Tuesday, August 20, 2013

the stand up world series returns to CHICAGO

This weekend the Stand Up World Series returns to Chicago for their second annual Pro-Am race extravaganza.  I'll be there all weekend and, at the risk of sounding bossy, YOU SHOULD BE TOO!

I can't tell you how much I learned and improved as a paddler last year at this event.  This is an incredible opportunity to spend time on the beach alongside the top pros in standup paddling and is well worth the effort to be there.

The organizers have things pretty dialed in this year.  There will be secure board storage at the event site and they're offering open class races for all board types and sizes.

I'm also teaming up with Ian from Chicago SUP to organize a meet & greet social 'Paddle with the Pros' event on Thursday afternoon/evening.  Join us at Chicago SUP at North Avenue Beach on Thursday, August 22nd at 4pm where we'll be hanging out with the pros, hitting the water for an easy social paddle, then heading over to Piece Pizza in Bucktown for dinner.

Here is the schedule for the full weekend's activities:


Friday 23rd August: Press Conference & Registration

·      2pm: Press Conference at the W Hotel
·      4 – 6pm: Registration and board drop at North Avenue Beach
·      6pm: Welcome drink at the W Hotel Lakeshore
·      7pm: Movie Premier of the Starboard Movie at the W Hotel

Saturday 24th August: Sprint Racing

·      8.30am: Athlete meeting and any late registrations
·      10am – 1pm: Amateur & Youth Sprints
·      1.30pm – 5pm: World Series Sprints (Men & Women)
·      5.30pm: Pacifico Party & live music at Castaways, North Avenue Beach

Sunday 25th August: Long Distance Racing & Celebrity Relays

·      8.30am: Athlete check in & late registrations for open class
·      10am – 12pm: Amateur & Youth Long Distance Race
·      10am – 12pm: Na Kama Kai Youth Clinic
·      12pm – 1pm: Newcomer races on stock inflatable boards
·      1pm – 2pm: Celebrity and Partner Relays
·      2pm: World Series Long Distance
·      4pm: Beach Awards for long distance Racing & Overall World Series for both Elite & Amateurs
·      6pm: Closing Party on the W Rooftop

Don't miss this incredible opportunity to paddle with the top pros in Standup!  Hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

what a season we have in store!!!!!

Hi everybody... sorry it's been a while since I posted.  Things are going 1000 miles an hour here as the season rapidly approaches.  First and foremost, let's talk about what's been happening in the water.  I got my first windsurf session in last Saturday at Wolf Lake.  It was HOWLING, gusting into the 40's.  I started the day on 5.5m and ended overpowered on 4.6m!  What a great start to the season, shaking off the cobwebs and enjoying some blistering speed runs and powerful jibes.  Sorry, but I didn't get any action shots... maybe next time.

Other than that one windsurf session, it's been all about waves here.  We're having a slow start to spring with colder-than-normal temps, which arrive accompanied by strong North winds that mean... you guessed it... WAVES for us south-enders.  These next two shots I grabbed off of Facebook... that's Chicago surfer Tommy Shimenetto getting some action at Ogden Dunes.  I missed this session due to work, but I've had a few good surf sessions lately and a lot of other Great Lakes surfers have been posting some pretty amazing pics around FaceBook.  It's been a great surf season.

BUT, it's almost time to swap bottom turns for buoy turns... that's right, race season is just around the corner and if you've been lagging on training as I have, you might want to turn up the intensity a notch or two.  I was kind of nervous about being a bit behind in my training, but recent developments have put me into a full-on panic!  Here's the scoop...

