Words and photos: Tez Plavenieks
Big thanks to Gary Evans at Land Paddle UK for supplying Kahuna Creations kit for the article. Also shout outs to Stefan Eilades at Shoreham Beach Land Paddle, the guys at Sk8Pole and everyone else who helped out with this feature. Check out the Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/620545648
When I first saw land paddling I was a bit sceptical. Middle-aged men riding super-size skateboards propelled by wooden sticks looked suss to me. One step away from buying a Harley Davidson, my wife thought I was regressing back to my yoof upon announcing I was getting involved. And yet, as a cold weather, dark night or crossover training tool, land SUP really is a good option and it’s no wonder more people are literally getting on board.
Land paddling comes from the States where a bunch of gliding enthusiasts wanted something to complement their everyday stand up paddle boarding and skate shenanigans. After a few beverages to free the mind (well, that’s what I assume anyhow), the idea of using a ‘stick’ to propel a skateboard was hit upon. In the blink of an eye land paddling was born and we now have a growing number of aficionados here in the UK.
With our unpredictable and changeable weather, plus a whole raft of land locked paddlers who don’t/can’t always manage to get wet, land SUP is gaining fans fast.
‘So, land paddling: it’s just a gimmick innit?’ It would be fair to assume this statement was true. There’s nothing worse than watching your dear old dad try to show his super cool skateboarding skills, only to witness him fall flat on his noggin. Perceptions surrounding land paddling are pretty similar, yet give it a chance and opinions may swing the other way.
Let’s get one thing straight: land paddling in no way shape or form is stand up paddle boarding. While some skills, movements and muscle memories are similar, it’s not the same. For one, land paddling puts a great deal more stress and strain on the body and joints – concrete is nowhere near as forgiving as water.
However if you’re a SUPer looking for a cross training discipline or a stand up paddle surfer looking to develop better carving then it could be for you. It’s also a fun way of cruising your local beach in a slightly unconventional manner – after all, using your feet for propulsion is old hat!
Covering distance on land paddling gear will definitely give riders a workout. Standing in surf stance is particularly tiring. Learning to ride switch can alleviate problems, as well as giving muscle groups a breather. This can be tricky though and may result in unflattering dismounts at first…
Why land paddle?
Land paddling offers those without access to waves the opportunity to consolidate muscle memory that will be put to good use during the next surf trip. Kahuna Creations boards, especially the Shaka Surf, are optimised for carving. Learning rail to rail transitions and sliding the tail mimic paddle surfing moves. Land paddling also gives riders the opportunity to practice ‘wrap arounds’ – all good exercises for surfing.
Land SUP is a good workout when you don’t have time to get on the water, it’s a choppy day/less than inspiring or it’s cold and not very inviting. The fitness element is tangible, although it’s wise to learn an efficient technique when covering ground as continually slamming the concrete will do more harm than good.
As paddlers get more into land paddling, technique will no doubt come to the fore and land SUPing may become a discipline in its own right rather than complimentary. A few races have been run in the UK already, a number are pushing land SUP in the skate park and there’s still plenty of scope to develop things further. For now though, it’s a great addition to your normal on water stand up shenanigans and offers a novel way to stay trim and/or practice your surfing technique.
It’s easy to assume land paddle boards are just bog standard longboard skateboards, yet there are subtle nuances that make Kahuna Creations’ gear great for land SUP. Boards carve extremely well, to the point of feeling ‘wobbly’ if you’re first jumping on board. They also glide with ease and have a little weight to help overcome friction as they roll along. Land paddle boards, mostly, look different to traditional longboards. Adopting surf and SUP shapes, these craft have been developed to recreate the experience of being on water as much as possible – check out the Bombora for evidence of how land paddle boards appear SUP-like.
Land SUP paddles can be anything from adjustable alloy shafts, with rubberised ‘blades’, to beautifully crafted works of art that you feel guilty for abusing. Rubber ends are engineered to keep contact with the concrete and avoid slipping. There’s nothing worse than scooting along, having put in a full power stroke, only to fall flat on your face. Rubber needs to roll or articulate when in contact with the ground to allow the rider to pull through the whole stroke – as you would do on the water. Bamboo/wooden layup shafts flex and breathe, making manoeuvres all the more enjoyable and forgiving, while metal paddles don’t offer as much finesse.
