Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Perfect Board - taking stock

It's very simple - I want the perfect board. I want the board that will give me MOST of what I want in a single board and this post is going to be a bit of a brainstorming of the characteristics and traits that I like and dislike in the boards that I have and have ridden.

I should say that anything on this blog is entirely my opinion, thoughts and musings it is not intended to suggest or promote one board over another it's merely my path, my journey.

I know that my idea of perfection is going to be personal to me, like my surf style and the waves that I get. If I'm honest I'd probably admit that next year my idea of 'perfection' will change, hell I'm not even sure that what I want exists in a single board! But the more boards I have and ride the closer I think I'm getting. So here's a list of the pro's and cons of the boards that I have had experience of so far.

In chronological order.

Jimmy Lewis 11' - My first board - you've just got to love it.

Pros -

easy to learn on - stable and could actually be surfed. Accelerates quickly with the paddle and glides nicely, I also felt that the build and finish was excellent - mine is still in mint condition and I still take it out from time to time.

Cons -

It's huge - like a big thing that's VERY pleased to see you - it's light but carrying it is a mare. It's surfs well but for me my surfing is not going to progress on it and it has to go on the van roof - I'll never take it on a plane - did I mention it's BIG!

ULI 11' - My first inflatable SUP - you've just got to love it.

Pros -

Fun Fun Fun - packable - super tough - comfy - (my heels don't get sore) - different - can be surfed with a slight technique adjustment - paddles very VERY fast - did I say fun - has the 'ULI bounce' - carryable - complete.

Cons -

None really - Large when inflated - maybe not quite as surfy in sheer performance terms - the ULI Bounce can cause a pearl or two - a bit heavy maybe??

C4 10'6 - Demo'd a couple of times - seems like a long time ago.

Pros -

Very surfable - felt fast and loose on a wave and could 'drop in' easily. portable. Sort of deep down think it's worth revisiting in place of the Jimmy.

Cons -

Me! - I was not ready for it - and did not give it enough time - it felt twitchy and unstable at rest fine when moving.

Starboard Extremist 9'8" - beautiful fat fish - spent most time on this board. You've just got to love it.

Pros -

Easy to acclimatize to - very stable at rest and under paddle - surfs incredibly well - took my surfing to a whole new level - absolutely makes the best of MOST wave conditions - can 'go late and steepish' - light weight - turns in front of an oncoming wave sooo easily - nose rides - looks good - small - fits in the van - sort of easy to carry - see cons.

Cons -

Nothing really - all minor but having spent most time on this board, and in the hunt for perfection here goes - not the fastest paddler - big fat nose means busting through white water has to be bang on 90' to the bow - needs to be paddled directly into a wave can't be slid in sideways - last paddle stroke needs to be with the wave rather than into it due to the yaw (make sense??)- sometimes in steeper sections I sort of 'hang up' on the face and I'm off - not really sure what's happening but I think that it's the width causing the outside rail to dig in. - Carrying it - how can they put a handle in and just make it too damn shallow? Dings easy - price you pay for performance - I'd still do it again - see you did ask where the hell did that lot come from.

Starboard Extremist 9' - beautiful fat fish - only tried a few times.

Pros -

It's 9' for Gods sakes it's only 9' - there's me 14 - 14 1/2 stone 196-200lbs and it floats me fine - it's so light - and on a wave its super loose - more full on surfable.

Cons - Same as the 9'8" but for me I feel that there is a lot more Yaw than it's bigger brother having said that every time I ride it I think this is the board I should have gone for (is that a con?).

ULI 10' Steamroller - My second Inflatable SUP - You should know by know how much I love these puppies - That's my actual board in the picture along with Jesse, Jim and Chris from ULI 24 hours before I receive it in the UK - these guys take it and make it personal.

Pros -

Fun Fun Fun - packable - super tough - comfy - (my heels don't get sore) Surfs indecently well (with a slight change in Technique) - you read it all above.