A few weeks ago I was approached by the organizers of Leon's Triathlon, which runs on June 2nd at Wolf Lake in Hammond, Indiana.  Leon's is the Midwest Qualifier for USA Triathlon, so it's a well attended event hosting over 650 participants.  After a few phone calls with the event's incredibly enthusiastic founder, Leon Wolek, it was decided that we had an opportunity to make history... and we seized it.  We're a few days away from the official announcement, but I can take the liberty of letting the cat peek out of the bag here on the blog.  Leon's Triathlon will be the first-ever USAT Qualifying Triathlon to feature a brand new format, SUP TRI.  In SUP TRI we're going to replace the swim portion of the triathlon with a standup paddleboard race.  This is going to be intense!  It's an Olympic distance event, so we'll be looking at a 4.5km SUP leg on a technical course with a bunch of buoy turns.  After the SUP leg athletes will jump on their bikes for a 40km road ride, then put on the running shoes and do a 10km run.  There will be details up on the Leon's Triathlon website sometime next week, so if you're interested in entering the race check out their site and join us to make history!

In addition to Leon's Tri, there's also a new Spring race series being pulled together called The Amped Up Midwest SUP Cup.  This series kicks off in Fontana, Wisconsin on May 4-5 and features a race each weekend through June 22.  Click the photo above for a closer look at the schedule.  I'll be at the May 4-5 event in Fontana, so if you can make it come on up and get on the water with me.

And finally, if you aren't already dialed in to the Midwest Standup Paddleboard Championship series, here's the link to the BIG ENCHILADA of Midwest SUP racing.  Midwest SUP is our own WPA-sanctioned race series.  If you want to accumulate points toward the regional championship and possibly even win yourself a spot at the nationals, this is the series you must compete in.  Of course, if you couldn't care less about points, championships or even casually paddling around a racecourse, these events are still a blast.  There's always food, music, clinics, boards to demo and the generally raucous scene that goes with any SUP event.  Do yourself a favor and get out to at least one of these events to see all that the SUP community has to offer.

OK... that's it for today.  Hope you're getting out on the water a bit and looking forward to an incredible season of Midwest SUP!  See you all out on the water soon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the cold stroke... and stuff

It's been a crazy few months with a lot of work and play.  I've been spreading the love of SUP making appearances at a bunch of boat shows from Chicago to St. Louis to Milwaukee.  In between these gigs I worked in a fun trip down to Wrightsville Beach for some surfing and a race, The Cold Stroke Classic.  It was a super fun event and the scene in Wrightsville Beach was everything I'd heard.  WB is definitely the East Coast capital of SUP and I hope we can boast as thriving a scene in Chicago in the future.  Here's a big stack of pics from the trip...

We arrived to some nice waist to chest high surf.  In the end we logged 5 straight days of surf.  We even surfed the day of the race... not recommended procedure but we couldn't pass it up :)

Here are a few of my great friend Matt Sommer.  Matt's parents live in WB and they hosted us for the weekend.

This is our new friend Ryan Hipp,  a WB local who after we met him in the lineup on the first day became our unofficial guide to WB surf.   We ended up surfing with Ryan every day and he showed us all the hot spots.
Here's Starboard team rider Dan Gavere (on the left) taking an early lead in the race... he would go on to win the 14' elite division.

So if you get a chance to hit an event in Wrightsville Beach, don't pass it up!

In more local news, the MidwestSUP race schedule is out.  You can learn all about the upcoming race season at www.midwestsup.com.  Here's a peek:

And finally, at the risk of appearing a little braggadocios, I have to share a nice little article done on yours truly by SUP the Mag.  It was a great honor to be interviewed by them and hopefully it will turn a few new paddlers on to what a SUP paradise we have here in the Great Lakes.

You can check out the full article here.  OK that's it for tonight.  Hope there's some water time in your future.  See you soon!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

an artsy GREAT LAKES surf vid, then some important biz

Here's an artsy cool little video made by some fellow Great Lakes surfers who hit Sleeping Bear dunes over New Years.  After the film, please read and learn about the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project... they are doing some amazing work that we desperately need!

