It's pre-dawn and I can hear the rain beating on the balcony outside, as it lashes against my bedroom window I know it is not falling straight down.
I know it is flying horizontal with a fierce wind behind it. A smile comes across my face as I reach for my phone to check the current wind readings for north head. They read 45-50 knots SSE....it is on. The call goes out.
Racing through the house I grab all the gear I need. Camel back, leggy, spare clothes, warm rashie, milo bars, a few towels and cash for coffee.
Perfect hydration for early morning paddle :) Tom is downstairs frothing as we pull the 17 ft glides onto the racks. You always know you in for a good downwind run, if it takes 2 of you to hold down the boards as your tieing them on.
So as the rain belts down and we trundle to long reef to meet Andre and Chucky, the boards jerk and shift under the gusts of wind. As we pass narrabeen we look out to sea, and just see white caps everywhere, at that point I think to myself, this is true downwind paddling. In 20 minutes we are all a few km's out to sea, getting hammered by rain and wind, then we turn with the wind behind us, and are off chasing bumps all the way to newport.
Down wind paddling is the discpline of paddling long distances, on longer racing boards which can vary in length from 12'6 - 17'6.
The types of boards these days are abundant and it is very much each to his own. Downwind paddling is meant to done with a strong tail wind that creates beautiful little bumps in the ocean, that these boards can pick and up and ride on for up to 300 metres.
It is somewhat of a art, to be able to link up these little runs, and do it well. I find the best way to learn how to paddle faster and better is:
1 - Paddle / train with people who will push you, who are better than you.
2 - Get used to a single board, and it's little twitches and points of acceleration.
3 - Get out there as much as you can. The more time you spend catching runs and chasing bumps the better you will get at reading them.
And as good friend of mine put it "you will make the right choices when paddling, and that is what a fast run is all about."
I have watched the sport of SUP change and develop over the last 3 years from when I jumped on my first surfing board and what I have seen is this very distinct undertow towards downwind paddling. The guys from my local who bag the surfing side of SUP, show alot of interest in the downwind side of it.
From the first fenn cup race 2 years ago, where they allowed SUP's to compete and there was just 4 of us belting into a head wind for 3 hours. To the last pacifica events which saw up to 15 paddlers enter the water, things are beginning to shift. I know 15 paddlers does not sound like much, but there is this excited anticipation when it comes to downwind paddling these days, and I only hope that continues to grow as it gets supported local outlets and paddlers.
So if you have never done a downwind paddle before. Check the forecast's, grab a mate and get out there on the bumps. You will never look back, and those onshore afternoons you used to curse as a grommet, you will greet with eager anticipation.
Thanks to Peter, for the story.