Finally bit the bullet

One week ago today I made a decision to stop procrastinating and buy a better board.  Not just a better board but possible and arguably one of the finest inflatable boards on the market.  I spoke to the very helpful staff at New Forest Paddle Sport Company no settled upon the Starboard Astro Racer 12’6″ X 28″.  It is a serious bit of kit and was even more delighted that I got a deal that included a paddle bag, starboard coiled race leash and also a Starboard Bolt Hybrid Carbon race paddle.  

I have to say that this is serious stuff….I am now committed to training hard and ensuring that the investment will not be wasted.  I could not wit for work to be over on Friday evening, racing home to see my kids and racing out the door to pick up my new kit.  Sean at New Forest Paddle was spot on and did not open anything, handing me the Stanley knife as soon as I walked through the door and pointed me to the box in the corner of the room…It was Christmas, going through all the packing and revealing MY new board.  I was so excited, I think I hid it well, my instinct was to go YIPPEE and dance around the place, but I resisted the urge.  Once the board was unpacked came the next big task, measuring and cutting the paddle down to size.  I was left to do this myself and I am glad I was, it is akin to. Samurai forging his own sword or a Jedi making his own lightsaber.   A right of passage that, if possible and confident all paddlers should go through.  I careful wrapped electrical tape around the shaft, took the saw nod me my guidelines.  Then the job was done.  A spot of glue and the paddle was ready for the water.

I rushed to the waters edge at Keyhaven and pumped up the board, the glorious new board smell wafting on the summers evening.  It was every bit as good as I remembered it to be when I tested it a month ago.  The difference is this time the board is mine.  The board coupled with the phenomenal paddle was amazing.  Unfortunately, my balance was slightly off as I was coming down with a cold so was not at 100% and took a tumble into the drink.  Fortunately the water was warm and forgiving.  I enjoyed my paddle and enjoyed testing the paddle and the board and together they make a fantastic coupling.

The paddle!

Let me tell you about the Starboard bolt paddle.  It has an oval shaft, which is so very comfortable to grip, it has been designed in conjunction with Connor Baxter and carries his signature, it has a rough edge by the top of the handle which always for grip if performing his ‘choke down’ paddle stroke.  (There is a you tube video of Baxter being interviewed and he demonstrates this technique better that I can explain it ). The bode is a composite of carbon fibre and foam and is amazingly light, I mean really light, it feels like your holding a fluffy cloud!  Despite it weighing less than a feather blowing on the breeze, it is possible to get quite sensational power through it.  Set a 10 degree angle the catch is phenomenal and it glides through the water with ease, delivering amazing control and thrust.  I have used 6 paddles in my time paddling, each one better than the last.  But this will quite frankly never be beaten.  It is sensational, it is feather light, responsive and a pure joy to use.

The board!

For me, space constraints require me to have an inflatable and I can’t imagine any other board being quite as good as this.  With a FCS fin box system it beats, hands down, the slide and clip of my old board and some other race boards out there.  It is light when inflated but has near the rigidity of a hardboard.  The dual stringers running down the centre provide strength.  The board itself when paddled is best paddled at speed , it likes to go fast, after last that is what it is designed to do.  But, it always is forgiving at low cruising speed.  When I toppled off, I was at a 80 degree angle to the water almost vertical before the board released its grip of me and drop me in the water.  People had time to mock, jest and offer advice before I eventually went in. 

The future’s bright!

I am still in training for the Bournemouth Pier to Pier as the original date was cancelled due to bad wether and now re-arranged for  August 7th.  Father that the training begins to use this board with the most appropriate gusto that it deserves.  I am planning on a winter training schedule and possibly some winter races with BaySup.  But I think my announcement on to the race scene will be Head of the Dart 2017.  That is my aim, that is my plan…..bring it on!


2nd week, 2nd paddle

I said last week that I was a planning a paddle around Keyhaven.  Well, unfortunately I bottled it.  The reason is that I was not confident enough to try to paddle around the bay as, after reading the charts and local advice felt it was slightly risky given the time of year and temperature, if I get stuck or get it wrong it is a very cold way to spend the day. So I decided to alter my plans and I went to. The slightly more protected and safer option of Mudeford Quay, in between Christchurch and Highcliffe.  It is a fascinating little place that is a large sheltered bay behibd Hengistbury head and the Solent.  For the most part it is no more thN  a feet deep even at high tide, it has some deep channels of a few metres and a also houses a treacherous channel loving called ‘The Run’.  Essentially the Run is to be avoided at all times. The whole force of the tide is squeezed through a deep channel about 10 m across.  The force of that outlet to the open sea is akin to the worst Rip tide you will ever see and if your caught in it you won’t be seen until you reach the Isle of Wight. Fortunately though the bay is about 4.5 miles around the edge so plenty of room to paddle without vanishing off into the Solent.