Cons -

Not having it around at times - I miss it.

C4 BK Pro 10' - Insane I love it - I hate it - I love it etc etc . . I love it!!

Pros -

I want to surf this board always - once on a wave this is 'the one' It is the NEO of all the boards that I have ridden even surfboards - its clairvoyant - it goes where I think - its the best surfboard that I've ever had. It paddles straight (honestly it does) - It can drop sideways very late into a wave - at any point I feel that 'I'm going to make it' - It can be carried easily - it's got loads of fin options (is that good?) - it's nose beats through, up and over white water so easily. I love it. And breathe.

Cons -

I fall off of it, regularly - the board makes me nervous - I always think that conditions are going to be too choppy for me to stay on it, so I've started taking two boards with me - it has to be kept paddling to stay on it - it's so tippy my calf's ache for days after a session on it - it's bloody hard work, physically and mentally - this board challenges me and I know that I'm never going to be good enough for it - I wish I could have discovered it before I was 15 not three years before 50 - Every two hour session on this board starts off 'Hero' (hero in a small fatboyway)and ends up a knackered 'Zero'. It's an insatiable mistress I hate it - I love it.

So naively, what I want is a slightly more stable version of the BK pro maybe 28 - 28 1/2" - Up to 10' is fine - but not more - Pulled nose with plenty of rocker - 2 plus 1 or Quad setup, not more than 4" thick and either the swallow tail or rounded pin.

One things for sure, sadly the Jimmy Lewis is going to have to go - and maybe the Starboard and ultimately maybe the C4, but not the Uli's they are just too much fun.

Surely the Steamroller can't be my perfect board - having said that if I had to choose just one board, for ever it would be the 10' ULI no doubt. - But I don't so come on guys if you are reading this chip in with some suggestions - where to next? And if you are in the UK do you fancy a swap with a Jimmy Lewis?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Board rage strikes at last

More of the same this week - busy busy busy - Saturday night up the Bucket (our local) massive Caeser salad and trimmings BUT knowing that I'd arranged an early at Gwithian I was supping Dartmoor. Dartmoor is an ok sort of 'boys' beer about 3.9% Usually it's Hicks - HSD - my problem is when I get to the pub I'm thirsty - so I drink - If I start on Hicks (5.Something well hard %) I know that I'm going to be wasted. I'll always make it in the morning but I'll feel shite for a few hours - soooo drink Dartmoor - no hangover and arrive at the car park at 8.30 15 mins early.

Text to Gavin - 'sorry mate can't wait - it's looking on'.

Actually It was a shorter txt than that.

I'd taken the JL11 and the C4 with me - I'd thought that it was going to be fairly small but clean - magicseaweed was stating 3 1/2' at nine seconds. From what I saw there was no way the Jimmy was going in. Quick change - shuffle the boards about and off. There was no one out in front of the car park but I did pass a guy who'd just got out on a SUP - looked like a Starboard Extremist - I was in too much of a hurry to stop and say hello. Sorry - if you read this I think that you're called Dave - leave a message and say hello.

I paddled out and got stuck into some decent waist to chest high waves - one of the things that I have noticed with the C4 is that if you're fresh it's fine - if you're tired you're screwed. I find it to be the best surf machine I've ever been on - the problem is paddling it about and waiting for a wave - it's bloody hard work. A two hour sesh on the C4 feels like four on the Starboard. I had very good waves for an hour and a half or so then began to go off it a bit - sat down and then beat my way into some more.

I think that it was the guy with the Starboard's wife that paddled out Amanda?? They were taking it in turns and she caught some decent waves on what was an Extremist 9'0 - Fair play. Typically when there is someone to show off too I spent most of my time checking the hull of my board.

Gavin was Godrevy side and started getting flak from the surfers that were congregating just off Sheep's Pool. Earlier some guy on a surf ski had a pop at me - I was miles from anyone - but he felt that he just had to have a go.