Wheels and trucks
As is the case with everything these days, you can pimp your ride until satisfied – it’s no different with land paddling. Kahuna Creations boards, as with other brands, come with their own trucks and wheels. Big, fat and ready to roll while fitting snuggly, they’re perfectly fine and do the job. Depending on the riding you’re aspiring to, however, may mean other bits of kit are required to do the job better. Some land paddlers look to slide more effectively, while others want out and out speed. Whatever your poison, it could be worth checking available add ons/upgrades.
Helmets, pads and protection
Without wanting to sound like good ole ‘elf ‘n’ safety, it should be noted, if not already blindingly obvious, that concrete is a hard surface. Stacking it while zooming mach 10 along the tarmac is recipe for some serious gravel rash. Your bonce is also vulnerable to clattering the ground, should you tumble. Therefore, if land paddling is a new thing, investing in appropriate knee/elbow pads and a skate lid could be a good thing – particularly for your offspring. Blazing shoeless along busy streets may look cool but it’s best to learn the fundamentals first, stay safe and add some of your own colourful personality at a later date.
Land paddlers have their say…
“I started land paddling to train for SUP surfing. Practising crossing the paddle over and turning on the flat, this progressed to ramps and then to other surf related moves like tail slides. I now find that I will often choose to land paddle over a flat water SUP as in my opinion it’s more fun and just as beneficial as being on the water.”
Alan – SUP North
“Land paddling is a great form of exercise, transportation and ultimately a way to simulate some of the moves I’m trying to nail when SUP surfing. I’m lucky if I can get to real waves twice a month; the rest of the time land paddling gives me a chance to practice pivoting/bracing with the paddle, sliding the tail and those pumping/carving board skills that hopefully make me a better paddler.”
Simon Dunton – SUP North
“My story starts out of desperation in the late summer of 2012. The girls/guys of our SUP group regularly got together on a Thursday night for a ‘keep fit’ session along the promenade. Sadly I felt I was missing out on all the fun – as a general rule I don’t do running (unless being chased by a dog). So I started researching something I could do. I came across some pictures of people land paddling in America on the internet and thought it looked cool. I felt it came close to stand up paddle surfing, which I love.
As an engineer my mind soon got to work on how I could make a specifically designed product that performed to the requirements I wanted – a product that actually felt like surfing the land. After a year’s worth of research, design and prototyping I came up with a few boards and sticks that fit the role.
I’m really happy I’ve found land SUP, and helped in its introduction to my local SUP community. There’s nothing like cruising the smooth paths/promenade with friends in shorts and flip flops on a late summer evening, chatting and having fun while keeping fit.”
Mike Smith – Kent based paddler and land SUP designer/engineer
“I had seen it online and thought it looked cool and different. I got a paddle stick and began to use my Fanatic longboard. I enjoyed it for cruising at the events I attend throughout the year. It seems land SUP exploded in 2014. It’s growing well with a few brands about and some good key people doing it. Land SUP connects with the water side of the sport and helps improve balance and turns. It’s definitely helped me improve!”
Jay JSUP Manning Fanatic pro rider
“I first tried out land SUP at the 2013 Blokart (land yacht) Euros when we didn’t have any wind to get out sailing. I was never much of a skateboarder in my youth so was a little bit worried about giving it a go. But I found it fairly easy to get going on the board with the paddle. From then on I have been hooked! I use my boards for fun and exercise – it’s a great workout. After a long distance you know you have done it; fantastic for the core. It’s great to see people’s faces when you pass them. First they look in wonder, then you get big smiles and cheers. Many a time I have gotten off my board to give someone a go. I get the funniest looks going in to shops and banks, but they all want to try it. I love to spread the land SUP groove! I have meet some great people through land SUP and now have some awesome friends that meet up regularly for a ride.”
Simon Jeffrey Kahuna Creations rider and land paddle designer