Bummer of a Summer

I would love to say that I have been too busy SUPping to post anything. The reality being that I can probably count on my hands the number of times I've been out since I last posted.

A combination of too much work, windy weekends, unreliable rail services, and just life in general have conspired to keep me off of the water.

I did, however, manage a couple of things over the summer.

We spent two weeks in Cornwall and I got to spend three lessons with Glenn Eldridge of Ocean Sports Centre in Carbis Bay. He coached me on paddling technique primarily, and that has given me the ability to go farther and faster than I have before. Still need to work on it, and I have only been out about four times since, but the results have been astounding. Going to show that it isn't just about the board; the paddling is just as, if not more, important.

However, it did also bring home to me just how much a nice solid touring board would suit me (as I got to use one of his Starboards).

I got to try a couple at the open day Shore hosted in East Wittering back in July, and I think I've settled on the 12' Nah Skwell Fit. It gives a little bit more speed in the chop without sacrificing stability. I've found it more stable than most of the touring boards I've tried. Sure, maybe it isn't as fast as others, but I don't have to race. I still have to convince my wife that it can comfortably sit in her studio/garden shed on the wall without too much hassle.

I am also awaiting the arrival of a new paddle which I had tried out on that day: the X-Paddle Race 3-piece adjustable. The reason I chose it is because the guy who was selling it was also the designer and has clear enthusiasm to bring good design to paddling without it getting too expensive. Similar paddles from other makes can run from up to £100 to £200 more, and I gave it a try and liked it.

Anyway, that's my latest. Ironically, it looks like autumn may find me out and about more. We'll see.

I hope you have been enjoying the summer, and I hope to post again soon.

SUP Season is Back!

After a long, windy Winter, it is now all right for the less-skilled like myself to go back into the water on a regular basis.

It seems over most of the Winter there was a conspiracy between family lurgies, the wind, the tide, and the rains to keep me from getting out on the board.

I have now managed to make it out at least once a week for the past month or so and am glad to be back on the board regularly. In fact, I even had the treat of a playmate for about ten minutes a couple of weeks ago, near the pier in Worthing:

A visit from a seal

A visit from a seal

I do intend to write more, but the only chance I get is on the train and I have been avoiding carrying my laptop due to some shoulder issues, but this will soon let up.

I wish all one of my readers all the best, and hope they are enjoying the SUP stoke as much as me.

 

What a Day for a SUP

We were blessed with calm shore and very light wind here in Worthing.

Me and the oldest daughter went out for a SUP for about an hour or so. 

Nothing beats that feeling of just taking off on calm water and taking it easy for a while.

Permagrin time.

The beach was a mill pond.

The beach was a mill pond.

Managed to stay completely dry, but on the way back in, the outgoing tide created a few very small breaks, and I didn't realise it until I heard the "whoosh" of a small wave knock the board out from under me. Dunked. With the wife watching.

Left the daughter to let her catch waves for a while. She had a permagrin, too.

First Times and Finding Grace with SUP

I've never been physically graceful.

For instance, whenever I played team sports as a kid (which I generally hated), I usually played defense. Usually on the back line if it was football, or as a safety in American football, or a catcher in baseball. When I told a football coach friend of mine this, he said "Oh, so you were a thug with no skills."

Which pretty much sums up my past approaches to athletic pursuits. A bit clumsy, and not that well-disciplined, either.

First Time I See Someone on a SUP Board

The first time I saw stand up paddling in the flesh was about two years ago. I was walking along the promenade in Worthing. It was high tide and the water was uncommonly flat and it was late afternoon/early evening, where the sun and the sky conspire to create that special summer light that is particular to Sussex.

I looked down at the water and saw this guy standing on what looked like a longboard, making his way gently towards the shore, standing upright, effortlessly sticking a rather long paddle in the water. His board gently slows to a halt just as it is about to hit the shingle on the beach, he hops off lightly, cool as Fonzie, grabs his board and gets out of the water. Two thoughts went through my head...an awe-struck "That looks cool." and an envious "Bastard!"

And that planted a seed. Not a big one, but a seed nonetheless. I wanted to try that thing out. It looked cool. And I wanted to be graceful.

First Time Surfing

Fast forward a bit, and my daughter is really wanting to get into surfing. So on a week-long break in Devon, she and I take a surf lesson at Bigbury-on-Sea. She takes to it like a duck to water, I'm a little less...ahem...graceful. Still had fun and managed to actually catch a couple of waves.

                                                  I thought wet suits had a slimming effect. This one accentuated my double-chin...

                                                  I thought wet suits had a slimming effect. This one accentuated my double-chin...

