SUP Magazine - - Frontside - – AARON BLACK-SCHMIDT

PANIC DOESN’T BE­GIN TO COVER THE FEEL­ING THAT SURGED THROUGH MY BRAIN. Our crew was sev­eral hun­dred yards off the beach, hav­ing just be­gun a mul­ti­day down­wind ad­ven­ture along the south­ern Ore­gon coast­line. Port Or­ford’s ship­ping pier and Cape Blanco be­yond it was block­ing most of the howl­ing NW winds and puls­ing groundswell, but its pro­tected wa­ters looked like a lake com­pared to the white-cap­ping ocean just be­yond. I had al­ready fallen off my board twice. What was I get­ting into?

My job on this trip was to take pic­tures, and in true pho­tog­ra­pher fash­ion, I was quickly find­ing out that I had my 14-foot board over­loaded. In ad­di­tion to my wa­ter­proof cam­era hous­ing and case—eas­ily 20 pounds—i also had fresh­wa­ter blad­ders and a 70-liter dry­bag stuffed with camp­ing gear and cloth­ing for the next sev­eral days. I was too top-heavy and as I knee-pad­dled with the ever-ris­ing wind, I knew I was in over my head.

Swal­low­ing my em­bar­rass­ment, I called over the one mem­ber of our team who was pad­dling a kayak. Dave Lacey was our de-facto guide for the trip and luck­ily, he let me load my mas­sive dry­bag onto the back of his boat. He saved my trip and I owe all the pho­tos I took in large part to him de­cid­ing to pad­dle a kayak and not a SUP.

As I pad­dled on, I thought about what I did wrong and what I could have done bet­ter. In gen­eral, open-ocean pad­dle­boards are not de­signed to carry heavy loads. Keep this in mind if you’re plan­ning an overnight trip. While dry­bags are es­sen­tial, it’s bet­ter to use sev­eral small ones to evenly spread the load across the deck. You’ll also need to add tie-down points to your board. Don’t skimp here; your gear tie-downs need to be bombproof. I’ve found EZ Plugs and Sea to Sum­mit lash points are good op­tions.

Take a hard look at your gear. If you don’t ab­so­lutely need it, leave it be­hind. Bulkier items like pil­lows and tents can be eas­ily swapped out for a jacket and bivy sack. Also bring freeze-dried foods that just need hot wa­ter from a sim­ple stove like a Jet Boil. Think and pack like an ul­tra­light back­packer.

Lastly, test your board and gear setup on a lo­cal wa­ter­way be­fore your trip. Be­lieve me, it’s bet­ter to ad­just be­fore­hand than risk wasting the whole trip. As I found out in Ore­gon, your team is only as strong as the weak­est link. Don’t be that per­son, as there likely won’t be a badass kayaker on hand to save you.

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