Last month I interviewed Maui based shaper and surfer Mark Raaphorst, and he discussed the differences between the F14 and F16’s along with other boards being used for downwinder stand up paddling. I shared with him my experience using the F16 while doing a downwinder and how the board became faster when it filled with water. He also gave some really good insight into downwind racing. I learned a lot.
Transcript: (Scroll down to listen to the interview)
Evan Leong: You guys have a new F-14 coming out right?
Mark Raaphorst: Yes
Evan Leong: You know I look it up in the internet, it said that it’s 20 lbs. vs. the 28 lbs. for the 16′. Is that accurate?
Mark Raaphorst: No. That’s 16′ is around 26-27 lbs. (17:20). So it’s gonna be around 20 or 21 lbs. People can have it with or without steering. It’s gonna be an optional steering kit in there, and so the hard board (00:27:6) is the pounds, so without the steering is probably be around 20-21 (lbs.) and with the steering 22 (lbs.).
Evan Leong: What’s the difference then between F-14, 15, 16, 18, like what would you recommend? (00:42.5)
Mark Raaphorst: There is no 15; there is no mold at 18. There are custom boards. It’s got to be a hollow mold boards for the F14. At this point, there’s only a 10, a 12 and 16 hallow. In the future there will be one more board for the 14. (0:01:01.8)
Evan Leong: What’s the difference then between 14 and 16 or is it just because the 14 is going to the stock? That stock class?
Mark Raaphorst: 14 is 14, 16 is for the 16′ in length and the 16′ has a different bottom contour. The 14 is gonna have a single concave versus the 16 has a bit of double concave with some V (0:01:26.9) in there. The 14′ is gonna have a drop deck of about 2 inches deep, quite a different board, it’s got a lower rocker for the 14′. (0:01:38.2)
Evan Leong: What would you recommend? 14′ vs. 16′, are there several conditions?
Mark Raaphorst: Yes. Different conditions apply: if you have to go longer distances I’d go with a longer length, the 16′ is probably the stock out there, 14 is more manageable, it’s gonna be a little lighter if you’re a big gentleman or a lady then 16 foot is better because it has higher volume than the 14.
Evan Leong: And the 16 now you can get a drop deck too I saw it on the website (0:02:7.3)
Mark Raaphorst: Yes.
Evan Leong: Is that a molded one?
Mark Raaphorst: That’s molded. I basically created a big insert into the mold that sits in there.
Evan Leong: Are you finding that more people are getting the drop deck?
Mark Raaphorst: If people are willing to take a bit of a new approach, yes, but it makes the board a lot more stable with the drop deck.
Evan Leong: Yesterday I did a downwinder from Hawaii Kai to Kaimana on F-16 and then it was really bumpy out by black point (0:02:56.9) I flipped over and the plug fell out at the back and then it filled a bit with water, and it’s just like the hardest part of the run and I got water, but it made it faster.
Mark Raaphorst: Sometimes is does.
Evan Leong: I was having so much momentum at that point, it would punch through everything in the front and I just kept going, like it was my fastest split [time] so I was tripping out (0:03:21.1). It doesn’t make sense.
Mark Raaphorst: Well you might have been lucky with three compartments inside the board it might have been stuck in the center part, a lot of it. But if you have it on the side it makes the board tippier. It has three strong decks, one center and two where you’re standing and maybe the water is stuck in that middle compartment. (0:03:46:.6)
Evan Leong: I was draining it for a while when I got out of the water but I was surprised, the weight makes a difference. (0:03:53.2)
Mark Raaphorst: Yes.
Even Leong: But I’ve been trying to figure, it’s the lightness, this carbon lightness that’s been helping, I don’t know. This whole downwinder thing is a bit tricky for me. What kind of advice do you have for people just starting out doing these type of runs?(0:04:07.7)
Mark Raaphorst: Wear a leash (0:04:09.6) join the 6-man Canoe club to learn the proper technique. Get away from waveboard types boards, get more of something with a higher volume. A little bit straighter (0:04:23.8) rocker. With or without steering it doesn’t really matter much and just go for a little bit of length. I get a quite a few people thinking that you can still go and create a fast and _________ (0:04:37.2) board. It’s just not possible. For the waves, you need short and for the coastal runs you need length. Get a light board, because you’re sprinting so much and then relaxing afterwards, that inertia helps you get on a glide but once you get on the glide, I think the lightweight and stiff board is a helping hand. Have fun.
