I had to share this funny video that was running between events on the Battle of the Paddle live feed:
This evening the sun came out for the first time in what seems like a year in New Jersey. We still can’t row (haven’t been on the water in 3 weeks), but I had to get outside to avoid going crazy. The water had receded enough that I decided to try out my new Kahuna Creations longboard and Big Stick land paddle at Saddle River park. This is the first time I have tried it for any real distance, and despite lots of destruction on the path, it turned into a 6-mile land paddle, and it was a blast!
What is land paddling? It’s stand-up paddling on a skateboard using a big stick with a rubber head:
As someone who finds SUP addictive but is limited by the seasons and geography here in New Jersey, land paddling seemed like a logical “off water” exercise to learn. Here are my impressions:
1. It’s easier to learn than SUP: SUP is pretty easy, but on relatively flat ground land paddling is even easier. I never fell off, I never hit anything, and it was surprisingly easy to steer around all the debris still on the path from the recent storms. The debris also doesn’t stop you in your tracks like it does on rollerblades. For anyone who has ever tried SUP, the paddle motion is completely natural.
2. It’s FAST: It is much faster than actual SUP, about as fast as a fast runner or an average bike. Because of this, I actually found the stroke to be more similar to rowing than to SUP – once you get going, you have to be very precise in picking up the speed of board on the pavement with the paddle tip, and applying an impulse that is much shorter and more explosive. That reminded me of the catch timing and impulse in a fast rowing boat, which is much faster than most SUP boards on flat water. It also made we wish I were wearing a helmet and pads just in case – I didn’t expect it to be so fast. I did start to fishtail on some of the downhills – I have to learn how to carve to slow myself down because I am a pretty big guy and braking with the stick was not very effective on downhills.
3. I have no idea how to go up hills: Still have to figure this out.
4. The foot stance is pretty natural: I found that I preferred to point my leading foot more parallel to the axis of the board, and carry my weight more on my rear foot. I don’t know if that’s correct, but it felt good.
5. I have to practice paddling on the “back” side, and using a goofy foot stance. Today I used regular foot for the whole paddle, and only paddled on one side where I felt most comfortable. It’s not as easy to switch sides as it is on a SUP because you are not straddling the board with your hips facing forward, but rather are standing at an angle. I found trying to switch sides like trying to swing a golf club left-handed, and I was having too much fun to figure it out this time. That’s a future goal. The guys in the video above obviously know what they are doing.
6. It was a great workout. I was drenched. My glutes, quads, and core were cooked, especially the glute above my forward foot. In many ways, the stroke is like doing a reverse kettlebell swing in which you would be pulling the weight down instead of opening up. I found that in order to get the stick to grip the full length of the stroke, I had to really press down on the head throughout the power drive, which meant I had to put quite a lot more muscle into it than I thought. It’s not like a SUP or rowing stroke in which you want to flick the blade along as horizontally as possible – there was a distinct sense of bearing down on the stick during the pushoff. That also means that I put a lot more lower body work and body weight transfer into it than in actual SUP.
7. It works well when the path is on the beach, but not when the beach is on the path Many sections of the path were still covered with sand or wet mud from the recent floods, and that made for some abrupt slowdowns and some exciting fishtailing! You can see the authentic Jersey hurricane mud on the board, and on the collapsed stick in the back of my car.
8. At one point I thought there was a little bird following me. Then I realized that when the wind was in my face, the open adjustment holes on the Big Stick were making it resonate and play like a tin whistle. It was a cool bonus to have a little wind music as I paddled along!
The bottom line is that I would encourage everyone to try this. It was the most fun I had in a while even though I really didn’t know what I was doing!
