (surf) down the face of a wind wave (bump) by adjusting heading, stroke cadence, and board trim.  The ultimate goal is to catch long glides and link them together so that your board remains on a plane for as long as possible.

I guess that is decent but still does nothing to describe the way it makes you feel.  Close your eyes and imagine being a Norse god thundering through the clouds with the spray on your face, the sun on your back, paddle raised triumphantly into the air after acing an exam on your birthday.  Yeah, like that only better!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Boat Supported Downwinder Trips with the Barbary Ghost

Paddling upwind is a great workout.  It's also a great way to improve your efficiency and technique:  shorter strokes, higher cadence, etc.  In addition, it makes you a smarter paddler because you are always looking for little ways to cheat the wind by looking for little wind breaks like maybe a breakwater, a little point, or even a boat.  The reward at the end of an upwind paddle is a well-deserved downwind paddle.  I figure this is paying your dues; you work hard and then you play hard.

All of that is great, don't get me wrong, but there is NOTHING like a downwind paddle.  To have a good downwind run you need a buddy or two to go with you and you need to set up a shuttle.  Here's how that works:

  1. Find a good day and time by checking the forecasts.  Hopefully, this day and time will be during the weekend.
  2. Find a friend named Ward Figge who also wants to go at the exact same date and time.
  3. Meet at Spot "z" (the take out)
  4. Load all gear in and on car one.
  5. Drive car one to spot "y" (the put in)
  6. Hope for good conditions (both wind speed and direction)
  7. Downwind to spot "z" and load gear in and on car two.
  8. Drive car 2 up to spot "y" and pick up car one.
  9. Load some gear into car one and drive away.
  10. Meet your buddy Ward at Cafe Reyes for a Farallon pizza and a Scrimshaw.
For this to work, you need all of the things.  Oh, you also need a ROAD!  Okay, there are alternatives like shuttle services (if you are lucky enough to live in Hood River or Maui), or loving spouses who can both drop off and pick up but don't push your luck with this one, trust me - use only in case of emergency.

The best option by far is downwinder by boat.  This solution comes with some additional cost but eliminates so many problems and is so much fun, it's worth every penny.  Not only does the boat replace the cars and all the wasted time driving around, it can also get you into places that are just not accessible by land.  Most importantly, the boat can set you up for a run of nearly any length and in the best direction.  This is a huge advantage.

I met a guy named Drew Testwuide last year who runs the charter boat Barbary Ghost out of Loch Lomond Marina in San Rafael, CA.  In addition to being a super nice guy, he is a very competent boat captain who has really dialed in his weekday afternoon downwinders (called "Windy Wednesdays") and his longer, more intense weekend excursions (called "SUP Safaris").  His boat is equipped with racks for up to six SUP boards of any length and the routes and number of runs are customizable based on the conditions and who's on board.  The boat offers plenty of cabin space if you want to stay out of the wind and warm up, or up top if you want to look around.  There's also a fridge, changing area, and restroom (head). 

To have the best experience on a SUP Safari I recommend at least a couple years of paddling experience, an advanced SUP class like SUP 201, and a little rough water paddling experience.  Some surfing skills come in handy because  you will be moving around on the board a lot, changing direction, and bracing.

Disclaimer:  Drew is a friend of mine and a valuable resource for downwind lovers in the bay area. Drew trusts my paddling and coaching skills enough to let me come along as a guide/coach from time to time on his SUP excursions. 

Here is a typical SUP Safari:

  1. Register online and then meet at Loch Lomond Marina at a specific time. 
  2. Load board, paddle, PFD, and change of clothes on the Barbary Ghost.  Niko (the dog) will usually great you with a friendly bark but will not offer much help loading, though he will fetch your paddle if you happen to drop it off the dock!
  3. Once everyone is loaded, we have a pre-trip safety talk and also discuss the route(s).
  4. Drew motors the Barbary Ghost out into San Francisco Bay looking for the best wind and the best route (which includes a safe place to splash boards and then pick up at the end of the run).
  5. Everyone goes in one at a time and waits for the last person to launch.
  6. And they're off!  Everyone goes at their own pace.  The goal is to catch as many glides as possible, even linking one glide into the next.  Keep the board the planing as long as possible.
  7. During the run, Drew is shadowing the group, monitoring three VHF channels (14, 16, and 72), communicating with the guide, taking pictures, and preparing for the pick up.
  8. At the pick up, people and boards are loaded, smiles are smiled, fists are bumped, and tales are told.  Snacks are snacked and drinks are drank as the boat goes back upwind for another run or two!
  9. At the end of the last run, everyone changes into dry clothes and goes up top to see the sunset and have a snack and a drink while enjoying a trip down San Francisco Bay back to Loch Lomond.  We have fun recounting the best runs, the best falls, and the best glides.  For me, the ride back is a peaceful, relaxed, slightly exhausted feeling of gratitude and thankfulness with just a hint of sadness that it's over.  A bit like the last day of a wonderful vacation.
It sure beats driving doesn't it?  Check out some of the pictures from our last SUP Safari.  The wind was not that great on this day but we were lucky enough to have a pro photographer on board!  

Game plans are discussed shortly after leaving the marina on a warm August 30th.
Drew and Niko try to activate their wind-making super twin powers.
Gail is a strong paddler and is stoked to be on her first DW run!
Though not much wind here, it served a good warm-up.
I'm feeling a little bummed by the lack of wind from the Richmond Bridge to the Marin Islands. :(
Change of Plans:  We re-load and prepare to go on a wind hunt.  It's out there somewhere and we are going to find it.

The Barbary Ghost makes her way from the Marin Islands in search of wind.  Point Blunt Angel Island is our destination.
We head to Angel Island.  Drew, Gail, and I look for the best location to splash boards.
Captain Drew takes a close look at the cove before dropping anchor.
Eureka! We've found it!
Nice little waves starting to organize just off the beach.
I had to dig really deep to catch anything in this section.
Boat wakes from the Ghost work too! Beautiful San Francisco in the background.
I think Gail is enjoying herself.
Yeah, I'm laughing right before I take a swim.
There ever elusive cross-tail low brace caught on camera!
The group makes their way down the eastern shore of Angel Island where the Ghost awaits...
At Loch Lomond, we savor the final moments of the trip just as the sun sets.  Already planning the next adventure on the Barbary Ghost.