First Time on a SUP Board

Later that week we find ourselves on another Devon beach. It's overcast, windy, and there's a little bit of chop in the cove. There's a hut renting out stand-up paddle boards. The daughter really wants to try it. I think, "Why the hell not."

I ask the kid working there about renting a board, and in his brilliant teenage wisdom, he concluded that as we had just had surfing lessons and knew how to pop up, it should be no problem getting on a stand-up paddle board. Just get to a kneeling position and once you're ready, pop up like you would on a surfboard and begin paddling. Should be no problem. Lesson over. Yeah, right.

Over the next hour, hilarity ensued. I don't think I or my daughter lasted more than two seconds on top of the board. Obviously we were doing it all wrong...But we laughed a lot...

Not very graceful.

The Real First Time

Fast forward to a little bit later in the year and we notice a new business has opened up on the beach in Worthing. They offer SUP lessons. Cool. Perfect opportunity to get some time together with the daughter. So I attempt to book a lesson for us for a Saturday in early September.

Unfortunately, things conspired to keep us from having a lesson: too much wind, illness, too much wind, work commitments, too much wind. After 6 abortive attempts, we gave up for the winter, vowing to come back in spring.

Spring rolls around and I'm having major shoulder problems. Rotator cuff, apparently. 

So the daughter gets to have a go with one of her friends who is visiting from out of town. She's bitten by the bug. I end up spending quite a bit of time on the beach watching her paddle around, wishing I could do the same, afraid I'd make my shoulder worse.

Getting tired of taking time off work to go to the NHS physio with no improvements, I decide to go private. He diagnoses me with something completely different. I go to see him every week for a few weeks where he pops my neck and gives me some stretches to do. I improve quickly. Tell him I'm thinking of taking SUP lessons. He tells me to go for it, highly recommends it for my shoulder and neck.

So after a couple of months of wistfully watching my daughter, I decide to take a Friday off of work and get a lesson. 

A lesson consists of an hour of instruction followed by an hour of fartin' about on your own. I wasn't really that confident that I would be able to fart about on my own after just an hour. 

I was lucky, though. The tide was in, the water was relatively flat and the wind was a gentle breeze.  It was a one-on-one lesson, and as such, I got a lot of good beginner instruction. And when I was encouraged to stand up, I tried, and fell in, more than 30 times over the space of an hour and a half. Every time I fell, I did the only thing one can do: laugh and climb back onto the board. The dunkings certainly cleared my nose.

I finished off knackered after an hour and a half, unable to go on any longer, and realising just how out of shape I had become over the past few years. But loved every minute of it.

I ended up renting a board with my daughter every weekend, and even bought my own shorty wetsuit, which would look really cool on someone skinnier than me, but makes me look like a kook (according to my dear daughter).

                                                                                                                Better than the last one, but a bit out of focus

                                                                                                                Better than the last one, but a bit out of focus

Bit by the Bug - Confirmation

I think the event that really confirmed that I had been bitten by the SUP bug occurred a few weeks into my SUP journey. I was stressed out at work, and was not feeling well due to some really bad stuff going down there. I felt physically ill. I stayed home from work that day.

When it became apparent that my illness was most likely linked to the situation at work, I decided to get out of bed and go to the beach. I hopped on a board, and got out on the water for about an hour and paddled about.

When I came in, I no longer felt the stress. It was gone. All the bullsh** at work melted into the background after an hour on the water. I regained an appreciation for what really counts, and was ready to confront the situation at work and accept the outcome no matter what.

Because in that hour on the water, I had learned the Meaning of Life, and it was SUP.


Not really, but it did clear the head, and a SUP session has a way of clearing out all the BS taking up space in one's mind.

And whenever I am out there, nothing else matters. Just the water, the board, and the paddle. And me, finding a bit of grace.

Used iSUP Buying Guide

When you look at the prices of new inflatable stand-up paddle boards (iSUPs), they can seem a bit eye-wateringly expensive. An excellent alternative to shelling out all that excess dough is to pick up a used board. I got the opportunity to do just that over the summer and came away with a great board and an education in what to look out for the next time around. 

The following are my recommendations for someone who is looking to buy a used iSUP. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't find anything like this online when I was considering buying a used board. I hope it helps and informs.

Some of the following advice applies to the purchase of anything used, and would seem common sense, but as you can see from some of my observations below, common sense can get thrown out when you’re excited about acquiring a new toy (I just had to have a board and was a bit impatient in wanting to complete my purchase).

If the board you are looking at buying is an ex-rental board, it’s bound to have some wear on it, and some of the recommendations below revolve around what to look for, and they aren’t necessarily insurmountable.

