I took the board out today to surf some smallish wind waves at a park near my house on Puget Sound. Blowing 17kts from the north, the air temp was about 42F, the windchill much colder. I’ve surfed this location in up to 27kts in winter and have had some nice rides. My definition of a nice ride is one that is anything surfable on a body of water not known for surf. Here in Seattle, the real surf is a minimum of 3hrs away. When I can get 3-7′ faces from wind waves or freighter wakes five minutes from my house, in Seattle, I’m stoked. Getting such surf is fickle, but with persistence in watching the weather, tides, and marine traffic, it can happen, more than you would think. Freighter waves are usually clean peeling waves, but in today’s wind conditions, the form was pretty chaotic.
Normally I’ve surfed this spot on a my wave ski with a double ended kayak paddle which is a lot easier to paddle upwind than on a single bladed sup paddle. This was my first time at this location in heavier wind, but had paddled upwind in recent weeks in up to 25kts nearby. I paddled upwind a few times standing up and did make progress, but not much. I tried to use short quick strokes to avoid being pushed backwards.
My friend Bob recently suggested paddling cross legged in wind and shortening up on the paddle. Much like in kayaking or on an outrigger, I twist my torso for much of the power, keeping the upper arm nearly straight for added power. Paddling with your arms alone will burn you out quickly. By twisting the torso, even when standing up, you’ll last longer and have more power. Bob’s suggestion worked out as I was able to move upwind fairly quickly. I found sitting forward on the board past the middle kept the wind from catching under the nose, but still allowed me to cut through waves. I tried sitting on one side to dip a rail so I could paddle on one side, but it didn’t seen to work, so I switched sides every few strokes. Once I saw a decent set coming in, I’d stand up and do a sweep stroke as the wave crest passes below me to turn downwind, and surf.
I got two good rides today, and spent most of my time getting a lot of exercise paddling upwind. After about an hour, I had to call it quits and head home. I passed a few folks walking back to the car who asked if I was cold. I stated that I was cookin’ after all that work, and had a good wetsuit. Today was one of those full suit days with a fleece shirt under the suit, booties, gloves, two hoods, and a Gath helmet to keep the noggin warm. A few onlookers enjoyed watching as I poured the 2 gallon jug of hot water over my head which left me and the pool of water around me steaming.