Our Race Dr Bryce Dyer is back with some great race observations from the 2018 SUP race season. By observing race and market race trends you can learn lots and adapt for future races, helping to ensure you’re not left at the back of the pack! Whether it’s to do with board and kit choices or the latest techniques, Bryce has some very interesting observations over the last year.
Drafting?? …What do you mean drafting? It’s a question asked by many novice paddlers at race events around the world. Most paddlers think of it as a technical racing term, but it’s not just for racers. Our race doctor Bryce Dyer gets his paddle ducks out to explain how drafting works and how best to use it. From top racers to every day paddlers, everybody can benefit from drafting. Give it a go!
The new SUP race season is almost upon us. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first time racer it’s always good to get some tips from the top to help you get the most out of your board and SUP race. Dr Bryce Dyer shares some top pre race season tips, so you get the best start before you even reach the start line!
For the fourth season in a row, Naish put out the call for 10 lucky paddlers to apply and be part of the Naish N1sco UK Team for this race season. The selected paddlers were given a board to race on in the popular one-design SUP class. These paddlers were: Victoire Binchet, Simon Day, Amy Dunmore, Mark Edwards, Elaine Farquharson, Max Jones, Ben Julian, Anna Little, Stuart Nisbett and Sarah Perkins.
As the sun will soon be setting on the 2017 UK race season, Naish went back to those paddlers to get their views on SUP, what they learned and ask how they felt about the sport…
So, how did your race season go ?
Victoire: It was lots of fun! When I set out to do it, I said I wanted to meet nice people and feel like I was improving with each race. On both counts it’s been a success. People are really nice and welcoming, and everyone is happy to share tips on the day on how to handle the conditions or how to hold your paddle for a sprint vs. longer distance. There are also lots of sub-categories for podiums which I have found really nice and inclusive (for example you get different age groups, and some races do male and female rookie of the race when it’s your first race with them).
Simon: It’s been an awesome season, not because I’ve been particularly successful but because it’s been an amazing experience. From tiptoeing around the courses in my first races at Emsworth, to getting stuck in with close racing and the all too occasional dunk in the water as my confidence and fitness has grown. It’s been brilliant to watch and chat to fellow competitors picking up help and tips as I’ve gone.
Mark: Really great (although the start was a bit dodgy!).
Elaine: Fabulous, I joined a community of friends, shared some great adventures and developed lots of new skills on the water.
Max: Amazing, I have had a great introduction into SUP Racing. I have 2 races left and I will give it my all in these last 2 as I am currently joint 2nd in the N1SCO division with UK SUP. I am gutted this season is already coming to a close but will work hard through the winter ready for next year.
Ben: Racing was always the next step for me and being part of N1SCO made it happen. It’s been a fantastic, action packed year. I was unsure what to expect at first but with the stunning locations and awesome people I soon realised this was going to be a good year. I hadn’t done much training so it was nice to see if could still be competitive and with paddlers with all abilities there was always someone to race against. Finishing mid table is great and I now have my winter training programme sorted ready for next year.
Anna: I have had such a fantastic year racing. I have loved meeting great people, loved training and quite enjoyed getting a few medals! Over all it’s been a great 1st year of racing. This is just the start for me, I hope to continue to race.
Stuart: My racing results have improved steadily. I have been training on the board at every opportunity.
Sarah: It’s still ongoing, but so far I’ve enjoyed travelling to lots of different locations, making new friends, and recently I was lucky enough to join the Welsh team as the distance racer at the ISA world SUP championships in Denmark in early September. I won’t forget four laps around Copenhagen Opera house screamed on by fellow Welsh SUP’ers for a long time.
Amy: Really well. Loved every minute and even got a few medals along the way.
What was the biggest lesson you learnt ?
Victoire: Throughout the season I learnt to just enjoy myself and not focus on the rankings. There is a part of me that can get quite competitive but with stand-up paddle boarding (as opposed to other sports I used to take part in) I wanted to make sure I was first and foremost having a good time, regardless of whether I came near the top or last. I am glad to have managed that, and it’s been awesome to be involved in races alongside some amazing male and female athletes and learn from them along the way.
Simon: I didn’t think SUP racing was ever going to be for me and I didn’t think I’d ever really embrace it but N1SCO has really opened my eyes. Although competitive, it has been so much fun and everyone is so nice. There can’t be many sports where fellow competitors give you genuinely helpful advice leading up to a race, during and following it. So my lesson is I should have done it sooner.
Mark: Drafting, just chase the person in front and draft if you can, don’t worry about how many kilometres you have left (because that plays on your mind) – just chase the draft!
Elaine: Taking part really does count and I’ll never be scared to embrace new challenges after this. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose but it does matter to get off that sofa and throw yourself in to living life.
Max: My biggest lesson aside all the techniques and tactics was to always have fun. Despite the weather conditions, type of event or location, always remember to enjoy it and have fun.
Ben: You don’t have to be an elite paddle to race!!! N1SCO racing makes SUP racing accessible to any paddler, ability etc… Everyone is so supportive and friendly making the events good fun and wanting more.
Anna: A good training programme gets good results.
Stuart: The more you train (and race) the better you’ll become. There is nothing like the racing to check your progress over a season. I’m still learning how to deal with so many paddlers so close at the start and the wake from their boards.
Sarah: Get a good start and know the course. At the ISA worlds in the technical racing the lead group of 10 girls went to the wrong buoy, which could have cost them their medals. Luckily for them a 2nd buoy had drifted meaning a restart was called.
Amy: That it’s good to watch other racers paddle techniques and to experiment with my own to see what works best for me.
What was the most useful skill you learnt ?
Victoire: I learnt lots about adapting to different weather conditions, which was really interesting! Back home I paddle on a canal so usually the water is calm and I am fairly sheltered from strong winds. But when you race in open water that can be a very different ball game – it was great to get tips about how to change your position on the board if it’s windy and how to paddle at a different angle to compensate for strong currents.
Simon: Drafting. I’ve done it in cycling and have seen it used to great effect in motor racing but until this year I hadn’t thought how using it in SUP and how working as a team doing it can really help you out in the longer paddles. It makes such a difference.
Mark: Drafting is great and kind of feels a bit like you are cheating but you’re not!
Elaine: Technical board skills – which has enabled me to enjoy rough water SUP handling in the most amazing places.
Max: Drafting and step back turns. Step back turns especially as they are useful, fun and look cool (except when you fall off)!
Ben: Paddling with other N1SCO paddlers [at the same time].
Anna: Improving my paddle technique. Having a few great lessons and learning from good feedback.
Stuart: After having the lesson with Casper at Swanage, the tips he gave to improve my stroke and trying different positions on the board (depending on the situation) was very helpful. When I fall back to bad habits, I try to remember what Casper was telling me.
Sarah: I’m not sure I’m there yet, but getting a nifty buoy turn sorted would be up there.
Amy: How to adapt my paddling style and position on the board according to the weather and conditions for each race. Also to stay hydrated!
Your favourite event of the year and why ?
Victoire: Very tough question! I enjoyed every event and have been amazed by the amount of work put in by the different organisers, a lot of whom are volunteers and do everything for us to be safe and have a great time. If I had to pick highlights I would say the N1SCO ‘Not So Inland’ Championship in Swanage, which was so much fun and was brilliantly organised and also the UK SUP race in Lake Bala for the amazingly beautiful site (and the fact I won female rookie of the race!).
Simon: This is a tough one but I would probably say the ‘Not So Inland’ championships at Swanage. Firstly until this year I’d never been to Swanage and have discovered a truly lovely part of the world, the locals were really nice and embraced the racing and the N1SCO vibe. Secondly the fact that it was an amazingly well organised event, even though it was supposed to be elsewhere and was moved at the last minute. It was all very light hearted and really quite entertaining but it also showed how open Alex [at Naish] has been to feedback and made the events the best possible for everyone. Lastly ‘Casper Steinfath’. How Alex arranged it is beyond me but to have Casper turn up, chat, paddle out with us and offer paddle clinics (which I jumped at) was amazing. The guy is a legend, a SUP World champion and such a truly nice and approachable person. The world needs more role models like Casper and to me sums up my experience of N1SCO this year, it’s a fantastic community of likeminded individuals.
Mark: Our second trip to Swanage was my favourite event. I was a few races into the season so had a bit of an idea of what was going on and really enjoyed the mass start – 80 of us racing around the 5 kilometre circuit. It was great fun and the weather was perfect with crystal clear water!
Elaine: Swanage N1SCO European Championships, the atmosphere and spirit of the event was world class. It was the biggest challenge as a newbie to complete the 10k in windy seas but it was the best feeling to come into the beach with new friends surrounded by paddlers who came back out on the water to cheer us in and then be greeted on shore, to all the cheering volunteers, racers and supporters. They made us feel like heroes, it’s such a wonderful community.
Max: UK SUP 10k endurance Cardiff. The reason I enjoyed this one most is because it ticked all the boxes – the weather was great, the location and course were awesome, I was feeling my fittest and I just felt a huge sense of accomplishment after finishing.
Ben: By far the Euros [in Swanage] – fantastic two day event. Loads of people from all over the world paddling together. Really sociable and friendly.
Anna: I loved Swanage. It was windy and a long way south but beautiful. I loved the 3 disciplines and enjoyed the challenge of the wind. It was nice being over 2 days as it seemed more relaxed. It was full of competitors and made the racing challenging. I loved all the events for different reasons though and am looking forward to more this year.
