The holy grail of surfski design - ultimately ...

6 years 9 months ago #29759 by Ole

I only have a few years of paddle experience and by accident also own a surfski company (Ozean). I support your campaign. Well done (again!).

Cheers from down under,

Ozean OSS3 SL, OSS4 SL, OSS1

Previously: Fenn Elite Glide, DD3 Albatross (2x), Vajda Hawx 43, Think Uno Max, Think Evo II, Epic V8, Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 sports

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6 years 9 months ago #29760 by Boyan Zlatarev
Thanks Ole,

I really appreciate the support!

I honestly believe, from surfski manufacturer point of view especially, stable surfski market is far more sustainable than the limited high end market.

I wish you success with your company!

Best regards

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6 years 9 months ago #29761 by Impala
I definitely agree that this thread has come to a dead end. The reason is because we confuse three or four different capabilities that do not have much to with each other, and which should be practised under different conditions.

1. Forward stroke: best practised in a stable boat that still allows for a narrow catch and of course has a suitable seat and footplate.

2. Balance in stillwater: if you want to race ICF boats in stillwater, you have to eventually practice your balance on such boats. But there is also ...

3. ... Balance in moving water, which is something different from balance in stillwater. You can observe this when you put ICF flatwater folks into narrow skis on a turbulent river or moderate ocean conditions. They struggle first, because they don't know waves and currents, i.e. instability that does not originate from the paddler himself. But thanks to their basis in flatwater balance, they adjust very quickly. For non-ICF paddlers like myself, training balance depends on where you paddle; the less demanding the water, the more demanding the boat should be (and vice versa!). You can't train balance on stillwater with a V8 unless you increase your seat height significantly (and the result is a less stable but still not very lively boat, which many don't like ...).

4. Downwind surfing: That is what Boyan is focusing on, as far I could understand it. It is a skill you do not need and also can't develop unless you paddle in waves with a certain minimum size, it's as simple as that. I recently learned that I do not have any downwind skills, period (I thought otherwise). In a DW race over 20km, with slight backwind and moderate quartering waves, I was no faster than in a comparable flatwater race (11.9 vs 11.8 kph), while others who would have been on par with me on flatwater were almost 2 kph faster. That says all.

This experience together with what Boyan manages to achieve on a V5 convinced me that DW paddling is a specific skill that you can't teach yourself easily, and particularly not in conditions like mine where there are practically no waves. That leaves me with forward stroke and balance training, to be at least prepared best when going to the sea. To learn DW, you apparently do not need a fast, unstable boat, it rather disctracts you from what is really important. That is the main point Boyan got across to me.

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6 years 9 months ago #29764 by Boyan Zlatarev
Hi Impala

I am really glad that you got some insights about downwind paddling and I hope this will help you if you decided to pursue this in the future.

I just wanted to make a note that my point with Surfski 600 wasn't at all a statement about what I can do in downwind with a slow boat.

The main goal is to make the sport more inclusive to people who will never be able to master tippy boats nor downwind.

I love downwind paddling but I think this is just a small fraction of the potential of surfski paddling growth. I estimate that in the past 10 years there were approximately 8000 - 10 000 surfski sold in Europe and I don't think that there are more than 1000 people doing downwind regularly.

It is very clear to me that we will not be able to make the sport more inclusive by focusing on a very small % of the population.

I suggest you listen to this podcast with TC Surfski

There is a lot more we could communicate about the sport than speed, racing and downwind. If I look at SUP I see that 99% of the people using those boards either don't have the skill or the desire to go downwind.

SUP attracts with diversity of use as well as accessibility both in price point as well as what skills are needed to start enjoying. I hardly ever see SUP paddlers talk about intervals and time. Yes, there are races and yes SUP downwind surely is great but from the 100 paddlers I see here in Tarifa only 2-3 use racing boards. The rest use more stable and easy to manage boards.

In the same time here in Tarifa, arguably one of the best places to paddle surfski there are only two local surfski paddlers - me and Antonio.

