Is this surfski too unstable for my ability?

1 week 2 days ago #38602 by John Ski
Reporting back after padding for a couple of months.  I am happy to say, I haven't fallen out for the past three weeks and have paddled in conditions with 3-4 feet waves and lots of wind.  Each week, my paddling speed has been increasing and I feel pretty good.  

I had a theory that the best boat for me would be one that fit, rather than the most stable boat, and so for me, the theory holds.  I haven't had any prior paddling experience, but I did get a chance to try a bunch of different boats before my purchase.  I am 61kg and 177cm, the boat I chose was is Fennix Spark S.  

I think the Spark is considered an elite boat with the beam at 42.5cm but proportionally its seemed like an intermediate boat to me.  Where as, wider boats like the Swordfish, I felt like a cork, and was harder to accelerate.  

Any way my 2cents for people worried about stability, try all the different boats, the one that fits will be the best one.   I couldn't be bothered with having to pad out a cock pit or having to modify this or that.  The main thing, is time in the bucket and confidence are number 1 and 2 things that seems to help me progress quickly.

Oh and thanks again to everyone that gave helpful hints and encouragements because they were all useful to this beginner.

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1 week 2 days ago - 1 week 2 days ago #38603 by MCImes
Thats good to hear John! Indeed 42.5 is elite, but as you say the correct volume and bucket fit will make a boat feel more or less stable than the beam implies.

I noticed the same thing going from a Fenn XT to the SF-S. The XT bucket was so big that when I would lean to the extreme, my butt would slide to the low side and I'd capsize. Even though the SF-S is 3cm skinnier, it immediately felt more stable to me because the bucket is just the right size for me.

A friend who's about 70kg thought the SFS was corky and didnt like how it felt. I'm closer to 85kg and the volume seems about right.

If you're out in 1m messy conditions, you're doing very well on your journey. Congratulations on the hard work. looks like its paying off!

Currently - Swordfish S in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10 g0, Stellar SR g1, Fenn XT g1
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"

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1 week 2 days ago #38604 by Epicpaddler
That's awesome!
I hadn't fallen out in a week or two then got dumped in a very emabarrasing public manner trying to surf some powerboat wakes. Just when I feel dialed in I get humbled again. At least the water is warm here so there is no fear of falling in. 

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1 week 2 days ago #38605 by mrcharly
I thoroughly agree with your suggestion to try boats.

Your weight and body dimensions make a huge difference. You are pretty light at 61kg, so a ski with a narrowish beam will still have lots of secondary stability (a proportion of the hull width will be out of the water when you are in the boat). Someone my weight might get in it, sink the boat another inch or two and it will have no secondary stab.
'Fit' also makes a huge difference. 
I was struggling to move up from a stab 6 racing K1, had swum a bit so just for a laugh got in a stab 1 boat. It was very very narrow, pressed against my hips - and to my surprise, I could keep it upright. The extra contact made the difference, I could 'hip snap' the boat back upright if I was starting to go in. 

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1 week 2 days ago #38608 by daisylui
What I learned after paddling ~250km in my new Uno.

For one it took me some time to understand that elite boats are built for paddling, not for sightseeing. Stability is an active thing, not a passive one. To push such a boat one needs to have the horsepower. Downwind is fun, it is a matter of skill in surfing waves but wind does not mean downwind [surfing] necessarily- to do that you need the ocean conditions [tide, wind, waves] to cooperate- same way as there is no use of putting on downslope skis when you only have flat ground. Unfortunately where I paddle is mostly bumpy ground but no 'downslope' and in these conditions I need more power to keep moving and so get stable than when I'm pushed by the wind/tide/waves. The only feeling of 'downslope' is when the wind and the tide push me while I also catch the wake of a passing fishing boat or bigger yacht. The rest is pretty much a workout but of different kind than before... After figuring this out, I sold my old intermediate boat I kept for 'windier conditions' as redundant- had no desire to take it out after I started getting accustomed to the Uno. 

