Saturday, April 16, 2011

strapped SUP anyone?

A while ago I saw Brett Lickle with a foot strap on the front of his SUP. The idea intrigued me, and I imagined that my little 7.4 board would benefit a lot from the leverage I could get out of a foot strap.
A back foot strap is not a good idea on a SUP since the back foot moves A LOT on the rails to achieve the turns.

Then I saw Josh Stone ripping, hitting lips and catching airs one day at Kanaha. He also had a foot strap on his board and I was convinced.
Remembering the good old days in which I did a lot of SUP sailing in light wind, I also thought about installing a mast track.
I wisely decided not to do the job by myself and here's how a professionally done job looks like.



Below is a detail.
In order to minimize weight, I asked the installer to cut the mast box in half. I knew I was not going to need any adjustability there.
Where I wanted to have adjustability instead, was on the foot strap. So I observed the spot where my front foot was for a few sessions in different conditions and it was pretty much always in the same spot: on top of the back end of the handle. That was going to be the center position of the five holes insert I chose to install. That is also the position I tried to so far in the three sessions I had and it proved perfect. I haven't tried any of the other positions yet, we'll see how that goes.


And now, impressions.
The first strapped session was at 1000 peaks with knee to waist high waves. In such small waves, the strap didn't seem to give any advantage at all. But it was also the very first session, so maybe I should try that again.
The second and third sessions (the ones documented here) were at Kanaha with head to overhead high waves.

At the beginning I hated the thing. I blew the best wave of the day, because I wasn't quick enough to find the strap, lost the momentum for making a critical section and got engulfed in the close out.
But, as the session progressed, I got better at finding the strap at the right time and I started to feel the advantage of using it.
By the end of the session, I was in love with it.
This top turn shot clearly shows my foot actually pulling on the strap. Love this shot. FB profile worth? What you guys think?

Having a foot strap makes you push harder. I remember this bottom turn and it was tighter than usual.



Cranking the top turn!




As usual, the nonetheless amazing GoPro, kinda reduces the size of the waves. This one shows how well over the head of the surfer in the background the wave is. Thanks for posing Karl and sorry about that close out. My turn to be in the right spot... :)




Well, not on this one (still well overhead)... that is going to close out on me.



And that's another moment when the strap helps: surviving big white water closeouts. I made this one and I'm pretty sure I would have fallen if I didn't have the strap.


Clearly the strap couldn't help in this unsolicited, unexpected, unprovoked, unnecessary lost of balance in the middle of the flats... duh!



The strap also provide something else to grab when sitting through a lull... :)



As glassy as it gets. What a day!

So let me make a list of the pros and cons I perceived so far.
Pros:
- you can crank you turns harder
- you can hit lips and go for floaters with a lot more confidence
- you can pump the board harder and get more speed to make sections
- you can survive white water closeout better
- Brett added that he can make it over broken waves better when paddling out by switching to surfer stance (with the foot in the strap) just before the impact, but my board is so short I can't really do that. We'll trust him on this.

Cons:
- once in a while you'll blow a good wave because you lose time in finding the strap. I hope this one will disappear with time.
- having the front foot locked in one position does feel a bit as a deprivation of freedom. Waves are all different and as such may require small adjustments in the front foot position. Brett, who is always ahead of the game, fixed this by installing TWO straps, one in front of the other. The forward one is for small slopy waves. The second one is for when the waves gets more hollow and he needs a stance more towards the back of the board.
- wipeouts with a foot in a strap can be dangerous. So far I didn't have any problem at all. When you fall back, the foot comes out no problem. But I know the danger is there.
- adding the inserts will make your board slightly heavier. My guess is that between insert and mast box my board got between half a pound and a pound heavier. Not much, but as sensitive to gear weight as I became, I can totally feel that when I paddle. My board just sits a tiny little bit more in the water. Pretty sure I will get used and forget about it one day, but right now the memory of a lighter weight board bugs me.

The overall balance between pros and cons is well described by the picture below.


Let's move to the windsurfing part now.
As I said I have plenty experience of sailing SUP boards. Excuse me if I brag, but I even ended up on the cover of Windsurfing magazine with one of them. Remember this photo? That board was a Starboard Drive, 10.5x30. One of the best sailing SUPs I've ever tried. Extraordinary glide and very loose for such a "long" board.

At 7.4x29.5 instead, my POD (also known as the "flying saucer") has no glide at all (both when paddling and windsurfing), so the sailing part on flat water was slow and kinda sluggish. But when on the wave, the board was as turny as a 7.4 can be.
Here's a little sequence of a back side ride in the beautiful sunset light. The wind was so light that I couldn't do any down the line rides. That is exactly when I plan on using this board: SUPER light wind. If the wind is strong enough to allow for down the line wave riding, I'd rather be on my 80l windsurfing board...



Note that I removed the strap. The strap is mounted for my surfing goofy stance (while when sailing on starboard tack wind I have to stand regular), plus the front foot position when sailing appears to be completely different.
That also makes me guess that the foot strap inserts already present in some boards (many Starboard have it) for windsurfing are not in the correct position for SUP strapped surfing. Just think that the front foot strap is not even in the middle!
Ironically, I didn't feel the need for foot straps at all when wave sailing in light wind...



