Saturday, April 15, 12023 Human Era (HE)
- Background Story
- Deep Cove Demo Days
- Arrow Assessment
- One More Round
- Final Thoughts
Last spring I bit the bullet and bought a new board. Well, new to me. I bought a second-hand board. You can read about the process with things to consider here. I purchased a used NSP Carolina Pro Carbon, though my board is the 12020 HE Carolina Pro Carbon model.
Below you can see the model I am riding on the right compared with the current version, as well as the specifics from the online catalogues.
The 12020 HE model is the right image with the water background. The 12022 HE dimensions are the left image with the black background. My understanding is that most companies do two-year productions for their molds and it looks like the specifications from the 12023 HE catalogue for the NSP Carolina are the same as the 12022 model.
Pandemic Product Problem
Originally, I had hoped to try a few boards at a demo event before making a purchase. But, due to the pandemic and the hiatus of races and social events, in addition to product supply chain disruptions, it didn’t seem that a demo event would be happening anytime soon. Not wanting to wait, I seized the opportunity to buy a board when it came up.
Deep Cove Demo Days
So when I saw that Coast Outdoors would be doing their Demo Days again I was excited to test out some kit. While simultaneously being a bit apprehensive. What if I tested a board and it left me regretting my purchase? I curtailed my concerns with the consolation that I could always close the contract on my current board and change to a more current craft, culminating in a chef’s kiss.
I confirmed that the Deep Cove Demo Day would have Stand Up Paddleboards. The website listed them as products, but the online registration site only listed canoes, kayaks, and surf skis. A representative at Coast Outdoors confirmed that they would have Starboard and One Ocean Sports products on site.
The weather on Saturday morning was not quite the serene and smooth water conditions one might wish for when trialing new kit. The cooler conditions of the Pacific Northwest coast continued. On arrival, surveying the waters, there were easterly/outflow winds kicking up some shin-high chop into Deep Cove, along with the threat of rain. I knew the forecast in advance and came fully set for submersion with a semi-drysuit. With an outdoor watersport in a temperate rainforest, you can’t let a little inclement weather put you off.
Arrows in the Quiver
There were three hardboards on site to trial. They also had a few inflatable boards, and an array of canoes, kayaks, and surf skis. I was only interested in the hardboards from a comparison standpoint, though perhaps I’d give a surf ski a run if my time permitted.
From Starboard they had the Allstar and the Sprint available, and from One Ocean Sport, they had the Edge 3.0. The Allstar and the Edge 3.0 are all-water models capable of all conditions, i.e., surf, race, tour, and downwind. Whereas the Sprint is touted as a flatwater speed machine. Interestingly, while checking out Starboard’s site for the links for this post I saw that they now have a Sprint Expedition edition. It is a wider version of the standard Sprint for extra stability and carrying capacity, as well as being equipped with features like a centre tuttle box in the widest version. It is geared towards paddlers looking for a fast vessel for flatwater touring.
Sizing up the Allstar onshore I was shocked by the height of the rails. At first peep, I did not recall the dugout design being so deep! Later I saw on their website that the raised rails are a new feature. As per the product video above, Starboard has changed the rails and board contour as well as shifted to centre drain holes to name a few key changes. This was my first ride on an Allstar so I have no past comparison to previous models.
Onshore the rep gave me a rundown on the board specs. I was a bit intimidated as the model on demo was the 14′ x 23″ (4.27 x 0.58 m) size. My Carolina board is 14′ x 25 ¾” (4.27 x 0.65 m). I worried I was going to be all too well aware of the wound down width as would be witnessed as wobbliness on the water. The choppy conditions were not helping with my confidence, but I waylaid my worries knowing I was wearing my wetsuit.
On the Water
I was already planning on starting from my knees to test the board’s stability or better stated the lack of mine. The rep reinforced my rumination recommending this approach too. Wading out into knee-deep water I mounted the board without incidence, then paddled out into the dock-protected waters. I could feel the unsteadiness in the board with the loss of nearly eight centimetres (three inches) in width. I wondered whether it was the width or the design? I tested my limits from kneeling by rocking from side to side.
Limits of Stability
I paddled out to deeper water and then rose to my feet. The board was tippier for sure. I noticed the change in primary stability immediately burgeoning on the borders of my comfort level. Primary stability is the control that the board has at rest when flat on the water. If you are familiar with aviation axes, then the motion referenced by board stability is the roll of the vessel. The change wasn’t as drastic as went I first switched to my Carolina board. I had dropped nearly 25 centimetres (10 inches) from an 86.4 cm (34″) inflatable to a 65.4 cm (25 ¾”) dugout design. Such a drastic jump was dampened by the difference in design and technology features between an inflatable and hard board. Today’s decline was diminutive but definitely distinct. I compensated with quad contraction, curving my knees to lower my centre of gravity. In my squat stance noticed how the rails bend in slightly, enclosing the cockpit.