Drowning Epidemic
Public education in concert with safety measures a must

Since 2010 more than 262 people have drowned in the Great Lakes.  Eight of these fatal drownings recently occurred over this year’s Labor Day weekend

Karl W. Schmidt, 60, a grandfather, was one of those drownings.  He was enjoying Lake Michigan with his family over the holiday weekend when tragedy struck his 9-year-old grandson who was pulled from shore.  Schmidt was able to pass the boy to nearby surfers who took him to shore.  Sadly in the confusion Schmidt had used his last ounce of energy to save the boy and went under.

Bystanders began a frantic search and found his body 200 yards from shore where surfer, Burton Hathaway, paddled him in.  Schmidt’s children, grandchildren, and hundreds of holiday beach goers watched in desperation as bystanders performed CPR until officers and first responders arrived.  

(Rescue workers perform lifesaving efforts to Karl Schmidt)

Family and beach goers continued to watch Schmidt, unresponsive to the chest compressions, as he was carried from the water’s edge to a waiting ambulance.

The same day, Tyler Buczek, 15, an 8th grade valedictorian and incoming freshman quarterbackdisappeared in the waves at a Port Washington, WI beach as his closest friends watched.  

One of his friends was quoted as saying, “We're all freshmen.  It’s supposed to be we're all happy, we're in high school.  But I don't think that's going to be how it is this year.”   

Those who know Tyler recalled a boy with a big future.  He was supposed to start his first day of high school, but instead songs, prayers and tears flowed as nearly 1,000 people gathered for his beachside vigil to support the teenager's family.

Now multiply these tragic stories by 262 and counting and know that these drowning numbers will continue to rise unless a uniform water safety education program is in place.  

Two men and a mission
Bob Pratt and Dave Benjamin have worked fulltime for more than two years without pay in an effort to save lives through their nonprofit organization, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project(GLSRP). 

Since 2010 they have been tracking drowning statistics and, in the summer of 2011 and 2012, they performed 17 “Water Safety Surf Rescue” classes on the beaches and in the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.  People who attended the classes consisted of the general public, surfers, lifeguards, Department of Natural Resource (DNR) officers, police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, water rescue team members, dive team members, and the U.S. Coast Guard. 

The GLSRP intends to expand its classes to all five Great Lakes, create a Water Safety Rip Current Survival national curriculum, in order to reduce these drownings.

Pratt recently retired after 25 years of service as paramedic, fire fighter, and fire marshal for the city of East Lansing, MI to take the helm of the GLSRP full-time.  He is also a certified lifeguard, CPR, and first aid instructor and has served as the lead trainer for the fire department’s water and ice rescue training as well as several police and fire agencies in Michigan including Lansing Community College’s Police Academy.  

Pratt became an advocate for Great Lakes water safety when he was going to teach his son to surf September 3, 2003.  On that day at the beach, U.S. Coast Guard helicopters and boats were in the water searching for Andy Fox, who got caught in a rip current at Grand Haven State Park. 

“We spent some time on the beach just reflecting and were deeply affected by the sight,” said Pratt.  “I was appalled to learn how common drownings were on the Great Lakes. Very few beaches have lifeguards, and bystanders are often the only hope a drowning victim has.”

Fox's death sparked Pratt’s interest in rip currents and he later worked with Fox's mom on several projects including the “Great Lakes Beach and Pier Safety Task Force” and the “Beach Safety Challenge”.

Benjamin has swum in Lake Michigan for 42 years and started surfing the Lake in 2009.  While surfing in 2010 he survived a nonfatal drowning accident which prompted his dedication to this cause.

“After swimming in the lake my whole life, I was pretty comfortable in the water,” said Benjamin, executive director of the GLSRP.  “But all it took was one moment of panic for all experience and rational thought to go out the window.”

According to Benjamin when he was drowning, he remembered an article titled, “Drowning doesn’t look like drowning” by Mario Vittone and it saved his life. 

“I was doing all the signs [of drowning] and when I stopped doing the signs I was able to eventually float to safety.”