Do I need to add that I had a blast or does it show enough?

Here's another little sequence that shows the switch from front wind regular stance to back wind goofy stance (you guys confused enough?).



This kind of "ballerina" step is how you are supposed to step around the mast in a tack. Windsurfers struggling to learn how to fast tack on a regular windsurf board: get yourself a sailing SUP and practice. That's how I learned.


I just love riding waves like this. For the first time I was able to do some real turns, like all the way up and all the way down the face of the waves (there were some mast high bombs in the afternoon). Too bad the 8 GB card of the camera was full from all the photos from the morning sesh and didn't get those. Next time.


In conclusion, I would recommend the installation of a front foot strap on your SUP if:
- you have read pros and cons on this post and pondered that it's worth it
- you are an EXPERT SUP surfer. Not an intermediate or beginner thing, honestly.
- your board is short. How short? Not sure. The longer the board, the more you need to move your feet all over it. If you are interested, I recommend that you start monitoring your front foot position when you surf and if you notice that it's always roughly in the same spot, then you're a possible candidate.

Have fun and be safe! Questions in the comments are welcome.

PS. Think this post is good? Wait until the next one... best wave sailing windsurfing video I've ever done!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ciao,
i vantaggi sono intuibili ed allettanti, ma francamente temo troppo per i legamenti delle ginocchia per provarci al momento. Usi la strap più stretta che con il windsurf, o la lasci alla stessa larghezza? Io con il windsurf le uso molto larghe larghe, ma sul sup temo che sarebbe troppo facile che il piedi vi rimanga dentro in un wipe out. Tanto so già che prima o poi proverò !!! Molto belle le foto.
Ciao
Filippo

cammar said...

Ciao Filippo,
thanks for you question and I'll answer in English so that everybody can understand, but keep commenting in Italian if it's more comfortable for you.
The strap and its setting is exactly the same as the ones I use for windsurfing.
I have the feeling though that, because of the slower speeds (and less bumps), when SUP surfing the foot doesn't get quite as locked in. That's why it has been pretty easy to pull it out before wiping out... at least so far!

Anonymous said...

Ciao,
My english isn't perfect.
I am thinking about a strap on sup from a few weeks (I have also a custom shortsup 6,6 - for Med sea condition is often perfect) and it could be perfect for strap). A little while ago, if you remember, we have already spoken for email about it. The shaper of my boards (Patrice Guenole) uses it on short sup. I don't remember if I just send you it ... See here: http://www.gongsup.com/Enterprise.html?lang=fr
I knew that for a long time some suppers tried it, and for sure there are many advantages. In next sessions I must pay attention to the position of the foot and to find the right position on my short. I think that in the next weeks I will put the plugs. I will make you know :-). Your photos are very nice and from these the utility of the strap is clear.
Ciao
Filippo

Anonymous said...

what fin conf. do you use on the pod?

cammar said...

Great question!
I experimented quite a lot, so I might be a bit long here...
When I bought the board it was setup as a quad with four 4.5 fins. Same shape but unfortunately (it was a demo) two fiberglass and two plastic ones.
For the sake of experimenting, I tried it as a 2+1 too (it has 5 boxes), but even with just a 6 inches central fin (and 4.5 side fins) it wasn't as loose, so I went happily back to the quad configuration.
Then one day I put some tape on the central fin box to see what difference the friction reduction would make and I was astonished by the results:
1) the board was way faster (on the wave)
2) it didn't have enough drive!
In other words, that empty central box acted as a fin, both slowing down the speed and adding drive.
After that, there was no way I would go back to removing the tape (the added speed equaled added fun!!!), so I started looking for that extra drive I now needed.
Unfortunately, FSC doesn't make many big models. I tried some really big ones (like those of a twin fin set up), but that was way too much drive when used as a quad (and not enough when used a twin).
Lately I finally found some 4.7 plastic ones and those are the ones I'm using now. But I would love to try 5 inches. Specially now that I have the strap.

If you have a POD too, I'd love to hear your fin setup.

BTW, the 7.4 Starboard POD is the most fun SUP I've ever tried. By far.

Anonymous said...

Hi Giampaolo,

Interesting post. I don't think I'll make it to expert SUP surfer anytime soon because I prefer lay down surfing too much. I'm wondering why you said the wind was "too light for down the line rides". Is that because you would end up too far down wind? I almost always go down the line at Kanaha.

Kevin

cammar said...

Hi Kevin,
despite the huge amount of fun I have on my 7.4 SUP, I still prefere lay down surfing too! But there's places and conditions in which SUP is just more fun. Knee to waist high 1000 peaks is a perfect example of that.

Your question: when the wind is very light (we're talking 6 to 10 knots), if you go down the line in the same direction of the wind, you would most likely match the wind speed and the apparent wind would become zero or even negative (and you get backwinded). In other words, it would not be a comfortable ride.
Plus, as you suggest, the ride back would be painfully slow.
Instead, when you go upwind your apparent wind increases, you feel some power in the sail and once you're done with your ride, you're ready to tack, sail out through the channel and catch another one.
It's the Kanaha Mary-go-around.
But again, I'm talking wind speeds in which most people wouldn't think about windsurfing at all.