Outrigger Canoeing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding Books

Steve West - Winner of the World Paddle Award - Media Category 2014


"Journalist, writer, educator, researcher, trailblazer, entrepreneur, cultural ambassador, he is one of the most recognised and best known canoe personalties"

The World Paddle Awards Academy

Stand Up Paddle Boarding - A Paddlers Guide 510pp
Outrigger Canoeing - A Paddlers Guide to The Ancient Sport of Kings 465pp
Outrigger Canoeing - The Art and Skill of Steering 168pp
Outrigger Canoeing - OC1 Book - A Paddlers Guide 306pp
Outrigger Canoeing - V1 Va'a Hoe - A Paddlers Guide 292pp

'When one of our coaches and paddlers asked coach Gerard from Shell Va'a where he got his, 'Theory and Technique Concepts' from, he replied, "I read all the books - Steve West books and whatever books I can get a hold of". You inspire us all and give words where there were none or little. Thank you so much. Your hard work is greatly appreciated world-wide from the big to the little fishes.'
Dani Gay - Lanikai CC Coach

'If you’re into, or not into, stand up paddling, but want to be educated where it comes from and what it stands for, read this book by Steve West. The more I read, the more I respect the real paddlers of the world!'
Luke Egan - Australian Surfing Legend.

'When you stay at a hotel for a stand up paddle race and open the drawer, this should be next to the Gideon's Bible. It is the must-have book for anyone who paddles SUPs!'.
Distressed Mullet.com

'Be inspired by Stand Up Paddling – A Paddler’s Guide and join us as we ride the oceans of the world together'.
Travis Grant 2013 Moloka'i Champion

'I love the book. It's a brilliant piece of work, it's like a Lonely Planet Guide Book for Stand Up Paddling! I'm extremely impressed with how much research and time has been put into creating this book and I sincerely hope every stand up paddle fan out there goes and grabs a copy!'
Chris Parker SUPracer.com

Larry Cain's Rant Meets a Long Overdue Response . . .

When someone takes it upon themselves to discredit the ideas of another, it’s a fundamental right to have a reply, especially when your life’s-work is based upon these very ideas shared. This is my response to one of America’s luminaries from the obscure world of C1 paddling. When I suggested that we should define what SUP technique should look like as one means of limiting radical board designs (canoe like), Larry got his hydration tube in a knot and decided to go to print.

I’ve stayed clear of the whole discussion on whether or not there should be restrictions on SUP board specifications to this point.  I still figure I’m new to this sport and I am well aware that I have huge gaps in both knowledge and experience when it comes to many aspects of it (sadly they are the fun ones – downwinding, surfing,etc.). While I am quite comfortable talking about basic technique in flat water which can then be applied to various conditions on the ocean, you aren’t going to see me competing with either Dave Kalama or Jeremy Riggs doing clinics related to ocean stuff any time soon. When it comes to board design I’m still learning as well.  I have ideas on what might be reasonable in terms of design restrictions, but have been quite content to let others with a richer background in SUP debate it and have just listened instead. That changed yesterday when I read an article on SUPracer.com by Steve West. Steve is no doubt and intelligent guy and has a ton of experience on the ocean. Certainly far more than me. He’s even written a book about SUP. I think we agree on the need to keep SUP as standup paddleboard and not standup canoe or something else.

Larry’s opening salvo reveals something he apparently has failed to see, in that we don’t all agree and indeed SUPs biggest downfall is centred upon its own identity crisis so much so we have surfing and canoeing bodies arguing over this very point. On the issue of racing upon flat to flattish water, any person who wishes to argue the point that this singular activity is a surf sport, in the absence of surf, is frankly out of touch with reality. SUP is not canoeing as we know it, but it’s origins stem from canoe based cultures; but that’s another story and not an unimportant one.
 Extract from Stand Up Paddle - A Paddlers Guide Book.

Extract from Stand Up Paddle - A Paddlers Guide Book.

Interestingly that is what motivated Jimmy Terrell to write his piece about restrictions to board specifications as well. However Steve and I also have a huge difference of opinion, and I feel so strongly about it I decided it was time to get off the sidelines and “stand up” and be counted on this issue. 

For most of you there is one question at issue.  Should there be restrictions to board design specs or not?  Steve, however, raises another issue in the same discussion – should there be restrictions to paddling technique as well in order to keep the SUP we know from changing.  He thinks there should be and I couldn’t disagree more.  