This summer Benjamin participated in an unsuccessful water rescue and witnessed several bodies pulled from the water. 

“Going to the beach is supposed to be about family fun, recreation, love and happiness.  Not about tragedy, despair, and hopelessness,” Benjamin concluded.

The GLSRP is working with the Michigan Sea Grant’s “Flip, Float, and Follow” rip current survival strategy, to develop a national curriculum similar to the Fire Prevention Services’ “Stop, Drop and Roll” program.

“Ask anyone anywhere in the United States and they probably know ‘Stop, Drop and Roll,’” Benjamin aptly noted, hoping “Flip, Float, Follow” can catch on as well.”

The GLSRP has been promoting the Michigan Sea Grant’s “Flip, Float, and Follow” rip current survival strategy through its “Water Safety Surf Rescue” classes this summer and it has receivedover 30 media mentions.

With some funding, the GLSRP is ready to launch a regional and then national water safety curriculum to teach the public how to:
·         Recognize the dangers and hazards of the Great Lakes surf environment keeping personal safety as THE primary responsibility
·         Implement Hands-on Adult Supervision –
·         Designate Water Watchers (The Water Watcher Card)
·         Recognize the “Signs of Drowning” – How to identify a person in trouble from within a crowd (The Hollywood version of drowning vs. the actual version of drowning)
·         Understand rip currents; i.e. how, where, and why rip currents occur;
·         Know the Dangerous Currents
·         Know the dangers of Offshore Winds
·         Use a flotation device or surfboard to rescue a person in distress or in a rip current
·         React when encountering swimmers who have suffered an injury or unconscious
·         Enroll in lifesaving, first aid and CPR training from accredited agencies.
·         Use the Michigan Sea Grants “Flip, Float, and Follow” rip current survival strategy

The Price of Apathy
If no uniform public water safety curriculum is funded, the Great Lakes drowning epidemic will definitely continue to rise, especially as the beaches receive national recognition and multimillion dollar restoration projects are under way.  More attractive beaches result in more bathers and, without effective intervention, more drownings.

Although the GLSRP is a young organization, it has made some huge accomplishments in less than two years and is ready to handle the challenge of delivering this national water safety curriculum.

Indiana State Senator Jim Arnold is drafting legislation that, if passed, will make it illegal to swim in Lake Michigan when rip current warnings are issued.

Arnold was quotes as saying, “The whole purpose of this is to save lives and protect people who have shortcomings (with understanding how dangerous these conditions are).  This law provides a way to enforce this. This is a public safety issue.”

The bill would exempt those who want to surf Lake Michigan provided they wore the proper safety gear.

According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, on average, fifty percent of all Great Lakes drownings occur in Lake Michigan and fifty percent of Lake Michigan drownings occur on the south end of the Lake from Chicagoland to the Indiana/Michigan border.  Approximately one-third of all Great Lakes drownings are rip current related.

“We are thankful that there is interest in water safety, but drowning is a complex problem and we need to make sure the lawmakers realize that this will not keep every swimmer out of the water nor prevent all drownings,” said Bob Pratt executive director of education of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. 

“Rip currents are only a piece of the drowning puzzle on the Lake.  Without addressing all of the factors that lead to drowning, we are not addressing the problem; factors such as the lack of lifeguards at most beaches, the lack of adult supervision, other dangerous currents, offshore winds, Seiches, or localized winds that arise before the National Weather Service can issue a warning.”

“This law may reduce a few drownings but we really need a comprehensive plan to address all the factors and not leave enforcement and interpretation to local jurisdictions.”

Pratt recently returned from the International Rip Current Symposium in Sydney, Australia where he presented the work of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and the Great Lakes drowning epidemic.  In March Pratt will be presenting a Stand-Up Paddleboard curriculum at the National Drowning Prevention Alliance’s 12th Annual Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Amidst the drowning fatalities and possible swim ban, in Northwest Indiana there are two beach restoration projects totaling $70 million, which will bring even more people to the lakefront.