Evan Leong: Would you recommend people normally to get 14 versus the 16 or is it just a weight and preference thing? Like their weight. (0:05:20.1)
Mark Raaphorst: 14′ right now it’s still not available. I have a list of people that want one (0:05:26.2) I’m gonna get one. The 14′ is more manageable, I’d say it’s more fun. The 16′ is more serious and it will probably save more time of your run- the 16 footer. But it’s also more cumbersome on your car and in your garage and the weight too, I mean it’s a lighter board for the 14 footer. (0:05:50.6)
Evan Leong: Which one do you think can catch the bumps easier?
Mark Raaphorst: 16.
Evan Leong: Ok. And then to connect them, 16 is easier too?
Mark Raaphorst: I think 16. But the 14 is probably just more fun and almost as fast. (0:06:13.0)
Evan Leong: Do you find that when you say almost as fast, I noticed when I’m running different downwind board it’s like that 10% extra whatever it may be to get on that bump, that makes all the difference whether you’re catching waves or…
Mark Raaphorst: If you miss it or you make it there’s no in between.
Evan Leong: It seems like it’s only a little bit maybe if I have a bigger blade paddle and so on, all these little things I’ve been noticing.(0:06:44.0)
Mark Raaphorst: Another thing that I think a lot people I see on downwind runs (0:06:48.4) they paddle with a blade that is too short. I recommend 12 inches above the person’s height, get carbon fiber, get a stiff blade that’s long enough. A lot of people bend their back and they don’t use the power in front of their stroke is right in their board, down into the water (0:07:08.6). So, power in the front, long blade.
Evan Leong: Like a big blade too or is that just preference?
Mark Raaphorst: That’s preference. I think just what we’re going with right now 9 that’s the average, 9 is fine, I’ve tried 10 inch and it’s little hard on the shoulders. But the most manufactured I think are 9 inch now and a lot of outrigger canoe guys have been doing research on bigger blades and shorter blades. Maybe doing it longer that what we have, they all come back to around 9. Some guys, crews will go 10 but most people still paddle with 9.
Evan Leong: 10 is for what, the big, strong people?
Mark Raaphorst: Yes, somebody without any rotator cuff issues and people that have really strong shoulders and arms then your 10 inches would be something beneficial. But for average people, I got to say; it’s such a young sport, for somebody to proclaim that they have figured it out that they have absolute knowledge is I think is just wrong. They’re just so young, they’re just thoughts (0:08:40.2) and beliefs and it’s not how it is. That’s not how I wanna come across too. It is of my belief that 9 is good, the 9 inch width is good for most people.
Evan Leong: That shoulder issue you mentioned is really important because I have on my right shoulder is a bit of a cuff issue. So the other day I tried a really long paddle, must have been 14 inches over my height, it’s super tall. And it was the 9.8″ blade, it was a big blade and it helped a lot when the wind’s at your back, once I came around black point and it was coming into my face, it was hard to paddle. (0:9:26.3)
Mark Raaphorst: If it’s high wind like on the last Kaiwi Channel, quite few guys when they came around the corner to have into Portlock grabbed the short blade and it’s really beneficial if it’s a short blade when going against the wind. And same for surfing, my blade is 7 inches long and it’s a little bit more flexible. Because you don’t need to generate enormous amount of power, just more to catch the bump. Lightweight, very short blade, 6-7 inches above the person’s height is pretty good. (0:10:06.4)
Evan Leong: I’ve noticed that. The other day I used 7-8 inch paddle, about 6 inches above my height, it’s about 2 inches more than I use when I surf, and then it’s the 8 inch blade it’s like a proto paddle but it felt like I was reaching a bit when the wind is at my back, but once I made that turn, it was so much easier. So who would ride that F18 then? Is that just for super long distance like xxxx (0:10:38.0), what would you do that for?