‘The reality is a paddler’s technique is an expression of their skill and ability to adapt to both the idiosyncrasies of their board and the nature of the conditions they are paddling in.’ So Larry openly acknowledges paddlers adopt differing paddling techniques to suit differing boards they are on. This is super important to keep in mind, because as you will read later on, that’s my point - just how close should a paddler adapt his technique and style to that of C1 in order to control the craft he or she is on so as to become closer to this sport, yet further from the dictates of what SUP should look like?


Lets deal with the issues one at a time.  I agree with those that think there should be some type of restrictions to board design specs.

Let’s deal with Larry’s frame of reference, C1, an obscure and highly skilled canoe sport, where the craft is so unfeasibility difficult to paddle on account of its instability, the rules state that you can in fact, kneel on both knees or sit if you wish - adopting the split stance, one knee on the floor however, provides the best bio-mechanical advantage, superior for speed gains - standing is mitigated on the basis that it’s near on in impossible to do so - but if you did, you would of course require a longer paddle and then it would be called - umm - oh yeah, stand up paddling.
 Jim Terrell may have set out to make his batwing board to raise awareness of the need for rules on board designs, however he unwittingly drew attention to the manner in which he has to paddle it in order for it to be feasibly possible. This raises the question, if the design of the board is so radically unstable, it makes it mandatory to adopt a lowered split stance approximating C1 paddling, where switching sides is neither possible or practical along a spring course, I strongly suggest, we have grounds to consider what standing and paddling should be by definition. SW

Jim Terrell may have set out to make his batwing board to raise awareness of the need for rules on board designs, however he unwittingly drew attention to the manner in which he has to paddle it in order for it to be feasibly possible. This raises the question, if the design of the board is so radically unstable, it makes it mandatory to adopt a lowered split stance approximating C1 paddling, where switching sides is neither possible or practical along a spring course, I strongly suggest, we have grounds to consider what standing and paddling should be by definition. SW

To put SUP in context, board or canoe-like stand inside craft, already dictate to some degree the stance and technique required to handle different variants, albeit subtle fine tuning. But what if it were mandatory to adopt a paddling style approximating C1 style in order to maintain balance and maximise speed, up to and including, being unable and undesirable to switch paddling sides, on account of being in a fixed stance and all because of the board’s design - approximating that of a C1.

I come from a sprint canoe background.  There have been restrictions to boat specs since long before I started to paddle.   C1, C2, K1, K2, K4 all have restrictions with regards to length, weight, and concave surfaces below the water line.  There used to be width restrictions as well until around 2000 when they were dropped.  Boat manufacturers were making the boats increasingly narrow below the waterline and then achieving the minimum width well above the waterline.  The result was strange looking boats with “horns” sticking up at the widest point just to meet the width restrictions.  The boats looked ridiculous, were difficult to store and transport, and the rule had no effect on the practical width at the waterline.  The International Canoe Federation looked at the situation and correctly decided to get rid of any minimum width restrictions.

So there is no minimum width restriction of a C1 and this is based on the reality that the hull is fully displaced and adding width will improve stability, so it becomes a race to see who can paddle the narrowest - in effect a self governing process.

Knowing that the equipment being used in a race was all essentially the same meant that I knew I wasn’t going to lose a race because of equipment. 

Actually you were going to be beaten by the better paddler, with the better balance, who could handle the narrowest (fastest) canoe, because indeed, ‘essentially’ the same, ain’t the same as the same, or identical.

Nobody would.  Even with the width restriction removed the equipment in a race is sufficiently the same to ensure that nobody is going to lose a race because of their boat.  That is a good thing.  

With the minimum width removed, this is an oxymoron in saying that everyone is going to be on the same designs - they are not and yes, evolution will dictate this - evolution of skill sets and yes, even possibly paddling technique.

It also means that the boats will continue to look similar to the way they do now well into the future.  Thus the nature of sport will basically remain the same.  Canoe-kayak will look similar 20 years from now to the way it does now.  It will evolve to be sure, but the spirit of the sport will remain the same.  This is something that those supporting restrictions to board specs are aiming for – to keep the spirit of the sport intact as it evolves. 