I read the tide well and arrived 40 mins before high tide and they was plenty of Water I. Which to paddle, and I was not the only one.  I bumped into another boarder just starting  out.  The other paddler was slot more experienced than I so I let him toddle off before I ventured of the water, essentially so I could see where he went and if there was any issues on the water.  A very chilly wind was whipping around chopping up the water which made it challenging to paddle, also made it a bit cold.  But, wrapped in neoprene I barely felt the wind so was happy to crack on.  I hit the water and was immediately surprised by the strength of the wind and the effect it had on paddling, to get out into the bay I had to travel into the wind. It was hard going and my feet were getting a bit chilly. About 500 m out into the bay my feet went numb.  I was wearing neoprene shoes but it was very cold. I endured and went further into the bay, the sun was glorious but the wind was high making a challenging SUP.  I went further and missed the signs for the shallows as they were submerged, and ran aground and fell in. Whoops! It was a chilly dip and wasn’t my only one.  I have so much to learn about this sport.  
Inclement weather means that I cannot get out for at least a week so I am in the pool every other day!

My first forays

I have not been Paddleboarding for very long, in fact I am very new. I tried it out in Scotland whilst on holiday, on Loch Lomond, and the instant I fell off I was hooked! It was peaceful, calm and serene. I got an amazing sense of achievement when I paddled, standing up, out of the bay and managed to keep my balance and remain standing up.  The board I was on was definitely not suitable for me. After all I am a fatty! Standing at 6′ 2″ tall and weighing in at 20 st I am not the most likely candidate for this sport. However, I am not one who gives up when things are tough! I investigate thourghly what boards were out there and what would be suited to me. I eventually got frustrated and spoke to a company in Poole called Sandbanks SUP style and after talking my stats through with them I went and bought one of their boards! 

I then, within 24 hrs, was at the beach staring out at the sea and seeing 6′ breakers crashing into the sand and thought, well won’t be going out today! So, plans to SUP on hold. I waited for a couple of days and went again. In the meantime I had read about SUP surfing, paddling out and then catching waves like a surfer! Great, I thought that sounds awesome I will give that a go. So good waves breaking I pumped up the board an paddled out. Half an hour later and half the sea swallowed I realised I may not have been ready for that. Still, it was great getting out there. 

I had a chat with a friend and she also has a board and she told me tha she goes out at Christchurch Quay and paddles the Stour river and she was willing to come along and give me a few pointers. Fantastic! After a long shift we ventured forth the early evening sunshine, pumped up and got on the water! Under her invaluable tutelage I was up and paddling. That trip had 2 swims as I fell in and I knew I would need a lot of practice turning on the water. I learnt that going in a straight line was easy, turning pits you off balance. There are two primary ways of turning a the board, a ‘J-Stroke’ which turns in a gentle, wide arc or a back paddle which is sharper. As a novice I was yet to realise that I needed to counteract the forcs of the turn by shifting the weight in to the opposite side of the board. The inevitable happened. Splash! 
It’s a lovely, as yet unelected excursio. Schedules have not allowed me to have further tutoring. But, I deterred I continued to go out. 

I went back to the beach between Bournemouth and Boscombe piers. Only this time flat, calm seas with a maximum of 1′ swells. Perfect SUP conditions. The water was lovely and not too cold but I soon found out that paddling on a river and the sea are 2 completely different animals. On the sea I was up and paddling  but was falling off a lot. I wa not compensating for the tide or the waves and falling in. 

I went back to athe river twice on my own and practiced, practiced and practiced putting in 4 hours over two sessions and not falling in once. My confidence has grown massively, I know my board better, and I have bought you up to date.

Tomorrow theses is forecast as flat, the weather dry with a slight favourable north-easterly wind. My plan is a whole day on the beach, learning about what tide is best as I will be there during an outgoing and incoming tide, learning how to control the board on the sea. I am now self teaching, gaining experience and learning the sport by doing it. So if anyone is at Bournemouth and sees a Farman paddling, give a wave and friendly encouragement as it takes courage  and determination to try the sport and to fail so publicly!

I welcome friendly comments so please do share your thoughts equally I would love to hear your stories! See you on the water!