Summer is almost here! What SUP should I buy?

May is half over, and soon our long-awaited Summer will be here. About this time, we get lots of people coming to us for advice about which board is best to purchase. There is an almost dizzying array of choices in stand up paddle products on the market now, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed when choosing. You’ll need to choose between an inflatable vs. rigid SUP, recreational vs. performance shapes, displacement hull vs. planing hull type, short vs. longer length, flat deck vs. recessed or “dugout” deck, and composite material vs. standard epoxy construction. The following set of questions is how I usually go about helping direct a person in his/her new purchase:

What environment will the board be used in?

First off, knowing the environment that you will be paddling in will help you choose between an inflatable vs. hard board. A lake or ocean bay that has a rocky shoreline and bottom will be harder on your board than a bay or beach entry that is sandy. As hard as we try, it is difficult to avoid dings when paddling near rocky beaches. With an inflatable board, that concern is pretty much wiped away.

What conditions will the board be used in? What type of paddling will you be doing?

Will you be paddling mostly on protected flat water, where waves and chop aren’t as much an issue? Or do you plan to use the new board mainly in the open ocean? Answering this question will help determine the amount of stability the board needs to have. On flat, calm water, you will have far greater stability so you can choose a narrower outline. On open ocean, the board must provide a minimum amount of stability so you aren’t falling off frequently. If you plan to do some surfing on the new board, you’ll need a board that is appropriately shaped with some “rocker” and have the option of side fins in addition to the center tail fin.

Do you have a vehicle equipped with a roof rack that is strong enough to carry hard boards?

There are many choices in roof racks. The important thing to know is the roof rack needs to have cross members, not just the side luggage bars. The board must be strapped at the front and rear rack bars. If you do not have a roof rack, and don’t plan to get one for your car, then an inflatable SUP might be the choice for you!

What type of paddling do you see yourself doing most of one year from now?

This is an important question, as it can prevent you from getting a board that you will grow out of or be bored with soon after purchase. If you dream of racing stand up paddleboards within the year, then you probably don’t want to start with a wide cruiser, or a surf shape. It might make more sense to get an entry level race shape, or at least a touring board that has a displacement hull shape.

Will you be launching the board close to where you park your vehicle? How far will you need to carry the board to launch?

Not many of us have the luxury of always having a helping hand when handling our paddleboards. lifting on and off the roof rack, and carrying the board to the beach for launching can be challenging for smaller, not-so-strong paddlers. If you know you will be alone more often than not, and you will have a distance to carry the board, then choosing a lightweight board will have great importance. Carbon fiber is more costly than other construction types, but it can cut the weight of a board in half! If you are looking at a longer race board, a carbon fiber constructed board will be much easier to handle.

Are you physically capable of lifting and carrying the board to the launch spot without help?

If you will not be able to lift and/or carry your SUP, an inflatable board makes sense. Most inflatables come with a roller bag nowadays, which can be pulled or pushed to your launch place.

Will you be the only user? Will you be carrying gear, children, or pets?

If you intend to carry your 90 lb. labrador and you yourself weigh 200 lb., then you will be shopping for a board with a volume of about 300 liters. It is important to not overload your board’s carrying capacity; the more you push your board down into the water, the less stabile it becomes. This means that you should look at boards in the 12-foot range, or 11-ft with a width of about 34 inches. You will also want to choose a board that has been constructed with a laminate layer of strong, stiff material such as bamboo or carbon in the standing area to prevent crushing the foam, creating pressure dents.

Are you looking for a faster board that can be used for fitness, or one used mostly for lazy cruising?

Typically, a board that works best for fast paddling, racing or race training is one having a narrowed, displacement hull design, rather than a planing hull such as a surf shape. The displacement board shapes have a nose that is sharply pulled in like the front hull of a sailboat, or a canoe. This parts the water, and cuts through the chop if breezy. If you want to cruise at a snail’s pace, simply enjoy the scenery, and stop to do some yoga, then a wider, planing hull shape will be more stabile and comfortable.

