Expectations v. Results

Posted by Ken Campbell March 30, 2009 0 Comment 836 views

I thought I would need to paddle at night. Given that the wind is a major factor in the touring paddleboard game, I expected that I would need to do a certain amount of my paddling after dark, when the wind usually abates. I went as far as installing a mount for a light near the aft end of the board. I took the light with me, but I never used it.

Although the wind is certainly a consideration and a 12-foot paddleboard is not particularly efficient in blustery conditions where the wind is blowing in direct opposition to course, it is also not as bad as I had first thought. By dropping to a seated position and using the sea kayak paddle, I was able to average about 2 knots, which is not egregiously far off the pace of a loaded sea kayak in the same situation. It did involve more effort, however, and over time, was certainly more tiring. Without thigh and foot braces, I wasn’t able to transfer energy from my back muscles to the paddle blades, so I had to rely on pure strength, which only lasts so long.

As for changing position – standing, sitting, kneeling – I found that to be the most pleasing aspect of the 5-day trip. I don’t have a problem sitting in my kayak for long stretches of time, but I still like the options that a touring SUP brings with it. Given the opportunity to stretch my entire body at whatever interval I wanted meant that I took more breaks on the board and less on shore. If I had stopped every time I needed a rest, I would not have gone as far as I did.

With all that said, my best day only covered about 20 miles. That was with a stout wind at my back and some assistance from the current. In a kayak, I would have gone perhaps twice as far, and with less physical exertion. I’ve spent seven days on the route so far; if I’d used a kayak, I would already be done. Even though the speed through the water was better than I expected, the extra effort required meant that I did not paddle for nearly as long as I would have in a kayak, so my overall miles totaled less.

I am not certain of the exact weight I had in the two drybags at the front of the board. I weighed everything at one point, but then made additions and substitutions that changed the total. I’d say the weight of my gear was somewhere between 30 and 35 pounds. Two things here: 1) It is difficult to travel lightly in the winter, and 2) I wouldn’t want to take much more than I did.

A longer board would have been better, at least in terms of speed, but you play the cards you’re dealt. I’m excited about the paddling that’s still to come though, not only during the PSC, but after that as well. I think that the nature of SUP is going to be transformed, now that it has made its way up here to the higher latitudes and I am very interested in what will come next. I’ll say it now, in the hopes that when it all comes to pass, someone will remember that I said it, that they heard it here first: The future of paddleboarding is touring.

Actually, I’m pretty sure that the future of human-powered surface water travel is going to be something that hasn’t been invented yet. It may not be a paddleboard precisely, but it’s going to draw on the things that a SUP, and a kayak, have to contribute. There’s a marriage waiting to happen here, and I’m looking forward to being a matchmaker.

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