I am 100% behind protecting the spirit and nature of such sports including that of stand up paddling, which at present, has no guidelines whatsoever in regards to what defines the craft or the paddling technique. It is not signed off on or understood; merely a sport blowing in the wind. In the context of pure flat water racing, One -Design (Class) racing is essentially what is being suggested where super stringent rules apply - indeed this is needed for such racing (towards any Olympic pathway) in line with other flat water paddle craft. For all other SUP disciplines I see no need, however I am firmly of the belief, we should embrace stand-in (canoe-like) boards for flat water paddling in order to promote semi-displaced hulls which make for hydrodynamical sense. To shy away from this design is backward thinking. What becomes relevant, is avoiding designs which make it implicit they must be paddled in a similar manner as per Canadian Canoes. Standing a paddling a canoe-like craft puts it into a similar category to C1, other than it is not so radical a shape that one must adopt a suitably radical stance to maximise its speed or overcome its instability.

Board spec restrictions are also trying to do something else.  Namely keep the sport accessible to new participants.  Currently first time paddlers can take out race boards and still paddle with some sense of stability.  

This is a nonsense. Brands design a full range of boards for all comers of all differing standards of ability. Do not confuse the elite paddler over the novice or uncoordinated. Here what is being said, is that racing should be made accessible to all-comers and that somehow, first time paddlers should expect to be racing immediately, so we stick with 30” wide boards to cater for the weakest paddler. This dumbs the sport down to the point of a soporific experience and makes the sport seem retarded in its thinking. Again, Larry is fixated on flat water paddling as C1 paddlers are apt to do and that’s understandable. Windsurfing in the formative days, evolved to have Div II boards which were fully displaced and hard to handle, in addition to the Div I styled, semi displaced hulls, effectively separating out two distinct spheres of interest and abilities.

Granted there are some custom race boards that they would find difficult to stay on, but by and large they can use a decent board capably very quickly upon entering the sport.  This means the sport is user friendly and attractive to new participants.  This is one of the reasons the sport is growing so fast.

Larry seems pre-occupied with racing as if this is primary reason SUP is worthy of its existence and that first time buyers should buy on Wednesday and be racing by Saturday? Racing is optional, not a right of passage and remains a niche within a niche. Entry level boards exist for a reason. Racing for the majority, its about socialisation, taking on challenges and being a part of the in-crowd and amassing shared experiences - only the few are elite in any context whatsoever.

If boards were allowed to evolve without limits, that would change.  Such a change would be to everyone’s detriment – board and paddle manufacturers, race organizers, and participants.  Even the top-level elite racers would feel the pain, losing their sponsorships as growth in the sport declined.  We all have a vested interest in keeping this sport accessible and attractive to new participants.  We should all be watching the rec races at the events we go to with interest and supporting and encouraging those participants.

There is a thing called a ‘self-governing process’. If brands design boards nobody wants, they go bust, this is basic economics and therefore paddlers will always govern this reality in such a commercial sport such as this. Granted, elite paddlers will paddle what they can handle, so what, good luck to them. SUP sport is not only about racing; its many things, to many people and herein lies its strength and diversity. What is not OK, is the manner in which they ‘have’ to paddle them in order to stay on them and make them functional - again define standing please?

But what of fairness?  There are those that are claiming that they are put at a disadvantage because the sport currently favors lighter paddlers. They’d like nothing more that to remove ALL restrictions, particularly those around board length. I disagree with this approach for a few reasons.

SUP racing was essentially euthonased when a member of the worst period generation period, ever, period, from the surfing world, decided to adopt prone paddle boarding rules to a craft that had barely evolved, in the belief it was right, proper and reasonable to do so. This was done in the context of having zero forward perception of the sports true origins in any form or guise, up to an including no acknowledgement of the fundamental principles of differentiating ‘water line length’ over that of ‘length overall’. This was in 2008 at the very first BOP race, where officials were literally chopping boards down to 12’6 or 14’ to comply, using nothing more than a hand-saw. In one fell swoop, it was as if by divine intervention, it was deemed the sport shall cease to evolve from that day forward; decided by whom exactly; it was in short akin to a tactless form of barbaric circumcision or neutering of a sport barely passed puberty. Whomever these persons were, who decided on this grand statement, they should be deemed as the antithesis of all that is good and noble in the context of human endeavour and the efficacies of evolution. They were wholly ignorant and typical of the surfing mindset which utterly failed to acknowledge any possibility that this sport could be related to any other sport where a paddle is swung. They should have been made to fully explain themselves and offer up meaning and gravitas to their agenda at the time, but they’ve long since faded into the maelstrom they created, to become voiceless empty vessels, hiding in the shadows.