Do you prefer the look and feel of a painted epoxy finish over an EVA foam covered “soft top” type?

Soft top boards, as they are called, are comfortable and soft on feet and body if you are laying on it. These boards have the same foam core as hard boards, but usually have less laminate layers. They often lack the rigid stringer down the center of the board which provides stiffness lengthwise. They can be lighter in weight than a hard board. However, they are far less durable than a hard board in most cases. The foam wrap can cut and tear easily, and foam damage is hard to repair. If used mainly in sandy areas free of rocks, the concern about damage is reduced. A traditional painted hard board has an aesthetic appeal that is preferred by many paddlers. Consider the potential for paddle-caused dings and chips in the rail of the board with sloppy paddling technique, or if children will be using the board. With kids, a soft top SUP is a great choice. An inflatable SUP may be even better for kids, as the worry about damage during use is pretty much eliminated.

I hope this helps some in narrowing down the choices for your next stand up paddleboard! While you’re here, take a look at this cool new guide to great places in California (and elsewhere) for stand up paddling! https://www.inflatableboarder.com/california-paddle-boarding-guide/ Also, if you still have questions about choosing equipment, don’t hesitate to stop in our shop! We love talking about boards, paddles, and all the accessories. Happy paddling! Here’s a little guide to help decide of an inflatable SUP is right for you:

How to Start SUP Racing

Stand up paddling has been around long enough now that you probably have become familiar with SUP racing. It’s exciting and motivating to watch stand up paddle athletes as they negotiate buoy turns, draft, and sprint to the finish. SUP races include long courses, short courses, and technical courses. The technical courses take athletes in and out of the surf zone and through multiple laps to test the athletes’ beach starts, buoy turns, and surfing skills. Unlike a point to point race course, the technical race course is more easily viewed by spectators on the beach.

So, you’re ready to give racing a go yourself?  That’s great! SUP racing is loads of fun, keeps you in peak fitness, and brings you together with fun, like-minded people. Also, since SUP is still a young sport, the fields of competitors are much smaller than in running races. So, grab your 12’6 or 14′ race board and sign up for that race next week! Well, you may want to give consideration to a few things before you do. The following is what I think is super important to engage yourself in before hitting your first race.

FIRST TAKE A PADDLE STROKE LESSON

Even if you have been paddling for a long time, take a stroke lesson or group clinic before starting SUP racing. It will be the best thing you do. If by chance you have any errors in your paddle stroke, the last thing you want to do is to start hammering out the miles training and racing. You will be practicing poor form, and you are very likely to end up with a painful chronic injury of the shoulders, back, or knees. And, you won’t be your fastest with an errant paddle stroke. It’s just physics. I see folks out there putting in mile after mile, day after day. They don’t get any faster, and their form looks very poor.

START TRAINING

Before your first race, you should get into a training program. On water training is much like training for a running race. It’s important to start out slow and easy, and work up to longer distances and higher intensity. Everyone has their own recipe for training. Many elite athletes don’t disclose their training programs because they are so effective at getting them to the podium.  The important thing is to do some training prior to your first race. To get going, you’ll want to start building base miles, just as you would in running. Think of these base miles as the footing of a pyramid upon which you will add speed and intensity.

Before you can do that, you need to build a good foundation so that your joints and muscles are ready for increased workloads. Start by picking a comfortable distance that you can paddle without stopping. Paddle that same distance at that pace for a couple of weeks. Then, add miles by increasing the mileage by 10% each week. You should be paddling about four days in a week to build base mileage. Base miles are just that- miles. Don’t worry about speed or intensity. Once you build your base, you can add in interval and sprint training to build speed.