Another thing I learned was to understand that for going fast I have to start going slowly- with good technique. My focus is now gliding with minimum effort rather than moving fast and strained. This is the workout I was mentioning- in perfectly flat water is fun; in bumpy conditions is challenging but not missing the fun either- perhaps because of the challenge.

I fell a couple of times- first time while stationary, trying to rip a piece of string from my paddle's towel grip [a badminton racket grip that works very well with greasy hands- from sunblock]. The sides of the Uno are quite high- even with legs out don't feel very stable because feet don't go as deep in the water as in the old boat. The blade face needs to skim the water/not be totally immobile, especially in bumpy/choppy conditions. Second time I swam in bigger waves reflected from the cliff near the beach I was going to finish my paddling session- just 50m before the finish... It was good to practice remounting, and figured out another thing about it. The advice I learned from Oscar C. was 'wind at your back' so first attempt I flipped again; then I smartened up because I figured out the cause of my first flip was the boat being relatively slow in side [and some stern] waves. So, I turned the bow downwind and mounted with no problems- I think it matters not if I do that upwind as well so long as the boat is aligned with the direction of the wind/perpendicular on waves rather than parallel. The same thing when launching from the shore- unless the water is flat, no one is putting the boat parallel to the shore...

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1 week 2 days ago #38609 by waverider

daisylui wrote: What I learned after paddling ~250km in my new Uno.

For one it took me some time to understand that elite boats are built for paddling, not for sightseeing. Stability is an active thing, not a passive one. To push such a boat one needs to have the horsepower. Downwind is fun, it is a matter of skill in surfing waves but wind does not mean downwind [surfing] necessarily- to do that you need the ocean conditions [tide, wind, waves] to cooperate- same way as there is no use of putting on downslope skis when you only have flat ground. Unfortunately where I paddle is mostly bumpy ground but no 'downslope' and in these conditions I need more power to keep moving and so get stable than when I'm pushed by the wind/tide/waves. The only feeling of 'downslope' is when the wind and the tide push me while I also catch the wake of a passing fishing boat or bigger yacht. The rest is pretty much a workout but of different kind than before... After figuring this out, I sold my old intermediate boat I kept for 'windier conditions' as redundant- had no desire to take it out after I started getting accustomed to the Uno. 

Another thing I learned was to understand that for going fast I have to start going slowly- with good technique. My focus is now gliding with minimum effort rather than moving fast and strained. This is the workout I was mentioning- in perfectly flat water is fun; in bumpy conditions is challenging but not missing the fun either- perhaps because of the challenge.

I fell a couple of times- first time while stationary, trying to rip a piece of string from my paddle's towel grip [a badminton racket grip that works very well with greasy hands- from sunblock]. The sides of the Uno are quite high- even with legs out don't feel very stable because feet don't go as deep in the water as in the old boat. The blade face needs to skim the water/not be totally immobile, especially in bumpy/choppy conditions. Second time I swam in bigger waves reflected from the cliff near the beach I was going to finish my paddling session- just 50m before the finish... It was good to practice remounting, and figured out another thing about it. The advice I learned from Oscar C. was 'wind at your back' so first attempt I flipped again; then I smartened up because I figured out the cause of my first flip was the boat being relatively slow in side [and some stern] waves. So, I turned the bow downwind and mounted with no problems- I think it matters not if I do that upwind as well so long as the boat is aligned with the direction of the wind/perpendicular on waves rather than parallel. The same thing when launching from the shore- unless the water is flat, no one is putting the boat parallel to the shore...


One thing I found with an Uno when i tried it was that for an elite ski is has better than normal primary stability due to hull profile. ie for flat/calm water it is less tippy.

Less margin for sloppy technique on a more advanced boat. 

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1 week 1 day ago #38613 by John Ski

Less margin for sloppy technique on a more advanced boat. 

Does this mean if you start off with the most advanced boat you won't have sloppy technique because it won't allow for it?

You start with a barge that is stable, and then you develop all these terrible habits because it allows for it.
You upgrade to less of a barge and fall out, because of sloppy technique, but it takes more time to fix the bad habit. (in a Russian video, this pro said it took a year to fix one bad habit.)