To start with, we should be concerned about the majority, not the few heavier paddlers who are upset because lighter, fitter athletes are beating them.  Most paddlers entering the sport are well suited to the board options available.  Having to pay more for longer, more complex and more difficult to store boards is not something that is going to make the sport more attractive to them.

SUP only becomes a sport, when an individual elevates an involvement which is singularly competitive, either by virtue of serious racing or endeavour. In all other aspects and by far the greater representation, participants feel they are simply part of a recreational activity which barely qualifies as a sport per se. The mindset between these two differing approaches are in important to recognise. On the issue of weight and fairness; imagine a world where any person, of any weight, can paddle any board, of any length, determined through free-will, the best board for them and the conditions, thereby encouraging a greater number of ‘racers’ on the water at one time in the name of fairness. In the context of OC1 ocean paddling, where there are no rules, we do not all stand around complaining about one person having a better canoe than the other - we just get on with it. Consequently there is no dummy-spitting or issue.

Heavy, incredibly fit athletes in our sport are rare.  I’d suggest to the 250 lbs., chiseled from granite running back who is upset that he is at a disadvantage competing against Connor Baxter on a 14 foot board that he is in the wrong sport or at the very least should adjust his goals and expectations.  By the same logic I’d say the same thing to Connor if he were complaining about not being able to play professional football.  Some sports are better suited to athletes with certain body types.  That’s just fact.  Furthermore, the reality is we already have a board class for individuals like this in our sport.  It’s called unlimited. Big guys are free to race on these boards already.  However there is no logical reason that we should change the sport, to the detriment of the entry-level paddler, in order to make everyone race unlimited against them.  It just makes no sense.

An inflammatory and somewhat derogatory summary about heavy folk which is incredibly naive and insensitive. Unlimited boards are the apex, the zenith of SUP board design when it comes to downwind and ultra-long distance flat water paddling and yet Larry is essentially side-lining these boards for ‘fatties’ who apparently need to get the body callipers out and get a grip on life and reality. Really? How about they just race against all-comers in a division-less board category, save for gender and maybe age? They are by Larry’s reasoning, already couch-potatoes, so what has the skinny, adolescent, gifted paddler to loose? I am gob-smacked at this suggestion that Unlimited boards exists for obese, would be if they could be, competitive paddlers when nothing could be further from the truth or indeed the minds of the designers when they set out to create these manifestations of speed and grace.
 2018 Interceptor Mistral unlimited board by Diplock/West - designed for 'heavy' paddlers according to Mr Caine, though I don't remember that being in my head when I set out with the design?

2018 Interceptor Mistral unlimited board by Diplock/West - designed for 'heavy' paddlers according to Mr Caine, though I don't remember that being in my head when I set out with the design?

For the 250 lbs. weekend warrior athlete who isn’t the paragon of fitness, I’d suggest that before trying to legislate everyone else onto different boards to “level the playing field” they first look in the mirror, get out the body fat calipers and make a commitment to change their physique, improving their health in the process.  After all, that is one of the most basic reasons we should all be doing SUP in the first place – it’s an incredibly fun and enjoyable way to get fit and stay in shape.  If they do that, they’ll see an improvement in their performance.  Then, if they’re still not satisfied, they can buy unlimited boards and compete against the 250 lbs. running back.

It could be said NOT permitting the heavier paddler to paddle a board (in this instance) which suits them, is in fact discriminatory on the grounds of their size? More’s the point, some would argue the combination of bigger board (by surface area) plus heavier paddler, equals more wetted surface area and more drag as against the lighter paddler, who gets to paddle something minimalist. So who is advantaged? This is countered by the advantage of water line length in some conditions, not all. You could argue stronger, fitter, more genetically blessed, more financially better off individuals, are one one way or another, more ‘advantaged’ than the next competitor and that in actuality, this should be policed as well, just to keep everything fair. There is no ‘fair’ in racing when it comes down to it, especially when you start listing out every conceivable argument from nurture to nature and all the way back again. If size is your argument, Windsurfing has used ‘weight division’ to create a level playing field.

