Span-Kit Downwinder

Saturday, April 10, 12021 HE

The forecast was calling for a westerly wind with some waves in the bay! We had an outdoor birthday party to attend in the morning at Cates Park in North Vancouver. So I was keen to do some market research for what the afternoon waters might look like further out of Burrard Inlet around English Bay. Below are the forecasted winds for Saturday from Friday night from

Screenshot of the wind forecast for Saturday, April, 10.

This time around the waves were all coming from behind. As opposed to the last time I paddled this run from Spanish Banks to Kitsilano Beach, which I have now christened as the Span-Kit Run. Some of the inspiration for the naming of a run came from the “Will it Downwind” series from Hksupa Hk (see below). The video series is described by the uploader by the following, “A selection of SUP boards are tested in flat water, upwind, ultra-near shore, and then downwinded, to see if they will downwind or not?”. The tests are all done on the “Stanley Run”. From what I can ascertain, the Stanley Run is from Cape D’Aguilar to Stanley Beach in Stanley, Hong Kong. Perhaps this could be a post-pandemic bucket list paddle!

“WIll it Downwind” series playlist by Hksupa HK.

Below is the wave forecast from Much better than the Pacific Cold Front Downwinder conditions from two weeks ago.

Screenshot of the wave forecast for Saturday, April, 10.

Cates Park was windy that is for sure. Not ideal six-year-old birthday conditions, but promising for downwind paddling. Though the kids had a great time messing around on the shoreline digging waterways.

At Cates Park, there was a windsurfer on a hydrofoil that was setting up to go out when we arrived. Once he was out on the water he was flying! Perhaps a bit too fast as he ended up coming in and downsizing his sail. There were also two SUPers looking to head out. I wanted to ask them what their paddle plan was, but I restrained myself. We were on the southwest coastline of Cates Park, just east of the boat ramp. The winds were blowing up the inlet so I was curious as to where they might be heading. Were they going to downwind towards Burnaby Mountain or Port Moody? In the end, I concluded that their intention was not to downwind, since they walked their boards down the shoreline and around the point. Curious as to where they went I went up to where Wally’s Burgers is located to see if I could spot them. They were paddling in the windshield that the berm was providing and they were out of the water in less than 30 minutes, which is how I came to my conclusion. But I wonder if you could do a downwind run in that direction, though drive logistics could be complicated.

Later, when we got back to our place I checked the weather again and things were better than previously forecasted. The wind was up from 17 to 18 knots, with gusts up from 24 to 26 knots. And the swell was now forecasted at 1.5 metres rather than 1.3.

Screenshot of the wave forecast for on Saturday, April, 10 at 1430.

I thankfully was given a green light to make it out from upper management! I rushed down to our garage to get my kit together and then was off to Spanish Banks to try to make the peak wind and wave conditions. I planned to downwind from the Spanish Banks East Concession to Kitsilano Beach, while hopefully booking an Evo Car Share along the way to make it back to my vehicle!

Below is the view from the shoreline at Spanish Banks. The white caps look promising! This is Vancouver after all, so this is the closest you are going to get to surf in the city.

Looking westward from the beach near Spanish Banks East Concession.

And a quick survey of the waters from the shoreline in the video below. Unfortunately, in my distracted state of surveying the water and trying to get video footage, I forgot that on my walk to the shoreline I notice that the final zip on my semi-drysuit was not closed. More on this in a bit.

Below is a video of my departure setting off into the waves. My goal was to try to get off of the land shelf but the winds and waves proved to be formidable, so I made it out far enough to clear the Jericho Pier before turning downwind. I am on my 2020 Blackfin Model XL which has action mounts on the left and right of the board just in front of the deck pad. The camera angle is slightly different than my 2019 board, which has the action mount at the nose of the board.

Departing from Spanish Banks.

And then things get a little bit hairy.

Camera troubles.

The video looks much worse than what happened. The camera that I am using is my old cellphone, a Samsung Galaxy S8. For context, I decided to try getting a phone mount and a waterproof case and repurposing my old phone to test out how much I liked making video content rather than invest in a GoPro or the like. This is putting the first two Rs of the 3Rs, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle into practice. What is often lost on most people due to over-marketing of recycling is that the 3Rs are hierarchical. It is best to reduce your waste impact, then reuse any consumables that you have used before your last resort of recycling. For Canada’s current version of the hierarchy, which is slightly more complicated, see here. Unfortunately, the truth about recycling is a lot bleaker, especially since China stopped accepting plastic waste/recycling shipments from Western nations between 2017 and 2020. For a great podcast on the economics behind recycling check out this episode by NPR’s Planet Money“So Should We Recycle?”.

I wanted to see if a board-mounted camera was better for taking photos rather than relying on a handheld camera. With the board mount, I can take continuous footage and sort through it after the paddle, rather than having to have my camera (phone) always at the ready. This was my budget-based action camera trial (and reduce it/reuse it project). The knock on the cellphone holder that I purchased is that it is a spring-loaded clamp rather than a screw clamp. I think it would be great if you are using it as a cellphone mount and you want quick access to your phone. But, it is not so great if it is being used as a camera mount and you get sideswiped by a wave. Fortunately, I planned on something like this happening and had looped the lanyard from the waterproof phone case around the phone holder. The camera came loose but stayed attached to the board, hence the watery ending to the video above.

Not only did the camera come off of the mount in this cross-chop but so did I. At the time I was surprised at how wet I got because I had made a concerted effort to cinch up the neoprene neck on my semi-drysuit. At the time all I could think was that somehow I had not cinched the neck as tightly as I thought. It was only at the end of my paddle that I realized that the water was coming in through my not-fully zipped zipper! Lucky for me, it was only a small amount of water. But this was a lesson that I will now include a second zipper check at the shoreline as part of my departure checklist.

But it wasn’t all errors and mishaps. This was my best and funnest downwinder to date! Here is a clip of where things were going right! Sunshine, a solid tailwind, some faster swells, a spooked cormorant, and even a bit of submarining at the end! Epic!

The best continuous 90 seconds of my run.

And here is the LP version of my run if you have read this far and are curious.

And below is the route that I took.

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