In Gary the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) provided a $28 milliongrant for the Marquette Park Lakefront East Project.  “It will create an economic boom nearby and bring people to this important piece of shoreline,” said RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna.  In Whiting the focus of the $42 million redevelopment project is to transform the Whiting Lakefront Park into a destination point for all to enjoy.

“With all of this money for restoration projects designed to bring more people to the beaches, you have to ask the question, ‘How much money or funding is allocated for water safety drowning prevention programs,’” Benjamin said.

“These drowning numbers do not happen on the east coast and west coast combined, so what are they doing on the coasts that are not being done on the Great Lakes?”


Become a member of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.  The Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, Inc. (GLSRPis about saving lives.  It is a nonprofit corporation that is a Chapter of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPAthat tracks drowning statistics, teaches “Water Safety Surf Rescue” classes, and leads the “Third Coast Ocean Force” rip current awareness campaign on the Great Lakes.

It presented at the 2nd International Rip Current Symposium Nov. 1st, 2012 in Sydney, Australia; the 2012 winner of the “Outstanding Service to the Great Lakes Community” award presented by the Dairyland Surf Classic; the 2011 “Lifesaver of the Year” award winner; and a presenter at the NDPA’s 11th Annual Symposium in San Diego, March 9, 2012.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

little swell, big swell

Sorry for the lack of action shots... gotta get my photographer to come out for a session soon.  In the meantime, all you get is my smiling mug...

New Year's Day brought a fun little swell from the north.  I got out at Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan after meeting with friends Jen and Nick from Live Love SUP.  They are growing their charity:water project and apparel line and it was fun to catch up with them and hear about all they're doing.  I'll post more about their cool little company in the near future.  

The surf session was a new low for me, temperature-wise.  The air temp was 19-degrees.  If you click on the photo above, you can see that my beard is embedded with chucks of ice... that was a first.  I surfed for about an hour and my fingertips and toes were a little chilly at times, but otherwise I was perfectly comfortable.  So, still no bottom to the threshold for comfortable winter surfing.  I'll keep trying.

These are the next two surf boards in line for my Great Lakes Shakedown project, searching for the ultimate SUP surfboard for Great Lakes conditions.  Yesterday I rode the 8'5" x 30" Pocket Rocket (the red one).  Unfortunately by the time I went out the conditions had deteriorated and I only caught a handful of decent waves, so I don't really feel like I have enough info to give a review of the board yet.  

I will say that at 130 liters and 30 inches wide, it is the smallest board I have tried to surf so far and I was curious to see if stability would be an issue.  I'm happy to say that it wasn't.  It was definitely more challenging to stay on than my 9'5" Wide Point, but not too challenging... and this brings up an important point about progression in SUP.  When you're getting new gear, it's a good idea to shoot for the board that's just a little difficult for you to use at your current skill level.  You will see that your skills will quickly improve to meet the challenge.  Just be careful not to take too big a step... if the gear is too far beyond your current level you may get frustrated and give up before your skills elevate enough to match the gear.  

Speaking of challenging your skill level, I'll leave you today with a video of the slightly bigger swell that crossed the Pacific on New Year's Eve.  This was shot by my friend Matty Schweitzer.  Matty is an up and coming videographer from Maui and he posts new videos all the time.  Follow Matty's YouTube channel for a constant feed of SUP and surf action from around the globe.   This vid was shot at Peahi, the break known as Jaws.  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

a little school and a board review... then some fun in the sun

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm in the process of testing a fleet of 6 SUP surfboards of different sizes and shapes to shed some light on what makes a great Great Lakes surf SUP.  In order to understand what makes these boards different, let's go over some basic board design elements that we'll also use as test criteria.  Here are the basic design characteristics we'll be looking at:

1. Size - By size we mean the board's dimensions (that's length, width, thickness and volume).  As a rule, bigger people and less experienced surfers should be on bigger boards.

