Ask Sam: Right-Of-Way, Paddles and Packing

Correct packing technique is key to multi-day expeditions. Photo: Will Taylor
Correct packing technique is key to multi-day expeditions. Photo: Will Taylor

Ask Sam: Right-Of-Way, Paddles and Packing

Sam George knows paddling. That knowledge was procured the old fashioned way. By doing it: From grinding away at surf contests to utilizing kayaking to find remote surf breaks to becoming one of the early practitioners of standup. And now the former SURFER magazine editor and senior editor at SUP magazine is bringing that experience to you.

So if you’re out there longing for paddling advice, just Ask Sam. Anything. He’ll put his seasoning as a paddler to work for you. Ask in the comments or send emails to letters@supthemag.com.

Q: It seems like nowadays the whole SUP industry is recommending the lightest carbon paddles for everyone. I believe durability is being sacrificed, and carbon paddles are not at all indestructible, quite the opposite, very delicate, just like carbon bikes that always scratch. Light carbon paddles are most likely the best for competitions. But for regular training days, why not use much heavier paddles?
Jorge Dominguez; San Luis Talpa Community
A: For the same reason Tour de France cyclists don’t train off-season on beach cruisers, paddlers should endeavor to use the lightest equipment they can afford. This is because regardless of your experience level a lighter, stiffer paddle is simply more efficient and thus easier to use. I’ve broken two carbon fiber paddles in over 10 years of daily, fairly rigorous standup surfing and racing, so durability isn’t an issue. My advice: always buy a paddle at the top end of your price range and save your weight lifting for the gym, Jorge.

Q: When three paddlers are going for the wave at the same time, how do you know who has the right-of-way?
Max Rubic; Mar Vista, California
A: This is one of the most frequently asked questions by beginning standup paddle surfers and one of the hardest to answer. Simply put: It depends. It depends on whether the wave is breaking to the right or the left, depends on who has been waiting longest for the wave, depends on who has shown that they can consistently take off in the most critical part of the wave and successfully make the drop … depends on whose area code the surf spot is in. But here’s at least a reasonable rule of thumb for paddlers, who haven’t been raised in the dog-eat-dog world of conventional surfing: the paddler who’s been waiting the longest in the proper lineup has the right-of-way. Wait, I’ve forgot a second, even more useful tip when taking off en masse: when in doubt, kick out.

Q: I’m training for a multi-day, down-the-coast paddle expedition and have a question about transporting gear. Most the touring paddlers I’ve seen in the magazine and videos carry all their gear on their boards. But what about towing a smaller, second board behind carrying your stuff like a cyclist with a trailer? Wouldn’t this be more efficient that paddling a heavy, top-heavy board?
Wesley Hunter; Gainesville, Forida
A: I’ve padded both ways, Wesley and here’s what I’ve found: If you’re paddling flat water, with no cross-chop or following sea, towing a board behind on a very short line works pretty well. However, most coastal paddles involve sea and land breezes, ocean swells, backwash and clapotis (rebound waves) making the towing option less attractive. There’s a reason experienced expedition paddlers like Bart De Zwart lash their gear to the deck, fore and aft. Better a heavy, ungainly board than having to constantly deal with a soggy, overturned raft every hundred yards. (See our keys to overnight expeditions here.)

Send your questions for “Ask Sam” to letters@supthemag.com or in the comments below.

More wisdom from Sam here.