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Questions and Answers about downwind with Boyan

Who is this article for?

If the subject of downwind paddling is new to you or you sometimes struggle with your downwind flow then check it out.

It may put things in a perspective that helps you have more fun on water.

Having fun paddling downwind in the Atlantic Ocean near Punta Paloma, Tarifa.

Question 1:

Hey Boyan, I want to come over to Tarifa to learn about downwind paddling but I really want to get the most possible value from my trip.

Is there certain minimum flat water paddling speed that will allow me to be more successful catching waves downwind?

I am new to the sport and I really want to learn how to have long rides on the waves going downwind.

Answer 1:

It's not easy to define a very accurate flat water speed. If I had to make a somewhat educated guess,

if you could paddle steady at about 10 kph and sprint at about 15 kph you will be set pretty well for catching waves in Tarifa.

I think about your capacity to hold your steady speed and sprint speed as your downwind budget. The more budget you have, the more waves you could "buy" and I think 10 and 15 is pretty decent budget to start with.


In the video above 2 min of surfing and linking waves without taking strokes. Later on during the same downwind session I had to sprint at 100% effort to be able to surf the faster waves.

Question 2:

I want to learn how to link runs downwind. My problem is that after I catch a wave I often find myself stuck behind the wave in front of me and then my surfski gets swamped with water. It's really frustrating.

What do you focus on when you are linking runs?

I have seen you going for over a minute without any strokes.

Answer 2:

In my experience failure to link waves is very often related to timing. Timing to turn into the new wave, timing to accelerate or both of these things at the same time. Of course there is always the chance that there is no wave to link to and you have to be ok with that. You have to remain patient and remain focussed.

On my part, linking runs its not my focus when I paddle downwind.

My focus is on surfing each wave for as long as I can.

If you do that you will find that the timing to get to the next wave becomes very obvious and it usually takes a lot less effort than you anticipate.

Very often I see paddlers sprinting chaotically for every single wave that passes and as they get one they immediately try to sprint for another instead of just stay and enjoy the ride. For me the real pleasure of downwind is in surfing and this is what I try to do most of the way.


Question 3:

What paddle do you use and what is the setting of your paddle for downwind?

Answer 3:

I used to paddle with Epic Mid wing paddle and my downwind settings used to be at 214 - 217 cm. The feather angle for my paddle used to be 60 degrees Right handed setting.

Recently I started reading about swimming again because I was coaching my son (I used to swim and also coach swimming) and I noticed that currently in swimming the tendency is to have shallower strokes partially to protect the shoulders and partially to minimise the drag created by deeper strokes.

I had already changed my paddle setting to zero degrees a couple of years ago after someone sent me a presentation by Oscar Chalupsky on the topic (and I wanted to test the concept).

Then I started to theorise that my paddle blade doesn't have to be deep in the water to paddle efficiently and I looked for ways to use the shortest possible paddle setting where I still feel I can get good catch and decent sprinting speed.

After some experimentation I settled on Small Mid wing, 0 angle at 205 cm.


In the video above I am going at 100% to get on that fast wave.

Question 4:

It looks like you never put any effort in your paddling.

What is the maximum effort you go to when you are sprinting to catch a wave downwind?

Answer 4:

I think about effort as the currency, which buys me waves. I try to pay the exact minimum amount for each wave I decide to chase.

In some cases it is just pressing the foot pedal with my toes and turning to surf a wave without any effort at all.

In other cases when the waves are very fast I focus on very accurate timing for my effort and

I usually go for a 100% effort in a very short burst.

This way I try not to build up lactic acid in my muscles (keeping the effort very short).

I time my effort in a way that I sprint from a higher wave to a lower rising wave so when I get there I get lifted up and I could sprint again or surf the newly formed underneath me wave.

For me downwind is like a video game and my mode is play.


Question 5:

Why do you use a beginner surfski? Can't you paddle a faster boat?

Answer 5:

I use a beginner surfski because I think it challenges my downwind skills more compared to a faster racing model.

I have limited speed in a beginner boat and I have limited acceleration potential. That means that I need to compensate this artificial disadvantage with skill and accuracy. I enjoy the challenge and I truly believe it is one of the most rewarding ways to practice surfski.

Of course a stable surfski is also safer to use and in general is a lot more forgiving and fun. I like to play in the ocean and when I feel very stable I can do many things I can't do in a less stable boat.


Check out this full length downwind video from Tarifa to Bolonia. 18 Kim pure fun!

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