TRAIN WITH A PARTNER OR A GROUP

Training should be fun. It’s more fun to train with others. It’s also safer. Find a buddy who is close to your fitness level, or even slightly above your level. It really helps to have someone who is faster than you, because you are more likely to get a great workout than if you go out with someone slower than you. You will be pushed to better your skills and fitness. Training with a group or at least another paddler is safer especially if you are training in exposed water or open ocean. Accidents happen, and people of all ages can have health issues come up suddenly. If you are on the water alone, at least consider using a VHF radio in the event of a medical emergency while training.

WATCH VIDEOS

When I started race training, I watched countless video clips of beach starts, buoy turns, drafting technique, and surfing. It really helps to visualize what your body is supposed to be doing. When you are on the board, those images come back to you and you can begin to transfer what you visualize into proper technique. If you are having trouble with a particular part of the paddle stroke or with turning skills, watching videos can be extremely helpful.

ENGAGE IN CROSS TRAINING

This is one of the most important things I think anyone can do if interested in SUP racing. Elite female paddler, April Zilg, is a perfect example of how weight training can pay off. The forward paddle stroke in stand up paddling is powered by the large muscles of the back, abdomen, and thighs (no, the biceps aren’t all that important). You want as much muscle behind the paddle as possible. The pulling muscles of upper body and the pushing muscles of the lower body are the critical muscle groups employed during intense paddling. The shoulders need a lot of muscle mass too in order to protect the joints from overworking and becoming injured. So, a good and regular weight training program should be part of your training routine. When I am training early in the season, I spend more time in the gym than I do on the water. It pays off both in performance and in avoiding injury. To me, weight training is critically important to SUP racing. Try to hit the weights at least a couple of times a week.

START WITH REASONABLE GOALS

Don’t make your first race a big one, like Pacific Paddle Games or the Chattajack. In starting SUP racing, it is important to set a reasonable goal for your first couple of races. For me, the first race was all about just finishing! Then, I set the goal of bettering my time by a minute with each race. Find out ahead of time what is a comfortable race pace for you. You do that during one of your training sessions with a partner. Push yourself to a pace that is difficult, but one that you can maintain without slowing. Then, record the time that you complete the distance. Look around the race startlists for paddlers who complete the distance in about the same amount of time.

When you get to the race, try to find that person in the lineup, and hang with them for as long as you can! You’ll be surprised at how much you can push yourself this way. Pretty soon, you’ll be passing that paddler (if you have been training properly) and you can look for your next target. You will notice that you can shave a minute or two off of each race time this way. The key is to set reasonable goals for your race times. Otherwise, you’ll be easily discouraged and feel like quitting.

LEARN TO TURN YOUR BOARD

Most races include some buoy turns. Racing is not fun if you dread the part where you have to turn! You can be in a position to take a placing, but then lose it at the turn! Early in the season’s training, start working on moving up and down your board. Practice on a less stable board if you can. This makes the board you use for racing feel more stable during a race. Practice cross stepping up and back. See how fast you can get in your stance for a pivot turn. Make sure you are using your paddle to brace while moving. Watch videos, and practice, practice, practice. I see many people struggle with turning their board. It’s critical to be able to perform a good pivot turn. If you have not taken a lesson, you will gain a lot by doing so.

So, there you have it. Start training, have fun, and stay safe!

How to Prevent Paddle-Related Shoulder Injury

I’ve learned a lot about shoulder pain related to paddling. My own personal experience with shoulder injury began in 2009 when I started stand up paddling. I didn’t know a thing about paddles, paddling, or injury prevention; I was just a weekend warrior who took up the sport with no education or help. I bought the cheapest paddle available, and started paddling for hours at a time. I never warmed up prior to going out, and I never thought about stretching. On top of all that, I didn’t even start putting on miles paddling on flat water- I jumped right into SUP surfing! It wasn’t too long before I had extreme pain in my shoulder joint. Eventually, I could no longer paddle. So, I started reading up on shoulder injuries related to paddling. I was very happy to learn that my injury wasn’t necessarily permanent or chronic.