Stuart: My favourite event would be at Swanage due to the location, different sea and wind conditions and for the closeness of the racing.
Sarah: Competing at the ISA worlds in Copenhagen and traveling on to ‘Cold Hawaii’ (aka Klitmoller) to support the rest of the Welsh team was a fantastic experience. However, doing the Trent 100 as part of a Naish team was a great adventure.
Amy: The N1SCO European Championship in Swanage was an incredible weekend. It was great to paddle with so many people, the weather was gorgeous and the location was perfect. I also loved the Trent100. Such a good event and I will never forget the feeling of crossing the finishing line after paddling 100k!
If you could pass on any advice to a new paddler, what would you tell them ?
Victoire: Come and join the racing events, it’s not as scary as it sounds! People are friendly, and yes, while there are some amazing paddlers competing for the podium, there are also lots of people from different age groups and coming from all over the country who are just there to have a good time on the water. It’s also a nice way to pick up good tips about paddling technique or find out about nice places to go paddling on holiday. I’d add that you don’t need any prior training for any races up to 5-7k distance – I didn’t do any specific training this year and it was entirely manageable (I even managed a 10k in Cardiff….but would say that distance was a bit tough without training).
Simon: Just give it a go, N1SCO has the friendliest bunch of competitors I’ve encountered in any of the sports I’ve competed in. If you have questions just ask your fellow competitors. I’ve made some great friends this year and hope to continue catching up and racing with them again in the future.
Mark: Just give it a go it really is great fun. You really don’t need any race experience as long as you are happy standing on a board for between 30 mins-1hr, then you’ll be fine.
Elaine: Don’t be nervous or scared to have a go. Join the N1SCO community – you won’t regret it.
Max: Don’t hesitate – just go for it (after all, we all need to start somewhere). You will have a great experience, loads of fun, meet awesome people and gain loads of skills/experience at the same time.
Ben: Despite your ability, nerves or not knowing anyone…… get yourself to a N1SCO event!! They are really welcoming, supportive, your ability will grow without you knowing, people are friendly and at hand to answer any questions.
Anna: Research or get a lesson in good paddle technique that is efficient and won’t get you injured. It’s harder to correct bad habits than start with good habits.
Stuart: If I have learnt anything this season it is to get out there and enjoy the events. I’m looking forward to the future and the racing next year.
Sarah: Don’t wait for the sunny days! Get out in all types of conditions – except offshore winds, of course! If you get into racing the chances are you’ll have a windy, bumpy race one day and you’ll be ready for it.
Amy: Get out paddling as much as you can. Time and experience on the water helps so much in a race. But mostly just enjoy it!
Words : Bryce Dyer
So, if you haven’t yet taken part in a SUP race but fancy giving it a go next year, keep your eye out for the Naish N1SCO race events around the country. They’re the perfect place to get involved in some fun racing and you don’t even need to have your own board.
SUP triathlons… what’s involved, what do you need and how do you train for one? Experienced triathlete and passionate paddleboarder Bryce Dyer is not afraid of the wet and muddy stuff! And Bryce explains how despite having completed at a high sporting level himself, the new breed of triathlons, such as supbikerun are great fun for all ages and abilities, and accessible for anyone wanting to give them a go. So if you’re interested in doing something different with your SUP this summer read on…
A survivors beginners guide to SUP triathlons!
What is a triathlon? Well, in simple terms it’s generally always been seen as an endurance event that comprises three separate phases of swimming, biking and running that you undertake consecutively. It challenges a range of skills and abilities and depending on which bar story you believe, originated in France well over a century ago. Roll the clocks forward a bit and around 3-4 years ago, some bright spark decided it might be better if we all stayed a little drier for a change so switched out the swim for a SUP leg instead. As a result, the SUP triathlon was born and this new style of challenge is another variation for us to choose from in the rich tapestry of SUP paddling and racing.
Photo by – Sarahsavgephotography
Photo by – Sarahsavgephotography
Photo by – Sarahsavgephotography
My own voyage into triathlon started way back in 2002. In fact, it was helped along by someone very familiar from the UK SUP community as it was multiple national SUP champion (and then elite triathlete) Ryan James who took me out for my first hard bike ride. He rode, I blew and the rest of the story ends in a sugar crashed haze in a local Sainsbury’s. (Note: 12 years later, he did the same to me again when I bought my first SUP race board – I really should stop asking him).
When you read about its early accounts, triathlon was generally undertaken by those who just wanted to test their limits. Egos were rare, lycra even rarer and sports nutrition generally only went as far as a jam donut, some Jelly Babies and a wing and prayer. In many ways though, events like SUPbikerun are closer to triathlons original concept (and in particular, the Park Run or cycle sportif concept) than they are with contemporary swim bike run triathlons. It’s not a race, it’s a challenge. Instead, in the 4 SUP triathlons I’ve done, I’ve seen all shapes and sizes, all ages and backgrounds and a start time of your own choosing which has allowed me those ‘special’ moments to relieve yourself in the toilets with those pre-event nerves over and over again until you are ready to finally start and get on it.
So if you’re up for the challenge, what do you need? The reality is a board and paddle (although these can often be hired), a bike, and a pair of running shoes. That’s it. The type of board doesn’t matter. Sure, you’ll see clowns like me on some kind of high octane race board but we’re few in number. The majority have grabbed long or short, inflatable or rigid and made their way down to the water’s edge. As for the cycle leg (which comes second), a mountain bike is a good place to start – particularly if it’s an offroad event. The bikes are comfortable, durable and generally reliable. Suspension forks aren’t mandatory but it can smooth the ride and make your day a little more comfortable. You’ll need a helmet too. As for the run, a (broken in!) pair of running shoes that you’re willing to get muddy are fine.
The distances of such events vary from those that might take an hour or so upto something of four hours plus. That length isn’t to be underestimated (particularly as you’re going to burn through a lot more calories doing this than if you’d just gone for a long paddle). It’s good to stretch your limits but its sensible to go for a distance that you think you can achieve without the need for supplemental oxygen and a priest reading you your last rites for your first one.
With this in mind, how do you train for one? That’s a more complex question and would be based upon your background, your goals and your current level of fitness. We’ll save that one for another day. However, if you’re cautious, it is possible just to rock up and do one without doing too much specific training at all. In fact, for all 4 of my experiences I did no more running than a couple of short 20 minute runs the week before to make sure I wouldn’t suffer too much post-race soreness of my body betting on red (and likely coming up black) when dealing with the impact of gravity. For cycling, putting a few rides in of at least the race distance is as useful for checking the bikes reliability as it is for your confidence.
As things stand though, I’ve listed a few tips for you to think about that might help you through your first experience:
If it’s your first one, train to complete, not compete. These events are relaxed affairs and if you haven’t done any kind of triathlon or multisport event before, go into it with the target of wishing to get to the finish line. Push things too hard or put too much pressure on yourself to achieve an arbitrary time and you’ll possibly end up unnecessarily disappointed or unable to finish at all. Start conservatively – I don’t recall hearing anyone ever say they underpaced a triathlon. It’s an aerobic effort and you’d be working at an intensity that you could likely hold a strained conversation if needed. As far as everyone is concerned, it’s an adventure, not a race.
Joe Athlete is rare. Job Normal is the norm. When you arrive at your event you may well see the odd soul looking a tad serious or someone with equipment that makes yours look like something out of the dark ages. Don’t worry about it. That’s just as likely to be indicative of their wallet, not their actual ability. I like using good gear but in my first bike time trial a few years back, I was caught, dropped and then thrashed by someone riding a bike with panniers. I can guarantee that most people there are as nervous as you and are more Alistair Vauxhall driver then Alistair Brownlea. Don’t let your imagination work overtime.
Triathlon is one sport, not three. Try and look at the event as one continuous act of you in motion. The clock doesn’t stop when you do. As a result, it’s sometimes worth backing off in your stronger legs to save energy for your weaker ones. In addition, if you need to slow down, that’s fine – but keep moving forward. Walking is slower than running but it’s still covering the distance. There’s no shame in it and everyone making it to the end is equal.
Energy is like a bucket with a hole in it. This is an analogy I use a lot. No matter how much you eat or drink, your body can’t process it and store it at the rate you’ll likely be burning through it. By eating and drinking, you’re keeping that bucket fuller but in the end, it’s still going to run out. The key is delaying that point until you’re at the motorway services on the way home worrying about whether to have cheese with that Whopper than being halfway through the bike leg. As a result, use sports drinks, energy gels and soft bars throughout your race (and try these beforehand). Little and often. Use the transitions to neck a gel quickly and make sure that you have access to fluids on the bike (as this is the easiest place to get it on board).
Perform ‘brick’ workouts. In triathlon parlance, bricks are training sessions that bolt together two or more disciplines. In other words, going for a bike ride and then going for a run immediately after it. The key thing that novices don’t realise is that biking or running isn’t the same as biking and running. The blood has to move from some muscles to new ones and go from rolling along to then dealing with your body mass. For myself last year (at 6ft 3 and then pushing 15 stone), that’s no joke. I looked like an extra from the Walking Dead for 10 minutes at least. However, you can train to minimise this sensation. Doing a 20 minute bike ride and then running for 5-10 minutes off of it is a nice little session to drop in a few times before you do your first one to get used to the sensation of your legs not being physically available for a little while. Running off the bike is like leaving a pub after midnight on New Year’s but your legs will return….. eventually.