2. Outline - This is the board's basic shape when you look at it deck side up, straight on.  Notice how the rails curve, where the widest area of the board is and how narrow it gets (or doesn't get) toward the tail.

3. Rocker - Rocker is the curve the board has when you look at it from the side.  More rocker makes a board look something like a banana, and less rocker makes it look flat.    

4. Bottom Shape - Many people don't even look at bottom shape when choosing a board, which is a big mistake.  A lot of a board's performance comes from subtle, precise shaping that the board's designer carves into the blank.  Bottom shapes can be simple or complex, but the theme here is flow.  Bottom shape is all about how the water flows under the board.  

5. Fin Setup - Boards come with different fin setups - single-fins, thrusters (three fins) and quads (four fins) are the most common.  

As I test these boards I'll go over the design characteristics and talk about how they affect the ride.  I'll also offer recommendations on what type of surfer and conditions the board would work well for.  The first board I'll be reviewing is the Starboard Wide Point 9'5", which I'm riding in the photo above.  I've had this board since last August and I've surfed it a lot, both on the Great Lakes and in ocean waves in New York and New Jersey.  So here you go:

Board Review - Starboard Wide Point 9'5"

1. Size - The Wide Point line from Starboard comes in five lengths from 10'5" down to an astoundingly short 7'8".  Every board in the line is 32" wide at its wide point, thus the name.  Here's a breakdown on the dimensions of the 9'5" WP:
  • Length - At 9'5" long, this board leans more toward surf than flat water.  If you want to do anything other than the most casual flat water paddling, this board is really too short.  That said, I've enjoyed taking the 9'5" WP out on flat days to practice agility, explore or put my daughter on the front and just goof around.  It's still fun, but without the glide of a longer waterline.  The board was really designed to surf, and it does this really well.  If you're used to surfing a bigger all around SUP board, the shorter length is AMAZING!  The reduced swing weight makes the board way easier to turn and maneuver.  My surfing has improved 10-fold since I got on this board... so much so that now I'm looking to drop down to an even shorter board.  
  • Width - 32" wide is a real sweet spot for SUP boards, and the designers at Starboard have obviously keyed in on this fact.  This board is incredibly stable, as are it's shorter cousins in the Wide Point line.
  • The 9'5" is 4.3" thick and comes in at 155 liters of volume, enough to comfortably float a person up to 200 pounds (or a bit more if they're a fairly experienced paddler).    
2. Outline - The WP boards all have a consistent contour that is pleasing to the eye.  The widest part of the board is under and in front of the standing area.  This gives the rider great stability when paddling and also helps the board get on a plane early when you drop into a wave.  The rails are nicely drawn in toward the tail for fantastic turning ability.

3. Rocker - The 9'5" WP has a relatively flat rocker in the middle with a generous nose rocker and a moderate tail rocker.  The nose rocker keeps the board from pearling, or nose-diving into the water during take off.  The tail rocker makes the board lively in the turns.  

4. Bottom Shape - All the boards in the WP line feature a mono concave bottom.  This has been my first experience with the mono concave and at first I wasn't sure what to think about it.  As time went on and I was able to ride the WP next to many other boards, I started to understand (everywhere I go people want to try my WP, so I swap boards a lot).  The mono concave bottom helps keep the board stable and greatly increases control on the wave.  Compared to other boards I've been on with a more traditional V shape, the WP feels like it's on rails.  

5. Fin Setup - the WP comes with a thruster fin set - that's three fins, a larger center fin the back and two smaller fins on either side and in front of the center fin.  It can also be set up as a quad with four smaller fins.  I've surfed it both ways and they both work well.  The thruster set allows you to do a nice drawn out, classic bottom turn.  The quad makes the board turn quicker and slash-ier.  

