Paddle Articles

Swelldone - So much more than a paddle game

CP Asks...Swelldone Paddle GameWe are the first to admit it, paddling does not get the glory and spotlight as much as other sports (unless of course, you are a paddler. In which case it is all we talk about). So when we caught 'wind' that there was a paddling game out there on the horizon, we immediately sought it out. But if anyone expected a low effort -bored in 1 minute-designed by a non-paddler-ported from another game disappointing experience. WE WERE SO WRONG!

This game is not just well done, it is SWELLDONE. And so we reached out to interview the designer and paddling friend Wyatt Wong to ask some pretty important questions about the game, how it came to be, and what we might see in the future. Enjoy!

Check-out and download the game here: https://swelldoneapp.com.

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> Hi Wyatt, first off, we LOVE what you did. But for those new to the game, tell us a little bit about this game and why it’s unique?

Swelldone is a paddling game that's designed from the start to be an open-world experience with a focus on downwind surfing. The other paddling games that are current out there are pretty basic and seem to have a limited or specific experience to navigate a closed obstacle course or to focus on a particular type of arcade gameplay.  The experience I wanted for Swelldone was to give the player unlimited access to explore open water and let the waves take you wherever you want to go. I wanted to make the game realistic enough for a paddler to learn and apply their skills to read and get on bumps, yet keep it simple and fun to get lost on endless wave trains.

SWELLDONE Paddle App

> What were some challenges to helping us feel like we are actually paddling?

Oh, there were quite a few gnarly challenges to designing and creating this game. Never a dull moment!

The first huge challenge was to understand how to model and simulate the water and environment - the experience of being on the water is very complicated to simulate as the ocean is very dynamic with wind, waves, chop, currents. As experienced paddlers, we look for and respond to all these variables that we read from the water. It was important then that the game is able to provide the same level of fidelity in these details for the player to feel immersed as if they were paddling on real waves, but not get so technical that new paddlers get overwhelmed.


The next challenge then was to simulate watercrafts - factors like buoyancy, handling, drift, surfing and sliding on waves. To appeal to both novice and experienced paddlers, the watercrafts must move and behave in a real and predictable way and so they had to be fine tuned with the ocean physics.


After that, modeling avatars and animating the paddle strokes and subtle movements were the next challenges - I ended up building my own motion capture rig to recording avatar animations as the paddling movements for Swelldone were totally unique and generic "lily dipper" animations could not be used.



And then there were a ton of technical hurdles, I'll save that for another nerd-out sesh.

> What made you decide to do it?

I just felt it was time to have a game like this for all paddlers to enjoy. I became very inspired by Keizo Gate's 2017 Solo Video, where Manny Kulukulu'alani said in the intro "I guess my whole purpose behind it is perpetuating my culture [of the Hawaiian canoe] because that's where everything is derived from... if I don't get out there paddling the ocean then different parts of my life just fall out of balance." Manny's words really resonated with me - I've always wanted to preserve and promote the Polynesian paddling culture and I've also felt that paddling really helps me to find my center. I want to thank Keizo and everyone in that video for articulating what paddling means to all of us.



In late 2018, I had also moved away from the ocean - from the San Francisco Bay Area to Toronto. I could no longer paddle in the ocean year-round and the windy days are different. The withdrawal is real! And with the mess of 2020 and COVID cancelling everything, that was the last straw. I decided it's time to do something good and share a little stoke and fun. Ultimately, the game is my love letter to the paddling ohana and is a way for me to feel connected with the feel of the ocean.

> Are you an app developer by trade?

I'm a tech "Product Person" by trade and I consider myself to have a very special set of skills.  Over the course of my career I had: spent a number of years building training simulations in a virtual world/MMO; developed all kinds of software from mobile apps to large enterprise systems; created hundreds of hours of movement training videos and strength & conditioning programming for fitness and elite athletes; and been very active at my outrigger canoe club (He'e Nalu OCC) where I was also an interim race director for "Round the Rock" Alcatraz Challenge. Education comes in handy too, I have an undergraduate degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Queen's University in Canada and an MBA in Product Development and Product Marketing from Santa Clara University.

> What is your background with paddling?

I've been paddling only for 5 years although it feels much, much longer than that. I discovered outrigger canoeing in early 2016 after stumbling on some Youtube videos and I knew I had to find a way to try it. Prior to that I had been in a dragonboat a few times and participated in a few novice/recreational level competitions. It took me a while to find an OC club that was active to take on a newcomer during the off season, but as soon as I sat in an OC6 I became obsessed. I learned everything I possibly could about the sport and culture and I trained my butt off to eventually earn a seat at Catalina with my club in my first year. Now I paddle OC6 with Maka Koa and Sunnyside in Toronto, I have my own OC1 (PueoX), I paddle SUP every now and then, and I also recently got my first Epic surfski.