After a few months of rest and healing, I was ready to try paddling again. Before hitting the water again, I tossed my horribly heavy paddle and purchased a light full carbon paddle. I learned that paddle blade sizes varied, which I wasn’t aware of when I purchased my first paddle. I chose a smaller blade size which felt much softer on the shoulder at the catch phase. I also never knew how tall my paddle should be. I had been using a paddle that was about four inches too long! When I sized my new paddle, I followed the Quickblade Paddles guideline. It felt great! The new paddle was no comparison to my old paddle in terms of comfort and efficiency. In fact, I hadn’t noticed how much work it was simply moving the old paddle through the air!

I later found out that my old paddle weighed 32 ounces compared to the 14 oz. of my new paddle. The weight difference alone made the paddling experience far more enjoyable. Better yet, I paddled faster! I soon realized that with a lighter paddle and one that was properly sized, my shoulders hurt far less often! I was beginning to get into SUP racing by then, and I wanted to maintain my healthy shoulder joints. I was worried about the once-in-a-while pain after really driving the paddle hard during a race. That’s when I learned about April Zilg, an elite SUP racer who used regular weight training to build paddling muscles. I decided to hit the gym!

Having been a former bodybuilder, I was accustomed to weight training. I knew the importance of starting off slow and easy. Pretty soon, I was on a full routine of push ups, bench press, shoulder press, dumbbell flies, pull ups, and regular stretching. I raced two seasons and paddle surfed about four days a week with zero pain! I was also able to lift boards up and down the beach and onto the rental trailer with ease. Over the busy Summer, my ability to keep up a weight training regimen decreased. Eventually, I wasn’t even doing push ups at home anymore. By end of Summer, guess what? Shoulder pain! Paddling for any length of time causes soreness. So, back to the gym for me. And, back to watching April Zilg’s fantastic videos on increasing strength and flexibility!

Here’s a great video by PaddleFit’s Brody Welte to help you with some pre-paddling warm up exercise. Warming up will definitely help you prevent injury! By the way- we’ll soon be hosting April Zilg right here in Morro Bay for a SUP fitness clinic! She’ll share her knowledge and success-based experiences with us so we can start the SUP race season out right and avoid paddle related shoulder injury! Stay tuned, and keep checking in for the clinic date!

Paddler Profile #1

Bonnie came in looking for a board that she could use for distance and fitness paddling, and one that she could easily carry her daughter, and often her dog. We set her up with the Americana touring board, a 12′ x 31″ wide board by POP Paddleboards. It was a perfect fit! Bonnie can be found paddling frequently just about any morning.
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How long have you been stand up paddling?
On and off for several years, fully addicted for 6 months and counting.

What do you love about SUP?

Slack tide, no wind, sunset. The realization that the Earth and Moon had to reach a
point in their dance with the tides to still the water beneath my feet. Life doesn’t get
much better than this. But there are so many beautiful moments. Every day on the water is a gift!

What was your scariest moment on the water?

Sometimes nature decides to re-write the story on the fly. A beautiful day turned
into a monster strong tide and wind out of nowhere. I may or may not have been
rescued by harbor patrol. Lesson learned: Any time in nature should be spent with
respect for a greatness that loves you, and wants to eat you, all at the same time!

What are some of your Goals?

To play with friends and family (and my dog) on the water as much as possible. My
8 year-old daughter just got her first board, a Guru by POP Paddleboards from MBSUP. Love it! Looking forward to many years of paddling with my growing girl, and to catching some waves on her board as well!

What is your Paddling Motto?

Have fun, be safe, and respect our beautiful gift of nature and all of its inhabitants.
See you on the water!

~Bonnie

Be Sea Otter Savvy!

