I have seen the promised land.
OK...thats overdoing it...but Rob and I did get to finally experience something we've been reading and hearing about....light wind wavesailing on a SUP (Stand Up Paddle) board. It all started with a classic 24 hr day trip. Rob and I had identified Saturday July 12th as a day trip day several weeks back. If the wind blew...great. If the wind didn't blow, we would go stand up paddling. The location was still to be determined. We were looking at several spots all week up and down the NC/SC coast. While we've done Hatteras Island before in a 24 hr day trip, we just didn't feel like driving the extra 2 hrs (one way) this time around since we were looking for a drive that was 4.5 hrs and under. The wind forecast wasn't looking so good late in the week but Hurricane Bertha was giving the coast some nice waves. However, Rob and I didn't have our own SUP boards yet. Not to worry I thought. We can call Glen at Hilton Head Island. As it turned out, Rob's sister was also staying in Hilton Head for the week and had a spare room for Rob and I to crash in Friday night. Perfect.
We meet Glen Saturday morning with the 3 SUP boards he brought along and we hit the ocean. I tried a Sean Ordenez Shape (SOS) Big Blue 10'10" board and Rob took the SOS Big Red 11'11" board. Glen was on a new Danai Fish 10'2" quad + 1 fin set up. It was low tide so there weren't any waves to be had yet. But we paddled up the beach, then a light breeze started up and we paddled back downwind. We were out there for a couple of hours just enjoying the exercise, the view, the company, and the wildlife (a few jellyfish and a spinner shark coming out of the water going after a school of fish). The board I was on was nice and stable, yet I could feel it was still a board I would need to work my way into especially for surfing the waves. But I liked it. As it turns out, Glen has a friend who works for a local surf shop and had a used SOS Big Blue SUP board for sale...just like the one I was on that morning, except this one had a mast track so you can put a sail on it for light wind wavesailing. The other shops I had been talking to didn't have the other model SUP boards I was looking at and didn't know when any more were arriving (and I have more beach time planned this summer), so I went for it and bought the used SOS Big Blue. Ain't she a beaut? (Picture by Glen Barroncini)
Rob and I went to have lunch with his sister and her family and Rob got to spend some time with his nieces. Then it was off to hit the water one more time with my new purchase. Except this time, the wind had picked up...all the way to a rousing 10mph side onshore. Luckily we brought our windsurfing gear (just in case!) and I whipped out my 5.4 sail. There has been a lot of hype about sticking a small sail on a SUP board in light winds with the goal of just catching and riding waves. You aren't supposed to be planing as the small sail is supposed to give you just enough momentum to get you out through the waves. Once you're in position to catch a wave, you let the board do the rest. OK, so lets see this theory work for ourselves.
It was high tide and the waves had arrived. The most popular surf break at Hilton Head Island (not known for its waves) was crowded with many surfers and people in the water. The surfers were on the best waves and the lineup was very crowded. So Rob and I scoped a gap without surfers and people just down the beach. The waves weren't as good, but hey...thats what a SUP is for. We rigged the 5.4, stuck it on, and I went out for the inaugural ride. That board cut right through the whitewater going out. I get past the breakers, tack, and head back in to catch a wave. I catch my first wave and that was all she wrote. That board was like it was on rails as I was wavesailing backside on a wave that peaked over waist high before breaking. Even riding the whitewater in was fun. I got a couple more waves and then it was Rob's turn. Now keep in mind that Rob and I have been windsurfing for 20+ years, yet we are beginner wavesailors. Rob gets his first wave and sails it with no problem. We took turns on the board/sail for another hour or so. The waves were classic east coast....small and mushy. But we were getting our mandatory time on the water and having a blast. Needless to say, there were big smiles on our faces for the ride home that night.
I want to thank Glen again for being such an awesome host, hooking Rob and I up Saturday morning, and for linking me to that used board for sale. Glen, you should be getting a finders fee for that! If you're ever in the Hilton Head area, look Glen up and he'll take you out for lessons, demos, rentals, SUP equipment sales, and just plain fun stand up paddling. He is the ultimate SUP ambassador and a nice guy too.
Here's a short 1:25 video clip and some pictures below that (Rob has the hat on and I'm hatless):
Yours truly and Glen
Rob and I playing around
Me heading out through the whitewater
Rob enjoying my board and sail. How big is that smile? Can you say STOKE?