Transitions are free speed. As I mentioned earlier, the clock doesn’t stop so when you move from one discipline to another, this is known as ‘transition’. There are two of these in a triathlon T1 (board to bike) and T2 (bike to run). You might find you want to put a pair of socks on or get some fluid down you but try not to spend any more time here than you need to. If you do a quick search online you’ll see the faster people nearly always have the faster transitions. They get in, get sorted and then get going. Get what you need but don’t make a package holiday out of it.
Accept certain simple truths that somewhere along the line, your wheels may well come off…… but that’s ok (as so will everyone else’s). This is one of the biggest and most useful psychological techniques I’ve ever learnt in sport. There is a pretty good chance the race is going to prove mentally or physically challenging at some point. This is fine – if it wasn’t a challenge, what’s the point ? Take comfort in the fact everyone is going to go through this whether they are at the front or at the back of the field. Beyond the smiles, scowls or bravado, things will get challenging sooner or later. The greater the challenge, the greater the satisfaction (sounds like a T’ Shirt slogan). Trust me, you’ll be glad you did it at the end.
Dr Bryce Dyer competed in his age group for the GB team for years, won best rookie at the Quadrathlon World Championships and once had the ridiculous idea of doing an Ironman in shark infested waters in a silver wetsuit (thereby being blissfully ignorant that he was resembling a 6ft fishing lure). He now races SUP’s for Naish UK.
For more information about supbikerun events check out their website.
The next supbikerun event will be taking part at Clumber Park on 2nd-3rd Sept 2017. Don’t miss out.
Passionate SUP racer Dr Bryce Dyer is back, but this time sharing his top tips on how to gain more speed and up your overall performance throughout the long race season…
There comes a time as a season wears on that your gains in speed become increasingly limited, or you start to get some mental fatigue as a result of ‘train, race, repeat’. The reality is that it’s hard sometimes to keep on it, day after day, week after week and month after month. Even elite athletes in many sports may only intend to peak two or three times a year and their season length will be dictated by this. UK-based SUP racers on the other hand can have a long season. For example, many of the big events started early April and the UK SUP national series can often head into October. That’s 8 months and is long by any sports standards. It’s going to be tough to keep at your best for that long and the science says you shouldn’t if you want to be at your best when it matters. This all said, going fast on a SUP board isn’t just a case of paddling fast – it’s a symbiotic relationship between man and technology and is basically one big system. What does this mean to you ?
It means that you don’t need to focus just on paddling hard to get faster but an understanding that to get faster, you need to maximise the things moving you forwards and/or reduce the things slowing you down.
In my own research, I suggest an athlete’s success is based upon the management of ‘assistive and resistive factors’. So with all of this mind, here are 10 low cost, lo-fi options for you to pick up a little bit of speed for not a lot of effort…
Downsize the fin
Hydrodynamic drag being what it is, the less surface area or things you have moving around in the water, the faster you’ll go. I’m actually a fan of scaling the fin to the size and force output of the paddler but nonetheless, trying a fin that is a little smaller than what you currently have might make your board a little tippier but it might add some speed too. Read more about race fins with Bryce’s feature here : sup-technical-bryce-dyer-looks-sup-race-fins
Lose some lumber
This is a touchy subject for many of us (and one I personally avoided until I entered my 40’s). I’d spent 20 years relying on exercise as the sole basis to keeping my weight stable but as I age, our metabolism slows down and you become a true reflection of your lifestyle choices (read ‘sins’ !). The reality is that SUP paddling performance is influenced by a paddler’s power to weight. To move faster you can increase your power but this will be increasingly difficult to do the longer you are involved in a sport. Secondly, you can reduce your mass. This means you cut down the amount of energy you expend as you have to accelerate yourself every time you apply a stroke in the water. Taking a look at your diet in terms of its quality and quantity could shave more kilos than buying a new lighter board.
Get a computer or GPS with stroke data
There is an argument that suggests SUP racing is instinctive and that you don’t need technology governing your decision making, However, knowing aspects such as heart rate, current speed and stroke length can tell you a lot of what is going on with you or with the conditions. Consider races like this year’s Head of the Dart – At the race briefing we were instructed to always try and hold the centre of the river as this was both fastest and safest. This advice was born out when in the latter stages, a fast group that was behind me (comprising Team Starboard’s Ben Pye and Crispin Jones) took the shortest distance through one of the bends towards the end of the race. However, when I decided to start to move in to cover them, I noticed quickly on my GPS that my board speed was dropping fast and my stroke length drastically reduced – Put simply, I was moving out of the main river flow. Yes, I would have saved a few yards but the loss in speed wasn’t worth it. I opted to stay out where I was and increased my gap to them. Without that information, I wouldn’t have known.
Go with the unfamiliar
Sometimes racers can get locked in to a pecking order finishing order mentality. They finish in front and behind of the same people time after time as that’s what their brain tells them to expect and accept. Changing the race distance or style of racing or racing outside your normal region can allow you to make breakthroughs you wouldn’t get by doing the norm.
Sand the fin
Boards run aground or can strike objects in the water and this can take the odd nick or chunk out of a fin. Those imperfections will disrupt the water flow and as a result, will create drag and slow you down. Get some sand paper or emery cloth and a flat sanding block and spend a minute or two getting them out.
Clean the board
You may not have noticed but when you paddle on rivers, lakes and the sea, the board does pick up grime. This grime, (even if you can’t see it) can affect the skin drag of the board and again can slow you down. Hydrophobic coatings are used on some watercraft but you can get somewhere close to this by using washing up liquid or degreaser. There is also some social responsibility attached to this as cleaning your gear prevents bacteria and contamination being spread from place to place.
Eat for performance
To be honest, this is something I’ve been aware of for years but literally only implemented in the last couple of months. This is different to the weight management issue I mentioned in tip 2. Eating for performance involves eating the right stuff pre training/racing and doing the same after it. If you’re worried about your weight, this may seem counterintuitive but with a fired up metabolism and some sensible eating, I’ve personally found this lets me train harder, for longer and to recover faster. Keep that up for week after week and you this can allow you to do more and therefore get faster.
Develop functional strength
The jury is still out on this one for me but I do performance some strength work at the important times of my racing year. For example I train with ginormous paddles sometimes. The reason is to develop sports specific strength that I have found helps apply extra force when needed or to be flexible to adopting a wider range of stroke rates. Go easy with paddles though – they can be joint wreckers. However, there are alternatives such as towing tennis balls off the tail of the board. This will increase the boards drag substantially but means that you need to apply more force to the catch of your stroke to keep your momentum up.
Try different clothing
I’ve been known to wear the odd bit of lycra in a race since the second I started racing in the sport. I probably (and quite reasonably) looked ridiculous. The reason for this though is that aerodynamic drag can be a factor – even at the low speeds we experience (and particularly when you’re as tall as I am). Hit a headwind section and your body could be subjected to a breeze of around 20-30mph and that’s the same as a racing cyclist will see. Board shorts and t shirts are only a fashion statement. Plus, if you get wet, they’ll hold more water and for longer and that could add a kilo or two back on the board. I’m not saying run out and don the spandex but a bit of thought on what you wear can make a difference.
Practise aggressive starts and drafting
Learning to hop on the draft of a faster paddler can send you rocketing up the field in terms of position. Even if you tire and have to drop back sooner or later, you could gain yards that your competition may have to spend a vast proportion of their own race chasing back down.
Words – Dr Bryce Dyer.
So, before you go and splash out on a new faster looking race board, go back to basics and consider all of the above. These low cost, low-fi options may be just the solution to increase your speed, overall performance and position during this years race season.
After a successful seasons NISCO racing last year, Naish team rider Bryce Dyer shares his thoughts and what he has learnt about racing iSUPs and racing in general. With his science background it’s no surprise that Bryce still has his science cap on when racing! Well worth a read if you’re new to the racing scene or thinking about giving Naish NISCO racing a go this year…
Don’t leave yourself too far down a draft train in a N1SCO race when it nears its conclusion. It’s easier to overtake one board on a big push later on than to try and get past two. And (unlike cycling or motorsport) you’ll get no extra hydrodynamic draft by being further down the line. Due to their board design, Naish One’s require huge surges in power to get past another board and even if you do, the pass is often slow. I crunched a few numbers earlier this year that showed it could take 30-40 seconds to make a definitive pass at typical N1SCO race speeds…. and that’s a fair amount of time. Move yourself up well in advance.
The best drafting distance between two boards varies based on both board’s designs, the leading paddler’s technique and the average speed you’re both doing. However, if you can get close (and I mean 3-4 inches on a N1SCO at most), you’ll find these boards have a tendency to produce some degree of suction and a draft which will pull you along thereby reducing your energy expenditure dramatically behind the leading board. Fall back even as little as a metre and you’re pretty much getting no draft at all. It’s worth practising this in training with your friends.
Positioning is everything. It doesn’t make sense to cook your proverbial goose in the first 5 minutes of a race that is going to be an hour long. However, miss the packs and you’re going to have to do it all on your own and then be worse off anyway. A balanced and calculated approach is best. However, even if you feel you’re not a fast paddler, getting a good position early on can really boost the outcome of your race for nothing more than putting yourself in the right place at the right time. The N1SCO boards are inflatable and can handle a bit of bumping together so don’t be shy!
Think about your paddle. If you’re still using a heavy or cheap paddle, consider upgrading or trying something new. A heavy paddle takes more energy to move it, more to slow it down and ultimately wastes calories in your fuel tank that ultimately you’re going to need.
