By Ike Wolgin
Sun, Fun, Fitness – Get On It! A year ago we wrote in the April 2011 issue of Adirondack Sports & Fitness that stand-up paddling was a great addition to your paddling experience. SUP is still growing and in 2012 the story is that many people exposed to the sport on warm-water vacations are looking to get started back home. And those that are already on a board are looking to take their stand up experience to a new level.
As SUP grows, the boards and paddles are quickly evolving for the flatwater. What is most exciting is all the new gear, which reaches beyond the basic recreational paddleboard to satisfy the need for longer paddle trips and better workouts.
Until recently the boards and paddles that have been available are referred to as recreational boards. These boards resemble a classic long-board surf shape, which is significantly thicker and wider than the new shapes. They are generally ten to 12 feet in length and 30 to 34 inches in width. Recreational boards will give a great deal of stability and versatility, but will not be as efficient cutting through the water, especially with midday big lake chop. While they continue to be popular and serve the needs of many – to go further and faster, with less effort – there is a new generation of touring/fitness boards to choose from.
Chapters can be written on board design, but for simplicity let’s talk about boards in the broad stroke, and consider the following rules of thumb. To float a given paddler weight, a minimum amount of surface area is needed. When you stand on the board you displace, or move, water out of the way equal to your weight. While a five-foot by five-foot board will float a paddler and be as stable as a dock, it will not go through the water very well.
To design a board that displaces water and will move more easily through the water, and have the potential to reach a higher speed, the board needs to be longer and narrower. While the longer and narrower board can be less stable (it will have the same square inches of surface area as a five-by-five “dock”), it will have a smoother paddling, more efficient hull that can help you achieve that higher speed. Imagine a touring kayak or race canoe that you can stand on, and you begin to envision the piercing bow and hull of a touring or race stand-up board.
Touring/fitness boards are generally 12 to 14 feet in length, 27 to 29 inches wide, and five to seven inches thick at the rail. The subtle tweaking of these dimensions and shaping of the materials in the design process give each board its unique feel and attributes. There is a new, large crop of flatwater boards on the market as manufactures make boards to fit every sized paddler and their needs. Whether you are looking to go day touring with a hint of sweat or cross-train with a high heart-rate workout there is a board for you.
SUP racing is surging east from California to upstate New York, and the new touring/fitness boards will allow you to be competitive in races similar to your local 5K run or weekly triathlon. If you really want to open up your chances to podium as a racer, there are board designs in the race category that are comparable to the fastest marathon canoe or one-person kayak.
To truly understand the differences between recreational/universal boards and touring/fitness boards, they must be experienced. There are nuances to the variety of touring/fitness boards, so there is no substitute for experiential learning.
Identify how SUP will fit into your paddling life. Find a local dealer that has the expertise to get you and several boards on the water. Try them out to feel the differences and identify the one that best meets your needs. Now that you have read this, get out and paddle – summer is here!
June 17 SUP Clinics with Danny Mongno – Fitness and Racing: 8-11am and Building a Strong Skill Foundation: 12-3pm. Demo boards/paddles available. Lake George Kayak Company (Boathouse on Green Island), Bolton Landing. Reserve: (518) 644-9366. lakegeorgekayak.com.
June 23 Adirondack SUP Festival – Family-friendly on-water celebration with demos, beginner clinics, races, industry reps and food. Lake Colby Beach, Saranac Lake. Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters: (800) 491-0414. Details: adirondacksupfestival.com.
July 21 NY SUP Festival – Family-friendly demos, clinics, races on the Moose River, instruction, live music and food. Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company, Old Forge. (315) 369-6672. More Information: mountainmanoutdoors.com.
Ike Wolgin of Bolton Landing is the, owner of Lake George Kayak Co. (lakegeorgekayak.com). Ike has a passion for no octane small watercraft, especially those of the Adirondacks.