But if you get the elite or more advanced boat, and you don't have the skill set or the determination, you quit all together, out of frustration, because you are swimming more than you're paddling.  So a majority of the people will say stability over speed... seems reasonable.

Interesting dilemma...

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1 week 1 day ago #38614 by mrcharly
I think that depends on the water on which you paddle.

If you only paddle on flat water, IME, switching to an advanced boat (low stability) can improve your technique. 
Bad technique will lead to falling out. Determined practice of stroke - pause - stroke on flat water will improve your technique. You will feel the improvements much more in a tippy fast boat.

However, if you are paddling on choppy, chaotic water, in a tippy boat, you'll spend all your time putting support strokes in. 

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1 week 1 day ago #38615 by daisylui
I'd say that good technique is not necessary for stability but for the enjoyment of gliding with minimum effort regardless of water conditions [isn't paddling about that after all?!] You can ensure stability with a bad technique too but that takes the joy out of paddling a fast boat, making it more of a chore on the water, only to get some temporary ego boost on dry land from being happy to stay afloat in an advanced ski. 

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1 week 1 day ago #38616 by kwolfe
Wow, I can actually contribute real life experience to this discussion.  6 years ago I started with a V8.  I paddle inland flat water lakes with the occasional wind chop.  I always concentrated on technique when on the water.  A year later, I picked up a V14 (yes I was over eager).  That ski uncovered the flaws in my stroke that were masked by the V8s huge stability.  First issue was leaning to one side when rotating (not staying centered on the ski), however even worse was not exiting the paddle soon enough.  Keeping that paddle in past my hips pulled me into the lake a few times once on the V14.

Therefore I would say that stable boats don't necessarily promote good form however elite skis will require more time to really get the basics if you are just starting out.  I would encourage folks to get a gopro or something like it.  Doesn't have to be 8000k resolution or whatever.  I bought mine of ebay for $80 and it works great.  

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1 week 1 day ago #38617 by Epicpaddler
A v8 to a v14! 
That's an impressive leap. For me, jumping from a v8pro to a v10 was a bit humbling. I didn't fall out right away, but that's because I paddled all winter and took it easy. Once the water warmed up and the powerboats came out I was swimming at least once per week. I also noticed that I shift my weight to each side and that gets magnified in small chop. 

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1 week 1 day ago #38619 by waverider
Think of a stable boat as your daily trainer so you can do all your drills, easier to concentrate on one aspect without falling out because you are not paying attention to other areas..You cant concentrate on everything at once. However having a more advanced boat as well is like your examination benchmark, it kicks your arse and tells you to smarten up on sloppiness before they become entrenched (unlearning something is a lot harder than learning something).... Of course if all you had was your "exam boat" it would be too hard to learn the basics readily. For example while focusing all your attention on your catch only, you may exit late...and it stuffs you.

Of course a stable boat also allows you just to get out, stay upright and have fun in the bumps, which is what it is all about. In an ideal world we would have both..as the nature of the environment in which we can paddle different boats and match your abilities in different conditions. Flying along and matching it with K1s on flat water with an advanced ski is likewise rewarding, much harder to do on a beginner boat.

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1 week 1 day ago #38620 by waverider

kwolfe wrote:   I would encourage folks to get a gopro or something like it.  Doesn't have to be 8000k resolution or whatever.  I bought mine of ebay for $80 and it works great.  


Definitely recommend this mounted on front deck filming yourself, raised on an extension if possible,  you can watch every stroke played back in slow motion if you like and there are enough online resources to compare to an you will soon see that what you are doing and what you think you are doing are rarely the same thing. Its the best trainer you can get...

Mounted near your catch it will pick up every little plop on flat water showing just how hard it is to "spear" the catch perfectly. Not to mention that wayward top hand that seems to have a mind of its own. You think you are keeping your paddle parallel to your chest as Oscar keeps banging on about...hah, unlikely you will be using your arms to some degree which prevents this. The shaft not staying parallel to the chest is the dead give away, usually resulting in the dreaded late exit.

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