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:
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 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.
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.