British paddler and SUP business owner Duncan Slater has been paddling since the beginning, the former windsurfer made the jump 10 years ago and hasn’t looked back since, it is safe to say now he is definitely an addict! Duncan, the Red Paddle advocate is often seen in UK and Dutch endurance races on his trusted Red Paddle isup, scoring some great wins, podium finishes and all that whilst smiling! Duncan talks to TotalSUP about why paddling on a Red Paddle isup does not harm to your paddle performances, and is a great choice when racing.
Hi Duncan, how did it all begin?
I’ve been paddling since the summer of 2009, so it is coming up for 10 years. I worked for a long time for a big windsurfing magazine this meant that I had the chance to get hold of one of the first SUP boards that came to the UK. At the beginning I thought it was just a light-wind alternative, but soon it took over my life, so much so that I don’t windsurf at all any more! My ‘day job’ is still in sports magazine editing and production. I also run a SUP school and club called SUPsect, along with my wife El (who is also my coach). We are based on the Thames Estuary, east of London. We teach hundreds of beginners each year, dozens of improver paddlers, plus we run a free Wednesday SUP club and Friday race nights. I’m also doing a lot of private race coaching.
I have been racing for 5 years now and I have started stepping up to endurance races, things have gone pretty well. In 2017 I won the 70 KM Norfolk Broads Ultra race outright, on an inflatable! Then at the beginning of this season I won the GB SUP Battle of the Thames 15 KM 12’6” category outright on an inflatable, then I took third overall (1st iSUP) in both the UK SUP Thames (55 KM) and Norfolk (70 KM) Ultras. Plus a surprise second in the pro-am fleet when the APP came to town in London’s Docklands, then after the 11 City SUP in late September I was stoked to win my class at the British SUP Club Champs too. It’s been a good year!
Why do you like Red Paddle?
Simple, I race Red Paddle inflatables because pretty much always have. It really doesn’t feel like a hindrance! And I wasn’t alone: kudos to my new Swedish pal Göran Gustavsson, plus several other Red Paddlers and Starboard Airliners I passed every day in Holland. Certainly when it comes to a 14 ft board, storage and transportation is an issue as I don’t have a garage at home, plus I drive a classic VW campervan, which I wouldn’t trust a roofrack on!
I did have a long think this year about whether I should move to a solid board, but in the end I genuinely couldn’t see what I’d gain from it. I know I can go faster on my iSUP, the board isn’t holding me back, that’s down to strength, fitness, attitude and determination. Certainly for endurance, I feel totally competitive on my Red Paddle Elite. I get beaten by better paddlers, not better boards!
What is great about your Red Paddle Elite?
So for endurance I ride the 25” wide 14’ Red Paddle Elite, it’s a pronounced pin-tail with the new ‘Forward Flex Control’ nose rod up front and the ‘RSS’ rail battens in-between. It is pretty narrow at the back, but as a result it really feels like the tail releases in the water which definitely helps top speed. That carbon nose rod feels like a real game-changer as it’s cured the ‘hinging’ effect of the bow flexing in front of the rail battens.
The board now feels much more like a rigid when accelerating or punching through chop, which certainly helps psychologically as there just doesn’t feel like a disadvantage being on a blow-up board. Obviously, as it’s inflatable there’s not a whole lot going on under the water by way of concave, just the nose runner to help tracking, but that does make for a fast hull alright! Plus one thing people often under-estimate about an iSUP is that it’s really comfortable under-foot; which is actually quite a big deal when you’re paddling 5 hours at a time!
How great is the red paddle? is it light enough to paddle for 5 days?
Light enough? Definitely. In fact in some of those headwinds I must admit heavier might have been nice, so it sat a little lower in the water! At no point did I feel the board was holding me back though, I didn’t once wish I was riding something else. On the 4th day, after going solo all morning in a full-on headwind I caught a guy on a 21.5” Starboard Sprint, just as we started on a 10 KM of tailwind to finish the day into Dokkum.
I had worked hard to catch him but let him draft me to recharge, he’d just been eaten up by a real cannibal train up front, who’d burnt him out then dropped him off the back. But then we took turns in front as we flew in the final hour towards the finish. This was way faster than my standard race pace, yet I was always able to accelerate my iSUP past his blue carbon when it was my turn to take the lead. Finally, I pulled away to finish ahead of him in the end. My Red Paddle Elite really did me proud that day!
Would you recommend a red paddle isup?
Undoubtedly, and I regularly do. They’re fast, practical and robust. The 12’6” x 28” is brilliant for getting into racing, I train and race sub-15 KM on the 12’6” x 26”, for endurance my preferred flat-water flyer is the 14’ x 25”, whereas the 14’ x 26” has more tail for stability for open water. Go and try one, it might surprise you! Actually, I thoroughly recommend the rest of the range too! we teach beginners on the Red Paddle Rides, then point people towards the Sport range as a great first-time purchase, plus for surf I love my 8’10” Whip!
How was the 11 city?
Amazing! It was my first time, and yes I did the 5-day tour in the ‘grown-ups’ 40+ masters category. I absolutely loved it, every single minute of it. To be honest, I knew I had prepared myself pretty well but I still couldn’t be totally sure I’d even be able to finish the full 220 KM. Yet having not only survived the first day but I actually enjoyed it (Plus I finished in a position and time that I was really pleased with). Each morning I felt better and better, every day it felt like my paddling was getting stronger and my confidence really grew throughout the week.
The 11 city is certainly the best thing I’ve ever done in sport and it feels like a bit of a life-changer for me: I can understand why people could hate it if they haven’t prepared properly, but for me it went brilliantly, it was so much fun the whole way and I can’t wait to get back to the 11 City bubble. The support and camaraderie we shared during that event is really hard to describe, but the atmosphere is really special. If you’re interested to know more, I blogged at the end of every day.
I finished 9th in the vets, in 25 hours and 46 seconds altogether, which was beyond my wildest dreams for this event. Honestly, at my first 11 City my goal was just to finish – privately, having looked at times from previous years, my very best hope was that I might manage top half in my fleet – so finishing 9th of 29 was totally incredible. That time would have got me 5th in the open fleet, I was comfortably the fastest iSUP, and arguably the fastest Brit too (depending on whether James Van Druren’s nationality is Spanish, British or Dutch?). But the real result was about discovering what I was capable of and exceeding my own expectations. The feeling of crossing that finish line was like nothing else: relief, elation, pride … must admit I did shed a tear!
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