Tips and tricks for finetuning your SUP accessories
< BIG BOARD, LITTLE CAR
When moving boards from A to Beach with a compact car, there are plenty of ways to rack them wrong. Cinch too tight and you risk a pressure crack. Cinch too loose or use inadequate tiedowns and you’re liable to lose the boards completely. Stick them out your side-window and, well, you’ll probably wind up on @ kookoftheday.
There’s an art to hauling boards with smaller vehicles, especially when stacking multiple sleds. The vast majority of SUPS are too big to fit inside a car, making a solid roof rack a necessity for smaller rides. Zip-tie foam around the crossbars (duct tape frays) so there’s no chance that exposed rack bars damage your board.
Secure board to rack the tried and true way: with straps. Two long (six- to 12-foot) lengths of one-inch webbing will do the trick, one for each crossbar. Cam straps work well (as do two-part ratcheting come-alongs, though not as simple), with the added benefit of adjustability for stacking multiple boards. (Note: DO NOT use bungee cords; they will eventually break and your board will land on the highway. Refer again to @kookoftheday)
Though fins-forward surf-culture diehards will endlessly argue otherwise, science says the most aerodynamic setup for a racked board is nose forward and bottom up to keep air flowing down on the board (lift is bad). If you’re stacking multiple boards for long distances, wedge a couple small pieces of foam or rolled towels between the noses and tails to minimize shift and damage in transport. Tip: Place straps prior to stacking and cinch them snug, but not so tight to risk damage. Tie off loose ends with halfhitch knots for added safety.
The drawback of straps is security. Any knife can cut them during your post-paddle beers. While steel-threaded, locking strap options abound, another system we like that eliminates the tie-down entirely is from Lockrack, featuring simple sliding, locking arms that pinch paddleboards and kayaks in place. Yakima, Thule and Inno also make great locking rack components. The key is finding a setup that works for your ride and your rack.
Paddlers fall into two gear camps: Those that obsess over every item, seeking gold- en bits of information to gain any sliver of performance on the water or an extra year of longevity in the garage; and those that could care less and just want to paddle that board now, factory fins and all. Wherever you fall on the gear- geek spectrum, understanding the basics of optimizing and maintaining your hard-earned equipment will take you a long way. We reached out to our top contributors and athletes to gather some hacks, tips and tricks to maximize both the performance and the lifespan of your gear. –JH
FINDING FINS >
For most paddlers, choosing the right fin setup is a tricky concept to grasp. But it’s also one of the most important. To cut through the confusion, we went straight to the source for a few tips from a guy who dedicated his career to finding the right fins, FCS co-founder and board designer Tyler Callaway.
Touring: For flatwater it’s best to find a good all-around fin with a decent-sized surface area and at least a nine-inch depth.
Racing: Race boards call for something stable and hydrodynamic. The deeper the fin and the more area it has—especially in the tip—the more stable the board becomes. The more rake (angle) it has in the leading edge, the better it will shed seaweed and kelp. The tradeoff is that the more rake it has, the more resistance you get during buoy turns.
Downwind: These boards have so much rail in the water that a straight upand-down fin with no rake makes them easier to edge into bumps during a glide.
Surfing: I recommend using bigger fins on your SUP than what you use on your regular surfboard. The goal is to get the fin close to proportional with the size of your board.
Longboards work best with a two-plusone setup. For the side-bites, I recommend going 4 ½ to 4 ¾ inches long. With the center fin, you should be somewhere between six and nine inches for performance surfing and if you’re going solely for noseriding, you might even go 10 inches with a lot of rake to keep the tail from sliding out.
For shortboard SUPS bigger fins are usually still better; bigger fins in front actually loosen the board up and make it turn faster. I’m six feet tall and I like them to be about 5 ¼ inches in the front. Personally, I usually run a quad (four-fin) setup because they generate speed more easily in softer surf. If it’s hollow and peaky, I’ll opt for a thruster (three fins).
River: Any extra short-depth, small keel-shaped, flexible fin that is preferably designed to flex over before it damages the boxes will suffice on the river. Smaller is usually better in shallow rapids. –TC
Choosing the right fin setup is a tricky concept to grasp. But it’s also one of the most important.
< LOOKING FOR A LEASH
Coiled or straight? Ankle or calf? Competition, standard or big-wave?
With so many different leash options, we’d forgive you for getting confused. There’s no such thing as a “do-it-all leash,” and deciding which leash is right for you requires some education. So grab a seat—school’s in session.
River: With the potential for rocks, logs and other hazards in your path, a leash can go from safety device to safety hazard with a split-second snag. The safest option is a quick-release, coiled leash usually six- to 10-feet long. The quick-release feature allows you to detach should your leash get hung up, and by attaching the coiled leash to your PFD instead of your ankle (the standard protocol for river standup paddlers) it won’t drag behind you with the danger of catching on snag-prone sections.
Surfing: The rule of thumb for SUP surf leashes is to use a straight leash that’s approximately one foot longer than your board. This allows the board to extend away from you during a wipeout without ricocheting back at your face as you come up for air. The thickness of your leash should be proportionate to the size of the board, but even on shortboard SUPS you generally won’t want to go slimmer than six millimeters.
Downwind: Once a paddler becomes dismounted it doesn’t take much wind for a board to pinwheel into the distance and disappear. For that reason, a strong leash is critical for downwinding. Your best option is undoubtedly a coiled calf-leash for two reasons: It won’t interfere with your footwork and it won’t slow you down by dragging through the water. Semi-coiled leashes also work well, as they provide less resistance when walking the board and are less likely to snap back during a fall than tightly coiled options.