Thanks to row2k.com for a link to this article in the Sonoma County Press-Democrat about rowing in Petaluma, California. I rowed there for about 10 years, did the original website for North Bay Rowing Club, and can testify that it really is an ideal, and often overlooked, place to row. The first thing you need for a rowing club is good water, and Petaluma has the best and longest rowable water of anywhere I’ve ever rowed, on par with the Connecticut River at Dartmouth. I love that Greg Sabourin, who founded the North Bay Rowing Club, is now trying to develop an all-around small craft center for rowing, kayaking, and stand-up paddling. When I visited last month, I not only got to row, but also to SUP, on the Petaluma River. Great water, almost no boat traffic, and an ideal climate make it a great location for pretty much any kind of athletic training, especially for rowers who like to cross over into cycling. Plus, as mentioned in the article, it is one of the few places where you can do a 26.2 rowing marathon with only one stake turn, and flat enough water to do it in a racing single. I’ve done that race in the days before it became the “Petaluma River Marathon” on Labor Day weekend, when it used to just be an unofficial mass scrimmage for all kinds of human-powered watercraft, and it is a blast. Let me tell you, after a bad winter on the east coast, an earthquake last week, and now a hurricane which has shut down Passaic River rowing most likely for 2 weeks, I am missing being in “Eden!” At this point I’d settle for just the quake risk, because at least out west they are prepared for it! If you are ever visiting the Bay Area, take a run up to Petaluma, rent a kayak or SUP board from Clavey, or meet the friendly folks at North Bay Rowing Club for a spin on the river. If you need a contact there, ping me on the blog and I’ll hook you up!
Well we had a storm last night that melted all the snow here in New Jersey. Unfortunately Crossfit Ignite had a foot of water in it this morning! The Passaic River, while below flood stage, was running about as fast as I’ve ever seen it. But the sun was shining and the wind was blowing, and I just couldn’t bring myself to sit down and row indoors on the Concept2.
Answer – break out the stand-up paddle and head for the dock! Face downstream and pull back against the current. The resistance when the water is moving several knots against your blade is incredible! Like doing a heavy Turkish get-up reeeallly slow, or doing the “chop” cross-body injury prevention lift from The Four Hour Body. 30 minutes alternating sides is an incredible workout, to the point that my upper body and core were literally trembling to failure. Great for injury-proofing and correcting left/right imbalances.
Not the same as being on a board, but not bad for early March on the East Coast!
So my wife told me she wanted to start to learn to stand-up paddle, so I went to check out the conditions at the newly-opened Overpeck Park in Teaneck, NJ, which has a lake that looks perfect for a 2000m buoyed rowing course if USRowing ever got the urge for a regatta within sight of the Manhattan skyline. Here’s what I found:
1. The lake is too shallow for SUP unless you plan to never fall off the board, hence it is not good for beginners. I probed the depth with my paddle and could almost always hit bottom.
2. The launch area is riprap stone, which again is not great for someone who might have trouble close to shore.
3. The facilities are great, with easy NJ Turnpike access, close parking, clean new bathrooms, etc.
4. The wind was howling, so to play it safe I mostly knelt vs. stood given the shallow water.
Verdict: too bad, this would be a great lake for kayaking or even rowing, but probably not ideal for SUP, especially for beginners.
Now we’re talkin!
Well we finally got the word that the crew would be putting our docks back in at Nereid Boat Club as the Passaic River ice is gone and we are expecting warmer temperatures. At this point after 90 days of indoor rowing, I was relishing any opportunity to workout on the water. As part of the “learn new sports” philosophy I started to learn stand-up paddling (SUP) last summer, so I grabbed my Werner Advantage SUP paddle and headed for the boathouse.
One of the funner jobs at dock put-in is being the guy who jumps out onto the floating dock sections after the crane lowers them into the water, and steers them into place against the current. I volunteered right away! These things are 16 feet by 8 feet and weight well over 1000 pounds each. We hook 4 or 5 of them together, and the flotilla has to be kept in position until it is complete and ready to be tethered to land.
It was awesome! Normally SUP is about balance and I find it requires a lot of isometric lower-body work. But this was different – a ripping core workout, trying to overcome the inertia of several tons of dock, jumping from side to side to steer it, and taking long, deep power strokes against essentially static resistance in the water. Because the paddle is taller than your body height and it is held across your body, I was essentially doing a push-up on one side of my body and a pull-up on the other, simultaneously and with huge resistance.
I found that the amount of power you can apply with an 86-inch stand-up paddle is amazing – I could start moving 80 feet of dock after about 5 strokes, and I could easily hold it steady in the current with short intervals of intense paddling.
If any of you are into SUP and are looking for a way to keep it fresh during the winter, try standing on a static dock and digging deep with max effort for intervals of like 1-3 minutes per side. After about 30 minutes I guarantee that every muscle in your torso will be fried.