The strongest paddler doesn’t always win. If you’re the weaker paddler, it may well pay to gamble or bluff on tactics as the race wears on so don’t consign yourself to just following.
Know the course. Don’t assume that the fastest paddlers know where they are going. If I’d paid more attention at the Cardiff race briefing last year (and less on what I was going to order at the Chinese restaurant on the way home), I could have made a huge gain over the field rather than just the gain of kung po chicken!
Enjoy your racing. Whether you finished at the front or at the end, it’s equally hard for everyone so spend time swapping war stories. You’ll learn loads.
“Bloody good fun between a load of very competitive people who ended up becoming friends on and off the water. I do think the class is underestimated. It’s a very different animal to conventional hard board racing – N1SCO racing is tighter and far more tactical.” – Bryce Dyer
So whether you’re wanting to race for fun or to challenge your competitive streak it’s well worth thinking about the above to get the most from your racing experience. And with everyone on the same board at NISCO events, if you want to be the fastest across the line you’re going to have to think about more than just your board choice! Good luck this season.
To get involved with the Naish N1SCO one design racing this year check out N1SCO posts on SUPboarder or visit the N1SCO.co.uk website.
Naish UK team paddler Dr Bryce Dyer is back, with the 2nd part of his SUP training series providing some excellent training guidance to get you ready for that first race of the season. It’s not long until the race season kicks off, so if you’re interested in completing an 8 week training programme, don’t just think about it, do it!…
In the Part 1, we went through the principles of training and training philosophy and looked at the N1SCO sprint event. This time, I’ll go through the two other N1SCO events and then show you a training plan to help support them.
The other two events of a N1SCO event are a middle distance technical race and a long distance endurance event. These both require the ability to keep yourself going at the highest sustainable speed that you can manage. The middle distance technical race also has quite a few buoy turns too. However the large fleet will also mean that drafting, overtaking and a sprint finish may well all be on the cards. They are both aerobic events so provided you practise your buoy turns from time to time, new paddlers can pretty much train the same way for both of them.
To measure how hard you are working, you need to have a gauge to measure your efforts. Whereas I would typically prescribe my own exercise intensity in cycling or running based on my power output, SUP’s don’t have the ability to measure this yet. Instead, we need to resort to heart rate, stroke rate or pace. In this case you’re going to rely on either heart rate (if you have a heart rate monitor) or use what is known as Borg’s ‘rate of perceived exertion’ (RPE). Borgs RPE is a 1-10 scale (with 1 being little more than inhaling to 10 being ‘maximum effort – you’re about to implode – save me now’). Here’s a reproduction of the scale for you below. However, if you’re going to use a heart rate monitor instead, you’ll need to determine your lactate threshold heart rate (LTHR) with a short test before you start this programme. Whatever you do, please don’t use the old ‘220 minus your age’ to find your maximum heart rate as this is outdated thinking and rarely right. To find your LTHR, I recommend using a test proposed by well-known endurance coach Joe Friel who advocates a 30-minute time trial on your own. This test should be as hard as you can sustainably go for its full duration. However, 10 minutes into the test, click the ‘lap’ button on your heart rate monitor. When you’re done, look to see what your average heart rate was for the last 20 minutes. That number is a rough approximation of your LTHR.
So then, onto the plan itself. This is an 8 week plan that you can start a couple of months out from your chosen N1SCO event. Just to clarify how to read it – if the schedule says ‘15min warm up, 30 mins @ 90-94% LTHR (RPE 3-4)’, this means that you do a 15 minute gentle warm up paddling, then do 30 minutes in the at 90-94% of your lactate threshold heart rate. If you do not use a heart rate monitor, this is equivalent to a Borg scale 3-4 effort. Make sense ?
Click on the below image to enlarge…
…..and here are the key points to bear in mind:
The plan assumes you’ll be able to paddle three times a week and will ask you to have a full day off between each one.
The sessions are generally shorter than an hour to complete (but don’t skimp on the warm up and an easy paddle to cool down!).
If illness or life gets in the way, take the time out and just pick the plan up from where you left it once you are well.
Due to the limitations of your time, it has an emphasis on moderate to high levels of intensity.
The order of these sessions is important. The higher intensity session is first in your week and should have had a day or two off before it. Don’t mix this order up as you won’t get the best out of it.
The first 4 weeks have an emphasis on increasing your raw abilities you’ll need but the emphasis shifts in the last 4 weeks towards a greater level of event specificity. However, there is always progression!
I’ve put some suggested training days in for you but the key is to make sure that whatever you’re first day training actually is, give yourself a clear rest day before each next day’s paddling.
And there you have it, that’s the 8 week plan! Bear in mind that it’s not essential to train for a N1SCO event – it’s an inclusive and fun day out for anyone. However, sometimes it’s nice to have a bit extra in the tank. A day out at a N1SCO event should be (and is !) a fun experience for everyone there – irrespective if it’s your first ever race or if you’re a seasoned competitor. I hope to see you all there later in the year.
Words – Dr Bryce Dyer
So, even if you’re planning to take part in an event this year just for fun there’s no harm in doing a bit of training and getting your body paddle fit. You’ll probably enjoy it more and definitely ache less the next day!
Have you been thinking about taking part in your first SUP event this year or are you hoping to improve your results by doing a bit of training, but no idea where to begin? Fear not! Regular SUPboarder contributor and Naish UK team paddler Dr Bryce Dyer is back, with a two part series providing some excellent guidance to get you ready for that first race of the season. Over to Bryce…
SUP is unique when compared to a lot of other endurance sports. It’s a lot newer for a start but the paddlers themselves have often come into it from a wide range of backgrounds. Some are surfers, triathletes or fitness fanatics. Some however, don’t have any athletic background at all and purely got into it as something they saw, fancied a go and then later felt like trying a race. The problem is that SUP’s relative infancy often sees many training or paddling without a plan and there is a lack of specific information out there for those who would like to improve their results. Understanding what is needed can be confusing to some and more often than not, people are swayed by what their heroes and the race winners are doing (which isn’t always a great idea). As a result, I thought I’d give you a bit of a primer into stripping down the basic concepts and provide a bit of insight into how you can train for any particular SUP event – in this case, one of the Naish One Design (N1SCO) events.
As always from me, here are the disclosures – firstly, always check with your doctor or physician before starting a training programme. Secondly, this plan is aimed at SUP first timers and novices in particular. These are people who can currently handle upto an hour’s worth of physical exercise. Finally, I’m intentionally trying to keep this simple so that the sessions I’m prescribing are straightforward enough so that anyone with little more than a stopwatch (and a good gauge of how they feel) can undertake them. A lot of what I do myself would overcomplicate the needs of novices and whilst I personally like to have the deck of my boards and the handlebars of my bikes looking like the space shuttle, it’s a fair argument to say that many find any application of science distracting or off-putting. This is a stripped down, intentionally low-fi approach. Now we’ve covered all this, read on.
All right then, the cornerstones to any successful training plan for any kind of sporting event relies on four basic principles. These are:
In layman’s terms, specificity means that your training should be specific to the needs of the sport, its skills, physiology and distance. In other words, you don’t train for a 10 second sprint by doing a 3 hour paddle any more than I would train for a marathon by doing circuit classes. As for overload this means that the training session should provide some form of physical stress. This doesn’t mean you should be on your knees after every session but you should feel like you did something by the time you get back in your car. Recovery though is the key bit. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t get fitter or faster by training. Instead, you actually get better in what happens after it. Put simply, you push your body’s engine or muscles and they come back stronger or become more efficient. If you ditch the recovery, all you’re going to do is to get is tired, broken down or injured. I often see’s athletes enter a downward spiral whereby they don’t improve so they feel the best resolution is to train even harder until eventually (depressed and despondent), they give up or (for the more stubborn), consistently underperform. The reality is often that they either needed to do a little less or just frankly needed a little more rest. The irony of all of this is that the fitter you get, the more you can handle. I personally have a training load now that I would not have been able to handle 4 or 5 years ago but it’s taken me years to build upto it. However, I know that I can personally sometimes be a slave to the numbers but the reality is you need to listen to your body. The final point is that any training plan requires progression. Your body will get used to what you’re throwing at it so if you don’t keep applying some form of change to your plan, you’re going to get used to it and the improvements will stop. How do we do this ? The reality is that to progress your sessions an athlete should:
Increase the power
Reduce the recovery
Increase the duration
Increasing the power is great but in my experience this is a short term strategy. In SUP, Power is the result of the force at the blade and the stroke rate you are paddling at. One affects the other and if you go too wild, your efficiency can degrade (meaning you’re working hard but not getting the power out as well as you could). In addition, mentally you can’t push past your limits week after week, time after time [it’s why I’m not a huge fan of the fashionable ‘get fit in 7 minutes’ or going to a metafit class – their gains rely entirely on being able to work hard, week after week and it’s not mentally or physically sustainable]. It’s a big ask. If paddlers do the same thing, week in, week out, it’s never going to see them progress past a certain point.
Reducing the recovery though is a useful technique if you’re trying to build up to sustaining a larger block of work at a given speed by doing shorter intervals. It’s particularly good if you’re looking to complete a longer distance event for the first time but it’s not great for increasing your training load. Load is the raw amount of training you’re doing (and is a combination of the impact of the time you accumulate training and the intensity you’re doing it at). Increasing your load progressively (but carefully) is what makes you fitter and faster.
