I saw Stand Up Paddle boarding for the first time being done by Laird Hamilton on one of his mad adventures and I thought I better have a bash. Living in Lancashire near Blackpool, I don't have the privilege of living by a surfable coast. This hinders the amount of time I get to surf so its limited to weekends in the North East and Anglesey in North Wales as well as the occasional trip to Cornwall or the west Portuguese coast. That being the case I have progressed to a very average standard on both short boards and long boards. At 5' 11'' and twelve and a half stone I have the choice to surf both.
Over the past three years I have spent entire summers in Rhosneigr, Anglesey. With very inconsistent surf here a Stand Up paddleboard makes sense as there are often long flat spells and on a SUP it provides good opportunity to explore the coast line. In addition to this a SUP can catch and take advantage of much smaller, less powerful swell than prone surfing. This means more surfing through the summer. Its also great for fitness and keeping the body in shape for the girls.
About June 07 I decided I was going to buy some SUP equipment. I spent three weeks researching all the boards and paddles that were currently on the market. I spoke to a number of shop owners and we discussed the differences between them. In the end I decided I wasn't going to go cheap and I bought a Jimmy Lewis 11" boards and a C4 Hybrid Carbon/Wood paddle. With transportation costs it all cost just under a £1000. A lot for a student I know but because its good equipment I thought if I don't like SUPing then I could sell it all for close to what I paid. In turns out I'd rather be in debt than sell my board and paddle!
When I got the board I released how huge 11" really is. The next thing I noticed was the build quality of these JL boards. The board was beautiful, faultless and very impressive. I was amazed that something that big could be made in a way that makes it so light and strong. My dad (an old time surfer) couldn't believe it. Now the paddle really was a thing of beauty. A varnished wooded handle and shaft disappearing into a perfect carbon fibre blade that turns gold when it catches the sun light. The equipment was so good it was a shame to bash em both up a touch whilst on the learning curve.
The JL board is so stable and quick. It hardly makes a defence to the water line when I stand on it. This volume makes it super quick. When I go down wind on it, it feels like there's a motor on the back. Its surprising easy to get through the break on as its length and volume allows it to see saw over with no hassle. Using its pace to catch any wave was so refreshing, there's hardly any down time whist waiting for sets. I reckon I surfed more waves in one session than I had the whole of the previous summer. When on the wave the board feels nimble if you get right the back. The rails allow good strong turns and then you can cross step about a mile and eventually get to the nose!
The paddle is so well constructed every ounce of strength you put into it is rewarded with movement. I experienced no blade wobble from trying to hard. Its blade is designed well so you can do back paddles without changing hand positions in order to turn round. It also weighs next to nothing so your arms don't get tired.
The only drawback to this equipment for me is transportation. Its ridiculous trying to get the board to the coast on the roof of a Fiat Punto, it almost takes off at 35. It should be fun trying to get it all the way to watergate bay in a few weeks! Obviously if you live by the coast you are alright and I'm very envious.
Overall I'm so happy I invested the money in the JL board and C4 paddle as their high standard means they should take a beating for years to come, and they really have provided me with hours of fun already this summer.
Thanks to Josh from Lancashire for this review.