Breaking the myths | Fatter (boards) can be faster | McConks race SUP
If you’ve been anywhere near the paddleboard race scene in the last few years, you can’t have helped notice that race boards are getting narrower. And obviously a narrower board has better glide, has less friction, and must be faster right?
That’s the theory. But there are a couple of things to think about before jumping to that obvious conclusion.
How stable are you on a narrower board? Are you really able to properly trim a very narrow board? Whilst a 21″ board might work for the likes of amazing paddlers like Ben Pye, if you don’t have the same well developed and balanced paddle stroke, strong core, and lots of experience of race boards, you will probably find that all those little nervous wobbles on the super skinny board cost you dear. So even if you stay on the board and don’t swim, every little wobble perturbs the board, and the loss of trim increase friction and reduces glide and speed.
We recommend trying different race boards of different widths and having a friend on the bank watching how well you maintain trim. Or if you’re a data geek, you can go the whole hog and do constant effort time trials to see which you’re fastest on. But our experience is always that paddlers suffer from optimism bias about how well they can trim a narrow board, and that most non elite paddlers would be better with a board an inch or two wider than they think they can handle!
Our 14 foot Go Race board is designed at 26.5 inches wide. That’s unfashionably wide in these days of ever more skinny race boards. But this is quite deliberate. This is designed as a board that is easy to trim. It’s extremely rigid due to the woven drop stitch and the twin tensioned carbon stringers, eliminating bounce. It’s therefore really solid when you put the power on, and this, coupled with the all-water rocker means that its stable and easy to trim, but also gives enough feedback for poor footwork or body posture to all you to progress and develop.
And this isn’t just idle conjecture. We used modelling to come up with the perfect profile and rocker, and then prototyped it through a few iterations to fine tune shape, weight and rocker.
And do we have any real life evidence to back this up?
Plenty. But this is our best example….
Carolyn Smith, a very special lady, has helped us design this board. It’s to be used on a 32 mile charity paddle in a day from Lincoln to Boston. This would be challenge enough for most people, but Carolyn suffers from a rare condition called Vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) that affects the connective tissues in the body. Carolyn explains her condition well if you follow her on Facebook, so we won’t bore you here. But basically, the condition makes a 32 mile paddle more than a challenge. It makes it a life risking feat!
Carolyn, with her coach and friend Phil May of Yellowbelly SUP did the challenge last year. In preparation for last years challenge, Carolyn bought a Loco race hardboard that she called Berty. She trained very hard for months, with Phil giving her expert tuition on trim, body position, paddlestroke etc. In one of the biggest storms of last year, they completed the 32 mile challenge. But Carolyn never felt fully comfortable on the Loco motion board, and has felt scared to paddle it, and by her own admission has sometimes been put off paddling because of it.
But now, having switched up to an inflatable McConks 14″ race board and only paddled it a couple of times, she’s already breaking her fastest mile times by a minute or so. She puts this down to feeling much more stable and comfortable, and being able to focus more on maintaining stroke quality rather than worrying about balancing and not falling in.
Check out the facebook post below to find out more. And if you want to donate to Carolyn and Phil’s charity paddle, then make sure you follow her on facebook .
But to conclude, yes, it is true. Fatter can be faster. Obviously, swimming is slower than paddling, and if you go to thin, you swim. But even before you get to swimming wobbliness, a too narrow board can reduce your speed by reducing trim and increasing turbulence. A slightly fatter board allows you to focus on paddle stroke and trim and increase your overall glide and speed.
You can read more about our Go Race board by clicking the button below.