Here's an outline shot of the 9'5" WP along with specs from the Starboard website

Overall, I've found this board surfs well in everything from mushy Great Lakes ankle slappers to head-high point break in Montauk, NY.  I don't think they're overselling it on the Starboard website when they call the 9'5" WP "The right choice for most people getting into wave riding."  For it's versatility, I would recommend this board for anyone who wants a one-board Great Lakes surf quiver.  For it's stability, I would recommend it for novice surfers under 180 pounds or intermediate to advanced surfers of any size.  For it's fun factor, I'd recommend that any paddler who's out there surfing a big all around shape try the 9'5" Wide Point and see what you're missing.  

OK... school's out for the day.  That was fun to write and I hope you learned a little something about board design.  Now here comes your treat... a three-part video series shot by Oxbow in French Polynesia featuring a band of intrepid watermen and women exploring the atolls on a 50-foot sailboat.  I ran into this the other day and it made me feel all nostalgic for my own past adventures living on sailboats and exploring unknown waters.  If only we'd had SUP's back then...   These videos are each about 10 minutes long, so grab a refreshing beverage, put your feet up, and enjoy a little fun in the sun.  See you on the water!


Thursday, December 27, 2012

if you're a great lakes surfer, or aspire to be one...

     If you haven't noticed from recent posts, I am pretty much all about surfing right now.  I had an incredibly fun session today in waist- to chest-high, clean little peelers in Evanston.  It was snowing, lightly at times and at others enough to create full white-out conditions.  The water was thick with icy slush.  I was out by myself, and the solitude combined with the magical conditions to create an experience I won't soon forget.


     A brief note on the conditions and my gear... As I mentioned, it was snowing on and off during the entirety my 3-hour session.  The air temp was 31 degrees, the water was 36.  I was wearing my 6/5/4 Hyperflex Amp, which I've been testing this fall and early winter.  Today marked the coldest temps I've been out in so far, and I was shocked and pleased with how comfortable I was.  Even my hands and feet were fine in 5mm gloves and 7mm booties, also from Hyperflex.  I can't tell you how impressed I am with the wetsuit technology available to us right now.  With the incredible warmth, flexibility and comfort of contemporary wetsuits, there is truly no reason to get off the water until it freezes.        

The Blend 11'2" X 30, the Whopper 10' X 34", and the Wide Point 9'5" X 32
     And now, on to the boards.  The first thing I want to say (and I'm not typically one to make broad sweeping declarations) is that if you are a Great Lakes surfer, or aspire to be one, you MUST learn to SUP surf.  Now I'm not saying you shouldn't surf your prone board when the conditions warrant it - too much wind or shore break too gnarly to standup paddle into.  What I am saying is that adding a SUP surf board to your quiver will increase your water time more than you can imagine.  Think of all those days when it was too small to go out on your 5'10" fish or even your 9' or 10' long board.  You could have caught every one of those waves on a SUP.  I must have caught 50 waves today... maybe more... and there wasn't a prone surfer in the water.  Plus, SUP surfboards are no longer big tanks that can't carve a turn.  Modern, high performance SUP surfboards can carve a deep bottom turn, throw spray off the lip, and even boost massive airs.  The question is simply, which SUP board is right for your ability, style and the conditions you surf in.

The Converse 9' X 30", the Pocket Rocket 8'5" X 30, and the Wide Point 8'2" X 32
     So, my next project will be to answer that question.  Thus far, I've been exclusively surfing the Starboard 9'5" X 32" Wide Point.  Well, this past week I made the trek to Kansas City to the Starboard warehouse and picked up an entire quiver of SUP surfboards for a thorough Great Lakes shakedown.  I, along with a few trusted colleagues, am going to put these six boards through their paces in a variety of Great Lakes conditions to find the ultimate Great Lakes SUP surfboard.  Now this is the kind of project I can sink my teeth into... it's going to be tough work, but I think I'm up for the challenge.  So keep an eye on the weather for the next swell and if you're up for it, grab your wetsuit and come join us!  See you on the water!