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. www.uliboards.com 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.

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