When I read the arguments against board restrictions of any kind on various forums, I can’t help but conclude that the strongest proponents of eliminating board specs are doing so for selfish and personal reasons.  It is a stretch to suggest they are altruistic and have the best interests of the majority of entry level participants in mind.  I’ll repeat it here.  All of us involved in this sport should be putting the experience of those entry level people near the top of our list of priorities as they are the ones that are fueling the growth of our sport, buying boards and paddles and keeping those that sponsor the elite racers in business.

How insightful and yet with some 75% + of the world’s sales of SUPs being inflatable, we can safely say, the entry level paddler, is not just well catered for, but indeed over-catered for and spoilt for choice - so you can have no fear on this front. As for entry level paddlers lining the pockets of brands who can then invest in sponsoring elite paddlers, they only do so to build brand equity as no brand can survive in selling race boards, period.

Board specification restrictions can effectively limit evolution of board design to prevent boards from reaching the point where they are no longer recognizable as paddleboards and are something more akin to racing canoes instead.  

This is genius. So Larry is ‘against’ further evolution of the SUP craft on the basis that we have reached our zenith in but a few short years and yet here’s a newsflash; while we all stand around arguing if SUP is a basically a surf sport (ISA) balanced with the counter argument it’s a paddle sport (ICF), in the absence of spec rules anyone cares for, ‘boards’ have morphed into ‘canoe-like’ manifestations, which answers the burning question for us all or am I missing something? For crying out loud - everyone needs to wake up to themselves. SUP sport is in minor free-fall and people are banging on about it being an Olympic sport. Here’s a newsflash - by the time the ISA and ICF thrash this out and SUP is ear-marked for the Olympic games on the Planet Dumbarse in the year 2100, SUP will barely exist as a going concern, because we have not addressed the real issues.

Board spec restrictions are easy to apply and enforce.  Before races boards can be inspected – measured and weighed, just like racing canoes and kayaks are.  If the board passes inspection it is legal and can be raced.  If not, the competitor would have to track down another board.   

Spec rulings are a mine-field from the point of view of authenticity and regulation. It’s open to nepotism and abuse within a commercially aggressive industry, which even includes ‘custom creations.’ It’s time consuming and a pain in the arse. Makers have to be registered, issued stickers and comply. This then has to be policed and monitored and then there’s abuse by the paddlers themselves in cheating the system and on and on it goes. Oh, joy this will be fun; rulings, micromanagement and anally retentive clip board waving, weights and measures officials in white coats leaping between boards on the beach and I thought we are a sport with ‘laid back surfing roots’ or has that just been flung out the window for the sake of convenience in this context? To add insult to this idea, the spec rules would need to be universally agreed upon and we’re a very long way from such a scenario.

So what should the board specs be?  The answer is I don’t honestly know.  I kind of like the way it is now with 14’ and unlimited.  I could get rid of 12’6” but get the issue of air travel so don’t know what to suggest there.

Not good enough to say “I don’t know” if you’re such a strong advocate and luminary. For me it’s easy and indeed, this is why I would be clear on specifying if the board dictates, makes necessary, that it can only be controlled and paddled in much the same way as a C1 - we have a problem - based on the reality, that in the context of flat water paddling (sprints) SUP designs would in fact be fastest if they were in fact tuned down C1 manifestations - that’s just basic hydrodynamical common-sense and everyone is afraid of this very idea. On the issue of air travel, even with a 12’6 - its a myth - ring a bunch of airlines and see how you get on and when you finally convince one to take it, pack a repair kit, you will more than likely need it. The evolution of the SUP craft must not, cannot be, dictated by the limits of airline carriers!

I do believe that women should race on the same boards as men.  It seems silly to arbitrarily say they need to race on shorter boards.  In canoe-kayak we certainly don’t make women race in shorter boats.   I think a length restriction is obvious.  A reasonable minimum width would be useful, and when I say reasonable I mean I’d still allow it to go fairly narrow.  A minimum weight would be a useful spec, as well as some type of maximum amount of recess in the tray where the paddler stands.

All vaguely convenient - no numbers given, so in short Larry is making no commitment here - he wants spec rules but offers no specifics. How about we don’t have any? Oh and while your at it - length restrictions are a nonsense without a length at the water line ruling! An 18’ board can have a 12’6 footprint - and that counts for something in any reasonable, intelligent creation of such rules.

With regards to restricting paddling technique, check out what Steve West says:

Ultimately, there should be definitions which limit certain bio-mechanical actions (techniques / styles) employed during execution of the forward stroke – relating to stance in particular.

