The One Board Quiver, NSP's Carolina.
A glassy calm lake. Not a ripple in sight. The first stroke propels the board along. The second moves the board along a bit quicker. An hour later my Garmin watch alarm rings out.
Comes across the screen. I scroll down through the data. The times and speeds. Reveal themselves.
This was the first test I put the stand up paddleboard designed by Alain Teurquetil, through. It was a true flatwater experience. A small lake in Central New England. No wind. No Current. Water Temperature hovering around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, 21 Celsius.
The testing did not stop here. But it did give me some false numbers and thoughts. And is why I have held off on writing this blog.
A month earlier, around the middle of August, I found myself standing a top the Carolina for the first time. However not the width I would pick. But putting my ego on the shelf I paddled out on this board, the 14' x 25.75" NSP Carolina.
It was a day in Hood River, that many are not used to seeing. Unless you live there. Glassy. Not a hint of wind anywhere around. But there were boats. With amazing wakes. My good friend Sam English and I paddled out. Trying to catch a group of friends. And just as luck would have it, a wakesurfer cruised by.
The wake, about waist high, passed below my board and then fell into the trough. The board rode the wave straight, until I made a gentle lean on the outside rail. Where the board came to life. And charged down the face of the wave towards the boat. I looked down at my feet. The were on the second dot closest to the nose. It was the spot.
Later on in the weekend I had a chance to stand on top the board that I wanted to paddle the most. The Carolina 14' x 21.5". This time it was in the Open Technical Race of the Gorge Paddle Challenge. The conditions. Vastly different then earlier in the week. Windy. Bumpy. But the board performed. I had a few falls on buoy turns. But in the chop, headwind and sidewind and downwind the board shinned. However I was still learning where this board could be magic.
Fast forward to January. Meeting up with Bill Kraft and Isabelle Picard for the Pain Killer Cup. I found myself on another version of the Carolina. The 14' x 22.5". I took this board out to surf some mushy, heavy current waves. And once again I found it working well. As the weekend went on. We raced this model. And the conditions lined up to be an insane downwinder. The board delivered. It surfed, linked bump to bump, even amongst cross bumps. And paddled through the flat, sheltered sections.
Through out the course of the past three months I have spent all my time on a Carolina. The 14' x 21.5".
I have had it out in nuking downwind conditions, this is still where I am the most challenged on this board. It works amazing but as I get fatigued, I began to lose the speed and ability to connect bumps. Like I can on the 14' x 22.5".
The surf has similar challenges. But I can manage it a lot better than in downwinding. If the waves are glassy. I have no issues at all. But an onshore or side-off wind, forces me to be on my game. Once on a wave, it surfs like a champ. And feels as stable as any of the sizes.
Where this board has excelled for me is during the race leagues I attend and at races with mix conditions. Truly living up to its name. The board loves to draft and find bumps. Ones that may not even be visible. This was most recently noticed on a paddle with a heavy current and headwind. The board found a bump that allowed me to surf for almost a half mile.
An encounter with a heavy headwind, 25 mph plus. Also revealed that this board can push through these conditions. With ease.
The more time I spend on this board. The more I learn. I am now learning how to use the rails in slower, more challenging conditions. To slide through the water. And find those non existent bumps.
My take away from this board. Is try it. And don't be afraid to go with a size that may feel big. These bigger boards can surf and flatwater paddle extremely well.
If this board is of interest to you. Get on one. Or two or three. Compare the sizes. See how you feel. Then let that make your decision. Find the size close to what you are currently paddling. Try not to think flatwater vs. rough water. But more of what you paddle in the most. If you race and this is where your choice is coming from. Flatwater gets eliminated. Even if you live in a place where you only race on lakes, rivers or intracoastal. Races are never flat and if they are this board will perform no matter the size.
If you are someone who truly wants to grow into a board. Which I tell people to let their paddling, not ability level determine that. Meaning, if you paddle 3 plus days a week you can learn this board. Which is where I am currently at. But if you get on the board and fall more than 4 times in an hour paddle. It may not be the right board. Especially if it is a flatwater paddle.
Ted Schatz who paddles with Gorge Performance has put together a great few blogs on finding the right size. And Jonathan Bischoff of Vermont Ski and Sport spoke about his experiences testing sizes as well. Both great examples of determine the right width.
In all my testing and riding. My worst day on this board was a recent downwinder in challenging conditions. And I fell 6 times. Before that I have only fell 4 times on an 8 mile downwinder, the Gorge course race and a surf race in Pompano. My goal not to fall at all. And that is what I am shooting for at the Carolina Cup next weekend.