(N.B., None of these observations are to be taken as a criticism of the seller, as he was very helpful in resolving some of the issues I subsequently had, and was an honest broker throughout!)

 

1. Don’t get too excited about your potential purchase...

Many of the following recommendations fall out of this one. I was so stoked about getting my own board and being able to use it outside of our local rental place's normal working hours, I didn’t think critically about anything except the bargain I was getting. (And despite some of the following issues, it was still a bargain for me.)

When all is said and done, it is still a toy (an expensive one), so staying calm throughout the process gives a bit of perspective. I was given a price which was less than what similar boards had been selling for, and I jumped on it without thinking too much about what I was purchasing, or even looking closely at it. If I had been a bit cooler, and armed with a bit more knowledge, I may have been able to negotiate a little bit further.

2. Look at the state of the fin box.

I didn’t realise until after I bought my board that there was a bit of give in the US-style fin box, where the fin was able to slide backwards and forwards with the motion of the board. It definitely caused some tracking issues when I was out on it. 

I thought I was going to have to replace the fin box (which is possible, there are after-market replacement parts available). The seller, however, explained to me that the give came from constantly rolling the deflated board up and putting it away. Which makes a bit of sense. Particularly on something that had been as well used as a rental board.

He did however, give me a great tip on how to work around it. Duct tape is your friend.

By wrapping three layers of duct tape onto the fin, on the bit where it slides into the fin box, there is absolutely no play in the movement of the fin once it is in. This solution has held up really well over the past couple of months, with no problem. Had I known what I know now, I might have waited around for another board or negotiated further on price, just because it ate up a bit of headspace on my part - but it had no bearing on using the board itself, albeit with a bit of kinky tracking when I was paddling hard.

I can't give much advice on other styles of fin box (I am a kook, after all). I have limited experience with FCS finboxes on my daughter's surf board, but that's about it. Just make sure you learn a little about the type of fin box on your potential purchase to be able to look for the ins and outs of that particular box and what to look out for, and what is repairable.

3. Look at the state of the fin(s).

If it's an ex-rental, chances are the fin(s) has been bashed to hell and back, particularly on the shingle beaches we have here on the South Coast. Luckily, I was provided with a spare, unused fin. But even a beat-up fin isn't a deal breaker, but potential for negotiation. Perhaps, if the supplier runs a rental and/or retail business, the supplier has a newer fin lying about that they can throw into the deal. Or if you have to buy an after-market fin, you have leeway to discuss the overall price. (Make sure you have a good idea of what a reasonable cost for a new fin is before taking this tack.)

4. Look at the state of the deck pad.

My deck pad was all right, but I have seen what a well-used deckpad looks like: it can be a bit manky, particularly if the old yellowed adhesive is showing up in the gaps. If there are largish bits missing, you may want to reconsider the purchase altogether, because the rest of it is going to want to come off at some point. I understand that after-market deckpads are available, but I imagine the trouble of removing what's left of the old pad from the PVC, cleaning the board, and then applying suitable cement to put on a new pad is just too much time to be out of the water and not enjoying the board. Best avoided, unless you are getting a really good deal on the board.

5. Check the Leash plug / D-ring.

Have a look at the state of the patch that holds the leash D-ring. The place where your leash attaches to the board is probably one of the most important safety aspects on your board. Look for any wear on what connects the D-ring to the board. If there is clear wear, avoid it, or find out if a replacement part is available - some manufacturers are more forthcoming than others in providing replacement parts, and there are a limited amount of after-market D-ring patches available on the British market, from mostly kayaking suppliers. There are US suppliers who have a bigger variety, but there are significant postage charges involved.

If the board is still in warranty, then there may be space for getting a warranty replacement part. However, some warranties are dealt with via the dealer to the manufacturer rather than directly to the manufacturer, and it may take time to get a satisfactory resolution.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Still sorting it out, but on my way to a satisfactory resolution through the manufacturer’s warranty process.

There was a little bit of wear on the nylon holding my D-ring to the board, and I wasn’t too worried about it when I bought it, as it seemed robust enough. Then I was in the surf zone at West Wittering, lost my balance on the board: the board went one way, I went the other, and the nylon bit snapped and my leash was no longer attached to a board but to a loose D-ring. Luckily there was no one in the path of the very large projectile my board had become and I was able to recover it quickly. But refer to point 1, above: don’t be so stoked about getting your own board that you overlook key safety features.

