Considering a sailing adventure to Mexico? Just look at how engrossed that guy is in the book! Grab a copy of the Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico, and you too can find yourself sitting on a Mexican dock with an oversized (but very attractive) hat.

Unauthorized Guide to Sailing in Mexico

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Tuesday
Jul032012

tips for a beginner paddle boarder (sup)

I've been rocking my paddle board for a while, now onto my second board after a nasty problem with my first. It's an activity I really dig, and you can look at it as a sport (there are tons of races), a leisurely stroll through the water, or a great way to catch waves (most boards surf great). In general though I've found a few tips that I thought would be helpful for anyone getting into paddle boarding.

Gear:

- Not all boards are created equal. Cheaper boards have thinner finishes (that crack easier) and lack desirable features like vent plugs you don't need to think about. Cheap boards will require the vent plug to be removed and installed with a wrench, as where a better board will have a membrane that allows air to escape but water to not go in. No muss, no fuss. If you leave the plug in on a hot day, you can literally destroy the board through delamination where the fiberglass literally separates from the foam.

- The boards are huge. Even a "small" board will be about ten feet long, a "normal" is around twelve, and performance race boards are fourteen and more. Moving them around on land should be done slowly and carefully as it's really easy to smash them into things. Walking around with them in the wind can be really dangerous.

- Buy some Solarez because eventually you'll get some damage you need to repair. Solarez cures in a few minutes in sunshine so you can be in the water quickly, and it keeps water from getting into the board causing the foam to suck up moisture. Put the Solarez on the ding, put a piece of Ziplock bag over it, smooth the whole thing, wait a few seconds, pull the bag up. The repair will be pretty damn smooth and locked tight within five minutes.

- A "cheap" board will cost you around $700, a "nice" board is about $1500. This isn't to say that price necessarily dictates quality, but like most things the two tend to go hand in hand. An example of a cheap manufacturer is Tower, and nice would be Yolo or Naish.

- A good paddle is around $200. Carbon fiber, stiff. Read up on the "shaka" length for how long it should be.

- Consider a bag. They're expensive, around $200, but they protect your investment and if you whack a bagged board into a wall the chances of damage are much lower than if you smacked the board directly in. Plus if you leave the board out in the sun uncovered it will eventually fry the paint job and make the foam you stand on turn to dust.

- EPS foam, what 90% of the boards are made with, suck up water like a sponge. Once you get water in your board, it's pretty screwed. If you have a maintenance free vent plug (quality board), the only way you're getting water in is through a ding or crack. So make sure you fix those as quickly as possible.

Form / technique:

- Keep your lower arm locked forward. Basically you want to reach as far as you can with your lower arm and stick the paddle in the water as close to the board as you can, keep the lower arm straight, then pull yourself towards the paddle while "punching the air" with the high arm that is clutching the top of the paddle. Get the paddle out of the water before it's behind your feet.

- To remind yourself to reach as far as you can, keep your lower arm locked and push it as far out as you can (and twist yourself a bit so your shoulder goes towards it as well). In this position you have a fully extended lower arm. Keep the lower arm straight and locked until you're done with the stroke. If you're applying power your lower arm should be locked straight.

- You rarely paddle stroke for stroke on one side then another. Typically there is wind involved which will require you to be paddling maybe three strokes on one side for two on the other, or something similar to that.

Cargo:

- You can put toddlers on paddle boards. I put Cora on mine all the time, with her sitting between my legs. She's fallen in once and it was no big deal. A bigger problem is that they get much more wet than you will, and they also aren't huffing and puffing like you are. Here in the Eastern Pacific the water temps are typically in the low 60's so it's quite easy to get hypothermia even on a warm day. Give some consideration to warmth in addition to the obviousness of a good PFD.

- Technically a paddle board is a vessel so if you operate it in US waters you need a PFD (not necessarily worn), a whistle or other sound signalling device, and at night a white light sufficient to be seen and used in such a way as to avoid collisions. I never carry any of those but I might start, especially if I spend more time in the busy channel.

Physical body:

- It's a pretty good workout. It will take a while to get real calorie load estimates and much depends on the speed and conditions. Like running, there's a big difference between the calorie consumption of a 6 minute mile versus a 10 minute mile; the faster of the two consumes almost double the calories of the slower.

- You can alter your stroke but primarily this seems to work your forearms (you will develop an iron grip), triceps, chest, lower and mid lats, rhomboids, erector spinea, abs, and your general hip area. It's fairly full body but there are some areas (upper back and arms) that are being taxed far more than your glutes. Yes, your glutes are being used, but unless you are a complete wimp the work effort there is minimal compared to what glutes can really do.

- There is no "core" muscle. There are muscles throughout your body and people call the ones in the middle your "core", which to me is stupid. "Core strength" is up there with "tone" for nonsense fitness terms used by people who have no idea what the fuck they are talking about.

- You might get blisters and you will for sure get calluses. Four notes of wisdom for this. 1) Ramp up slowly and give your body a chance to adapt. 2) Keep your hands dry as long as possible. Wet hands are about 10x easier to get blistered and screwed up than dry ones. If they get wet, wipe them off the best you can on your trunks (hopefully your trunks are dry). If it's really snot conditions outside, consider gloves. Do not use gloves to avoid developing necessary calluses. 3) Keep some bandaids in your pocket so that if you get a blister or rip some skin you can do something about it. It won't work miracles, but you'll be glad you had something. 4) The "no popping blisters" rule is sort of bullshit and is pedalled by doctors who don't want people getting infections. I can dig that, but if you have a big blister full of goo, sterilize a needle and pop that thing. Don't be dumb and take care of it like you would any cut.

- Your feet might get numb. Moving your feet around seems like a really bad idea initially, but as soon as you can practice lifting the ball of your foot on your non stroke side. For example if you are in the middle of stroking on the right side, pop the ball of your foot up on your left so you're just on the left heel (and a flat right foot). Then do the same for the right foot when you're stroking on the left. You don't need to do this all the time and it can be risky when the board is flying around everywhere but doing it whenever you remember (every few minutes, for a minute or so) is a great way to keep the blood moving in your feet and prevent numb feet.

Other websites that can provide you with great information:

- http://www.standupzone.com/forum/index.php
- http://www.davidkalama.com/category/technique/

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