Bizarre - the surf was by this time knee to waist high and fat as hell as it was approaching high tide - if these guys were any good they would be somewhere else - but they all sat together and gobbed off at the guys that actually were getting waves. Us! The surf ski guy was seeking support from people that would usually give him grief.

Later that evening I took the JL in for a low tide session - it was fun but turning the thing is hard when you have been riding something like the C4 - could be time to let it go.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Getting to know - a C4 BK Pro

I have already admitted to being slightly 'scared' of the C4 - so it's sat for a week in the board store - waiting. My options are to just go for it on the Starboard where I'm now comfortable and confident enough to paddle out in just about anything or take the C4 and endure a few iffy sessions while getting used to it. Another fin change and a forecast of two decent offshore days made up my mind. Tuesday was going to be small, clean and perfect with an evening high tide - Wednesday was going to crank four and a half feet at 11 seconds - perfect breaking in scenario for the BK.

Gavin opted out of Tuesday to earn brownie points for 'BIG wednesday'. I pulled up at Gwithian after work to see waist to shoulder high sets rolling in under the car park - rolling through the crowds. Quick change - boardies and rash vest and jogged off to Pete's point. It was much smaller but still waist high (just) with the tide pushing up hard.

The clean conditions were kind to me allowing me to settle reasonably on the narrow deck of the C4 - slowly I got into my stride and began to score waves the length of the break - as the tide pushed up the size of the swell - swelled. Faces got steeper and I got braver - the board tracks straighter than my Starboard and the last paddle stroke into the wave does not send the board sideways causing it to stall. In fact even getting lazy and sometimes dropping in sideways the board would catch, accelerate and take off. Once on the wave I found that I could easily turn hard into the breaking wave and then back away from the curl - it felt very very good - I managed a nice floater and after that wave managed to get tucked in backhand under the lip so tight the sun shone green through the wave. BUT what I could not do easily was paddle turn in front of an oncoming wave as easily as on the Starboard. My feet just seem superglued to the deck until the board was moving faster than paddle speed. I'm sure it will come but for now slow turns are the order of the day.

Bursting through wash the nose of the board is like a scalpel - just got to work on balance and planting the sweet spot a bit easier.

I surfed until I was knackered slipped the paddle through the deck loops and toddled off up the cliff and back to the car feeling very pleased with myself - confident that I can drop down a fin size - I actually think that the big centre fin may be adversely affecting stability as the board was sensitive to current,rip and backwash.

Next day I fitted the Smaller Starboard centre fin and met Gavin at Gwithian. The swell had died!! We paddled down to Pete's catching a few waist high waves and back again to Godrevy - The board was not happy - neither was I - Gavin was picking waves off at will on the 9' Starboard - I was having a mare. To be honest I would have been ok on the JL but wanted to get some time in clean, non challenging conditions on the C4. Th smaller fin was fine - next stop - try Quadding it so I sent a mail to C4 for suggestions.

Forecast looking a bit iffy for the rest of the week but scaling up a bit for next week.

One effect of the new board is the agony in my calfs - the extra work in balancing the board has made itself felt.

Friday, July 18, 2008

10' ULI Steamroller and Stuff

Loads of stuff been happening since my last post - just don't seem to have had the time to post it - firstly the weather - what the hells going on? - Last July was the wettest on record, I believe - and this one has turned out to be pretty shite so far as well. Consistently onshore, grim conditions. It's got to get better soon. Anyway . . . .

My new ULI turned up - the 10'Steamroller model with a black deck grip and the new three piece adjustable paddle - Jim / Chris and the guys at ULI seem to be incredibly busy at the moment and the new ULI website and forum is fantastic. Clinton's (Steamroller's) tips and tricks for maintenance are like having your own personal ULI mechanic in your front room. I have no idea how large a company ULI are but their attention to detail and customer service levels are outstanding. My board was pretty much a 24hr delivery from the States!!

