Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Franken-Paddle: Let's hope you never run into one!

Franken- as in Frankenstein. Remember him? The monsterous patchwork of cobbled together human parts that was big, strong, gnarly and unfortunately for that dude, non-flame retardant. This was the name I gave to the eight pound beast-paddle that I pieced together after my shaft snapped on my first (yep, FIRST) wave down in Mexico. Check it out:

A normal paddle (thanks Duffy!) and the Franken-paddle to the right of it. Notice the twist and knob on the shaft? That's where my all time favorite paddle snapped cleanly in two. Talk about being instantly frantic; I had no back up paddle!

My first attempt at repairing it was to jam a piece of drift wood down into the shaft and try to use it as a super short paddle. If you haven't tried paddling with a really short paddle, don't bother- it sucks! You could probably get away by paddling into waves on your knees but that's no fun and if I'm kneeling I'd rather just prone surf and save myself the embarrassment. The driftwood disintegrated after about twenty minutes, I had caught one wave and that was enough for me to realize I'd have to fix this thing or go look for a fisherman's oar (which was, for a time, a serious option).

Luckily there was a hardware store up the road that carried plumbing supplies. I ended up jamming a piece of black steel water pipe inside of the shaft from the handle to the blade and wrapping the two pieces together with a whole roll of electrical tape. That wad of electrical tape is the knob you see on the shaft in the photos above.

The folks at the hardware store told me I had to buy the whole twenty foot long piece of pipe- they don't sell just 74" of the stuff. I gave the guy two bucks to cut it short and handed them the rest of the pipe back as a regalo. Gringo loco! That thing ended up weighing close to eight pounds, but it was solid and I was back in business.

The break was no fault of the paddle's- it crumpled too easily to have been a failure of the integrity of the shaft. Additionally, the break didn't come as I was paddling out or even when I was bearing down on it to catch a wave. The snap came as I was leaning on the paddle in a long, open face bottom turn. My thinking is that the shaft must've been nicked or cracked by luggage being piled on top of it on our flight down. And that knick must've been on the back side of the blade. Thus, the blade was reasonably strong when used for stroking out but was just waiting to break when pressure was put onto the opposite side of the blade. Furthermore, in the one instance where I've snapped a perfectly sound shaft, the shaft shattered loudly. In this instance the shaft broke without a sound- something had to have happened to cause it to fail so strangely.

Later in the trip, the handle of the paddle also sheared off of the shaft. Another trip to the hardware store produced this t-fitting which was attached with another full roll of electrical tape.

Lessons Learned: The easiest one is to bring a back up paddle. What I'd really like to see is a hard case designed to look like a fishing rod holder (they fly free) that could hold at least two paddles in full rigid case protection. I also learned that we take the fly weight nature of our paddles for granted. It's not until you've swung a Franken-paddle around for a few four hour sessions that you begin to realize how amazing those feather light blades really are. Even then, pack an extra one!

Stand up paddle surf lessons in San Diego are still available! Send the kids back to school and do something for yourself, sign up for a private lesson today! Stand up paddle lessons are fun and are a non-impact type of activity- you'll love the feeling of gliding across inky, smooth water. Call 619-213-6622 or email


Andy Gere said...

Plumbing supplies save the trip! A good repair kit for next time would be a pre-cut softwood dowel that just fits inside the shaft, several feet of 6 oz. fiberglass tape and a small container of UV cure resin. A few sheets of sand paper, a few disposable gloves and brushes and you are in business. Good for board repairs, fin repairs and paddles, and ready to go in minutes.

John Ashley said...

Great idea!