Sunday, March 1, 2009

"Street Paddling"

skateboard photos by Cassandra Mohr

To celebrate my birthday, I had dinner with my family, my parents, and my brother and his wife tonight.
At dinner, my brother Mark told me about his newfound love for stand-up-paddling.


Then he started talking about this new thing called "street paddling".

It's also been referred to as "land paddling", "land rowing", "land stand up paddling", and a few other variations.

Essentially, it's a type of poling along on a skateboard.

It fits right in with the stand-up-paddling (SUP), and is growing in popularity with the SUP crowd.

And while it's easy to just chuck it into the big bin of "man, kids are still inventing stupid new sports",
I tried it and it was a blast.

Mark had two long skateboards and two of the specialized poles in his car, and we spent a half-hour after dinner chasing each other around the parking lot of the restaurant (much to the annoyance of many people in cars and trucks).
The family watched and laughed at the two crazy brothers acting like little kids, while my daughters chased us around on foot, Cassandra running with the camera and trying her best to catch a few decent photos.

At this point I should probably introduce my brother to you, as he is quite a character.
Mark is seven years younger, a good six inches taller, loves to surf, and is the lead singer of a Christian Reggae band known as Christafari.

Yes, he's the one with all the dreadlocks.
In case any of you are wondering but too polite to ask, yes, we are full brothers,
even though it may not appear so.

Yeah, we're taking ourselves waaay too seriously here.

"Street paddling" is executed using a long skateboard known as a "long board", and a pushing pole that is supposed to be about as tall as the "paddler".
The poles we used tonight are Kahuna Big Sticks made by Kahuna Creations. They're made of bamboo or wood, appear to be sheathed in fiberglass with a clearcoat, and have a perpendicular handle similar to the ones I've seen on Polynesian paddles, and the rudder paddles on dragon boats.
The stopper, or pushing element on the end of the pole is a unique piece that looks like a pair of wheels, but does not roll.

Pushing along to propel yourself is only half of the game. Surfers immediately discover the benefits of dragging the Kahuna Big Stick behind them, allowing them to "carve" more effectively when winding back and forth down a hill.

Growing up in Southern California, I was on a skateboard before I learned to ride a bike. Mark and I skated to school in Jr. High, and in college I rode my skateboard from class to class
(back when you could get away with it).

The thing I keep reflecting on about this new manner of skateboarding, is that your feet remain on the board.

Not having to routinely push with one foot allowed me to get my feet exactly where I wanted them on the board, and not worry about finding that perfect placement again.

I haven't tried my hand at SUP on the water yet, but my brother tells me that the actions performed and muscles used are the same in both sports.

Let's face it, Mark looks cool here, I just look like a dork.

A handful of videos featuring the Kahuna Big Stick have already popped up on You Tube. Check it out for yourself if you want to see it in action.

Can you skateboard without a pole?
Of course you can.
In all honesty, I think some of the videos out there are geared towards getting us all to go out and buy the stick.
But it is a lot of fun, and does offer a viable core and upper-body workout not obtainable in regular push-with-the-foot skateboarding.

There's no forcola or other fulcrum implemented in street paddling, although as a gondolier, I enjoyed some similarities to what we do on our big 11 meter boats.

I do see a more direct crossover application for our friends in the punting community.
While the whole thing is on a smaller scale, one could argue that "poling is poling".
If there are any punters reading this, I'd be very interested in your input here.

The Kahuna Big Stick ranges in price from around $90 to $150. I have no idea what the shipping costs might be if you wanted to buy one in an area where it's not available on the shelf.
Then again, there's nothing stopping you from just grabbing a tennis ball, jamming it onto the end of a broom handle and going for it!

Check out Kahuna Creations at:
A write-up in an SUP publication can be linked to here:

and if you're curious, you can learn all about my brother's band at:

(he's all over You Tube as well).
I know it's a shameless plug, but hey, he's my brother!


Sean Jamieson said...

Uh...have you seen
"Walking Paddling?"

Sean Jamieson said...

Sorry...couldn't resist.

Gondola Greg said...

I don't know how to say "Dude, you crack me up" in Yiddish.
But if I did, that's what I'd write here.

Anonymous said...

One must wonder about the efficiency of stand-up-paddling? Based on the surfers' posture it looks like they do not use their leg muscles, so propulsion power comes solely from the arms.

It may look elegant but I doubt they could move a venetian gondola or even a small rowboat without a straddle for leg push.

Gondola Greg said...

As I mentioned earlier, I haven't yet tried stand-up-paddling. But I'm told that SUP fans like the fact that it isolates the work to the upper body.

From a voga-alla-Veneta perspective, it seems inefficient and not as practical as it could be, but they like how you can concentrate on the arms, back, and abdominal muscle groups.

To further critique SUP, the paddler often stands with his feet together - not one in front of the other like other board sports. I'm guessing this is to allow for quick changes; paddling on the left, and then the right. As for me, I think I'd want to put one foot forward (and I'd probably start looking for a pontapie).

One other aspect of SUP needs mention, and it is probably the reason all the above-mentioned challenges are overlooked:
The boards range from 9 to 12 feet in length (2.75 - 3.5 meters)
and weigh between 20 and 30 pounds (9 - 12 kilos).
So the size and weight of the board is so small (especially when compared to a gondola), that the seemingly impractical manner of paddling...still works.
As I said, I haven't tried it yet, but when I do, I'll let you know if my theories are sound.

Gondola Greg said...

Go for it Elle.
But look out for cobblestones!

Felipe said...

Hello Greg !

Let me introduce myself, My name is Felipe and I live in Brazil.

I Was looking for street paddle then I found your blog ...I know, its an old post, but is great !!!!

Here in my country is almost impossible to buy an paddle for street .... and guess what , surprise me to see who is your brother !!!!!

I'm big fan of Christafari, and start to looking for street paddling after see him walkin too, I just love this new way to longboard.

Now I visit your blog everyday. once again, contratulations for you great blog !

Big hug from brazil, to you and your family !

are you in facebook or msn ?
please add me -

Gondola Greg said...

Ciao Felipe!
Thanks for your comment.
Where do you live in Brazil?
A long time ago there was a gondola in Recife. It was not from Venice, but they were calling it a "gondola".

Felipe said...

I'm from Rio de Janeiro, but currently I am living in a small town called Sao Jose dos Campos - Sao Paulo, is a bit far from Recife.

I noticed that you are a fanatic Gondolas, it's just a hobby or you work with it? Good way to live!

sorry for my english, I'm always trying to improve my skills, but sometimes I make mistakes ....