My impression was that I would need some time with the board to learn its secondary stability. Secondary stability comes into play after the board leaves the flat resting state and begins to go on edge. As the roll increases, a board with good secondary stability will maintain a degree of control despite being on its rail/edge. But in my experience, you need to learn to trust in the secondary stability and not panic when you start to go on edge. In theory, I knew the Allstar had good secondary stability with its raised rails, but in practice, I hadn’t built up my trust in the board.
I paddled out past the dock into the deepening chop. I struggled with the limits of stability as I tried to accelerate with some strong strokes. As I dug my paddle in deep, I nearly tipped over starboard (pun intended).
I paddled out a short distance further. Just far enough to be able to catch a few bumps for my return route. I was too nervous to try a pivot turn, so I did a very wide turn with sweep strokes. My feet felt stuck on the board, but I did manage a small step back, though I was still near the centre handle. Turning into the waves I could feel that the Allstar wanted to chase the bumps. The nose of the board wanted to go with the direction of the waves. It was a similar sensation to what I felt when I first rode my NSP Carolina in chop. It took an extra degree of effort to control the board, or a degree of due diligence to anticipate the board’s desired directional drift. On my Carolina, I’ve recently learned to adjust the trim of the board to help with steering in choppy conditions. Previously, I would catch a bump and be directed by the nose of the board and have a tough time keeping my balance. I wasn’t quite at the comfort level with the Allstar today.
I didn’t display the degree of due diligence to direct the board and rather was directed off the deck by a small bump that bounced me from behind. Thankfully, remounting was easy, despite the high rails and deep dugout design. In hindsight, I suspect more experience with the board would have allowed me to trust the rail system. But as a new user, I wasn’t ready to trust the loss of primary stability to secondary stability save.
My First Thoughts
The ride felt tippy, but that was to be expected with the narrow width. The Allstar felt good going briefly upwind in knee-high chop. Downwind in small bumps, I had some difficulty directing the board. The big bulky nose wanted to follow the flow. Though I suspect that with a bit of time, I would be able to learn the intricacies of the board. At roughly 90 kilograms (198 pounds) and 189 centimetres (6’2″) I didn’t feel like anything was lost with the 23″ (0.58 m) model. I’ll give my final thoughts below in relation to all the arrows arched.
The Edge 3.0
Next on the docket was the One SUP Edge 3.0. The Edge was the 14′ x 25.5″ (4.27 x 0.65 m) version. The Edge is an all-water board and is the equivalent from One SUP to Starboard’s Allstar. Unfortunately, the comparison would be less apples-to-apples as the Edge was a wider version.
Recessed versus Dugout
Immediately as I launched from my knees I felt the added stability from the additional width. Though, I did wonder how much of the board stability was width versus design. It would have been interesting to compare the different boards with the same length and width dimensions. As noted in The SUP Company review above, there are a lot of design elements that go into making the Edge a stable ride. Despite not being a dugout design, I immediately felt more comfortable on the recessed deck with a greater sense of primary stability. The stability was not only evident in kneeling but immediately upon standing too. I was even comfortable making minor foot adjustments and pushing the limits on rolling the board from side to side to get slightly on edge (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Ironically, it felt like the Allstar rode higher in the water despite the deeper dugout design. It is hard to know for sure from my limited time on the board, but the recessed deck definitely didn’t feel like it was any higher off the water than the Allstar. At 282 litres the Edge was less voluminous than the Allstar at 305 litres and that may explain the feeling of riding higher with the Allstar.
Speed Splitting Hairs
I struggled to determine if the board felt a bit more sluggish heading into the chop. Or was it just my mind playing tricks on me? Given that it wasn’t an obvious distinction the difference was minimal. Without needing to worry about my stability as much I found focusing on my paddle stroke easier. I suspect that could translate to an easier time paddling in downwind conditions. I have seen enough commentaries on board width to know that narrower, while faster in theory, isn’t always faster in practice. A narrower board will reduce the drag due to water displacement. This is theoretically faster, but only if you are able to stay on top of the board despite the deduction of stability. If the width reduction results in a capsize any speed gains are lost. The inefficiency in paddle stroke from the added balance focus could also result in reduced speed. Nothing comes for free and ultimately it is a balance between the pros and cons of the selection/decision.
I had little to no concern about completing a hard paddle stroke on the Edge. I even braved a pseudo-step back turn, though I didn’t quite explore the tail end of the vessel in my staggered stance.
The return ride into shore was much the same. It felt steadier, though maybe a touch slower. I got into shore and gave the rep my rundown. The board felt more stable and I was much more comfortable with it. It felt very similar to what I was used to with my Carolina.
