How to do a Downwinder.
By: Ivan van Vuuren @ Coreban.com
Summers here and the South Easters are hooking in
Apart from being a great form of Core workout, downwinders will improve your balance as well as strength for alternative sports such as surfing, kiting and most watersports due the upper Core strength that is achieved from paddling.
For the most part when learning to SUP it is always recommended to try when there is little or no wind, but one exception while learning to SUP in wind, especially during the early stages, is if you are attempting down wind runs. As with all watersports there are a couple of rules. Don’t go alone. Wear a flotation device. Carry a cell phone in a waterproof casing in case of break down or emergency. Always wear a leash. Let someone know where you are and where you are headed.
Keep in mind that initially attempting downwinders will be rather tricky to say the least. Wind chop, swells, and a lot more movement underneath your feet requires additional balancing skills- but after a few attempts you’ll have it down and be enjoying the time of your life whether its in 10 knots or 50 knots.
Ok so with the formalities over lets hop on board and take a look at a couple of keys to help speed up your downwind learning curve.
As you start off downwind it may be necessary in the early stages of learning, to initially take a quick look behind you to see the swell approaching. As you improve keep your speed up by paddling in between swells but as you feel the gust or swell reaching you, standing in a parallel stance, begin to stroke harder to gain forward momentum. Keep your knees slightly bent and lean body weight forward. Be sure to have a good grip on your paddle shaft and handle as with the added forward momentum and weight transfer, many times the paddle will slip out your hands. Tip- Many racers choose to use surf wax for added grip but this is personal preference.
As the swell picks you up be prepared to feel which way the swell is pushing. You will need to either continue to stroke with paddle in the same hands or alternatively quickly prepare to switch hands so as to have your board heading straight and to avoid catching rails as the swell projects you forward. Give a few more strokes to continue building speed and remember to use your paddle for better control and added balance.
At this stage you have the option to either stay in the wide parallel SUP stance or switch to a regular surf stance. This depends on the swell. If it is a steep swell and to avoid nose diving switch to a surf stance. Keep your knees slightly bent with pressure on your back foot. The steeper the swell the more bent with pressure spread between the two legs to maintain forward momentum. Keep your eyes on the nose of your board and the idea is to try and attain as long a glide as possible on each swell, linking point to point, riding the swells and preserving as much energy as possible so as to cover greater distances.
Board options are numerous and downwinders can be done on anything from old windsurfers to hi performance Race boards but the emphasis is to get out there, play it safe and enjoy the ride.
Ivan on Coreban Alpha Race board