Flatwater/racing: Whether you’re in the heat of the race or the middle of a scenic cruise, the last thing you need is to get tangled in your leash. For these disciplines, we prefer a coiled calf leash that is between six and 10 feet long. It’ll stay off the deck, won’t interfere with your footwork and allow you to focus on what really matters: paddling. –J H
A CASE FOR THE CURE
Yes, that is a PVC handle. No, I don’t want a higher performance grip. This one works. It cost me 76 cents. Could I have driven half an hour to an actual paddlesports store to buy a proper replacement? Probably. Could a shop professional with the proper tools and equipment have saved me from what became half a ham-fisted day? Perhaps. But that’s no fun. And it’s no way to form a kinship with your most important piece of gear.
After cracking and losing the temporary handle on a 2009 Werner Nitro prototype, I had a problem. The simple solution was at my corner hardware store in the bin of pipefittings. With a wooden dowel section sawed and then sanded down to fit in the empty tube top, I screwed on the threaded end of the PVC Tee section and slathered it all in two-part epoxy.
I used this paddle for the next eight years. Downwind, surf, river, through countless beatings, breathless miles and unspeakable treatment by rocky whitewater runs and salty airline baggage handlers alike.
When anyone asks me for gear recommendations, the answer is always the same simple truth: Get the gear that you will use. My Cro-magnon handle-badge of honor taught me a corollary lesson: Keep the stuff that works for you. If it breaks, fix it.
After nearly a decade of abuse, the paddle finally broke. The wave was too big, my talent too small. I emerged dazed with half a blade. In that moment, my next thought went to the handle. The PVC remained. Licking my wounds on shore, I vowed to never throw away or replace the proto-paddle. It sits, patiently awaiting the next inspired solution for the other end. –DS
A SHAPER’S TAKE Dave Daum, owner of Kings Paddle Sports, on ordering a custom SUP.
The world is governed by the laws of physics. The challenge of board designers is to combine all those features into a shape that someone is going to enjoy. That’s not locked in stone; there are infinite combinations. People come to us as board builders and expect us to have the right tools in the toolbox and produce something that will overwhelm them. If we do that consistently, they are going to love it, the sport’s going to grow and our brand will do very well.
People used to ask for the shortboard-style SUPS quite often. But we have found that most people can get just as high or even higher performance out of an all-around or noserider-style SUP with the right rocker, volume and shape outline and they don’t have to fight so much.
As shapers, when someone orders a custom board we need to ask questions and let paddlers tell us what they want. Where do they paddle? What kind of waves do they surf? What is there true skill level? What do they want to do with their board? That tends to focus us in on the style of board they need.
“People come to us as board builders and expect us to have the right tools in the toolbox.”
PREVENTING PARKING LOT ROBBERY
I spent years of my life worrying if my car would be stolen while I was out paddling. Every time I crouched over, looked both ways to check if I was being watched and tucked my keys under my bumper, I wondered if this would finally be the time my car was broken into. Maybe the fact that my rig was a waxy rust-bucket deterred any would-be thieves.
I eventually got a new (to me) vehicle and with it, a key vault that attaches to my trailer hitch and locks my keys in a box requiring a four-digit code. My anxiety has been reduced to almost nothing. To help you feel the same, here are three tips for leaving your car worry-free while you’re out on the water. 1. Park near people. Parking in that shady spot at the end of the street? Think again. The more people are around, the smaller the chance that someone’s going to be creeping around your rig. 2. Don’t advertise. Keep your wallet, your phone, your watch and anything else of value out of sight. If your glove box locks, put expensive items in there, or just hide them under a seat. 3. Don’t hide your key on your car. A key box has made my time on the water that much more relaxing (we like the Keyvault from Kanulock, $45). If you don’t want to drop the dough on one of these wonders, take your key with you into the water on a necklace or attached to the elastic band in the key pocket that every wetsuit comes with. In a pinch, you can wrap your key in a towel and leave it on the beach, but a thief could be watching you do that too. In our experience, peace of mind makes all the difference. -WT
HOLY FUNKY WETSUIT
Even your favorite wetsuit is eventually bound to spring a leak. Luckily, with a little gumption and a slather of wetsuit cement you can prolong its life and put off investing a ton of dough in another. Here’s how. 1. Rinse the pee from your suit (don’t lie) in freshwater and then dry it out completely. 2. While it dries, venture down to your local surf shop and pick up some wetsuit cement or adhesive—aquaseal works well for us—and a small applicator, like a paintbrush. 3. For a fix that’s going to last, cut a piece of neoprene from an old wetsuit and make sure it’s big enough to cover the entire lesion with an inch to spare on all sides. If you don’t have an old suit to cut up, neoprene tape will suffice. You can find it at your local shop for a few bucks. 4. Clean the ripped area with rubbing alcohol, and once it’s dry, apply your wetsuit cement generously at the seam and around the edges on the exterior of the wetsuit. If it’s a big hole, paint the area around it out to one inch. 5. Wait for the glue to feel tacky and then firmly bring the two sides of the tear together. Lay the piece of neoprene over the damaged area and press it firmly and evenly onto the adhesive. 6. Let dry overnight. 7. Once dry, carefully cut the patch’s excess neoprene so its edges end with the dried adhesive. 8. You’re done! Don your suit, grab your SUP and go shred.
Note: Before you go through the effort to repair your suit, make sure to check its warranty. If your rubber’s still covered (usually for a year), send it back to the manufacturer and they’ll fix it for free. – MM