Choosing the Correct Board for Flatwater Paddling
Whether you are planning to build a new board for the surf zone, flatwater paddling or for downwind runs, the correct board for your size and for the conditions you paddle are critical for being able to get the most out of your new equipment. Your level of experience is also a major factor when choosing the right board for optimal performance. Building a board for the conditions you typically paddle will keep the “stoke meter” maxed out whereas a board that is not right for you will be a lesson in frustration.
3 Things to Consider Selecting a Board
- Body size
- Conditions paddling in
- Level of experience
“The Beach House” part of the Story
“The Beach House”
The “The Beach House” was always a magical place for me and my brothers and nephews. On the windy dunes north of Lincoln City, Oregon, well before there were many houses, and near what is now Roads End State Park, we ran wild (outdoors where the grownups wanted us!) through the dunes on family “beach house” outings. The line we couldn’t cross when it was just the kids playing, however, was the trail down to the beach where we were told there were “sneaker waves”. I never quite figured out what those sneaker waves were all about until I got serious about spending time in and on the ocean. I just heard the stories that my Grandmother used to tell to scare us kids into not going onto the beach without an adult. As a surfer and sailor with decades of time spent around the marine environment, a lot of conditions regarding Mother Ocean have become much clearer. Sneaker waves can be seriously deadly if you aren’t playing by the rules Mother Ocean lays down. I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to understand those “rules” and how to work with the ocean and the other aquatic environs.
I’ll never forget the “old school” coastal tugboats that used to ply the Pacific Northwest Coast. I didn’t make it onto a tugboat, or any other boat for that matter until quite a few years later, but there was always something about those images of the far off ships and tugboats that seemed adventurous, wild and engaging.
The obsession with small boats, and now wooden paddle and surfboards, started in our family garage where my Dad and brothers and I built a small wooden sailboat. We learned a lot and got a fun toy out of the “deal”, which we enjoyed for years. Later, after being discharged from the US Army, the building of a boat I could travel on and that would lead to an adventurous lifestyle was a high priority. I built the boat, a very bare bones but strong boat, and had some great adventures for a few years.
My own 32’ blue water sailboat solved some of the wanderlust in me. I learned the ways of the sea building and sailing that boat and along with crewing on sailboats in the South Pacific and running my own commercial fishing boat for a couple of seasons I learned much about the sea and life on the waterfront.
Even with my heavy attraction to the sea and live aboard/traveler lifestyle, life ultimately presents many possible directions to pursue. Building anything of quality has always held attraction for me. Whether it was the complicated silkscreen prints I made as a college student or the estate level residential construction that was my long term career, I have always gravitated to quality built watercraft.
Building and paddling hollow wooden paddleboards and surfboards has taken center stage at this point in my life. The boards are interesting to build, look beautiful and perform great. I look forward to engaging with this process every day. But the most satisfying part of the experience is mentoring other builders. I meet so many interesting and accomplished individuals and get to share my hard won experience and knowledge about watercraft and the art of building them on a daily basis.
Rogue 8′ 4″ Performance Surf SUP
The Rogue 8′ 4″ performance surf sup has been an interesting adventure for me. My first surfs on it left me a bit confused about what I had just created. It took a number of sessions to figure out that the Rogue isn’t a longboard style ride!
My experience with short boards is quite limited so the idea of riding a board off of my back foot was something I needed to almost learn from scratch. Previously I had to move around on my boards to be on the sweet spot. When I started riding the Rogue the way it was intended to be ridden, off my back foot, the board came alive.
When first learning to ride the Rogue it was too easy to just pull out my previous “go to” board and just paddle out and have fun. Then a big problem turned into big plus; my old “go to” ride developed a crack around one of the fin boxes and got pretty wet on the inside so I had to retire the wet one for a rebuild and was “forced” to ride the Rogue. How fortunate I was to have this “problem”!
Initially, the low volume 105 liter size was challenging, and still, when paddling into surf with a a side shore wind, the chop is challenging. But once on a wave I’m so happy to be riding the Rogue with its agility and speed out of the turns. Many of us with deep experience in the surf zone have had the good fortune to find a magic board in our years of surfing. I’ve had the good fortune to have a few and my Rogue is the latest.
Would I do anything different if I were to make any changes? I might, but it would be limited to tail configuration and fin set up. I’m so stoked to be riding the Rogue!
Hollow Wood SUP and Surfboard Structures with Integrity
Hollow SUP’s, surfboards and prone paddleboards that are built from strips of wood over a light framework all have one thing in common; a semi monocoque structure. What is a semi monocoque structure? Think of an aircraft fuselage or wing on most aircraft and you are looking at a semi monocoque structure. Other terms used to describe this structure would be “torsion box” or “stressed skin”. The loads applied to the structure determine the size and spacing of the internal framework.
Generally speaking, in hollow wood SUP and surfboards the loads are such that a fairly light internal frame can be used. High quality marine plywood is a good example of an engineered composite material with a very high weight to strength ratio and is the typical material used for the internal framework on most hollow paddle and surf craft. The skin to frame attachment is critical to maintaining the integrity of the structure; as long as the skin stays attached the structure will maintain its form which is why most hollow boards have added gluing surface attached to the perimeter of the plywood frames.
The performance of semi monocoque structures can be enhanced in a number of ways. Point loading such as that produced by a paddlers feet or the impact from going down hard on your knee(s) can be resisted by decreasing the span between the frames or by increasing the strength of the skin or both. Heavier paddlers and riders or those wanting to maximize the overall strength of the board often fiberglass both sides of the deck panel and install the panel in one piece. When single panel installations are not practical the deck panel point load resistance can also be increased by fiberglassing between the frames on the underside of the completed deck panel.
In my years building hollow wood paddle and surf craft I’ve seen many overbuilt and unnecessarily heavy boards due to a misunderstanding as to the nature of the structures involved. An over built board may not last any longer than one built to suit the loads and may not be as much fun to paddle or surf (or carry!)