Go with the Flow!
We've had an exciting couple of weeks testing our new whitewater SUP. As everyone surely knows by now, inflatable SUP are the best SUP for whitewater. Being so rugged and robust, yet also very light, nothing beats inflatable SUP in whitewater.
And just to prove it, here's a vid of Team GB freestyle stuperstar Matt Stephenson using the board at the whitewater centre in Nottingham (Holme Pierrepont, National Watersports Centre).
When we set out designing our whitewater board we gathered a team of whitewater experts, from the kayak, canoe and paddlesport fields, and asked them what was missing from current boards, and how current boards on the market needed to be improved.
And the responses we got then underpinned our design. The most important features were:
- A wide stable platform, with a deckpad that extends all the way from the nose to the tail to allow movement around the board. Or so they said. We think the real reason was to provide added protection for the 'transition movements' between standing and swimming. We've designed our board to be 36" wide and 9'8 long - the length is a compromise between longer length for stability and forward momentum, and shorter length for river surf and manoeuvrability. The reviews we've had from our prototypers, which range from experts to beginners have confirmed that the width and length provide huge amounts of stability when on whitewater and the design, in particular the rocker profile and the hard edge, allows it to still be really maneuverable. One tester commented that it had an unprecedented amount of secondary stability for an inflatable board. Heady stuff!
- Handles. Lots of them. These serve two purposes. Firstly, handles in lots of different locations are good for self recovery and protection. No matter where you are in relation to the board, you need to be able to reach a handle. And this needs to be true for shorter people and beginners as well - more than one awesome female paddler pointed out that handle placement on all other whitewater boards made recovery more than challenging for them. And secondly, they need to make it easier to get the board into and out of the water, and up and down steep river banks. Of course, this needs to be balanced against the risk of entrapment, and so the handles need to be reasonably tight to the board to prevent feet getting trapped.
- Full length deckpad. The deckpad covering the whole board is a massive confidence booster giving you somewhere soft to land, whilst enabling you to paddle the board backwards if you get in a real pickle.
- Rocker and waterline. The board has been designed by computer modelling, and then optimised through protoyping to ensure that the board is amazingly responsive but stable no matter where you stand (or are thrown to!) on the board. Although this board is not a specialist river surf board, the sporty progressive rocker allows riders to drop into waves, and the responsiveness of the board when on a run allows you to get to those waves when you see them. The stomppad and tail rocker shape means that the tail is responsive and easy to sink despite the board's width.
- 4+1 fin boxes and proper river fins. The centre box is a standard US centre box, meaning you can use pretty much any aftermarket fin you want. And the side fin boxes are FCS compatible click fit boxes from Kumano. That means you can use normal FCS fins if you choose. But why would you want to with the fins that come as standard? We provide three centre fins, 8", 4.7" and 3" depth fins, all flexi and capable of withstanding significant bumps and scrapes. We've reduced the depth on the 4.7" and 3" fins to reduce the risk of that 'superman' moment when fins catch a rock. But we've maintained overall surface area by sweeping the fin behind the fin box. And the same is true for our 4 x 1" side fins. These have a very low profile, and large surface area for the depth due the swept back profile.
And we also spoke to riders about paddles, and how paddles could be improved. And almost universally they said carbon shaft, polypropylene blade. The carbon shaft for stiffness and the polyprop blade for robustness and damage protection in rocky waters. But they also wanted to be able to have a carbon blade or fibreglass blade for when touring. So we came up with an interchangeable blade system that allows you to choose what blade you want in your carbon shaft.
And just to prove yet again how easy this all is, here's another vid of Matt Stephenson showing us all how it's done. And a more realistic video of a whitewater SUP noob demonstrating that anyone can have fun on the right boards and right conditions! In fact, in one of the boards trial runs at the National Watersports Centre, a total SUP noobie (experienced whitewater paddler, but had never stood on a SUP before!) managed to run all of the features but one without swimming.