Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Disciplines of Paddling by Dave Chun

Artisan paddle maker and owner of Kialoa Paddles (with wife, Meg Chun), Dave Chun wrote this piece to help make some sense of the variety of answers a person may get from the seemingly simple question, "What kind of SUP paddle should I get?"
We think Dave's paddles are wonderful. Buy a Kialoa paddle from us by calling Randall at 541-389-4547 or emailing him at Randall@Footform.com. Here's Dave's advice:

SUP Surfing:

Paddles used for surfing should be small. Surfers need quick short bursts of speed to catch waves, and small blades excel at this. Resistance is greatest on the surfboard when it is not moving, a common situation while waiting for a set. A small blade will allow for a high stroke rate and get the surfboard up to speed more quickly. The higher stroke rate facilitated by the smaller blade, also aides in balancing and maneuvering in the rough conditions associated with surfing. Performance surfboards are also getting smaller and less buoyant. Because these surfboards sink deeper in the water, they are inherently slower when paddling. As a general rule, the slower the watercraft, the smaller the blade. Good choices in the Kialoa line-up are the Methane, good for most surfers, or the Shaka Pu’u, if you are a big strong paddler like Mel Pu’u.

SUP Racing:
SUP race paddles should be chosen based on the length of the race, type of board, and fitness and strength of the athlete. In very short sprint races, a larger blade may be of benefit. Less paddle slip will occur with each paddle stroke, which in theory should translate into a more efficient transfer of energy. However, this must be balanced with fatigue. Race boards are faster than a pure surfboard, so this should allow for a larger blade. The most important factor in choosing a distance paddle is the physical condition of the athlete. Strong fit paddlers have greater potential for high hull speeds and can use larger blades. A good choice for long events and most mortals is the Methane. For general use by a fit experienced paddler, the Shaka Pu’u is excellent. (The Shaka Pu’u is the paddle that was used by Chuck Patterson, to win the $10,000. first place prize in the 2008 Rainbow Sandal “Battle of the Paddle”). For an aggressive downwind racer who is able to link swell after swell and prefers a larger blade, the Nalu can be a good choice. Water conditions (the board moves fastest when it is flat on the water and not bouncing up and down), wind direction, the conditioning of the athlete, and type of surfboard, are all “moving targets” when trying to pick the optimum blade. Just keep in mind; if you are moving more quickly, you can use a larger blade, if you are moving more slowly, you need a smaller blade.

Fitness paddling:
SUP Surfing and Racing are both great fitness activities, but there are a number of SUP paddlers who do not use their boards to surf or race. Fitness paddlers generally use boards which cross over from surfing. Because of this, we recommend that paddlers use equipment similar to that used in surfing; with the first choice for most paddlers being the Methane for women, and the Shaka Pu’u being a good choice if you are stronger and/or more fit.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Winter Paddling on the Potomac River

Winter stand up paddling in the Northern Latitudes is becoming a favorite with hardcore types (like my husband, Randall and his buddies, Ron Thompson and Eddy Miller on the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon). I've written about water safety in the winter, and Randall has too and as you can see by reading his post and her post, we have different ideas.

Well, Randall and his buddies aren't alone in their hardcore attitude. Suggs Miller in Maryland gets his SUP board on the winter Potomac river and dodges ice slabs. Now that's hardcore!! Here's a note he sent with a photo.


I have been paddling all winter. The Potomac has become a new river w/water levels rising almost 10 ft plus at times. I can't get to the usual play spots, so I make a paddle workout out of it. It has settled down a bit as of Jan 3rd. I tried to go out the other day, but too much ice made it risky for the Uli Inflatable. Also, huge ice slabs were flowing everywhere.

The kayakers have rolled out the welcome mat and have helped me learn the river. They even put me on the front page of their kayaking website. PotomacPaddlers.com. The attached photo is on Jan 3rd at Maryland Chute on the Potomac. Water temp was 34F and air was 35F.

Hope you are having a fun winter. I was snowboarding at Mt Baker last week and I saw that the Nooksack River has some great features for SUP. I might try to give it a go sometime this summer.