There has been a lot of interest on the UK forums regarding travel SUP's recently Uli's - other inflatables - Pope Trisects - personally I'd like to see evidence of their worth first - and Steamroller's videos sold me on the ULI brand from the outset - that's what made me start this blog - and when I see other brands going through that sort of treatment - I might be swayed - somehow though I doubt it - with ULI abuse comes as standard - mine seem bombproof - I like that they are hardcore fun, expensive to import when the duty and carriage is added but quality cost's and these are top quality fun.

So, absolutely desperate to surf it, I allowed Shane to persuade me to get down to Praa sands the evening that it arrived. The wind had dropped but day's and day's of onshore 15-20mph winds had produced a very short swell period, choppy with peaks jacking up left right and centre - Perfect really!!

I hadn't been on my 11'r for a day or two and the choppy conditions coupled with the smaller board and the now famous 'ULI bounce' made things very interesting for the first few minutes - however after sorting myself out and settling down to it I began to catch waves - more and more of them almost embarrassing really. The conditions meant that I practically had to stand on the nose to beast my way into the waves and then immediately lurch to the back to get weight on the fins to get the bottom turn in and rumble off down the wave. It's feels strange so wrong yet so right - you can't help but smile, it's not the most nimble or graceful of boards and the technique to ride it is tantamount to bullying, but it's so much fun.

The head of the beach was quite steep, strewn with pebbles, boulders and tons and tons of leash-clogging weed. The ULI was sent up the beach time and time again with me emerging from the kelp like the creature from the black lagoon.

Simon - one of the local longboarders paddled in and was eyeing up the ULI - Simon can surf - well so I offered him a bash on the board - he couldn't get his leash off fast enough. Amazingly it was all he could do to stand on it - I thought 'I was like that last October' feels like I have come a long way in a short time. Perhaps it's that speed of progression that makes SUP so compulsive - always another milestone but always another challenge - more of that later!

The session was a belter we surfed for a couple of hours alongside Simon and a handful of shortboarders - no hassle - just good natured, bloody good fun between strangers sharing waves. Where does all the crap come from regarding Stand up - I've yet to see it?

Next day, Saturday evening, saw the Uli out at Godrevy amongst more onshore 2' slop - still good fun, still smiling - I swapped boards with Steve's Starboard 11'2" Ultimate Blend for a while and almost didn't want to give it back. It cut through the chop and caught waves so easily - next session in these conditions is going to be on the Jimmy Lewis I thought.

Next session was an 8.30 start the following morning - I brought the Jimmy and the ULI as Steve was taking it off to Greece on a Sailing holiday.

Revisiting the Jimmy was a blast - loads of glide and super easy even into choppy waves - there is definitely something to be said for longer boards - it's just that manhandling them is a pain. Sometime during this session I swapped boards with Gavin to have another go on his 9'0" Extremist - you got to hand it to him that board is frisky especially in those conditions - I have no idea how he makes it look so easy sometimes.

Sooo having been watching an ad in the local press over the last few weeks for a C4 10' BK Pro I chanced my luck with a silly offer and an understanding wife, and Tuesday saw me paddling out at Gwithian on what basically amounts to a slimmed down skateboard. Talk about revisiting your childhood - it was all I could do to kneel on it. I had replaced the standard 8" C4 centre fin with a huge 10" longboard fin in the vain hope that it might keep me fairly stable (read dry). Anybody got any ideas??

Conditions were still onshore although the wind was dropping in strength with half decent sets rolling through.

After a few tentative attempts at getting to and eventually staying on my feet (albeit temporarily)I dropped into a decent wave and whoooaa - this baby flys - my 9'8" is loose(ish) and Gav's 9'0 positively progressive (in longboard terms) but this sucker rocks - I waxed the nose but I doubt that was anything more than a waste of time - it seems that there is one foot position for paddling and one for surfing - for me at the moment that's it. Even trying to step back to turn the board in front of the wave has me off. So I crouch and scrape and scull my way into position - I have to admit it - this board scares me - not for what it can do - but because it highlights what I cant, and if I'm honest I'm in a dilemma - embrace the new challenge and put up with a few (god knows how many) abortive or at least below par precious sessions or take the easy option and surf the Starboard.

