I reviewed a YouTube video by Bic Sports, you know, the folks who make pens, called Stand Up Paddling – Taking Your Sup to the Surf. This guy went over what he called the golden rules when learning to SUP surf. I think they make a lot of sense. I think some of these apply to regular surfing too.
1. Do not go where there are others in the water.
2. Always wear a leash.
3. Hone your paddling skills in flat water before attempting the surf.
4. Learn from those with more experience.
Of all these I’d place staying clear of others at the top of the list. I surfed from age 14 to 62 and have spent an awful lot of time upside down in the surf zone on my SUP. But I’m getting better. I’ve shown a bit of impatience getting into the surf and do not have great paddling skills, but I’ve totally stayed clear of others, always wear a leash, and talk with any SUPer who will give me their time. Most are quite generous.
Like the Guy Who Paddles Fast.
With Donna’s new VESL SUP from Gordie at Primitive Surf and Sup lashed to the roof we stopped by Covewater Paddle Surf to check out a rental board for me. They had a nice Paddle Surf Hawaii 10-6 that I tried for the afternoon.
We drove straight to New Brighton. It was still, not a breath of wind and no waves. Not a wrinkle graced the surface. A torrent of birds flew in all directions. The sky held smoke from distant fires and blurred the horizon so we paddled toward the pier, a good mile away. Below there were thousands of anchovies. Slippery little slivers of life, dozens of whom skittered across the surface, made me wonder what predator lurked below.
There were two towhead surfers, maybe 10 or 11 years old, grooving on their short boards with fishing rods propped against gear boxes strapped to the front of their boards. One of them signaled it was time to move. The other pulled out a stringer of two or three nice little fish and plopped them into his box, then they paddled out toward the kelp bed. The shore was painted with bright-colored umbrellas against the pastels of Capitola’s coastal architecture. Beach bodies were wall to wall making the sound of late summer pleasure; splashing in the surf, sipping drinks, walking hand in hand.
We paddled past the jetty toward the pier where a band playing guitars and drums included a female singer who sang a tune that seemed to blend with the salt and cool water. We passed under the pier, gliding over the deep green water toward the tall ochre cliffs as a lone swimmer passed behind us swimming the length of the pier. We turned around and headed toward the kelp.
Yesterday was Donna’s birthday. Donna is my wife of almost 29 years. We’d gotten her a VESL 11 foot SUP, carbon paddle, and a leash for her birthday. I mean, she was the one who got this ball rolling. Seemed only fitting to get her a board. And she loves to paddle. She looks great on the VESL. Color and all. It’s so Donna.
We wanted to paddle in the sun, so we headed to Marin. There was wind on the water in Sausalito so we continued to San Rafael where we’d heard about 101 Surf Sports. We stopped at a cool little diner for breakfast. Our boards were on my RAV4 roof. Donna’s was in the VESL bag but my new F-One Manawa was getting hot in direct sun and I worried that it could delaminate or explode. I’d heard these horror stories about boards overheating. So I called 101 Surf Sports and a friendly voice told me I’d be ok at this temperature for a while but that I should consider a board bag to protect my precious Manawa.
So after breakfast we showed up at 101 Surf Sports. I’d expected a small kiosk with a few rental boards, maybe a dozen or so flatwater boards and some T shirts. If I’d visited their web site I’d have been more prepared for the football field sized facility with dock, more boards than I’d ever seen in one place, and a staff of informed, friendly folks that wanted to make life more enjoyable.
By the end of an hour paddle through the marina to the bay and back they had installed a new set of lockable Thule racks on the RAV4. I dried my Manawa, stuffed it into my new FCS board bag, and Cort Larned showed us the ins and outs of loading the boards and locking them down.
It was a great afternoon. We will return.
It’s a full life, a good life. We live at the beach. We ride bikes, take hikes, but with warm ocean summer comes the longing to do more than drag my toes in the water. In early summer 2015 I saw a stand up paddle boarder ride a long right, carve graceful turns, and make quick snappy cutbacks. It looked easy but I’d been told that when things go wrong, they go really wrong. The ocean, the board, the paddle, other surfers. Too many moving parts I thought. Too many thoughts is more like it.
Donna was the first to try it. Who but Donna would see Mother’s Day as the day to try standup paddle boarding in the harbor? It was chilly. I felt low, so I brought the camera and stayed wrapped up at the shore. Donna went straight out on a 10-6 inch Riviera Stand up Paddle Board (SUP) from Jeff Clark’s Mavericks Paddleboards and didn’t look back.
Matthew was upside down with his dog Zeus thrashing in the water in a matter of minutes. But he still came back with Zeus mounted on the nose both of them smiling.
A few weeks later I walked the beach at medium low tide in my shorts, in bare feet. I saw another paddle boarder catching waves and it kind of got under my skin. Could I manage it? Would my back hold up? Would my left shoulder survive? Only one way to find out.
We booked an outing from Jeff Clark’s Mavericks Paddle Board shop and showed up on a perfect Princeton Harbor day. Warm air, no wind, cloudless sky. Birds welcomed us. Jeff’s shop is like a little slice of the tropics complete with grass inside and out (AstroTurf.) Beach balls were piled in bins outside the changing rooms that were set off by bright striped curtains. I got a 10-6 inch board that was about 33 inches wide. It looked like a wide, stable platform but on the water I was shaking as I paddled away from shore. I didn’t fall but used every muscle in my legs to stay upright. My feet hurt after an hour. I discovered muscles that I didn’t know existed. But I didn’t fall and wanted more.