C4 Stand Up Paddle Board FAQ

What board is right for me?

The most important thing is to be honest about your abilities, and where and how you will stand-up paddle. Try to resist the temptation to get a board too small (I’ll fit into that size 6 dress by the class reunion, honest!) or too big (Sure, I’ll be stuck with an aircraft carrier, but I’ll learn to SUP in a half-hour!).

Figure out realistically what you will do with a SUP most of the time: Surfing? Distance paddling or racing? Recreational or fitness paddling on rivers or lakes? Laundry? (If so, many of our competitors’ boards make great ironing boards).

Generally, any SUP designed for a single, extreme use will offer a limited-range of options for you. It’s important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t outgrow a board in a few months.

All C4 Waterman production models are designed to perform well in at least two or three arenas: surf, recreational paddling, or distance paddling. Even our production raceboards are fun to surf!

How wide of a board should I get?

The topic of SUP board width is fraught with mistaken beliefs. Most people are told by newbie companies that for proper stability they need a board over 30 inches wide. That’s not true. An elephant is more stable than a horse, but you wouldn’t want to barrel race in a rodeo on an elephant!

Board widths and their effect on stability are relative to all the components of the design. Planshape, thickness, rail volume, even bottom rocker, all determine how stable or unstable a SUP is on the ‘roll axis.’ C4 Waterman boards are designed as ‘stand-up paddleboards’, not rushed-to-market overgrown tankers or widened sailboards. Each design element is fused into an integral unit to create a board that performs well, yet is always stable and comfortable to paddle.

Many thoughtlessly designed boards have rolled decks and eggy, pinched rails, or have planshapes with too much curve, thus making even 30+ inch wide SUPs feel tippy and erratic to perform on. In contrast, C4 boards are designed with a carefully calibrated rate-of-curve in the outline from nose to tail, and with our unique scooped deck all the volume is stored out on the rails. This gives you tremendous stability on 28 inch or 29 inch wide boards, but best of all, this gives you an incredible performance boost when surfing or straining for that extra knot in a race. Why drag all that extra-width around when it serves no purpose but to act as training wheels for an improperly designed SUP?

How do I care for my C4 Waterman SUP?

Like all molded, composite surfboards/paddleboards, your C4 Waterman SUP is airtight and weatherproof. However, if you use it in salt water, it is a good idea to give it a good rinsing with fresh water after each use. Hawaiian surfers and paddlers diligently rinse their boards, paddles, canoes, and three-prongs after each session. In fact, they can spot a malihini (newcomer) a mile away by a salt-encrusted surfboard on the racks.

Take special care to rinse out all the fin boxes and their set screws. This is a good time to inspect your leash-plug, the leash-string, and the leash itself. Make sure there is no fraying on the leash-string, sharp edges on the rim of the leash-plug, or clumps of debris stuck to the ankle strap velcro that might allow the strap to come undone in a wipeout. Furthermore, inspect the urethane leash itself for any wear or fin nicks. A SUP is a large surfcraft, and one that in even small gentle surf will give a good tug on a leash.

Smudges on the rail from paddle strikes can usually be removed using a rough shop rag doused with a bit of ‘Goo-Gone’ or other gentle solvent.

Who shapes these masterpieces?

Contrary to popular myth, SUPs are NOT all whittled by Laird Hamilton and some elves at the North Pole of Maui. The first modern-era SUP-specific boards were designed and built in Makaha, Hawaii under the oversight of Hawaiian waterman Brian Keaulana.

New designs stem from experimental prototypes which are hand-shaped and glassed in Hawaii, then ridden and evaluated by the C4 team in every type of surf from tiny Waikiki rollers to grinding 15-foot surf at Makaha Point. When a new design has been thoroughly ‘flight tested’ by the team, the shape is translated to a mold plug containing any refinements or improvements suggested by the C4 team. This plug is meticulously glassed and sent to the C4 factory, where it enters into molding in the FeatherCore Composite technique. A first run of sample boards are produced, and the C4 team test-ride them in order to ensure all the fin settings, glass schedules, and rail edges are faithful to the original prototype(s).

How are C4 Waterman boards built?

Like all modern surfboards, C4 waterman SUPs are produced using ‘foam-sandwich construction,’ in which a lightweight shaped foam core is sheathed in a fiberglass shell. C4’s unique FeatherCore composite construction is a sophisticated type of foam-sandwich called a ‘molded composite’ structure. In this type of construction, the board is still crafted by hand, but also utilizes vacuum and two-piece clamshell molds to compress successive layers of fiberglass yarn, bamboo veneer, and epoxy resin around a pre-shaped, expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam core. This construction provides the lightest strength-to-weight ratio of all foam-sandwich builds, along with a superior skin-to-core bond that cannot be equaled by hand lay-up. The rigid, fixed, two-piece mold provides the ultimate in design fidelity from board to board–especially in locking in and preserving the rocker of the original master board.

Airtight, with consistent weights, and resistant to delamination, the C4 Feathercore Composite SUPs are individually handcrafted composite structures worthy of the aerospace industry. Something you’ll appreciate on your next take-off.

What length paddle do I need?

Paddle length is important for technique, posture, and efficiency. If too long or short, it could cause joint and back injuries, and also not be efficient over long periods. The rule of thumb is to have a paddle “one shaka” (6-8 inches) over your head. Longer is not better and could even cause shoulder joint injury.

Your height plus 7 inches is the magic number.

What makes a stand up paddle a stand up paddle?