The other part was to challenge manufacturers to focus more on the people who pay the bills rather than always to focus on the top 50 paddlers in the world.

Surely elite athletes have some nice stories to share but I know that the "slow" paddlers in "slow and stable" boats also have stories to tell, just as good or maybe even better, things that a normal person could connect to and get inspired.

...but the normal folks are almost never given the spotlight.

I would like this to change!

Best Regards

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3 years 9 months ago #37354 by Bearded
Wow what a thread! Really lovely, raw stuff! Saw someone mention it earlier, hope it's ok to semi-revive it with my 50 kopek.

The 1 crucial thing everyone, even Boyan, never mentions in this lively discussion is the hip contact with the boat factor. I think, especially for the folks coming from sea kayaking, this could be equally, if not more important than the width of the hull, or the "eliteness" of the boat. I distinctly remember having felt more, not less, stable in a gen 1 Swordfish (not the S, whose bucket is wider) than in a gen 1 XT some 3 years ago when I bought the Swordie having paddled the XT for a couple of months. Obviously it was way faster as well, but also more stable. All because I could control its roll with my hips more, I felt connected to the boat. As opposed to XT or V10 Sport where I had to stabilize myself vis-a-vis the boat before I could even begin stabilizing the boat vis-a-vis the sea.

Roughly the same thing happens to me now, as I swapped the Swordie for a lighter Elite S. Now I wouldn't go as far as saying that I feel more stable in it (it is on the narrow side, so it does require a little bit more attention, at least for now (I have it for 2 months)); but I definitely feel safer in an Elite S than even in a Swordie. The reason for that is the other thing nobody (I think) mentioned in the thread: sometimes the ability to accelerate faster can be a safety feature as it can get you out of a tight spot (if you spot the said spot in time). This ability is yet another way you can exercise control over the situation; catch a wave before it catches you.

My landing point happens to have a 30 meter wide, and about 40 meter long straightish shallow corridor between the reefs (with whose sharpness I became intimately acquainted on one occasion), which becomes somewhat nasty in anything over 1.5 meters, what with triple refractions and a river-like standing waves due to the outflowing current. The mini straights I have to traverse twice every paddling session demonstrates this point beautifully: at a certain point you can only enter it if you surf a wave and don't broach into the rocks on either side. It's easier to do on an Elite S.

And wow this hull can surf and maneuver! And I'm talking small, angry, short Med waves whose periods are shorter than the boat, and not the conveyor belt orderly kind of stuff that Boyan (whose paddling style and objectives I completely identify with, btw) sports in his awesome videos. Sorry, got distracted by my love for my new boat there..

I half expected Wesley to come out and say it, since it seems to be his credo, but he didn't, so I'm saying it: surfski 600 is the one you feel the snuggest in! And if it allows you to sprint your way out of trouble on top of that, it's a surfski 644! (Wonder why nobody makes a 666 long ski, such a marketable number)

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3 years 9 months ago #37359 by Boyan Zlatarev
Hi Bearded,
I am very happy that you are loving your new Fenn boat. There is nothing better than finding a surfski that really suits your style of paddling and local conditions. 

I am in agreement that measuring boat width is an over simplified way to look at boat design because there are plenty of other things which may influence the performance and handling of a surfski. 

I will push back on your statement of speed being a safety feature...or at least the speed/ acceleration difference you are really dealing with when you compare Fenn Swordfish and Fenn Elite. In my estimation (based on comparing similar models) you can expect approximately 1-2% top speed difference or getting lower top speed in Swordfish 15.5 kph instead of 15.8 kph. I say you can't even measure the effect on time delay it would take you to pass 40 m stretch with this speed difference...maybe 0,2 sec?

Based on that the acceleration time delay would most probably be in that exact same margin between 0.0 - 0.2 sec to get to that top speed. I don't see how this can be measured at all especially when you can't really put yourself in exact same situation with each of those two boats to make a real comparison. 

If I had to analyse a hypothetical situation where acceleration was a factor to keep me safe, my rule of thumb is that I need to apply the stability factor to that same situation to evaluate the possible impact. I never do a one sided argument. 