Finally, you can look to increasing your exercise duration. This is great for continuing to increase your training load and improving your aerobic fitness. The problem is that many people have to juggle families, work and other responsibilities so it’s not without a realistic ceiling. For example, I know Olympic track cycling pursuiters who will build up to 4 hour training sessions – despite competing in an event that only lasts 3-4 minutes. The truth is that they are trying to get their aerobic engine as good as they can get it (and have the time to do it). However, I also know of plenty of amateurs who can get 95% of the way there but don’t train any longer than an hour. At the end of the day, its diminishing returns past a certain point and it comes down to your motivation to find that last few percent. On that subject, be aware that pros are pro’s for a reason. The main reason that they are better than we are is often that they have good genetics and work extremely hard….. but also that they can take (and recover from) the training load. Too many athletes try to copy them and end up overtrained or injured. You should train in a way that allows you personally to progress, recover and improve (rinse and repeat !). Doing what a Ryan James or a Jo Hamilton-Vale does – merely because they consistently win races in the UK, is physiological suicide for your average paddler. Those guys spent many years getting to where they are and it’s by no means an accident (as famed exercise physiologist Dr Andrew Coggan once told me, ‘there are no miracles in racing’). Irrespective of who it is, if a paddlers training plan isn’t incorporating these fundamental aspects, they’re not training – they’re just paddling and their improvements will stagnate within a month or two. Doing the same programme, week in, week out won’t help you.
So then, knowing all of this, how can we apply these principles to a sporting event ? Well, for the sake of this article, I’ve chosen a N1SCO SUP racing event and created a short 8 week plan to get a novice paddler physically ready for it. In 2017, there will be three N1SCO events in the UK. These use the Naish One as a one-design format of racing. Everyone has the same board design so the result won’t be influenced by the chequebook. What also makes the event unique to anything else is that each event involves the paddler getting their final placing based upon their accumulated score from 3 separate races held during the day – a short sprint over about 80 metres, a technical race lasting about 15 minutes and a long distance race over 2-3 miles. Each event requires slightly different skills and physiology.
For the final bit of part one, let’s take a quick look at the sprint event first. Once any event gets longer than 35-40 seconds in length, your physiology is being powered entirely by your aerobic system – so that’s where most of your workouts need to be focused on in your training. However, in the sprint, it’s made up of a short effort that relies more on your ability to get upto speed fast through an application of raw power (through the combination of high levels of applied muscle force and stroke rate) and then manage the lactic acid build up as best it can until you complete the event. Take a look of a graph of the speed of a paddler in a typical N1SCO sprint below.
The speed is shown with the blue line. If you look, the paddler gets upto speed as quickly as possible, slows down (as they have to do a single buoy turn) and then accelerates again to get back to the finish line. That’s an event that lasted roughly 50 seconds and had two maximum effort sprints in it (just so as you know, the red line was the heart rate). Heart rate is all but useless in short events as it lags behind any increase in your power output or speed. By the way, this graph also shows how you how you can improve your performance. If you look carefully at the graph, the incline of the line to get upto speed is your acceleration. As a result, improve your power and speed at the start and the time to complete the event will be reduced. Likewise, if you improve your 180 degree buoy turn, you’ll shave huge chunks off your time. You might also have to sprint in a series of qualification heats so you’ll have to recover and then go again. This is a very different prospect to the two other events and requires very different training for it.
In the second part of this article, I’ll go through the other two events and then show you a full training plan to show you how to prepare better for the whole challenge.
Words – Dr Bryce Dyer
So look out for Bryce’s next article in afew weeks time to find out how you can get ready for the 2017 race season. The Naish One Design Series (NISCO) is a great place to start if you’re new to the race scene or after some fun, action packed racing.
There are many different types of SUP race fins designed for different uses (long straight courses or multiple buoy courses) but they are all designed with something in common… to be fast! Most new boards come with a fin, but does that necessarily mean it’s the best fin for you?
Regular SUPboarder contributer and tester Dr Bryce Dyer gets technical once again, but this time with fins. Do they really make a difference? If so what impact do they have on our paddling? And, should we be thinking about our fin choice as much as our board choice?
Fin Testing 101: What’s in a fin ?
A few months back I wanted to see if it were possible to test SUP equipment so that paddlers could rely on something other than guesswork when seeing how they could get faster. I successfully started out evaluating boards first and then I looked at increasingly smaller changes in equipment to see if I could still pick up any differences when field testing. As a result, in this last part of my SUP equipment testing trilogy, I have attempted to test the smallest piece of equipment change you can make of all – the fin. After all, a fin is considerably cheaper than buying a new board. I’ve now had a go myself by testing 7 well known SUP race fins with everything from the very cheap to the expensive and from the very small to the gigantic. The aim though isn’t to say what fin is best per se’ but instead to determine whether I could see a reliable difference between them and to determine their effectiveness.
First things first, let me disclose any potential conflicts of interest I could have. The Black Project fins were kindly donated by Black Project themselves. Likewise the Makani fin was donated by Ed Sinofsky Ph.D. All the other fins were purchased by myself. Whilst I do have some sponsors this year, none of these are fin related. I performed the tests using a SUP Speedcoach GPS device which was kindly donated to me by Nielsen-Kellerman. I also used a Garmin 910XT as a back-up (and to act as a form of data comparison).
The Tested Fins: Black Project Maliko, Black Project Tiger, Futures Plastic Keel, Futures JB Runner, Makani, Starboard stock fin and (an intentionally) rather cheap basic surfing fin from eBay. The test board was a 26.5 width, 14ft long allwater carbon race board
The limitations of these tests: Fin choice will be dictated primarily by your boards design and your current level of ability. For example, if your boards’ underside varies in shape, it’s entirely possible that a fin would perform slightly differently between them. Likewise, if you are new to the sport, you may find some of the smaller fins are too small to remain stable and this would affect your results. Ultimately, the best fin to choose is the best one paired to the board and its paddler.
Taking what I’ve learnt from when testing boards and paddles, I performed two separate tests of the fins. My aim was to look at fin performance specifically from a flatwater racing point of view. Whilst aspects such as buoy rounding is important, that was outside the intended scope of my own racing interests and therefore of these tests. I wanted to evaluate straight-line speed only.
The environment used for the tests was a heavily sheltered inland reservoir with no currents. The tests were performed early in the morning when no wind was evident at all. The water was glassy and smooth in nature and no other craft or influencing factors were on the water as I tested. Both my paddle and board were marked with tape so I could get a consistent stance and paddling position with both my feet and hands. Test 1 was performed on two occasions (with the fin samples split in half but with two fins being used as controls on both occasions). Test 2 saw all the fins tested together. To give you an idea of the time required, test 1 required two 2 hour sessions and test 2 took another couple of hours. That’s 6 hours total testing time (and then the time on top of that for the analysis).
Test 1: 300m Race Pace Testing at 9kph.
It’s important that you test equipment at the pace that you would typically race at as this will see the board subjected to the conditions it would face in your own races. 9kph is my typical long distance race pace on water like this. I paddled at this speed over the same 300m straight line – changing sides with the paddle to hold the course. At the end of each run, I would paddle at a very light pace back to the start and then begin again. I completed 6-8 runs with each fin and these were randomised in test order. There is always a chance of the placebo effect affecting the results (and there is no way to blind test fins) so it’s important to do as many runs as you have time for and then look at how varied the data is.
The key metric that was then calculated afterwards to judge the results was the ‘Stroke Index’ (SI). This metric was based on the premise that it had been found that neither stroke length nor stroke-based accelerations correlated as a key performance indicator for canoe or kayak paddling. The problem with distance per stroke alone is that it will vary based on paddling speed and that the stroke length is typically longer at slower paddling speeds and shortens with increasingly faster ones. To address this, published research has used the SI in sports like swimming and rowing to provide a basis to compare athletes or crews against each other. To calculate your SI, you merely multiply your average speed in metres per second for a test run by its average distance per stroke in metres. If you’re wondering how to find out your average distance per stroke easily, just divide the length of your test run by the number of strokes you took to perform it. You’ll likely find that your distance per stroke is typically somewhere in the 3-4 metre range and the larger the SI score, the more effective and efficient your paddling is. I find it’s also essential to record the data variability and margin of error for all tests.
Test 2: Deceleration tests
These tests are performed by accelerating the board quickly until 10 kph is reached. Once this speed is achieved, the paddle is removed from the water and placed on the deck, upright in a vertical position, in line with my feet. The board will then slowly coast to a stop. In theory, the greater the level of hydrodynamic drag, the faster you’ll slow down. I’d used this test successfully before when comparing boards and obtained both consistent and reliable results. The target speed range was used as it is representative of my own racing and is easily repeatable many times. The advantage of this test is that it minimises any placebo effect as you’re not paddling at all when you glide so you’re basically putting Sir Isaac Newton in the driving seat instead.
In your raw data, if you look at the peak speed you obtain, deduct off your final speed and then divide the result by the time taken to slow down from one to the other, that’s your deceleration. The greater that is, the greater the hydrodynamic drag is being created by the change in the fin. I personally convert kph to metres per second for this (and you can do this by dividing the kph speed by 3.6). I did 6-8 runs of every fin and they were randomised in their running order. I also tested the Starboard fin at the beginning (and again at the end) to act as a baseline and to ensure the test conditions did not change.
Here is the data showing the improvement in SI when compared to the Starboard fin I used as a baseline. The bigger the difference to the baseline, the better the fin.