Mark Raaphorst: No, there were quite a few orders on the F18 and the F18 is probably in the future, it will only 17 foot long or maybe 17-4, but I say it’s about 18 footers (0:10:57.3) and I think we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns when it comes down to the weight of the board, they get too heavy and your power output is only that much no matter if you use big board or small board you need to move that weight forward. So, around 17 foot I think is for now what I found out is an xxxx (0:11:26.5). And who would use a board like that? There’s quite a few custom orders, I have two order is in Oahu,(0:11:35.4) couple of guys in California and some people here. It just gives you more water line and more possibilities to connect through out the troughs (0:11:48.0). Fast times in races, diamond races, it’s all about the ability to connect because even on a 10 foot [board] wave you can catch the bump, you can get the same bump as somebody on a 17 foot but the 10 footer is gonna slow down more rapidly once you’re done riding it. And the longer boards will glide longer into the next bump and you can do that, three or four ways consecutively you suddenly pull away from somebody else. (0:12:21.7) I would say successful downwind guys are connecting into the max, they look around, guys like Dave (0:12:37.2) have such knowledge of whether to go left or right to connect to the next one and to the next one. And they have this really good sprinting power. Most of the time they stand there and don’t paddle at all but when they need to turn it on they just have incredible sprinting power. And then they relax again. It’s just that longer boards can connect better.
Evan Leong: So the 18 is much faster than 16?
Mark Raaphorst: No. When I was trying to find a better board than the F16, I was quite unsuccessful at it. And also I came there with expectations that we can find something that is much faster. There is no such thing as a magic bullet, you still have to work really hard but it might be 10 or 15% faster if you call that much faster. It’s not a spectacular increase, but a bit over an hour run, if it’s 10% that means it’s 6 minutes, that’s a big distance, but it’s not like pulling away, like you have the Porsche 911 versus the Ford Ranger.
Evan Leong: But that 10%, that determines the difference in a lot of time because if you’re making it on that bump and connecting or not. (0:14:11.6)
Mark Raaphorst: Correct, and if you can get that bump that’s great. The 17, F18, the custom one is just a little bit faster again and more than anything too, is more stable than the F16 because we’ve gone away from the V underneath your feet so it’s gonna feel less rolley-polley. But also 17 foot is even more a technical board where you really need to make sure that your rail doesn’t bite, your board is pointing the right direction because they have more (0:14:57.8) you real______ higher volume, they are boxy on the rail, so you don’t get anymore water on your deck. So that’s a good thing because water does not belong on your deck on downwind type boards. I feel that it’s also less forgiving. There’re all trade-offs, but if you use it correctly you’re longer board than a 16, the F18 is gonna be even faster. (0:15:25.3)
Evan Leong: You know the green F15 that you had made for Doug Lock? On that 15, how does that differ from the 14 and the 16? (0:15:34.1)
Mark Raaphorst: It’s been half a year since I shaped it and I think what I took the order from Doug, he said he’s a good paddler; he’s a good outrigger canoe paddler, that customer. That’s the custom one, the yellow one right? (0:15:49.9)
Evan Leong: No, it’s the green one of Doug from Wet Feet, Doug Lock. It’s the one that I have pictures of on the website. It was like a lime green color.
Mark Raaphorst: Yes and no clear coat on it, it was a flat finish.
Evan Leong: Yes, it was a flat finish and the bottom is pretty flat, sharp rails. (0:16:10.1)
Mark Raaphorst: Probably more stable and if it has sharper rails, once it gets going, it better plaining speed, it will plain out faster. Softer rails are good for medium to slow conditions but harder rails once it’s windy it releases better, it just gets rid of the water nicer, it doesn’t wrap around the rail in any which way. And probably it didn’t change the rocker much, the F16 versus the custom for 15. I don’t remember it very well but if it has hard edges it probably does well in the heavier seas. (0:17:01.9)
Evan Leong; If the thing is plumbed for where the steering is on the left, are you able to re-plumb it for steering on the right or it has to be done when the board is made.
Mark Raaphorst: When the board is built. And that’s another that right now we’re offering. We’re offering to do plumbing when people, especially the goofy footers (0:17:21.8) are concerned, if they wanna sell the board. (0:17:27.4) 80% of people are regular [foot]. They wanna be able to offer to future customers, just fix the pedal. But it’s a true challenge to keep boards lightweight, and the only way a 16 foot is gonna work if it’s lightweight. (0:17:51.0)
Evan Leong: It was a choppy (0:17:52.1) yesterday though man, when the thing at xxxx I swear I was like off because it was supper choppy at black point and I kept falling off. But then once I start getting some momentum, that thing just kept going. (0:18:060)
Mark Raaphorst: Often times I have water in my one man canoe and what would happen if your try to catch a bump your board is pointing forward the water slushing forward is actually helping you drive down the ______ (0:18:19.2). I think the slushing more than anything is positive effect the water falling forward and allowing you to get into the trough (0:18:29.4) even easier.