So let's say you are in a situation where the margin of 0,2 sec delay exposes a paddler to a danger and their ability to accelerate faster saves the day. I would argue that if someone relies on such a thin time margin of "make or break" this is more related to using luck than anything as there is no measurable difference in the speed and acceleration performance of two very similar surfskis. 

On the other hand if we allow for that same situation but this time the paddler loses stability because the faster boat is less stable. There are a few logical points here:
  1. Loss of stability means loss of speed and acceleration almost certainly far greater than the theoretical gain described earlier. 
  2. In worst case loss of stability means swimming and far more dangerous situation compared to having a time delay of 0.2 sec.
  3. Loss of stability in challenging river-like conditions is far more probable than loss of speed and acceleration.
  4. If in that moment there is a further challenge because of damaged equipment - rudder, paddle etc - the chances to get out of the situation unharmed are far greater in a more stable boat. 
Keep paddling a having fun! This is the most important. 

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3 years 9 months ago - 3 years 9 months ago #37360 by Impala
Hi Boyan,

I think that Bearded rather meant to say that boat contact improves stability - regardless how 'fast' or tippy your boat is otherwise. The line of causation is:
better contact => better stability => better confidence enabling to push the boat harder
=> improved safety, particularly in the conditions that Bearded has to cope with.
Bearded wanted to point out that good boat contact can even overcompensate the safety loss from paddling a tippier boat according to his experience. I can confirm that I feel better in control in a snug boat than in a broad and stable but too wide bathtub where waves toss me around from one side to the other, and sensual information arrives split seconds too late to react adequately.

For design, this is relevant as safe beginner skis usually have very wide buckets, just as if designers thought that beginners were usually overweight :) ... a version of one-size-fits-all of course. But I do not see, OTOH, why it should not be possible to equip your bucket with foam to obtain a snug fit ... each butt is different anyway. 
Last edit: 3 years 9 months ago by Impala.

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3 years 9 months ago #37361 by Boyan Zlatarev
Hi Impala,
I absolutely agree that fit of the surfski seat has an impact on stability and that is what i stated above. 

My point is still valid assuming that the fit of the surfski is comfortable: 

Marginal gain in speed (0-0,2%) has much lower potential (very close to zero) to keep a paddler safer compared to obviously more stable boat. 

With other words well fitting V8 like surfski will always be safer to use than well fitting V12 surfski. 