Last up was the Sprint. It is touted as a flatwater speed monster. Earlier when sizing up the available boards onshore the demo rep had given me the rundown on the basic profiles of the various boards. I had already ruled out the Sprint in my mind, as I don’t have the storage space or budget for an extensive quiver. An all-water board is the best practical option for me. I had assumed that the pointy nose coupled with the narrow hull and flatwater features were going to make the Sprint a challenging ride. The Sprint was also in the 14′ x 23″ (4.27 x 0.58 m) size, which didn’t help my level of intimidation of the board. Nor did the fact that I would be doing this board’s maiden voyage. “Just don’t fuck it up,” I joked with the rep.
To my surprise, the Sprint didn’t seem as tippy as I anticipated. Maybe it was a high-ball/low-ball sort of scenario where my expectation was that it would be so tippy that the reality was that it would inevitably feel more stable. In any case, my perception was that it was more stable than the Allstar at first. And even as I ventured further into the chop it didn’t seem to give up any stability. It was less stable than the Edge in comparison, with the primary stability feeling much more twitchy. But the big rails left me with the impression that it would be stable in less hospitable conditions.
Waves and Waterlines
I recently watched a SUPBoarder Pro video on “Why are longer boards faster? / SUP Tech talk,” which has me rethinking waterline lengths. The question the video raises is why are longer boards faster. Especially, when you consider that you have lengthened the wetted surface and thus increased the viscous drag. Why a longer board goes faster is a question that previously perplexed me for that very reason. How does an increased length negate the drag from an increased surface area? I rationalized the phenomenon in my mind by thinking that there must be some strange reaction between the cohesive and adhesive properties of water and the board (I did a past post on the weirdness of water and one strange property is how water can be both slippery and sticky). So, while water adhesion and cohesion are part of the story, they are not the full story by any means.
The SUPBoarder article identifies three main forms of resistance on a paddleboard. They are viscous resistance (from being in the water), air resistance, and wave resistance. A longer board does have more surface area in contact with water and thus more viscous resistance. However, the effect of viscous resistance is minimal in comparison to wave resistance. Air resistance on a paddleboard is generally minimal. In specific scenarios, such as an upwind paddle into 10 knots or more, air resistance becomes noticeable. However, wave resistance is the greatest drag factor on a SUP, and accounts for approximately 70% of the overall resistance. The real reason that longer boards are faster comes down to the waves generated by the water displacement and the resistance, or lack thereof, that the waves create.
Displacement Hulls and Speed
The boards that I demoed were more displacement-type hulls, rather than planing hulls. Though, the latest race SUPs fall into a sort of hybrid category, incorporating design elements that are both displacement and planing in nature. A displacement hull predominantly pushes the water out of the way as it travels. Whereas a planing hull tends to glide over the top of the water. However, it is worth noting that many of the modern hull designs incorporate technology capable of reducing the wave-making resistance in a displacement hull.
A displacement hull will generate two sets of waves, one at the bow where it pushes the water in front of the vessel, the bow wave. And one at the stern (or tail), the stern wave, that fills the void of the empty space left in the wake of the vessel (pun intended). Depending on the speed of the vessel those separate sets of waves can either meet creating constructive interference or destructive interference patterns. When paddleboarding, constructive interference is destructive to your speed as it creates a larger trough at the rear of the board dropping the tail. This essentially creates an uphill paddle scenario where the tail of the board drops into the trough of the stern wave and is climbing to get over the crest of the bow wave.
Paddling Uphill: A Destructive Construction
The speed at which a watercraft travels through water determines the length of its bow wave (see the video below for a more in-depth explanation). At faster speeds, the bow wave wavelength is longer, and shorter at slower speeds. As the speed of a vessel increases the wavelength of the bow wave increases and eventually will reach the length of the vessel. This is the so-called hull speed when the velocity of the vessel is such that the bow wave generated is the same length as the vessel. This results in destructive interference between the bow and stern waves, reducing the trough at the stern of the vessel and thus, creating less wash. In the case of paddleboarding, the board is more level with the water and the paddler is not working as hard to climb out of the trough. The wetted surface of the vessel is increased, as per the video below. This means there is more waterline resistance (i.e., viscous resistance), but this drag is minimal in comparison to the drag force of the wave resistance, which is reduced at hull speed.
While it is possible to overcome hull speed on a paddleboard it requires a higher energy input. As described in the SUPBoarder video, most average paddlers are not able to generate the required power output to overcome hull speed. And while elite paddlers are able to overcome hull speed and achieved planing speeds on longer boards, they can only do so for short periods of time (stay tuned for a post on energy and metabolism that will delve into why).