Greg"Suggs"Miller, Director
Get your paddle gear -- and a good deal on last season's demo boards. Call Randall 541-389-4547.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Winter Standup Paddling

I broke my rule and went for a paddle in sub-freezing temperatures. I learned my lesson last winter that ice forms on the deck and if you move your feet, its all over. Balancing a standup paddle board is one thing but balancing the board while ice skating is disaster.

Eddy and I couldn't resist, it was the first sunny day in January and I'm sticking to my commitment to paddle in every month, and anyway it was a whopping 34 degrees! We decided to launch at Aspen Camp on the Deschutes River (near Bend, Oregon) and do the Big Eddy Rapids to Dillon Falls stretch. This is one of the "must-do" 5 kilometer paddles when you're on a paddle trip to Bend. The road was finally passable in four-wheel-drive after Decembers two feet of snow. A warm front did a rainy mush-meltdown to the current situation of icy ruts.

There's something special about being on the river in winter. There's snow on the banks and ice chunks floating down the river. The ice sounds a harmless racket on the bottom of your board as it slides underneath. The colors of the water, forest, and lava flow (this stretch is flanked by a lava flow) were dazzled by the sun, and truly amazing!

Winter paddling isn't for everyone so here's some tips:

Confidence - You need to have such a standup paddle skill level that you're confident you won't fall in. Falling is part of the risk that makes it exciting, but you don't take risks here. It's like riding a bike confidence. You know you're not going to fall off your bike yet there's always the risk you could crash.

Standup Paddle Board Stability - You use the most stable, predictable, comfortable cruiser, period. There's no sense being "The Duke" on your 10'3" Gerry Lopez in this situation. I'm paddling a 12'1" Laird soft top this winter and Eddys on a Mistral Pacifico. This emphasizes the point, you don't want to fall in. Only go on smooth water, waves/chop decrease the stability and are caused by wind, wind adds wind-chill and decreased visibility of obstacles just under the surface, you don't want to add these variables to the danger. Know your water!

Clothing To Wear - This depends a bit on your confidence. Eddy, and I were wearing cross country ski wear, including gloves and hats. Outer layers are wind resistant and breathable. Use base layers that are moisture wicking. We often shed our outer layer jackets during the work-out of upstream and put them back on for downstream. We both wear sealed-seam wetsuit booties over wool sox.
If you lack confidence and still want to paddle then an Alaskan Ocean Survival Suit would be a good choice. At minimum a 5 mil wetsuit or dry suit is necessary because if you think you might fall in then you definitely will and these suits keep you safe when wet.

Emergency Plan - Hypothermia is the big risk and it can happen even if you don't fall in. It starts with being cold and un-controllable shivering. It progresses to lack of judgement and drunken-like state so you can't paddle. You could croak and its very serious. Never winter paddle without a partner and an emergency plan. Your partner will know you're in trouble, they can tow you back to the car, crank the heater, give you warm fluids and get you to the emergency room.

We had no problems on our sunny day in January. The water was less clear than usual due to the rains and run-off. Eddy didn't see the rock he hit with his skeg. It gave him a jolt but he caught his balance OK. We were really tempted to play on a small standing-wave that's at the bottom of Dillon Falls, but common sense prevailed. We'll save that for summer and warmer days.

We paddled about an hour and were on our final stretch when we noticed the ice on our decks. The sun was lower in the sky, the hills and trees shadowed the river and the temperature had dropped. We got to the take-out and were stymied on how to get off our ice covered boards without getting in the water. Usually we sprint, paddle the nose up on the bank and walk the board up to the nose, stepping gracefully onto land. Eddy went first and with the nose stabilized on shore he literally ice skated up the board! I slipped off into shallow water and only got my booties wet, so it was OK for a few minutes while we loaded he boards. Our final challenge was stacking our two icy boards on the roof rack. The boards slip around so easily it's comical. This is another reason to have a partner, to hold the boards while you hook the rack straps!

Check out this stretch of the Deschutes River with the Bend Paddle Trail Deschutes River Guide. All 125 miles of the river in Deschutes County are charted in stretches that show every put-in, hazard and difficulty (even potty stops). Order yours at www.StandUpPaddleFlatwater.com and receive a free Lakes Guide too.