Thanks for the reply. 
The following user(s) said Thank You: Selkie

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3 years 9 months ago #37363 by Bearded
Ok, so I'll start my carefully considered, logically irresistible, verbose and somewhat wine-fueled response by congratulating myself with a successful revival of this here most popular thread in the history of the forum (Rob feel free to correct me on that). Well done, me!
And now to answer the points of the discussion: Impala is absolutely correct in saying that my main point is that good boat contact, IMHO, overcompensates for the inherent instability of an elite hull. Obviously up to a point. In my case this point was between an Elite S, and Glide. The narrowness of the bucket of the Elite serves my need well enough; any narrower bucket starts impeding the rotation. And, of course, paddling the Glide in messy chop is, very taxing on ones mental concentration, it demands constant attention, the moment you take your eyes off the sea it wants to shed you (or at least me, rather). Whereas Elite not only allows for incredibly predictable roll (the roll of the Glide is pretty predictable as well, it just starts sooner and is shorter before you find yourself swimming), it also allows you a big enough margin before the roll is induced, so you can space out when doing the upwind chore, and you'll be fine. Probably has something to do with a C shaped oval hull of the entire Fenn lineup, with no edges that make for a point of no return once you roll past them..
As far as padding the seat with foam – I guess I'd rather buy a ski with a bucket that fits me already, I don't think it's too much to ask.. I've been pretty lucky so far in that regard; for instance, I'm aware of the "Fenn dead leg" phenomenon that some people experience, I'm just thankfully not one of them. Btw, I'm not associated with any manufacturer, and my exposure to skis is limited to all the Fenns, V8, V10sport (hope to try V12 in near future), Think Eze, Nelo 510 and 560.
Boyan, on the other hand, seems to agree with the one sided statement that a well fitting, as snug as possible ski is better than a loose one, so that's squared away then. Especially if he admits that the inner fit of the bucket can trump the outer stability of the hull. I know a two sided argument when I see one as well!
Now, I'm going to push back on your push back.
Firstly, let me assert that the stability of a given paddler on a given hull was kind of taken for granted by me. Obviously, one needs to feel relative comfort on board the vessel one paddles, that goes without saying. The relativity of that statement could be discussed, but let's say for the sake of an argument that you're mature enough to assess the sea conditions correctly, and while paddling your fastest, with rotation unrestricted by safety considerations, you manage to fall in once every 1000 hours on a given boat. And yet you have enough wonderlust to go in the highest possible (safety-wise) seas all the time, resulting in that 1/1000 capsize. So, the stability factor you mentioned, is not really a factor, because for such a paddler stability is a function of concentration at worst, and is a given, at best.
Secondly, having put stability outside the pole of the discussion, let me do the same (almost) with speed. I'll grant you the numbers you cited regarding the top speed of the boats in question, making the advantage of one over the other truly negligible over a puny 40m distance. I, being a lazy, non-foam-padding luddite (I don't even own a smartphone, or a TV, never have, and this is my third ever "post" on the Internet), am absolutely content with those numbers, since all speed measuring gadgetry is way beyond me. They sound about right. However, I was not talking about the top speed but rather about the acceleration. Now, you will recall that my swap from Swordfish to Elite S was also accompanied by what feels like a significant weight shedding (on the part of the boat, not me, alas), which has to contribute to the acceleration as well.
Now, as I'm sure you know only too well, there comes a point where the ability to accelerate faster would determine whether you are able or not able to catch a wave, especially from a dead start, especially a fast non-wind-generated swell. At that point the marginal top speed difference transforms into an absolute dual-proposition difference between riding a wave more or less safely and controllably between the rocks, and being picked up by a breaking wave and praying it won't deposit you onto the rocks. I may have exaggerated for clarity sake, but come a big enough day and suddenly my exaggeration becomes an understatement..
Lastly, I'd like to stress again, I'm not arguing against the loss of stability scenario. Everything Boyan writes about that is gospel truth. If one cannot paddle ones best (full rotation) without swimming, one is in a wrong boat or a wrong sea (which can happen due to the aforementioned wonderlust and overestimation of ones abilities; I have one especially dear memory of finding myself at the bottom of a conical whirlwind, where every time I raised a paddle it was tugged in a semi-circular motion, because the wind would change direction 3 times a second; had to wait it out for 30 glorious minutes outside the boat).
I'm just saying that Surfski 600 concept shouldn't be reserved for beginners only (unless Boyan, its creator, says different - got to respect the copyright) , and if ones abilities change, so should ones Surfski 600. Arguably it should become longer. Or the sea should become higher. Or both.

Which brings me to some downwinding questions for Boyan. You are an accomplished paddler and extremely accomplished downwinder with no stability issues whatsoever. Why do you paddle a V8 and not a V12 or some such? When on your own I mean, when not teaching anybody? Are the runners intervals so small in Tarifa (they don't look to be) that anything longer than a V8 wouldn't fit between them? Or do you prefer a slightly slower boat so it won't outrun the wave you're riding? But then aren't you making it much harder for yourself to plough through the hump of the wave in front of you (I know you prefer to outmaneuver it on its shoulder rather than plough through, but surely sometimes you have to)? Or is it only due to the ability to turn the shorter boat quicker?

Ok, actually at this point I almost convinced myself that in Boyans ideal sea conditions it might make more sense to go for the shorter boat... However, in a faster boat you wouldn't need to do as many weight shifts back and forth, and by zigzaging even more than you currently do you can make it fit between the short intervals (if that is indeed the problem); it also makes the distance you travel bigger so you don't outrun the wave? 

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