In this, you can see that the eBay fin was no worse than the baseline fin. The other fins all started to show some measure of improvement. However, it’s important to also note the error bars (the white lines showing a + or – of the data I got) for each fin. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the top 3 fins overlap each other meaning that the Black Project Tiger performed the best but did not do so significantly over the Black Project Maliko and the Makani. [note: for the statisticians out there, I did test the significance and whilst these three fins as a group are significant and superior to all the other fins tested, these three are not from each other]. In real terms though, the next graph shows the percentage improvement in stroke index over the baseline.
So, you’re getting a stroke index improvement with the best fins by roughly a whopping 3-4%. That is arguably a huge increase in paddling efficiency – just by switching your fin out. Plus, since the speed was the intended control of the test, it’s likely that this gain is mainly attributed to a gain in the stroke length. If that’s true, that 3% would be a gain in stroke length of roughly 10cm per second (or about ~360 metres in distance per hour). Bear in mind that’s a rough approximation but that is the same margin I’ve tested before between two race boards of the same length and width.
By the way, the coefficient of variation (i.e. the variability of the data) was just 1% for each fin test. That’s as good (if not better) than you’ll see in many sports science lab tests. Bearing in mind this is from the more chaotic world of field testing, I’m very confident on the quality of the data I got.
Here is a graph showing the deceleration data from the Speedcoach of the 7 fins.
To keep things simple, I’ve left the vertical scale off. However, as you can see, the reality is that I couldn’t detect a clear difference in drag between any of the fins. When you look at the white error bars, there is such an overlap between all 7 fins, not one of them is statistically significant from each other. I got the same story when I looked at my back-up Garmin data. So, does this mean that when it comes to hydrodynamic drag alone that fin choice doesn’t matter ? Not necessarily. It may just mean that the differences are beyond the ability of this test or the equipment I use to measure it. It’s also worth noting that the variability of the data in these trials was ok but was much larger at around 6%…. which is still ok but odd bearing in mind the lack of need to do anything other than just stand still.
The equipment you use to do these tests is important. I found Garmin’s ok for test 1 (provided you have a cadence sensor) but the low sampling rate will increase the chances of poorer data. It’s worth using the best and highest sampling GPS unit you can find that will allow you to record your stroke rate. My Speedcoach was fine on test 1 but even that struggled with test 2. I’d have to say if you are testing between boards, fine – but if it’s with something as small as a fin, you’ll likely have to stick to test 1 alone.
So let’s answer the questions my tests set out to look at. Can field testing reliably pick up the differences between fins? The answer is yes. As a result, it’s possibly worth thinking about the fin you are currently using. As the cheap Bay purchase showed, don’t skimp and assume a fin is just a fin and save some pennies. It’s a false economy when it comes to performance.
The second question is: ‘is it worth upgrading ?’ The answer is yes….. if you choose wisely. However, when you look at the best fins in this study, the margin between them is now also increasingly marginal. Attempting to upgrade an already decent fin may well be a case of diminishing returns. It might then be worth judging them based on how they affect your stability. The big finding for me here is that good fin choice is free efficiency and therefore free straight-line speed. That’s a lot cheaper than blaming (and then replacing) your board.
The final question is: ‘what fin would I select ?’ The answer is any of the top 3 fins from test 1. However, I’d want to spend more time with the Tiger as I feel it had a tendency to not track as well as the other two meaning I had to swap sides more often (and that the swapping of sides more frequently could skew the data both positively or negatively). I may need to modify my stroke to get the best out of it. Swapping sides wastes energy in a distance race so I’d be inclined (in the meantime) to select either the Black Project Maliko or the Makani and I’ll likely retest all 3 to match the best one to any new race board I get in the future.
The key thing here is that the actual difference in drag I picked up here in test 2 here was so minimal between the fins, it’s not worth worrying about as a priority. Fundamentally, the impact of a fin on your stroke efficiency is more important than the raw hydrodynamic drag caused by it alone. Either way, it’s certainly worth now looking at your board in a different way – i.e. rather than just going for a narrower board, you could play with the fin instead. Fin and board have a symbiotic relationship with each other. For example, (whilst I didn’t see it here), it might be worth trimming inches off your fin rather than inches off your board width to get the best efficiency and speed for yourself. This is particularly important if you’re a larger paddler who needs board volume so can’t go to a narrower option but is still looking for a bit more speed. Ultimately, fin choice is relevant, has an impact and is well worth testing out ahead of next season.
Words : Dr Bryce Dyer
Dr Bryce Dyer is Head of Research in the Dpt of Design & Engineering at Bournemouth University and raced in the N1SCO class for Naish UK this season.
Thankyou Bryce for sharing some more fascinating research. Fins may be small and seen by many as just an accessory, but as you’ve clearly shown, they have a big impact on our paddling performance and therefore fin choice as well as board choice is an important deciding factor especially on race day!
To read more of Bryce’s top features on SUPboarder click here.
A SUP paddle is just a paddle right? Wrong! SUP paddles come in all shapes and sizes, and choosing the right one is just as important as choosing the right board, especially on race day. But how can you find out what race paddle is fastest for you? Regular SUPboarder contributor and testing guru Dr Bryce Dyer puts 3 paddles to the test and explains what other factors are important to consider when choosing the right race paddle for you…
Board Testing 101 – How to find out what race paddle is fastest for you
In a recent article on SUPboardermag, I provided some guidelines of how to test flatwater race boards and hopefully demonstrated that beyond the colour, hype or marketing, that board choice is an individual thing, the answer could have a real impact on your performance and that you can test this yourself. However, this is only one element of what dictates your speed. Another obvious factor is paddle choice. Paddles vary in shape, size, length and material so you might be asking if there is a real difference between these and could the right choice make you a faster paddler? The driver for this question for me was the recent Naish N1SCO one design national championships that had three different races of three different distances. I was wondering if one paddle could be more advantageous over another. The only way to find out was for me to develop more test protocols, run some experiments and then trawl through the data.
To run some paddle tests, I used a secluded reservoir with calm water, surrounded by trees and tested early in the morning to provide controlled conditions that were free from wind and currents. This test environment may not be representative of your races but it provides ‘clean’ conditions to then perform a statistical analysis to see how robust your testing protocol is. If these results are good, you can then expand or rerun the tests with more chaotic weather or water states to increase the level of specificity you might experience in your own types of races. However, there will come a point when the level of chaos in a test environment becomes too great and will lead to the data having too great a margin of error (e.g. data ‘noise’). Its best to start simple and work up from there. Here’s how I did it and anyone with some time and effort can achieve the same.
I’m a scientist by trade so its good professional policy to reveal up front any conflicts of interests that I may have before you judge my results. In this case I’m a brand ambassador for Quickblade (courtesy of The SUP Hut). Therefore this study was intentionally limited to using their paddles but I decided not to test ‘head to head’ against other brands so that any obvious brand bias on my part would be minimised. For this case study, I compared two popular racing paddles. These were the Quickblade Trifecta 86 and the V Drive 91. However, to act as an extreme comparison, I also tested the ‘Big Mama Kalama’. This is a shoulder shredding (and frankly a colossal spade shoveller) of 120sq centimetres of paddle blade fun – I really love it but it’s not for the faint hearted. All 3 paddles were the same total length (85 inches in my case). There is an argument though that the blades themselves vary in length so you could standardise paddles you test based on either shaft length or total length. Both methods would likely influence the results so this is a decision you’ll need to be aware of up front.
To perform the test you’ll need to record the following metrics when paddling your chosen race board. These are: time, distance, speed, average speed and stroke rate (Note: stroke rate is not always available on many GPS devices but you could technically count a fixed number of strokes in your head and then stop paddling to see in your data file where each run took place). I am supported by Nielsen Kellerman this year so I used their Speedcoach 2 GPS device to show my stroke rate in real time. You’ll need to use the same stretch (and direction) of water that is approximately 2-3 minutes long or around 300 metres in length. This kind of length has been used successfully in scientific literature before to detect the differences in paddle sport equipment changes. I finally record the weather from the nearest local weather station using a website like Wunderground after the tests to see how the weather might have changed while I tested or if I get different results in the future. I used the same board for all of the runs and my feet position was marked with tape to ensure board trim was standardised across the full battery of tests.
The key thing with any testing that I do is to perform as many test runs that time allows, calculate their margin of errors (I use standard deviation in Microsoft Excel for this) and to alternate (or randomise) the equipment you are testing to minimise the impact of changing weather. I performed two different tests with the three paddles and this took around 2 hours for me to complete. Remember that the results are unique to the paddler and the test environment they were performed at. The two tests I performed were as follows:
1) 300m Race Pace Testing at 9kph. 9kph is my typical long distance race pace on water like this. It’s important that you test equipment at the pace that you would typically compete at as this will see the board running as you’d see it in your races. I paddled over the same 300m straight line – changing sides with the paddle to hold the course. At the end of each run, I would paddle at a very light pace back to the start and then begin again. I completed 6-8 runs of each paddle (randomly alternating the paddles) and had to reject a couple of the final runs as the wind was rising in strength and started to affect the results.