“Where a rider is positioned such that they cannot and do not switch paddling sides (on account of the design of the board) and are reliant upon steering strokes and power strokes employed on one side only (on account of the design of the board) combined with a plunge-stroke, exaggerated high-knee, split-stance and radical lowering of the centre of gravity or any combination of these factors, this shall be deemed not to be in keeping with the spirit of the sport.”

His premise is if we tell SUP paddlers that they can’t paddle like a C1 paddler then the boards won’t evolve to become C1s.  I agree that might work, but what a backwards and ineffective way to address the evolution of boards.  

So, which is it Larry? You say you ‘ . . . agree it might work’ then attack the idea as being backward and an ineffective way to address the evolution of boards?

Let’s just back this up. Larry wants rules on board designs which makes him an anti-evolutionist. I on the other hand don’t; it’s too early. What I am addressing here is the issue that we have no definition of what SUP is; bio-mechanically speaking, nor philosophically speaking, nor any rules regarding what a SUP board should look like?

Here are two simple restrictions that should concern paddling technique in SUP.  The paddler should be required to stand up and should be required to use a single blade paddle.  

‘Stand Up’ is a verb intransitive - saying a paddler, ‘should be required to stand up’ is in fact an almost meaningless statement, on the other hand if you say a paddler, ‘must be in a standing position’, then we are getting somewhere. The next question becomes, what is the definition of standing? C1 paddlers kneel on one knee and have the other foot on floor, that’s a given and indeed I can find nowhere in the rule book which states that you must paddle a C1 in this manner, but what would be the outcome if you elected to adopt some other technique and if you did, would it be deemed ‘in keeping with the sport? Oh yeah, and at what point does a canoe paddle become a SUP paddle?

Beyond that, paddlers should be pretty free to experiment with technique.  Why?  Because enforcing any rules you come up with about how someone can or can’t paddle is incredibly difficult to the point of impossible.  In fact it is absurd to think you could effectively police technique the way Steve suggests above.

Really? A cricket umpire can determine if a bowler is throwing a ball rather than bowling it. A judge can determine if a walker is running rather than walking and yet Larry struggles to conceive a world where it is possible to determine standing over something else?
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What definition are you going to use for “split-stance”?  Six inches?  One foot?  Two feet?  Suppose you go with 24”.  How are you going to be able to tell that the guy with a 20” split stance is actually 20” and not over 24” when he is out on the water paddling?  

And how do they do so in C1? What determines the whys and wherefores of the paddling stance C1 paddlers adopt? The hull shape - ironically, this little rant, attacks the very sport from which he emanates?

Suppose you just say that everyone must use a parallel stance. What do you do when paddlers start moving their feet around in the ocean on waves?  Their surf stance is a split-stance.  Do you therefore ban both?

OK so now Larry is extracting the urine in an attempt to talk up his defence and attack - the reality here is this; if a board can only be controlled by a paddler on flat water by assuming a stance approximating that of a C1 paddler and that switching paddling sides is impractical so as they must paddle only on one side - all on account of the boards design - I think we can safely say, the spirit of the sport is being compromised. Not insignificantly Canadian Canoeing has it rules, which perversely manage to take away the need to have one knee on the floor; being as you can sit if you choose on your haunches or butt, which may loose you some bio-mechanical advantage, but in rougher waters it sure helps and if the canoe is radically shaped it assists by lowering your centre of gravity. The issue is, it undermines the very core nature and skill sets which define Canadian Canoeing, which can cause major rifts between competitors and judges. There is no rule stating you must keep one knee on floor, being as if you attempt to lift it from the floor, you will loose connection, drive and stability. Whether this is defined as ‘standing’ would be dubious to say the least. The point is, it’s a self governing regulation centred around the canoe’s design demanding a particular technique!’

 A lot of paddlers have discovered how to paddle indefinitely on one side if it suits them, using the very stroke that Steve, in his passage quoted above, says should be banned.  So what do you do?  Tell them they MUST switch sides every 10 strokes?  15 strokes?  20 strokes?  What happens if a guy does 21 strokes once in a race?  Is he disqualified?  Who is counting the strokes?  Who is to say the person counting can in fact count?  What happens in a strong side wind in which virtually everyone has to paddle for an extended period on one side just to go straight?  Do you enforce a 20 stroke rule anyway even if it means people can’t keep their boards straight?  Or do you make an allowance for the wind and say “in a 20 mph or greater side wind the 20 stroke rule does not apply”?  Who is to say how strong the wind really is?  How does the athlete know when they’re breaking the rule or not?  

