Downwinder Insights

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I’ve been doing a lot of downwind runs in the past 3 weeks.  I just did the Hawaii Kai to Kaimana Beach (9 miles?) today.  I finally did it under 2 hours and maybe that’s because I didn’t sit down as much as I normally do.  Yes, I’m the lazy paddler and I realize that time is still slow.

When I did my first downwind runs months ago w/ Todd Bradley I spent a lot of time on my butt and knees.  It just seemed like the environment was unorganized.  The waves came from multiple directions, wind from the side and back and my out of shape body had a hard time adjusting.

It was only a few weeks ago that I actually started seeing the organization in the water and catching the swells on purpose.  With some pointers from guys like Kainoa Beaupre and Duane DeSoto I finally learned what to look for.  It’s like the first time I actually felt in control while kiteboarding.  It now is starting to make sense.

This is what’s working for me currently and I’m sure it will be different in the future.  If any veterans are reading, please comment as I’m just a newbie trying to figure this out.

I am noticing that on the Hawaii Kai to Black Point (6 or so miles?) portion of the run the swells come mainly in 2 directions.  Lining up the board with the right swell and then trying to connect them is like a dance.  I need to learn my route better because I seem to end up way out to while passing Black Point.

I also am learning that catching these swells is a bit different than normal surfing.  I let the first swell pass under the board and when the nose sucks down from the next wave I paddle hard to catch it.  It’s a bit weird because it feels like you’re catching the wave in the trough.

Physical conditioning is important.  I can definitely lose some pounds.  My stamina needs work.

I started off using my 75′ surfing paddle because that’s what I was used to.  I’m 72″ tall.  I then use my 78″ because the 75″ seemed too short.  Now I’m using an 84″ ottertail paddle and it seems the right length.  Downwinders seem to have me riding up taller, the boards are thicker and the paddle stroke is longer so the longer paddle makes sense.

Even though I’m still at the beginning part of the learning stage I am having a blast.  Today had overhead waves on the south shore but I chose to go downwind instead.  Now that I’m catching the swells, I’m having a lot of fun.  A good downwind run to me is better than a mediocre day of surfing.

I’ve been riding various boards for this lately.

Here’s my thoughts:

C4 Vortice Boardworks 14′

This board is stable and easy to balance on.  It catches swells and is faster than the 12′.  This is a fun board for downwinders.  I want to try the XP carbon version now that I’m getting the hang of things but I may be a bit heavy (and not skilled enough) to handle it.  So far, beginners I take are riding this board with no problem.  This board livens up the further you stand on the front.

C4 Holoholo 12′

This is a good cruising board.  I took it on the downwinder and it’s ok for that although after riding the 14′ I’d much rather ride the 14′.  The HH surfs though so when you do get to breaks you can drop in with more comfort than the 14′.  The HH is tippier than the 14′ and has less nose rocker.

F-16 16′

This board is a little tippier than the Vortice 14′.  It sits higher on the water so it feels a bit more floaty.  That said, it is lighter and seems to accelerate and glide with ease.  I like the rudder.  It makes it easy to line up the board without having to paddle on one side and allows for paddling on both sides when paddling in side winds.  This board livens up when catching a swell and standing back.  I rode Duane DeSoto’s F-16 today (the board he rode to win the solo SUP division in the Molokai race).  Using the rudder on the opposite foot was a bit tricky.

Ted Spencer 14′

This was a prototype board and was too narrow for me to ride comfortably.  There are new ones coming out that are wider and more usable for lesser skilled riders.  Really good riders and those under 180 lbs may think differently.  This board is fast and tippy.

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2 Responses to “Downwinder Insights”


  1. Bob 1Bob

    Hi Evan,

    Good info, I’ve been bitten by the distance bug too while training for the challenge, although we just don’t have the downwind runs you folks do. I’m looking for locations here in the east to find some open swell. Typical SW winds just don’t do it. Also a little concerned about going it alone the 1st time. Very jealous of all the great opportunities of all kinds to get on the water you have. Maybe I can be the pool boy at the Pono house…:)

  2. Evan Leong 2evan

    I don’t think downwinders would be that fun for me without being able to catch the ground swells. It would be more like running or work. You should do the Maliko run on Maui the next time you’re here. Maybe if the timing is right I can join you.

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