The potential problems and pitfalls of trying to save some dollars by recycling that old windsurfing board…

At least a couple of times a week, we’ll have a conversation with a would-be customer along very similar lines:

I’d like to order one of your alu paddles please. [the very cheapest model we have, probably the lowest price paddle available in the entire country]

Sure! Just out of interest, what board do you have?

Ah… Well, I don’t actually have a board yet. But we have an old windsurfer that we’re going to use – which is why I just want a really cheap paddle to start with. If we like paddleboarding, then maybe we’ll invest in some better kit…

At which point we sigh inwardly, and chalk another one onto the office wall. It’s a tricky one.  The easiest option at this point would be to simply make the sale,  put the money in the bank and despatch the paddle. However, there’s a 50/50 chance that the windsurf board they’ve got is actually going to be entirely unsuitable for SUP, they’ll have a really bad time on it, and that’s a potential convert lost to the sport.  But if we tell them that, there’s a good chance that it’ll kill off their nascent enthusiasm to try the sport then and there – so the potential convert is lost anyway.

If you do have the right sort of windsurf board and you want one of our cheap paddles, then here they are on the Paddle Company website, along with a great range of other well priced paddles…

So what should you do if a friend announces to you that he’s going to try SUP on his old windsurfer? To start with, it’s important to understand the potential problems. Number one of which is width. Most windsurfers are actually quite narrow!  In paddleboarding terms, anything under about 30″ wide is officially wobbly.  (Windsurfers don’t tend to be measured in inches, so that’s 76cm wide). And that actually counts out pretty much ALL the traditional windsurfing ‘long boards’.  The classic IMCO (the Olympic class board), for example. Sure, it looks like a SUP – but actually it’s only about 65cm wide.  It’s brutal to try and SUP on.  Even the latest longboard racers like the Starboard Phantom or Exocet Warp-X, are still only just over 70cm wide. To say nothing of the attendant problems of a deck bristling with footstraps, mast track and a big clunky daggerboard to stub your toe on. They also all entirely devoid of any surf potential, for a SUP user.

The widestyle training boards are slightly different. However, the problem then goes the opposite way. A lot of those are actually way too wide! Plus which, they have such rounded planshapes that they tend to give really bad row effect when you paddleboard them. Nobody gets a big kick out of paddling round in circles. If the board doesn’t deliver a decent cruise, then it isn’t going to deliver a paddleboarding convert.

There are some boards that can work.  If you can find a  320cm long widestyle (75cm+ width), and strip the footstraps off,  you’ve actually got a half decent paddleboard.  But unfortunately, they’re fairly rare. When talking about the old windsurfer they’re going to try SUP on, most people will actually be talking about that old Windsurfer Regatta or IMCO under their garage. And it’ll be super super wobbly, and all up a very unsatisfactory SUP experience, particularly for the first timer.

So what should you do, if your friend does want to try it? I guess the best advice is to monitor their progress very closely. It may work out absolutely fine, and they have a blast. But, as explained above, it’s also quite possible that they will have a bad experience because their board just isn’t right for the job. In which case, don’t let them go away thinking that SUP is rubbish, try and get them out on a suitable SUP as soon as possible. Lend them yours (if it’s an all-rounder with enough width), or get them along to somewhere they can hire one for a session.  (See www.paddleboard-hire.co.nz).   They will then realise the shortcomings of their windsurfing board and be more keen to invest in some proper SUP gear of their own.

Footnote: So, what about the numerous paddleboards out there that claim to offer windsurfing performance as well? I’ll blog about those at some point in the future…