It's going to be hard work acclimatising and re-setting my balance parameters but the C4 fly's. The standing sweetspot (paddling) is minute - a fraction forward and the nose is buried - a tad too far back and the tail is sinking. It has to be kept moving to be stable (at the moment) and I even fall off it Knee paddling. It's very narrow for me @ 27" x 3 7/8" and realistically borderline for my weight (196lbs) and ability - but I'm thinking maybe shorter is not automatically the way to go maybe width should also be considered. Physically the first half an hour on the C4 was one of the hardest that I have had on any board - and that was just trying to stay on it - but the rewards are plain to see - it simply feels like there are no limits!!! You paddle in, sideways will do, take the drop and well, you just sort of think 'turn' and it does, I mean you don't DO anything I suppose you just swivel your hips and that's it. this must be what shortboarders do - I'm not used to that - I'm used to having to grunt and grind, and hobble and shuffle my body around the board to accelerate or stall or turn usually ending up with a rinsing because what I think I should do is already too late - by the time I do it - but with this thing it seems to do it before I've thought about it. And the best bit is - carrying it!! Two leash plugs along the centre line allow me to use the paddle as a handle - simple and just plain common sense.

Next night saw me on the Starboard - not looking like a cock - not falling off . . . catching loads of waves surfing reasonably well - but . . knowing deep inside . . that there is a whole new level waiting for me and it ain't going happen without a serious apprenticeship.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Decent Summer Swell

Managed to get into the latest swell that has been pushing through this week - first session was Sunday morning half decent swell but a bit bumpy due to the onshore wind that has been blowing all week. The forecasts have put the wind strength at 12mph - I'm not one to argue with the experts but it felt more like 20mph. Perhaps because it was so steady with no let up who knows? all I can say is that it was on the limit of my comfort zone.

Monday's forecasts had the wind going round cross/off shore - 12mph - still no let up - I trogged down to Gwithian hoping to find some decent peaks. They were there but so were a billion other surfers!! Very hard to find a space it was pretty much rammed right along the beach - a few really good shortboarders were ripping it up just about everybody else was struggling - me included not least because everytime I paddled into a set wave all I could see was endless faces staring back at me - with a glazed look of fear in their eyes - can't blame them really. I tried to paddle down the beach but it was not much better there. In the end I took my last decent wave, rode it to the beach and went back up the cliff. Holding onto my board walking across the beach was not easy in the wind - 12mph Nah!!

Tonight Shane and myself got in part way down the beach - no crowds and the wind - still offshore - had dropped (a bit). The tide was dropping off a 4pm high and the swell lines were stacking up nice - huge in fact. We paddled into clean overhead sets many of which for me were, Paddle in - bottom turn - close out - get nailed. Then wait for the rest of the set to to decide that the best place for the lip to be was on my head. It was great fun if a bit marginal having said that I did fluke a bizare sort of airiel kick out that left me feeling just a little bit smug - you know the sort of move that gets you looking around to check out who saw it. Generally it was a case of drop in late and take the beating.

Wouldn't have missed it for the world. More tomorrow.

For the guys and gals that do actually read this I thought it might be interesting for you to see where you all come from - Last months figures split as follows -

Pos. Country Views % of total

1. United Kingdom 140 55.78%
2. United States 57 22.71%
3. France 16 6.37%
4. Netherlands 13 5.18%
5. Australia 6 2.39%
6. Ireland 6 2.39%
7. Spain 3 1.20%
8. Maldives 2 0.80%
9. South Korea 1 0.40%
10. Sweden 1 0.40%

So there you go - not quite sure what to say about that other than many thanks to you all - please add some comment - even if it's just to say wrap up!