Sometimes a problem needs a bit of innovation to get a solution. SUPboarder contributor Dr Bryce Dyer needed to find a way to train for his SUP racing when he couldn’t get on the water. And taking some inspiration from rowing he built his very own SUP Ergo Trainer. Read on to find out how he made it for less than £50…
In all sports, training specificity is important. If you’re going to race anything like a boat, a bike or a board, there really is no substitute for getting out in the right environment to get a high quality training session in. However, many of us are busy with other aspects of our lives and these can vary from having a demanding job, a young family or being far from the water. With this in mind, if you look at several other endurance sports, there is often a provision made for some form of indoor training that you can do in the relative convenience of your own home. If you run, you can use a treadmill. If you cycle, you can use a turbo trainer. For the SUP paddler though, there isn’t much that’s affordable on the market to allow you to do the same. Many instead often resort to the rowing ergo as the next best thing.
Much of my current emphasis is in competitive cycling so I often find it impractical to be able to get on the water any more than once or twice a week on my SUP. However, I felt that if I could have something available at home, I might be able to squeeze in another shorter session or two per week. To do this, I set myself the task of building my own SUP ergo. As it turns out, I put the whole thing together for less than £50 via EBay and a bit of graft in the family shed. As per the usual disclaimers, if you wish to undertake a project like this, make sure you have the right tools and a safe environment to do any work. If in doubt, don’t.
Sourcing the Parts.
To start with, you need some form of resistance unit to form the basis of the SUP ergo. I decided that a rowing ergo would form the best platform to then modify as they are readily available second-hand on sites such EBay or Gumtree. However, rowing as an activity uses more of the larger upper body muscle groups simultaneously so these ergometers typically have too much resistance for a SUP paddling movement. If you obtain one of these, you’ll need to find some way to depower it.
The resistance units in ergometers typically come in one of three types. These are fan-based, fluid-based or magnetic-based resistance units. Fans are generally the noisiest (worth thinking about if you have neighbours), fluid systems are sealed units and difficult to modify and magnetic-based systems typically involve a series of internal magnets that are positioned close to a metal flywheel (whose attraction then provides a level of resistance). For this project, I opted for a magnetic unit.
I actually managed to find a brand new rowing ergometer online that was being sold very cheaply on EBay as several of its main parts were missing. The first thing I did was to remove any parts from it that were not needed. So, parts like the rowing foot rests were removed, the cable actuated resistance unit was torn out, the rowing handle was unclipped and the sliding seat was discarded.
After this, the next job was to work out the basic geometry and footprint of the SUP ergo for when you use it. The first thing was to create the ‘paddle’. For this, I found an offcut of round aluminium tube which I trimmed to length by performing the SUP paddling motion and videoing it on my iPad to review it. You need to be able to perform the full stroke action (including the typical bend at the waist) without hitting the floor. I then review the footage, cut a bit off the tube and then repeated this process until I was happy. Once this was done I then used a spare SUP ‘T bar’ handle that I had kicking around at home. You could instead use a rod drilled to fit through or mount a ball on the end. I bonded the T bar into the round tube using epoxy resin and let it set. Once it dried I drilled a hole in the other end of the paddle so I could attach a karabiner I had lying around in my spares box from my old sailing days. This then clipped into where the rowing handle was attached.
The big issue is that because a user sits on a rowing ergo it can’t move around. However, by removing the sliding seat on this rig meant this needed to be replaced with some other way for it to be anchored down. I measured the slot hole that the rowing sliding seat section slid into and bought a cheap length of aluminium box section of the same size (again from EBay) that (having been measured and drilled) would then be bolted into the old sliding seats mounting position. This box section would then be stood on when in use thereby anchoring the ergo down. The length of this was set when I was experimenting with the paddle length (and then marking the ground using tape). I actually want to weld a proper footplate on the end of the box section when I get the chance which would be a neater solution, but I haven’t got round to it yet.