Evan Leong: That’s what I was thinking.
Mark Raaphorst: But for me, it would be so much more economical and boards would last so much longer if I didn’t have to use so much carbon in the deck and everything. I’d love to build a board that is acceptable, that is 35 lbs. The boards would last longer, they would be more affordable for customers and it would be easy to build for me.(0:18:59.1)
Evan Leong: Have you ever thought of just making them overseas? Like these other ones? Like some of the one-man canoes now coming out from China (0:19:07.4)?
Mark Raaphorst: Yes, I have. I get approached all the time. No, I’d rather hire my guys here locally. I think the sport is so new that things are changing rapidly and although I could possibly make more money getting somebody to be build them overseas, but the lead time to get (0:19:33.7) product here, I bet it takes like 8 to 10 months at least if you’re really rapid to get a proto type build to mold and then I wanna stay in the leading end of the downwinders especially, and the boards just change too much right now. I’m not really into growing and expanding, I am more into keeping five local guys employed and making it that way. It’s pretty key (0:20:16.5) to have limited amount of the right right product, if you build overseas, you get such a risk of ordering 30 of these or 40 of these and having that not be selling not board anymore. Because somebody else came out with something else, and I hate to stock pile the incorrect product or something. No, I have not much interest in overseas production and what’s important to xxxx width; I can make a tippy, 30 inch wide board or a really stable 25 inch wide board. It’s the flat surface underneath your feet that counts, so depending on what shape or starts (0:21:00.5) the xxxx, if the xxxx is giant, then that doesn’t help you out much with stability. People seem to be stuck on what is the weight of the board? A board with a bunch of V and that is 3-inch wide, really rolley rails is kinda feel really tippy. I’ trying to explain to my potential customers the flat spot is what matters, whether single concave or V and also if it’s a pointee nose, it’s gonna make it a little bit unstable too versus an long ward type nose (0:21:43.0) because you have more outline in the water especially in the front section that will help you stabilize. If you right away bring into the nose and tail that is pointee, it’s gonna make it more unstable. The F16 is built that way for kind of training purposes, you do poke, you come back out again, but unlike on waveboards (0:22:09.5), my SRX is a tippy type board because it comes to a point and pulls towards a skinny pin tail too. (0:22:21.3)
Evan Leong: So do you find that people are using the rudder more when they’re in parallel stands when the wind is blowing sideways, but when the wind is at their back and is in all directions correctly and not really using it? (0:22:30.88)
Mark Raaphorst: Nope. If it is correct, if you appreciate you use it all the time no matter what. But it’s more of the tapping motion that you use it for, you occasionally change direction, you tap and then you step back into the board and you let go of the rudder (0:22:50.8). Some people in the very beginning they are married to a steering system, it comes back to zero and the fact that’s part of the rocker is way back on the board. Once you’re planing, you try to reduce the amount of board in the water and so I step back and I stand 10 inches, I mean I stand on the rudder post(0:23.13.7) on the back.
Evan Leong: You mean the little spindle thing? You’re standing there? (0:23:21.4)
Mark Raaphorst: If you’re plaining, you want to get rid of the board. You want to stand back there.
Evan Leong: All the way to the tail?
Mark Raaphorst: Yes. When you understand plaining, it’s like the under (0:23:33.7) surface is your enemy. But when you’re displacing, when you’re going slow, you want the water line because that will give your board speed so you try to do two things: try to get into the bump and as soon as you’re on the bump you step way back and the F16 will ride like a longboard. It will steer like when you lean on your left rail it will go left especially when you stand that far back. (0:24:01.1)
Evan Leong: When you’re catching the bumps are you standing where the rudder is at in using it or you still standing a little bit back? (0:24:07.0)
Mark Raaphorst: When you’re catching, I’m using my rudder (0:24:11.0). Once you got it, you step back.
Evan Leong: You stand back three-four steps then at least.
Mark Raaphorst: Yes.
Evan Leong: You’re way back.