> What can we expect to see in future versions of the game?

There's so much planned for Swelldone and I'm very excited to continue working on it. I'm currently working on networked multiplayer gameplay so you can surf and race with others in the game from anywhere in the world. Once we players on to party waves, we can host virtual races, challenges, and leaderboards in game.


I will also be adding other watercrafts - more OC models, SUPs, surfskis, foils, anything that surfs! New avatars, clothing, gear, a lot more content to personalize players and preferences.

More courses are in the works.  Swelldone launched with a small map of The Mokes and we can certainly expect more courses to be added soon of real-world locations.  The locations are all modeled from real world terrain and are GPS accurate... so I'm curious to try and load GPS tracks of real world runs in the game to race against and see what that's like.



Oh, keep an eye out for marine life, what's an ocean without fish and mammals?


Something else I'm exploring are ergometer and rower integrations.  I'm a big fan of Zwift and I think being able to use your erg/rower power your avatar in the game would add a lot more fun to dry-land training and increase program adherence. No one wants to get on the erg, it's monotonous and it's a grind - and I want to change that. I'm currently collaborating with KayakPro to link up to their new Genesis Port console for their kayak and OC/dragonboat ergs.  This is another feature I'm building for myself so I can be motivated to train consistently in the off-season and I hope that it'll help other athletes stay engaged as well.

> We see the game is free? So incredibly generous of you. Is there a way folks can Venmo you if they want to support your future gifts to the paddling community or something we can support you are a part of?

Yes, Swelldone is completely free and I want the core game experience to remain free so that paddlers of all ages and experiences can play.  I really want to further the culture and excitement of open water paddling for those who are not fortunate enough to experience the ocean firsthand. The costs are real though - hosting and bandwidth fees, software licenses, art assets, development programs and tools, and hundreds of hours of time. I've been doing this entirely on my own as a passion project, so if you share a similar passion I will definitely appreciate your help and support!

There are several ways you can help support and contribute:

 

  • Subscribe to my Patreon page - please chip in for a paid subscription and follow along with my progress: https://www.patreon.com/swelldone.
  • Direct donators - please Venmo me directly if you feel generous to help offset some of the perpetual costs - http://venmo.com/wyattwww.
  • Brands, product reps, race directors - please considering sponsoring your content to add the game. I'm looking for boats, boards, apparel, gear, and race venues - let's talk! Email: wyatt@swelldoneapp.com.
  • Just keep playing and enjoy the game! Share with your friends! Please leave a 5-star rating in the App Store, your feedback is always appreciated.


Aloha and Mahalo,
Wyatt

> Thanks so much! And we encourage all of our readers check-out and download the game here: https://swelldoneapp.com.

Free Downloadable Cali Paddler Zoom Background

Get your free Cali Paddler Zoom Virtual Background graphic here!

We can't always be on the water. Or with each other. In fact we are now often starting at one another through a computer screen. But that doesn't mean we can bring a little Virtual Cali Paddler stoke to the Video meetings!

{Credit to our amazing Summer Intern Lucien, who in addition to being a paddler is an aspiring artist and designer. He created all the artwork you see here and we are stoked to have his talent on board!}

Download here: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0791/0521/files/calipaddler_zoombackground.zip?v=1595533440

(Zip file contains two sizes PNG files in normal and flipped orientation based on your preference).

Understanding Eddy Currents in Rivers

We aren't going to lie, we are baffled sometimes how one stretch of water, be it in a river, or even a bay during a tide swing, can have completely different speed and dynamics than something mere feet away. And we are also always looking to understand the waters as best we can for safety...and let's be honest, speed!

So if you have ever been curious about eddies, where to be, and where not to be when you are paddling in certain directions, this article is for you. We reached out to Davide Sartoni, who's experience and understanding of River SUP and water dynamics blows our mind. Enjoy!

Understanding Eddy Currents in Rivers

As a river flows past an obstruction, water backfills the space downriver of it, forming an Eddy. Whitewater paddlers often use eddies for scouting, regrouping, and resting spots while systematically moving down rapids. Eddies are also used as safer areas to recover swimmers and equipment during a rescue. In order to effectively and safely move in and out of eddies, paddlers need to better understand the hydrology of these features.