There are two key metrics that were then calculated afterwards that formed the major part of determining the differences for me between the three paddles. The first was my ‘I/O ratio’. This is my average stroke rate per minute for a test run divided by its average speed in kilometres per hour. This normalises the small differences in either speed or stroke rate that you would likely see run to run and gives the ability to better directly compare them. The lower the ratio value, the more effective the paddling was. The second key metric I used was my recommended to me by Canadian C1 coach and Team Starboard athlete Larry Cain. This metric was based on the premise that it had been found that neither stroke length alone nor stroke-based accelerations correlated as a key performance indicator for canoe or kayak paddling. The problem with distance per stroke is that it will vary based on paddling speed and that the stroke length is typically longer at slower paddling speeds and shortens with increasingly faster ones. To address this, Cain proposes use of a ‘Stroke Effectiveness’ metric. I then searched some scientific journal databases and discovered that this concept has been used reliably in many scientific studies for over two decades in other water sports that involve human propulsion (such as swimming or rowing) and is known generally there as the ‘Stroke Index’ (SI). To calculate your SI, you merely multiply your average speed in metres per second for a test run by its average distance per stroke in metres. If you’re wondering how to find out your average distance per stroke easily, just divide the length of your test run by the number of strokes you took to perform it. You’ll likely find your distance per stroke is typically somewhere in the 3-4 metre range and the larger the SI score, the more effective and efficient your paddling is. This is how you’ll see what paddle is best for you.
2) 15 Stroke Sprint Paddling. This second test won’t likely be that useful for you but was designed for my specific needs of the very short sprint or punchy style of N1SCO races that I’m doing this year. I wanted to check how the board accelerates under controlled conditions using each paddle for a fixed number of strokes on one side. 15 strokes on my right hand side were then applied as hard and as quickly as possible to get the board to its highest possible speed. A short recovery between each sprint took place and I completed 6-8 runs using a randomised choice of paddle. Bear in mind that paddle choice won’t just be affected by what it does below the water but also above it. For example, the paddles overall weight, position of its centre of mass and blade size will influence your results due to the moment of inertia of the paddle (how hard it is to swing it through the air) and any aerodynamic drag created by the blade (being feathered and moved through the air to set up for the next stroke). In this test I was going to be looking at the maximum speed of the board obtained and then calculated my boards acceleration for each run (the increase in speed divided by the time it took to achieve it).
First, let’s look at the 9kph speed trials.
You’ll see in the table that each paddle performed distinctly differently from each other and my testing produced very low margins of error. In fact my data variability of each metric was typically only 1% which is as good as I typically see in sports science studies performed in a laboratory. Put simply, if you’re careful in your study design, you can get some great quality test data. As you’d expect from different blade sizes though, the stroke rate required to hold 9kph differed slightly between the three paddles.
I’ve taken this information and illustrated it in a graph for you below.
In this, the blue bars show the clear difference in the stroke index between each paddle and the white error bars are at the top of each blue bar showing the margins of error. As you’ll see, the Big Mama Kalama proved highly efficient and the Trifecta 86 proved the least efficient for me. The keen of eye might also notice that the margin of error is a little higher on the Trifecta 86 than the other two. This was due to the increasing wind strength that took place towards the end of my testing (that I mentioned earlier) so I abandoned testing after I’d got 6 runs from it as the results were getting increasingly unstable. Next, the yellow/red triangles on this graph show the I/O score for each paddle. Ideally then, you want to see the highest SI value you can get coupled with the lowest I/O score. Surprisingly, the Big Mama Kalama came out top here and was nearly 10% more effective than the V drive 91. The Trifecta 86 did not perform as well for me as the other two.
Now let’s look at the 15 stroke acceleration tests:
The Big Mama Kalama achieved the highest max speed but the results of both this and the V Drive 91 are within each other’s margin of error so could be assumed to be virtually the same. The Trifecta accelerated fractionally slower than the other two. You could argue that due to its smaller blade, it would need more than 15 strokes to get upto the same speed as the others but my data showed that it would have needed even more time to do it. This might seem odd but I suspect that it’s most likely that my technique using this design frankly degraded when trying to paddle so fast and so hard. Alternatively, the V Drive 91 has a very secure catch for its small size and reached its peak speed far faster than the other two so this would seem to be the best choice for me here.
Whilst you might think it odd that a huge blade like the Big Mama Kalama would do so well in both tests, there might be evidence in the literature why this is. In cycling for example, low crank cadences have been shown to demonstrate far higher physical economy and efficiencies than those performed at higher cadences. Does this mean then that I should be using the biggest blade I can ? – the answer to this has two important considerations first. The first is that my test runs were short in duration and that any physical fatigue was therefore low. However, take a paddle that large into a race over 10 miles and you might soon see a different story. If the blade is big and the cadence low, the muscular strain is going to be larger than a smaller blade and the research I mentioned before about cycling cadences supports this. The efficiency over short distances might not actually convert up into being sustainable over longer ones. However, the second key point is finding out whether it is possible through careful training and adaptation whether you could train yourself to use it over much longer periods of time. Using low key races and longer paddles should reveal the truth there.
Alternatively then, does this mean that the Trifecta 86 is a bad paddle choice for me? The answer is… possibly for sprinting… but then maybe not wholesale. I use that paddle for any race I do that is longer than about 90 minutes in length as its small size minimises my muscular fatigue and keeps me fresher during the final key stages of a race. There certainly has been a trend of late by pro paddlers to downsize their blade size. However, it does require a higher cadence to use it which will place a higher demand on your aerobic fitness (notably your VO2 max). In my own case, my technical skills in board paddling are – I would openly concede, quite poor but I do log a relatively high volume of weekly training compared to most and I have 20 years of consistent endurance training behind me. My raw fitness is likely to be relatively high. Put simply, this paddle is not as efficient for me but I train accordingly to deal with it. Where I would clearly benefit though is to direct some training time to improve the quality of my stroke phases when using it to increase my stroke index score. In your own case, you might not be a pro paddler or you might not be as fit as you’d like so following the trend and going for a small blade size might not actually be the best option for you. As a result – test, test, test!
To really summarise what my thoughts on this are, here’s a diagram for how I would summarise the three major factors you should consider when choosing or testing paddles. Put simply, the right paddle for one person may not be the right for another. Choose your next paddle based on awareness of the three points of this triangle and you’ll be better informed than most when you’re making your next purchase.
Ultimately, the take-home message for you is to see that even when using the same board, not only can you field test reliably, but that you can also obtain a huge difference in performance just by changing what paddle you use (and that’s a lot cheaper than a new board!). For me personally though, at my last event (which involved a 100m sprint, a mile long technical race and a long distance race), I ended up using a different paddle for all 3 races. Food for thought…
Words : Dr Bryce Dyer
Some more fascinating findings from Bryce, which clearly show that thinking about what paddle you use is just as important as thinking about your board on race day. So don’t just choose the one your SUPboarder idol is paddling with, or just stick to your old favourite. Get out there and try a variety of paddle shapes and sizes for yourself to see what difference it makes. A different paddle might be all it takes to get you on that podium this summer!
Want to read more? Check out other articles by Dr Bryce Dyer here.
SUP can be the most simple sport in the world… just the board, paddle and you. Or if you want it to be, SUP can be pretty technical too! One paddler who loves that technical side to the sport and is always looking to find the answers to those tricky questions is regular SUPboarder contributor and racer Dr Bryce Dyer. Bryce feels just as at home infront of a spread sheet and complex graph, as he does on the water! In this feature Bryce gets techy and explains how its possible to test and find the fastest board for you. So grab a coffee, get your brain cells in gear, and get reading!…
Board Testing 101 – How to find out what board is the fastest for you
When it comes to knowing which board to use, many of us are swayed by what the top pros have or what the magazines tell us. If you’re looking for your next flat-water race board, the answer will most likely be your favoured compromise between speed, stability and handling. However, if straight line speed is your main goal, you might well be asking that with the dazzling array of SUP boards now available, is there really that much difference between one board and another and if so, is it really worth worrying about?
As far as SUP goes, this isn’t a new debate and if you poke around on the internet, you’ll see that a few people have tried field testing their boards in the past to see if one is faster than another. The problem is that these tests don’t often have enough runs to produce reliable results, do not use speeds that are representative of your own racing or just aren’t objective. This makes any results typically inaccurate, unreliable or unrepresentative.
If you wish to test some boards yourself, my key underpinning factors that any board test experiment needs to have is:
to make sure that the conditions of the test are as known and constrained as possible (so are therefore consistent and repeatable).
to ensure that the test conditions are representative of your paddling (such as using your own board speeds and the water conditions used).
to conduct enough runs to produce an answer that is statistically reliable (and preferably has a margin of error).
plenty of time and the need for patience. Field testing can be fickle and bad runs will have to be binned. A test is only as good as the process behind it.
The boards on test
For this article, I tested two boards and I’ll show you some tests that you too can do outdoors. The test boards were both 14ft long hard boards from a well-known manufacturer.
Board A : An all-round carbon race board 26.5” wide. Board B : A flat-water specific carbon race board 26” wide.
These models are competitive boards from a well-known brand and typical of those raced in events. The boards were sourced by myself and were not influenced by sponsors or any third parties.
The tests themselves were conducted very early in the morning and at a venue that was a local reservoir that was fully surrounded by trees. This ensured that the test venue was free from wind and water flow (which would influence and increase the margin of error of the results). It could be argued though that such flat and undisturbed water is not representative of a typical board race. However, it is important to see how robust the field testing is under the simplest possible conditions before then incorporating more chaotic elements (such as chop or wind) in the future. I also mark where my feet will be standing on each board with my chosen stance to ensure the board trim is the same when using the same board, use the same paddle and wear tight fitting clothing that does not flap around to increase affect the aerodynamic drag. By not consistently controlling either of these could affect your results.
What is being measured?