In you’re opening passage, you alluded to my being intelligent - this rant here tells me you need to engage your brain for fear of selling yourself as anything but. You’re not listening Larry. IF THE DESIGN OF THE BOARD DICTATES THAT YOU MUST ADOPT A STANCE WHICH DOES NOT PERMIT SWITCHING SIDES THEN THERE IS A PROBLEM. IF THE BOARD DICTATES YOU MUST ADOPT A STANCE WHICH IS NOT WHAT IS CONSIDERED STANDING PER SE, THEN AGAIN WE HAVE A PROBLEM. And while we are on topic, when does a SUP paddle become a Canoe paddle and does it matter? Think carefully, it’s not a trick question.

It is quite ludicrous to try to place such restrictions on technique in order to accomplish something that board restrictions can easily and effectively address.  Imagine the controversy surrounding drafting and multiply it by 1000 and you have what such technique restrictions would get you.  

The reality is a paddler’s technique is an expression of their skill and ability to adapt to both the idiosyncrasies of their board and the nature of the conditions they are paddling in. 

RIGHT THERE - BOOM! You said it loud and clear, ‘ . . . a paddler’s technique is an expression of their skill and ability to adapt to both the idiosyncrasies of their board and the nature of the conditions they are paddling in.’ And there you have it - ‘ADAPT TO BOTH THE IDIOSYNCRASIES OF THEIR BOARD AND THE NATURE OF THE CONDITIONS . . .’

If we permit adaptation of technique to suit radical board designs to the point where such technique does not look like or is not akin to what SUP should be, then we have a problem?

The first time people saw Connor Baxter choke down on his paddle it probably blew everyone’s minds.  Now it is recognized as a bit of genius that allows the paddler to find the appropriate gear for the conditions, is widely accepted, and used by thousands of paddlers.  Would Steve have suggested a rule that said you had to have your hand on the top of the paddle, thus preventing this brilliant evolution in technique? I rest my case.

Classic nonsense deserving of a separate post. Connor invented the Choke Stroke? This is a man who needs to do a bit more research and an insult to my intelligence let alone the canoe cultures of the world who forged the first paddles.

We are participating in this amazing, incredibly fun and ridiculously addictive sport.  Thankfully it is growing like crazy and hopefully that growth continues well into the future.  

Well it’s growth has slowed - stalled in fact and warehouses are full to bursting with more boards than uptake and that’s in part to due to the short falls in the way the sport has been promoted and sold to the public and absolutely in part due to the want to make this a surf sport (a minority sport) and not a paddle sport ( a mass participation sport).
 The Mistral inflatable SUP range designed by Steve West and together with Chris Diplock, the hardboard range. The entry level boards and more especially the inflatables are the bread and butter life-blood of the SUP industry. Race boards are more about building brand equity and an exercise in marketing. 

The Mistral inflatable SUP range designed by Steve West and together with Chris Diplock, the hardboard range. The entry level boards and more especially the inflatables are the bread and butter life-blood of the SUP industry. Race boards are more about building brand equity and an exercise in marketing. 

We all win, no mater what niche we occupy, when the sport grows.  Like any growing and evolving thing our sport is going to change over time.  If we want to keep it similar to what we have now we’ll have to make some rules that control the evolution.  I think I’ve made a good case for creating a reasonable set of specifications that define various board classes.  I just don’t know exactly what those specs should be and am interested in both watching where it goes and participating in the conversation. As for paddling technique it is clear – our sport is STAND UP paddling, so participants must be required to stand and use a single blade paddle.  Beyond that, I’m looking forward to seeing where our sports top athletes can take this sport technically given the freedom to do so. The question then becomes, what is wrong in permitting 'heavier paddlers'  to use a craft which suits their body mass in order to compete on some fair basis with all-comers?

Define heavy? Oh sure, you’re perplexed by this ‘basic’ question, which makes it implicit you will struggle with any attempt to; Define Standing, Defining a Stand Up Paddleboard, Defining SUP Technique, that’s all just a little too taxing and yet these are essential questions needed to distinguish SUP from other paddle sports.

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© Steve West, Batini Books, Kanu Culture 2012