I’ve been doing a lot of distance and downwind paddling lately and got a chance to ask Todd Bradley, a champion paddler, for his insights. This is a video that I’ve watched over and over already.
Evan Leong: You’re one of the premier outrigger paddlers right? And you’ve been doing a lot of these downwinders. For us who are starting off with these downwinders, what kind of paddles, and are the paddles stroke the same as the one’s when we we’re surfing? (0:00:12.4)
Todd Bradley: Same.
Evan Leong: Or is it different?
Todd Bradley: Same. Again you’re in a planing hull. You’re trying to get this board to plane across the water and the minute you start throwing too much body into it you start compressing the hull and the hull is not going to ride this little chop. Your idea of what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to look for those little chops to surf them and the minute you start compressing or throwing your body, or throwing over the top hand and coming over the blade a little bit too much, you start compressing the hull (0:00:40.4) and the board’s not going to plane across the water. You’ve probably seen guys out there, I’m sure you’ve seen them go by you or in front of you that look like they’re hardly working and they’re just moving. And that’s because they’re very efficient. All they’re doing is keeping that hull plane in there catching every little thing that comes through.(0:01:00.2)
Evan Leong: So when you’re catching the initial bump, you know the first bump before you connect, do you want the nose to be dropping down or no? (0:0:07.5)
Todd Bradley: The nose will always be dropping down at that point. But you never want to ride up the back at the wave. Because what happens is like with some of the boards that I ride they’re faster than the bump. So if you paddle too fast, all you do is ride back to bump and slow yourself down. So it’s all about timing and putting yourself in the bump and following it. That’s why I said to you, it looks like they’re hardly doing anything (0:02:35.7) and that’s because what they’re doing is being efficient, they’re letting the board get in the bump and they’re staying in the bump. (0:02:41.3) If you keep paddling at the back of the bump all you got to do is slow down again. (0:01:43.6)
Evan Leong: So do you always want to stay in that trough area? (0:01:49.0)
Todd Bradley: No, I always try to stay in the trough and a lot of times, staying in the trough is not paddling. Don’t continue to paddle when you’re in the trough, you should just stop paddling because you’re in the trough. And if you keep paddling, you’re going to go at the back of it. (0:02:04.0) The other thing that people don’t realize is once you catch a wave on a little bump, on a very lively board, that putting your blade through the water actually slows you down more than it does speed you up and that’s because you’re traveling over the water faster than you can pull the blade through the water, so you’re actually slowing yourself down. You’re better off not paddling and letting the board do its thing and resting, than you are paddling. (0:02:36.2)
Evan Leong: When do you actually punch through the next trough in front of you? (0:02:41.8)
Todd Bradley: You never punch through the next trough in front of you. You’re always waiting for the next trough to form in front of you. What happens in the open ocean situation if you have the ocean flat (like this), these are wind swells, so they build up and they fall down, so what we’re trying to do is when one builds up, you’re going to ride down on it. It’s going to fall down and a new one’s going to from in front of it. So if you stay on the back side of the first one over here as you ride down on it, the new ones forms in front of it and then it flattens out and the new one pushes over like that and you continue to drive down it (0:03:20.4). That’s the problem, everybody thinks you want to drive over the next one, no; you wait for the next one. The next one will happen in front of you. It all happens in front of you, not behind you. (0:03:30.1)
Evan Leong: When you teach beginners, what are the biggest mistakes the beginners make? (0:03:34.9)
Todd Bradley: They paddle too hard. They’re not efficient, they’re throwing too much body in it, you have to relax, and you have to let the board do what it wants to do. It’s different when you try to downhill run a surfboard. It’s not designed for that, but if you’re using a downhill special racer board or any of our boards, they’re specifically designed to go fast efficiently, not paddle. (0:04:08.5)
When we test our demo boards we’re not out there seeing how hard we can paddle and how fast we can go. What we look for is how the least amount we can paddle and how fast it will go. So we put ourselves on a track of say, paddling at 75%, with 4 prototypes that we have laid out there (0:04:28.1). Everybody sets our heart rate monitors for 75% efficiency. We’re all paddling at 75% efficiency which is do-able and you’re not over straining yourself. And we see where the boards end up after 15 minutes, we all swap boards, we go in the 75% efficiency again based on our heart rate monitors and we see where the boards end up. (0:04:52.7)
Now, we’re not looking to see who the strongest paddler is; we’re looking to find out what is the most efficient hull through the water. Because when you’re in the long distance endurance race you’re not going to be able to hold that pace. You have to conserve and you have to have a hull that goes right. It’s like a race car driver or a bike. It’s all about efficiency; it’s that wheel spinning smoothly. (0:05:22.1)
Evan Leong: What are you doing when its light winds and low bumps?
Todd Bradley: If it’s light winds and low bumps it’s even more important to be efficient. You can hide when it’s really big because the waves will pick you up regardless. But when it gets really small, it’s where you’ll really see the technique of the good guys come out. Because they’ll all be able to come out to ride bumps this big. And it’s all about that efficiency again. If the board is designed the way we try to design boards is design them in small bumps. (0:5:54.8)
Little bumps that is super lively. We have a thing called “maximum velocity” of a hull. That means, the hull may pick up a wave really easy, but as it starts to speed up, you may feel it starts to slow down a bit. That’s because the bottom is too flat and there’s too much surface area, maybe it’s got to much rocker, maybe the tail’s not releasing properly, the nose is not entering properly, (0:06:27.4) though it feels like it goes from 0 to 8 miles an hour, really quick. As you start to go fast it tends to be counter productive against itself because the friction of the board, the rails, all of the things start to play an effect as you go faster. (0:06:42.3)
Very similar to race cars or speed cars. You can put all the power in the world into it but once you hit the maximum velocity, that motor is create, you’re going to work harder to take it to the next level. Because the hull is starting to have too much friction with the speed, it’s really important that you have a hull that doesn’t have a maximum velocity. The faster you go, the faster it wants to go. It never pushes back on you, that’s really important. (0:7:15.7)