Today was a great day. The weather was pretty nice, even with the multi-layered partial cloud cover which actually had a particularly tropical feel to it. The wind remained light, even though shifty; first northwesterly, then westerly, and finally turning out of the south for a bit. There were people on all kinds of watercraft enjoying the afternoon. We had quite a few renters out, some who were experiencing stand up paddling for the very first time. The breeze was just enough to make stand up paddling more of a workout for one set of newbies, so I thought it best to get on my own board and escort them across the channel to the protection of the shallow shelf of the sand spit. As I returned toward Coleman beach, I came across a couple in a kayak who were chasing a mother otter and her pup in the channel. Mother otter was doing her very best to propel herself with her tail while holding her fuzzy little pup close to her chest. But the kayak was moving against the current faster than the otter could. I watched the kayakers continue to chase. I was growing pretty concerned for the otters, so I moved a little closer to the kayak. As I did, I was shocked to see that it was a mother with her own child, about 8 years old! I paddled closer and shouted over to the couple, “Hey- please stop chasing the otters!”  My plea was ignored, and they continued pursuing. I shouted again to the adult to move away from the otter and told her she was breaking the law. Only then did she back off.

Although a new otter pup is irresistibly adorable, we must all do our very best to respect otters, adults and young alike, and stay a safe distance from them. During that encounter, mother and pup otters were impacted in a way that we will never know, and the mother in the kayak was a poor model for her child. Adults need to teach their children to respect wild animals. I realize that she simply wanted to get her child close enough so she could get a good look at the baby, but she was ignorant of the cost that action would have on the otters. So, what is the reason we shouldn’t get close, and certainly not chase otters? There are quite a few very good reasons, both behavioral and physiological to leave otters be.

First, Morro Bay has been blessed with a rich and diverse assortment of wildlife. The otter population has quickly grown in number over the past decade. As of May, 2017, the count was 36 adults and 9 pups. According to local sea otter biologist, Mike Harris, this is the highest count to date of sea otters, and is far more than the four or five otters that would visit the harbor during the previous decade. Just as the sea otter population grew, so did the population of humans recreating in the harbor. A sharp growth in water sports, specifically kayaking and stand up paddling, has taken place during the past decade. This parallel explosion of wildlife and humans on the water has happened at a pace that has exceeded our ability to plan for and prevent impacts on the otters.

Behavior changes are one impact we may have on the otters.  The more contact otters have with humans on a daily basis, the more their natural behaviors are altered. In short, they are becoming very accustomed to our presence in kayaks, on paddleboards, and on boats. This means that they don’t move away when a boat or kayak approaches. This puts them in danger. I have witnessed countless times over the past year otters that are narrowly missed by motorboats because the otters just didn’t move out of the way. They are no longer moving away as quickly as they used to when approached by kayaks, canoes and paddleboards. Over the past two years, I have come across two otters that appeared to have been struck by boats.

In addition to behavior changes with increased human contact, otters suffer physiologically from human contact. Otters are mammals that spend all of their time in cold water. Like other mammals, they must maintain a minimum body temperature to survive. But unlike seals and sea lions which have thick blubber to provide insulation and keep them warm, otters depend on their thick pelt for survival. An otter’s coat is extremely dense, containing about 1 million hairs per square inch. The effectiveness of an otter’s coat in insulating the animal depends on constant cleaning and maintenance. An otter is constantly caring for its coat. This takes a lot of energy. To replace calories burned by self care and moving about in the water, including fleeing danger, an otter needs to eat often. It also needs to rest often, especially after feeding and while nursing pups. When disturbed often by humans, they must move which burns calories, and those calories must be replaced. This puts them at risk for falling behind nutritionally which can lead to weight loss and starvation, especially if food sources are scarce at the time.

What can we do to help our otters stay healthy? We can avoid paddling in areas where otters are known to rest, or “raft” as it is called. If you can see them from a distance, you should change course and paddle away even before they see you. If you see others chasing or lingering near a raft of otters, please say something in a gentle way to help educate them. If you see a sick or injured otter, please call Morro Bay Harbor Patrol at 772-6254 and report what you see and give a location. They will contact our local biologist or other marine mammal specialists.

Well, that’s all for now. Enjoy our amazing wildlife, and happy paddling!