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California Race Preview - Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge

 

Time for some more SoCal Racing! One of the longest running races in California, 20 years as the Hanohano Ocean Challenge and 6 years prior to that when run as the Excel Surfski Race, this race is a huge destination for paddlers of all ages, experience and speed. You WILL find someone at your level here. And as is often the case with these races, you will also find some really friendly paddlers. Learn more here about the race, the courses and some tips and tricks to make it a positive experience for you.

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Outrigger Canoe Tips for Padling In and Out Through Surf

At some point or another, you might enter a race where you have to enter through the surf to get to the start line. Or maybe you go for a paddle and want to beach along the way but there is some surf to account for. This can be intimating to some. And others may not understand how a simple extra second can make all the difference. Here are some important tips, Dos and Don'ts and lessons learned the hard way which may help you safely get to your destination and not have to worry so much about that upcoming race with a beach entry.

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SoCal Winter Series Preview - La Jolla Invitational

SoCal Winter Race Series
This series of race previews is an 'unaffiliated' effort to share experiences from each of the races that comprise Southern California's Winter Series of Races for OC1, OC2, Surf-Ski, SUP and Prone Paddlers. - This week we spotlight the La Jolla Invitational! All ocean. Beach Launch. A great opportunity for those first timers wanting to try oc1, surfski, prone or sup.
And be sure to check back for other race previews as they come up this winter. Gonna be a fun season! NorCal, if anyone is interested in contributing similar paddle and race previews, we'd love to team up!

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CP Explorations - Monterey to Morro Bay

Monterey to Morro BayJoin us on a Cali Paddler Exploration journey along the Big Sur Coastline. 4 day, 120 miles from Monterey to Morro Bay. From socked in fog, to gorgeous sunny days. Hillsides, cliffs, dolphins and sea otters. Helpful tailwinds to horrible up-winds. And a finish for the ages!

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CP Review - SharkBanz Shark Deterrent Band

SharkBanz Review

 

I recently embarked on an adventure OC1 paddle from Monterey to Morro Bay that placed me in some of the sharkiest of waters. In fact I paddled in what is called the Red Triangle. Don't know what that is? Here is a Wikipedia excerpt for you:

The Red Triangle is the colloquial name of a roughly triangle-shaped region off the coast of northern California, extending from Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco, out slightly beyond the Farallon Islands, and down to the Big Sur region, south of Monterey. The area has a very large population of marine mammals, such as elephant seals, harbor seals, sea otters and sea lions, which are favored prey of great white sharks. Around thirty-eight percent of recorded great white shark attacks on humans in the United States have occurred within the Red Triangle—eleven percent of the worldwide total. The area encompasses the beaches of the heavily populated San Francisco Bay Area, and many people enjoy surfing, windsurfing, swimming and diving in these waters. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Triangle_(Pacific_Ocean)

So, yea, I was in THAT. Paddling alongside delicious elephant seals, dolphins, otters, sea lions and tons of fish. Solo for long stretches with no beach-able entries, access to towns, roads or nearby people. I figured if I was going to willingly put myself in this situation I better take some precautions. One of those was acquiring two SharkBanz to wear and affix to my canoe.

SharkBanz Review

A little bit about the product

So if you know me, sea-life is something I love. Including sharks! My respect for sharks and their importance of our ocean balance goes hand-in-hand with me being in their home when I paddle. So the last think I want to do is disrupt their habitat or harm their ability to thrive. So when I heard about SharkBanz I was interested to learn more. Their goals are to "develop simple, effective and affordable strategies to reduce the risk of a shark bite".

Their device and approach can be described as follows:

"Sharkbanz utilize powerful permanent magnets to create an effective shark deterrent that’s always on and requires no batteries or charging. When sharks approach Sharkbanz, they detect the device’s strong electromagnetic field, which provides a sudden sensation that is thousands of times stronger than the signal produced by anything in a shark’s normal food chain. Consequently, sharks are deterred away from Sharkbanz. This cause and effect is analogous to having a bright light suddenly shined in your eyes in a dark room. You would not be hurt, but you would want to turn away." (https://www.sharkbanz.com/pages/how-it-works)

So I had two of these bands which were very much like a heavy watch band. I wore one on my left ankle which fit fine in my foot-well. The second one I strapped to my ama behind the front iako/ama joint. This way I always had one in/near the water and one on me should I fall in, lose my craft, or need to swim for any other reason.