Thus, due to the physics of wavelengths, longer vessels can potentially travel faster with less effort. A longer vessel will be at a faster speed when its waterline matches its travelling speed (i.e., its hull speed). It is at this speed that an increase in speed requires an additional burst of energy and is often the top cruising speed for a SUP. In the graph below, the energy to overcome the additional wave resistance is shown by the “hump” bump. Over the “hump” in the “hollow” there is again less resistance. However, while hull speed can be surpassed by paddle power, the metabolic demand for the energy requirement is physiologically unsustainable for long durations.
Sprint Speed Hump
The Sprint sliced through the choppy water and felt surprisingly stable in the conditions. After successfully turning sans step back I made my way back to shore. It was at this time that I had a mini epiphany. My thought at the time, though less formulated, was that the reduced rocker and flatter profile of the Sprint created a longer waterline and was contributing to the increased stability I was sensing. In hindsight, I wonder what the Sprint would be like in wavier conditions? At what point, if any, does the flatter profile fail? It was fine in shin-to-knee-height chop but what would it be like in thigh-to-hip-height? Would the nose pearl and you’d end up ass over tea kettle? How much fancy fast footwork would you have to put in to maintain your board trim? My mind was musing as I made my way to the marine margin.
One More Round
Onshore I informed the rep regarding my surprised sense of stability. Though I couldn’t help but wonder if my sense of stability on the Sprint was real or surreal. Was I really more stable, or was I just warmed up and getting used to the feeling of a narrower board. I asked if I could take the Allstar out for one more ride. There didn’t seem to be any line-ups given the weather and the reps obliged.
I did the same route out and back. I still had a sense of instability with respect to primary stability, but the board felt steadier. My warm-up paddles and newfound familiarity with their narrowness were playing a role in my increased roll-righting readiness.
Return Route Realization
After turning to return back to shore I reflected on my routes. My impression was that one of the major differences between the Sprint and Allstar came down to board volume. It felt like the Allstar rides higher out of the water. And I wondered if the bulkier more voluminous nose played a part in that. I found I was able to get more stability from the Allstar by moving forward in the cockpit and trimming my board nose down. In hindsight, I was increasing the waterline and wetted surface, which in those conditions gave me more control. In bigger downwind conditions being so far forward might run the risk of pearling and searching for oysters on the seafloor.
A post hoc search on board volumes initially seemed to confirm my contemplative contentions. The narrowness of the Sprint is purported to let it sit lower in the water. And the Allstar’s product description discusses its “refined nose volume” that “gives you more pop in choppy conditions,” and “restricts the nose from getting caught downwind.” However, the board volumes listed on Starboard’s site seemed to counter my intuition, until I realized that I was looking at the 12021 HE model for the Sprint, not the 12023 model. I only realized my error when I double-checked the webpage specs with the catalogue. The 12021 HE Sprint has a listed volume that is 50 litres greater (354 L) than the 12023 Allstar (303 litres). Though I wonder if the 354-litre listing is a typo? On the webpage, the Allstar’s volume is listed as 303 litres whereas the 12023 Sprint is listed at 264 litres (the catalogue lists the Allstar at 305 litres).
So it would seem my intuitions were correct, in that the Allstar rides higher out of the water with its bigger volume and greater rocker profile. That may explain the stability discrepancy. However, it would be interesting to see at what point the stability profiles of the boards change. That is, how big do the conditions need to be for you to feel the difference? I can only assume that in big chop the Allstar rises to the top. This begs the question, for someone interested in a Starboard performance board, what type of conditions you most likely will be paddling in? If the answer is lots of chop and all-water conditions then the choice would seem to be the Allstar. But if you are more interested in touring and will be in flat water to small chop conditions, I think it would be worth at least considering the Sprint.
I am happy that the team at Coast Outdoors and Deep Cove Kayak resurrected this event. As much as it is an opportunity for them to make sales, I think their efforts should be commended for giving customers an opportunity to sample the wares in order to make the most informed purchase decision. As much as you can read about and interact with a paddle product online and in-store, it is something else to experience the product in real time. While I am not planning to make a purchase, my demo did confirm my satisfaction with my current board. It also gave me some things to consider for the future, if/when I plan on upgrading.
First and foremost, with the level of board technology, I think I would be able to size down to a 23″ (0.58 m) board and not lose too much in the way of stability. It would be a learning curve for sure, and not one that I am planning to make any time soon, but it is an option. Secondly, I do think I would consider the Sprint Expedition as an all-water one-stop option to cover your quiver and include touring. It would be nice to try the Sprint Expedition to truly know if it would be a good option. At present, my plan is to continue to use my inflatable board for overnight touring, due to its gear-carrying capacity. Lastly, at least within the boards that I tried, I didn’t necessarily feel that the recessed deck gave up any stability to the dugout design. Some of the pros and cons for dugout versus recessed deck designs should be considered, without the worry of not necessarily losing out on stability.
Thanks for reading… and stay tuned for some posts on energy and metabolism.