Mark Raaphorst: Way back. And if the wave _______(0:24:29.1) us out again and you’re trying to connect, I’ll try to stand forward again and one foot on the rudder (0:24:33.4), try to keep the board flat and use the rudder to find another connecting swell (0:24:40.6). So I will do a surface stand with my left foot on the rudder and my right foot pretty far back but still the surface stands ( 0:24:48.3)
Evan Leong: That part I can feel it too but it’s just the right foot stands (0:24:53.5) for me and a little bit (0:24:55.5)
Mark Raaphorst: I agree.
Evan Leong: You know when you plumb it for a duo (0:25:00.3) is it real easy to move it back and forth like you one day you want you friend to ride it on regular, or you just switch it takes like a couple of hours to switch it out.
Mark Raaphorst: No. It takes 10 minutes at least. The cable housing on the foot pedal part is all open so that just takes back and forth but you do need to adjust the stringer? (0:25:27.6) of the rudder.
Evan Leong: And the tension also.
Mark Raaphorst: Yes. But the new ones the tension is the easy part and the new steering adjustment is turned on the white plastic. I made it a little easier to straighten the rudder. (0:25:45.3) The old system had two turn xxxx? (0:25:50.1) So that was the way to adjust and tighten the cables, but now the tightening is done by one turn buckle and a turn knob and you can adjust the straightness of the rudder with that one (0:26:07.05) otherwise you don’t have to see it, on the website there’s a picture of it.
Evan Leong: I saw it. Plus I see some newer ones too.
Mark Raaphorst: We’re trying to come up with Maliko type series 4-5 races. And we’re also trying to grow the Maui to Molokai stand up race for stand up guys only not to ride on the tail end of outrigger canoes and we’re a little tired of the Kaiwi Channel, lay-down paddle board guys getting so much media attention. (0:26:38.)
Evan Leong: Do you normally have a slow period like winter time or are you always busy.
Mark Raaphorst: I thought I did, last year I worried that after the Kaiwi, F-16’s were slowing down. It slowed down for a month or so and people still wanted boards, it’s Hawaii you can paddle all the time. Right now I’ve got live 3 F-16 orders and I got a four man (0:27:00.0) order and then I got a bunch of 12 footers to build, the KuNalu and I’m in the middle of deciding what shape I would choose for the 14′ to build a plug for the mold. I’d love to hear from different manufacturers too what they gonna consider as stock, I mean, not just the manufacturers but also the organizers because it’s a bit of frustrating, and the last three contests with three categories and for the customers, it doesn’t help either, some guys they have a 12-6 board and they’re stock and they are not stock, I would like to shoot at 14 foot shoot (0:27:44.6) stock board and then anything over 14 is open. Or anytime you have a rudder you’re an open class too. (0:27:54.6)
Evan Leong: Is it possible to change the drain plug on the back to like a screw in type?
Mark Raaphorst: Not really. What happens with the screw in type is you’ll always have always had a little puddle of water. I have a love-hate relationship with those rubber plugs, because if you fall on it, you take it out and even your leash (0:28:12.6) you take it out, but it’s really the only way that I know of that you can get all the water out of the board if you strike a leak. Because every time you put an insert in there, then you’ll always have a little puddle of water. Because the insert is penetrating into the board and what some people do is put a piece of duct tape over it.
Evan Leong: I’m getting into this downwinder thing, I was full of surf and I never thought I would do endurance but I’m dropping weight doing this.
Mark Raaphorst: Yes, it’s exhausting.
Even Leong: I’m shedding a lot of weight and I’m burning calories that I don’t normally do because when I surf, I kinda sit down a lot too because I’m just lazy (0:29:05.7)
Mark Raaphorst: I think that’s gonna create a huge growth factor in the whole downwind sport. It is a fun exercise too, it’s pretty you’re on the water, you’re core? (0:29:22.3) get a strenuous workout so it beats any kind of machinery or gym exercise out there because you’re having fun and you’re not bothering anybody in any surf, safety is a bit of a concern and people aught to know about what the ocean can and cannot do and what they can do with it. But the exercise part is just great and you’re not crowding any surf spot. I can see it growing even more than surfing and stand up surfing (0:29.57.4)
Evan Leong: I think so. Because if it not at least chest high waves and decent conditions I don’t wanna go. I will just go the downwind, because at least you can wind. (0:30:06.7) If I do a decent tide (0:30:08.7) just to make it 9 miles or whatever from where I am, I can even go 5 miles before, without sitting, then you feel good, you burn calories.
Mark Raaphorst: Yes.