We all have to agree that there’s a bewildering array of SUPs on the market. Everyday it seems someone is hawking a new hodgepodge of shaft, blade, and T-handle; each one claiming to have reinvented the wheel, or to cure hiccups, or even reduce love handles. Kayak, canoe, and even sailboard companies claim to have designed the proverbial better mousetrap. A sampling of advertisements depicts all sorts of gambits to lighten your pocketbook. There are blades of every shape and description; blades shaped like scoops and spoons and salad forks and for heaven’s sake even reptile tongues. Shafts are depicted creaking under a hundredweight of lead and warping beneath industrial presses, and under the auspices of Madison Avenue soon we’ll no doubt see paddles trampled by elephants. In fact, it seems paddles are subjected to all manner of rigors and insults and strain–except for the actual work and stress put upon a paddle in real-life circumstances.

So, what exactly does a paddle do? I mean, scientifically as opposed to hyperbolic ad copy? And, if you are just learning or are only a recreational paddler, does it even matter?

First, let’s look at what stand-up paddles do. According to Physics 101, the shaft is a simple lever, one of mans’ oldest tools. Your bottom arm as you hold the paddle is the fulcrum for this lever. Your upper arm provides the force or thrust, which causes the paddle face to pull through the water. The resistance and drag the paddle encounters helps propel you and the paddle-surf board ahead (well, you pull yourself ahead and the board only comes along for the ride by way of the pressure of your feet planted on the deck).

Okay, a simple enough tool, you say as you heave a sigh of relief. Paddles are paddles. Well, not exactly. Here’s why: Unlike all other canoe (outrigger or wilderness) or kayak paddles, the stand-up paddle’s fulcrum point (where you place your bottom or bracing arm) is considerably further away from the blade face (about 3 feet) than it would be on canoe or kayak paddles (about 8 or so inches). Thus, the first thing chalked on the drawing board for any stand-up paddle design has to deal with the changed mechanics of the higher fulcrum point and how the blade, or power-face, must be shaped to conform to it.

The fact that your fulcrum point is so far away from the paddle face pretty much throws out the notion that you can just make a stretched out canoe or kayak paddle. There are a number of reasons why this is so: First, now that your paddle face is three or more feet away from your fulcrum point, you will have a hard time controlling a power face designed for a grip mere inches from it. Thus, typical flat-faced paddle blades will now ‘flutter’ as you try to engage a smooth, strong stroke. Furthermore, unless the paddle design conforms to the work and mechanics at hand, you will face ergonomic issues where too much strain is put on the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. A flat-faced or concaved blade might be the hot ticket for a canoe or kayak, but on a stand-up paddle it could well be putting you on an express train to a repetitive stress injury.

It is also critical that this properly shaped blade be affixed to the shaft at exactly the correct angle (known as the dihedral) so that with each stroke the blade is straight up and down in the power phase as it sweeps back past the vertical centerline drawn through your body. Paddles with no dihedral are literally throwing away your power and energy.

The shape and diameter of the shaft is also very important, both ergonomically and structurally. Too thin and the shaft might flex too much or break easily. Too thick and you’ll have sore hands and wrists, not to mention a heavy, cumbersome paddle.

Now, it must be said that all of the preceding is not a matter of opinion. It is vital to keep in mind that the kinetic work of all the many types of stand-up paddling must bow to these mechanical facts. In much the same way that the cylinders and drive trains in engines all have evolved to conform to basic patterns based on the torque and drive they create, so too must the stand-up paddle match the physics of the mechanical work they do. Thus, stand-up paddle design should not be all over the map as they are bound by quite a narrow set of design precepts.

The C4 Waterman line of stand-up paddles have been designed with all of these fixed design precepts in mind. In creating the world’s first commercially manufactured stand-up paddles, C4 partners Todd Bradley, Brian Keaulana, and Dave Parmenter bring to the workbench 145 years of paddling, surfing, and surfcraft design. Not merely C4’s designers, Todd, Brian, and Dave are also the company’s principal test pilots. They have distilled all the tens of thousands of miles paddled to evolve and create the premier stand-up paddles on the planet.

Okay...so I keep hearing about this, but I'm afraid to ask. What is SUP?

Don’t feel bad. Billions of people use computers every day and don’t know what the acronym ‘USB’ stands for.

‘SUP’ is not a greeting cool hepcats fling at one another, and it doesn’t stand for ‘Surfing Upright Protocol’. Although come to think of it we could use some protocol now that stand-up paddle surfing has grown so popular.

When Hawaiian waterman and C4 Co-Founder Brian Keaulana began modernizing the age-old Waikiki pastime of standing on a vintage tandem board and paddling with an elongated outrigger paddle, he referred to what he was doing as ‘Beachboy-Style’ surfing. He did this to honor the Waikiki Beachboys, who were the originators of the technique, which harkens back to the South Shore of the 1920s and 1930s. But as the new modernized form of ‘Beachboy-Style’ surfing spread after Brian’s example, newcomers to the sport started referring to it as ‘Stand-up Paddlesurfing,’ and boards as ‘Stand-up Paddleboards’——-and, depending on the context, both came to fall under the acronym ‘SUP’. Though some detractors of the new sport would have preferred “SUS”, for Stand-up Surfing.

However, shaper Dave Parmenter still signs each custom SUP with the moniker “Beachboy Model” as a token of respect for the REAL pioneers of stand-up surfing.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?

We don’t know the answer to this since there are no woodchucks in Hawaii. We assume the little beasts are off somewhere whittling out our competitors’ new SUPs. So, if you spot a too-wide board with a prehistoric rocker, look for the tooth marks.