In theory, provided you do enough test runs, you could just do as many others have and just use average speed as a means to determine whether one board is faster than another. However, I personally do not recommend this and always use at least two different metrics to gauge a piece of equipment’s performance. In this case, I recommend the use of both speed (in kph) and stroke rate (strokes per minute). Heart rate could also be used but the problem with it is that it takes too long to respond to your work effort – especially with shorter tests or with maximum exercise intensities.
Stroke rate might be a new thing for you to consider but published research in other paddle sports has shown that there is a strong correlation between both stroke rate and how hard you are physically working. To obtain stroke rate data, some computers or GPS units provide this information for you or you could count them in your head yourself. I should add at this point that I’m supported this year by Nielsen Kellerman so for these tests I was using their excellent SUP Speedcoach 2 device which provides stroke rate as one of its outputs.
When using stroke rate, I typically normalise the performances between boards by using an input/output ratio. Readers from a previous article of mine might recall that the use of an input/output ratio (I/O ratio) has been used successfully in published sports science research before as a means of tracking changes in fitness in the absence of power output data. For these tests though, I create a new ratio by taking the stroke rate of a test run and then dividing this by the average speed of the run in kph. This then produces a figure that allows you to compare one run to another more directly when the speed or the stroke rate of multiple runs might vary very slightly. In theory, provided the speed you were paddling at were similar between two test runs, the board that has a lower I/O ratio is the one to opt for as its taking you less strokes to drive it to obtain the same speed.
Purely out of scientific curiosity (and my general love of all things R&D), I undertook 3 different types of board tests and I’ll show you the results I got. These tests were:
Test 1: A race pace time trial performed over 350 metres
This test had two different intentions. The first was to ascertain how stable the weather conditions and my paddling actually were to see how reliable I am personally as a tester. The second is to see what board produces the lowest I/O ratio. Test 1 is important to me personally because as a scientist, I like to ensure my process is fundamentally sound before moving on with other tests. To achieve this, I performed 10 separate runs at the targeted pace of 9kph (paddling in one direction and then using the return leg back for recovery before going again) over a measured distance of 350 metres over the same course. This might seem short but this kind of distance has been successfully used before to detect the hydrodynamic differences in sprint kayak designs. If the test run is too long in distance or duration, you’ll tire and not get enough runs in. I used a targeted speed of 9kph as this is typically what many of my own flat-water distance races would typically average at.
I would perform 2-3 test runs with one board, then the same with the other and then repeat this cycle again (total runs=10 per board). By randomising (or alternating) the test boards then minimises any changes in weather or conditions that could be hidden if you did 10 straight with one board and then 10 with the other. Here were my own results:
Board A (All water)
Board B (Flat-water)
Average Speed (9kph target)
Average Strokes per minute
So firstly, notice that my margin of errors (note: the +/- values) were very small. This tells me that my paddling performance between all the test runs were very similar so ultimately that means my own field testing process is both stable and very repeatable. (Note: I have other stats to back this up but I have not included them for succinctness).
Results: Whilst you might see that the speed is higher for A than B does this mean it was the better board ? No. Notice how the I/O ratio is lower for Board B than it is for Board A. What does that mean ? It means that Board B requires much less effort to hold 9kph than Board A does. The bottom line is that’s around 2-3 strokes per minute you are saving (or 162 strokes in an hour). That’s energy in a race you’ve just saved. Alternatively, look at the difference I obtained in stroke length (calculated as the average from each test run length divided by the number of strokes it took). In this case my stroke length was 0.15m longer with Board B than it was for Board A. I can use another ratio to normalise their speed but in simple terms it means I could gain 540 metres per hour in raw distance. If you’re moving at around 9kph for an hour, that’s a whopping 3 minutes and 36 seconds of gain. That’s a worthwhile gap when you’re not in a draft train and bear in mind that a gap that large would easily shuffle the places on a podium at events around the globe.
Test 2: Board performance when at varying speeds
Test 2 is an alternative method to test 1 and was (bizarrely) based on some previous research I’d had published on the aerodynamic performance of prosthetic legs used by Paralympians. What you do in essence is test a board at a range of speeds. Rather than worrying about margins of error or performance of the board at one speed, you measure how a board performs across a variety of speeds. You test a board using fixed distances at a variety of speeds and you then draw a graph (using spread sheet software like Microsoft Excel) of speed versus stroke rate to achieve them. You then run a line of best fit through all the data points which then shows you the average performance of a board. Bear in mind that you should delete any bad test runs that stand out in the results.
In my case, I chose speeds from 6-11kph in 1kph increments and did 6 runs of each (losing one of those to a bad run). Again I alternated between boards and also randomised the order of the test speeds. I used the 350m test course again from test 1.
If you’ve done the testing right, you should hopefully produce a ski jump shaped trace like what I obtained. The reason the graph trace is shaped like this is that all boards have a maximum speed based upon their length and width and when you approach (or try to exceed) this, the power needed to increase the speed any further increases exponentially. For example, it is a lot easier to increase a board from 6km/h to 7km/h then it is from 9km/h to 10km/h (despite both cases only being a 1km/h increase). Ultimately, whichever board has the highest speed for the lowest number of strokes is basically the quicker board as it is likely taking less effort to propel it. The beauty of this method is that all you need to do is to produce as many runs as your time allows and then run a line of best fit through them. The more runs the better. Here’s what I got in my tests:
Results: The results of both boards formed a near perfect curve. As per test 1, see again how Board B takes fewer strokes to achieve the same speed then Board A ? For you, this graphic is all you need to know that you’re on a faster board or not [note: at this point go to the bar, change your sponsor or put on your protective armour and convince your significant other that a new board is clearly now warranted].
However, I did a little more number crunching to see what the gain actually was. A graph like this can allow you to predict how many strokes are needed for a given speed and then predict a performance. In this case, I obtained that Board B would be around 3 minutes and 50 seconds faster than Board A in an hours race on very flat water when at 9kph. That’s huge and not dissimilar to the 3mins 36 I predicted from test 1’s results. In a race (whereby you’re not in a draft train for most of its distance) that is an amazing gain to be aware of.
Test 3: Hydrodynamic drag tests
This final test I tried was based upon some research whereby the traditional method of assessing watercraft hydrodynamically is often achieved by using models placed in tow tanks. The problem with this is that this likely isn’t financially viable for many small companies so some researchers had attempted to seek alternative methods by getting rowing crews to paddle a fixed number of strokes to reach a maximum speed, raising their oars from the water and then timing the amount of time the craft took to reach back to a stationary position (or low speed). This would allow them to see how a craft slows down without being paddled and therefore which type of rowing shell had the least hydrodynamic drag.
This is a quick and easy test that doesn’t require a lot of time or space. However, water conditions must be absolutely calm (and it took me a few attempts to get it right). I did this test method by accelerating the boards to their maximum speed I could achieve using a fixed number of strokes (15 in this case – and it’s important not to switch sides with the paddle). Once I’d hit 15 strokes, I lifted the paddle clear of the water and sat the blade resting on the deck of the board in front of me in the same position for each run and glided until I stopped. This test completely isolates the board’s performance from that of the paddling action and exclusively judges the hydrodynamic drag of the board alone. I did at least 10 runs of each board so I could calculate the statistical reliability of the test and the margin of error for both boards’ performances.
So how did this go ? First, let’s look at the maximum speed I obtained.
Max speed is only part of the story of a board’s performance since a board may perform differently to another at 11kph compared to them moving at 7kph. This is due to how the water might flow differently across its surfaces based on the speed it is moving . However, when this information is used in conjunction with other tests, it helps reinforce the results from tests 1 and 2. Either way, it’s useful to note that Board B was able to hit a higher top speed in the 15 stroke limit.
As for the de-acceleration of the boards, here are those results:
In these, there was a 1kph difference in the results. In fact, Board B was 25% lower than Board A meaning less hydrodynamic drag is acting on Board B. In summary, this means Board B’s flat water specific design will have a better glide, it will be easier to accelerate and will achieve a higher top speed in these kinds of waters. That’s useful if you’re looking to make a break from a draft train or deciding how hard (and when) to go in a race.
For reasons of conciseness, I didn’t include all of my testing analysis here – its vast and that’s going to hopefully be submitted to a scientific journal later this year. However, what has all of this taught us? Firstly, no matter which of the tests you choose, you can get reliable results by using any of them. However, I personally love board R&D but you need both the time and the patience to do it properly.
Secondly, Board B was proven in all tests to be a faster board for me in flat-water than using more of an all-round design in Board A. This is likely obvious to most of you but you might have underestimated by how much any gain would be. They were large here but results would change if your paddle stroke fatigues, you were subjected to rougher water or spent time drafting others. Ultimately, any results you ever see in tests will vary based upon your weight, size, paddling style and test environment. You’ve got to do the testing yourself to be sure of what is best for you but hopefully my article does show you that board choice does matter when racing and there is free speed to be had out there. Shop wisely and look beyond the marketing brochure is always my advice. Or in simpler terms – demo, demo, demo!
Bryce’s supporters in 2016 include Naish UK, FC Watersports, Quickblade paddles, The SUP Hut, Nielsen-Kellerman and Red Venom compression wear.
Words : Dr Bryce Dyer.
So, before you rush out to buy that shiny new board on the front of the latest brochure, or the exact replica of the board that beat you at the last event, take some time to try out some different kit and do your own R&D, to find out what board is best for YOU. Board R&D doesn’t have to be complicated and it can actually be quite fun. You just need to find the time to do it! Happy testing!