SharkBanz Review

SharkBanz Review

My impressions

Once I strapped the items on I never noticed them again. In fact the only time I had any reminder of it was when I climbed up on my van to unstrap my canoe and my ankle pulled to the side of the vehicle and my leg attached to the steel metal side. After chuckling at the powerful magnet, I just pulled my leg away and proceeded to do my task. While the bands are heavy by comparison to a watch, they are not so heavy as to impede my movement while paddling, or make the canoe and ama so heavy that I couldn't paddle efficiently. In fact, I paddled over a hundred miles with them, and never gave it a second thought. Except of course the thought of what they are helping me avoid.

So let's be honest, if these really worked I would have a boring story to tell. And as far as sharks go, it was in fact very boring. Thank goodness. An average of 7 hours a day, between 23 and 30 miles, in calm and overcast to windy and surfing conditions. I never encountered any sighting of a shark. That doesn't mean they weren't there, but for whatever reason, I was not very interesting if they were. Which is exactly what I would hope for. I did encounter otters, sea lions, a sunfish and a dolphin. All within 4 feet of the canoe. I had a fin whale breaching about .25 miles away. They all seemed to have no problem keeping me company during the trip. I even had a curious seal follow me for over a mile surfacing every minute or so with a big exhale and make me flinch.

Disclaimer regarding Great White sharks

One disclaimer that gave me pause about how effective this product would be was that Great White sharks are ambush predators. They see you from a distance, and levy a high speed attack on their prey. This is different than bull, tiger and other breeds of sharks. So in my case, they might not sense the magnetic pulse and be deterred until they had gotten so close it was too late to pull back. So the website makes a point to say that Great Whites, are not included in their list of shark species that this is designed to help with. That said, if one was curious about me, and not throttling towards me to attack, it would be helpful.

Final info

Cost: The cost is $84.00 per band. So not as affordable as the awesome "I am not a seal" stickers by Better Surf than Sorry. But considering the potential hospital bills of a bite, perhaps a bargain! I had two, one black and grey, the other black and turquoise (which matched my canoe perfectly). Other styles and colors are available too, but really, I was mostly worried about their effectiveness. And well, I am here writing a review, with all my fingers (and toes) intact, so I am going to say I am pretty pleased. Would I wear them every time I paddle? Maybe not both of them. Perhaps just on my ankle in case I have to go for a long swim and lose my canoe in conditions due to broken leash. But the piece of mind when I paddled, especially solo, and even when I huli'd on a lunch break and wasn't paying attention to a rogue wave is pretty nice to have. So if you have visions of long ocean paddles, solo or with groups, and happen to be in areas that have been run by 'the landlord' or frequented by 'the man in the grey suit', I would consider this a worthy accessory. Plus, one last thing, having these helped my wife and mom feel "better" about my crazy adventure ideas. And you can't put a price on that. :)

See you on the water!

 


Cali Paddler Team Writer Clarke Graves

Team Writer Clarke Graves - If there is water, he will paddle it (regardless of craft). Clarke is a surfer turned paddler who grew up in San Diego but has traveled every corner of California enjoying its beauty and appeal. He has had the privilege of racing SUP, OC6, OC2, OC1, Prone, Dragon-boat and surf-ski.

One of Clarke's goals is to paddle as much shoreline in California as he can, with as many paddling friends who are willing to join him. If you have an idea for Clarke to write about or any questions, send it our way and we will pass it along!

CP Spotlight - The Wa'a House and Will Reichenstein

CP Spotlight - The Wa'a House

[ One of the great things about the paddle community in California and worldwide is that the business owners in the industry are generally paddlers. They saw an opportunity to make the sport better and harnessed their entrepreneurial skills and courage to bring services and products that help us get on the water and enjoy it. The CP Spotlight Series shines a light on paddlers, coaches and in this case, the businesses that deserve to be showcased for all.]

The Wa'a House was started by Will Reichenstein and his wife Bobbie in 2018 to service paddle-craft repair needs. Wa'a (pronounced vah-ah; Hawaiian for canoe) are certainly the main craft he works on, and one stroll through the shop and you will see a variety of outrigger canoes from old Stringrays to new Ares. The shop is located in  Oceanside, just 5 minutes east on the 76 freeway in an industrial area that is perfectly centered for the San Diego, San Clemente and Dana paddle communities to drop off a wounded craft and pick up a shiny repaired one.

Wa'a House Shop

There are so many stories that cause us to need a repair. Ranging from getting caught in the rocks after surfing your canoe at your local jetty ("you should have seen the awesome wave though!", to getting t-boned by a backyard fence post as you transport your canoe to the car ("I swear it came out of nowhere!"). And everything in between.