6. Check the Cargo Line/D-rings/Anchor Points

Many boards have a line held in place by 4 D-rings or loops or anchor points in a criss-cross manner toward the front of the board to help hold down cargo. Just like the leash D-ring, these can be subject to wear, or may be broken altogether. There are after-market solutions to this, that are easily found in the UK, so not a big deal, but maybe worth attempting to negotiate a little on the price if it is clear you will have to replace or repair them (of course, this would require knowing how to remove the originals from the board itself, and I'm not quite sure how to do it, but will find out eventually as there is a bit of wear in my current set).

7. Where to find used iSUPs

One of the main sources of used iSUPs are places that do rentals. At the end of the season, or when their inventory is about to change for newer models, they will look to get rid of their old stock. It doesn’t hurt to ask your local rental place if they plan on getting rid of any of their old stock; you may find something right up your alley for a good price.

There are also Facebook groups where used SUPs are advertised. Check them out, and have a good idea of what you are looking for, and how far you are willing to travel to get a board or have it delivered.

8. Negotiations

I have given little potential points for negotiation above. I’m not a good negotiator, but it’s useful to bear in mind that if you are dealing with a local small business owner, you want to get a good deal for yourself but they need to profit from the transaction, as well. There’s no need to be a butthead about things, because you may just want to do business with them again.

For private sales, maybe the same principles hold, but make sure you get a good look at the board, and perhaps a chance to try it on the water.

9. Maybe a New Board is Better

The reason I say this is that about two weeks after I bought my board, the 2016 versions came out, and it was a real step change in design - the boards now seem to be half as light with as much rigidity as the 2015 boards. I think I would have been content to wait another month or so and shell out the difference. You live, you learn.

Also, with a new board, you know that you are the only one who has owned it and paddled on it. Warranty issues should be easier to sort out.

I still love the board I have, but I am suffering from kit envy over the 2016 line, and I may end up getting one next year any way.

 

I hope the above has been helpful. Like I said, I couldn’t find anything like this when I was looking. This is not a complete list, and I welcome others to come forward and offer any other tips, either in the comments or via e-mail. And feel free to share this! 

Why this Blog?

Since I first started paddling in May and June of this year, I have fallen in love with the "sport" of Stand-Up Paddling (SUP). I put sport in quotes because I'm hardly an athlete in any sense of the word. 

I suppose there is something cool about the sports side of it, but...I'm not a sports fan at the best of times, and I just love being out on the water. Which is not to say I may never get involved in some race or challenge at some point, but that's not where I am at. 

And the thousands(?) of people out there enjoying the sporting/competition sides of SUP really help to push things forward in terms of board, paddle, and accessory design - so I can't knock that aspect. Like I said, that's just not where I am right now.

Neither do I have a history in watersports other than the odd bodyboarding and bodysurfing in my distant past, where I've had the very rare chance. So, I'm not much of a waterman, either.

What qualifies me to start up a blog about SUPping? 

Not much at all: I'm just someone who loves standing atop a board and propelling myself through the water with a paddle. And I look forward to every chance I can get to do so. And I want to talk about my latest obsession and my misadventures in it as much as possible without boring my colleagues, friends, and family (too much).

Why Start Up Yet Another Blog about SUP?

When I wanted to find more information online about my newfound love, there was a lot by way of social media (of which I'm not necessarily a successful manipulator - and I can't keep up with the day-in, day-out of some of the forums out there; I don't have enough time.)

I also discovered that a lot of the blogs are about the sport side of SUP and the athletes and watermen involved in it and the competitions they get up to. (Nothing wrong with that, but a little bit intimidating for a newcomer like me.)

Or the blogs are affiliated with magazines (Nothing wrong with that, but a little bit too professional - I'm an amateur fer cryin' out loud.)

Or the blogs are associated with a business (Nothing wrong with making money, either, but business-based blogs tend to get ignored by their owners after a while, or tend to have limited subject matter, such as the goods and services they are selling.)

I'm also a bit of a gearhead when I get obsessed about something. But the information out there on specific products and accessories in the world of SUP tends to come from the manufacturers and sellers of said products or from magazines. See notes above - nothing wrong with making a bit of cash. And if I figure out a way to make a bit of money out of SUP, then, no doubt, I will join these wonderful establishments in peddling my wares.

What do I hope to do with this Blog?

Who knows? Share my very limited experience in this new world of SUP that I am discovering - sort of a journal of my thoughts and experiences. Give a few product reviews (Lord knows, I've bought a few over the past few months). Big up some of the establishments I've done business with. Maybe even meet people who want to go out for a paddle or two (feel free to e-mail me or get in touch via the comments).

There will probably be the odd time here or there where I wax philosophical or do a bit of navel-gazing, when I do so, please bear with me, and always feel free to correct me. I am opinionated, but am always willing to have my opinions challenged, and have been known to change my mind. I don't mind robust discussion, as long as it is done in a respectful manner.