Puakea Designs Kahele Repair

At the time we were in there, it was after the Gorge Downwind Champs. During the week the coconut wireless had spread a story about a paddler who's canoe had been ripped out of the hands by a 30mph gust of wind and wrecked pretty badly. Stuff happens. Thankfully, SoCal has The Wa'a House to give us piece of mind that a quality repair (without adding tons of weight!) is possible. Even a canoe that flew off the roof of a moving vehicle is on the list of saved and repaired craft.

Outrigger Canoe Repair

In addition to repairs of severe paddle-craft damage, sometimes we just want to get a few more years out of a loyal craft. Spruce the ole beauty up and make it solid and shiny. Or maybe there is a small collection of dings that have occurred over the years and you want to bring the canoe back to its glory days. The Wa'a House does that too.

Outrigger Canoe Restoration

Will Himself

For those of you that know me from my articles and Cali Paddler in general, the character of people really matters. It is why we love this sport so much. The few times I have had a chance to interact with Will (and his wife Bobbie) as well as watched him with others, it was clear that each paddler is just as cool as the elite paddlers he trains and races with. Never did I witness an ego or someone too busy to share a wave or beer with. Which, considering Will's resume of paddling and his international network of paddle superstars, is even more awesome to see. Not to mention, he has always been approachable and willing to take the time and your call. Know that when you are at The Wa'a House, you will be with someone who will listen to your paddle stories as much as he will tell them.

Will Reichenstein Wa'a House Rudder Cable Repair

From a business standpoint, integrity matters too. So often professionals might see dollar signs with each client who walks in the door. But in my personal experience, when my beloved canoe got its first ding and I freaked out, Will assessed the damage and then shared that it was actually not that bad structurally. And it would be more cost-effective to wait until I had more urgent dings to tackle them at one time. He said he would of course make the repairs, but wanted to make sure I understood my options. Even if it meant turning down work in the short term. Will even worked with me to find a time he would be in my part of town to look over the damage to save me a trip to his shop.

Wait, he does more?

In addition to knowing the ins and outs of canoe repair for just about any model out there, Will is the Southern California Kai Wa'a and Fai Va'a Rudderless V1 rep. So if you are in the market for an Ares, Anteres, Gemini OC2 or Fai3x, he can help you find a great canoe! (Read our interview with Will about paddling rudderless v1 here).

One last thing Will offers, is paddle clinics. Group or one-on-one for technique, or as I had the pleasure to join, a downwind run at the Gorge. Will has a great voice in the canoe that helps even an average-joe like me up their game at reading the water and seeing untapped potential (in the waves and in the stroke). There are many talented paddlers in California that offer clinics to improve our abilities. Definitely include Will Reichenstein on this list. Weeks later I am still applying the tips he shared with me in various situations like he was in the canoe with me.

Wa'a House Collage

Magic takes time.

No place is perfect and as you can imagine, working on your craft with quality attention takes time. If there is anything we want to stress if you need a Wa'a House repair, is to account for time. At this time there is only so much Will to go around, so his ability to take on your project may require some patience. We suggest you reach out to him with a description of the project, send some pics or arrange maybe to see in person. And then be willing to work with his schedule to take it on. After all, we need to make sure Will still gets his water time so he can continue being one of the fastest and most stoked paddlers in the state.

So, after having experienced the shop, and talked to several other paddlers who have brought in their OC1s, OC2s, and even an OC6 to be brought back to life, we would encourage you to give The Wa'a House a chance on your next craft repair. You will be supporting a fellow paddling couple, who has done a lot to make our community better. And will take amazing care of your craft!

The Wa'a House
326 Via Del Norte
Oceanside, California 92058
(949) 701-8647

https://www.facebook.com/The-Waa-House-1545640422155847/


p.s. Stand-by for more exciting announcements of how The Wa'a House will be connecting the paddle community to great products. Some pretty exciting things happening

Cali Paddler Puffy Vest

Why Change Season is Outrigger's Best Paddle Time!

Change Season Outrigger CanoeChange season. 9-man season. Whatever you call this amazing time of year for outrigger paddles, it marks the best part of the season in our opinion. And so we wanted to express our enthusiasm for all of you entering in to the dungeon of awesome because this part of the year is what truly makes you a bad-ass paddler.

Why? Because everything is fluid and you have to adapt and overcome. Traits that the best paddlers find themselves able to do. You have to be a pro out there and roll with whatever happens. What you might ask it so unique vs. sprints or long distance season? What makes it so fluid? Glad you asked!

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