Kit: Rob Crowe's Top 5: Semi ST
Rob looking sharp with fellow Team GB / Peak UK members Gav Barker (L) and Ibbo (centre)
3. Semi ST
Another bit of kit that led me to get very excited when I first saw it. I had watched the Rio 2016 Olympics in confusion as to what exactly the GB team slalom paddlers were wearing, something looked wrong but what was it? The answer of course was the fact that there was no PFD, replaced instead with a thin layer of foam sewn into the body of the cag with the bulk of the flotation in the spray deck. It was only a matter of time until us freestylers got a look in, with the Semi ST coming out in 2018.
It may surprise some that the Semi ST isn’t top of my list. Doesn’t it make your freestyle better and easier? The short answer is yes but now for the longer answer.
I can remember the feeling when I first put on an ST.
‘Wow my arms are really, really free, this is good, but my body feels a bit restricted with that foam so close to me, this is odd."
Rob flying high in his Semi ST Short
As someone who wears their PFD a little on the loose side it can feel quite restrictive. The truth is though that the foam being so close to you is a benefit. It moves with your body not as a buffer or cushion which you suddenly hit at the extent of your movements, as a conventional PFD does, stopping you getting where you need to be to get that extra little bit of rotation or air. I’m also adamant the foam in the deck gives an extra firmness when paired with your favoured choice of inflatable overthruster giving fractionally more air to loop moves.
Multiple World Champion Claire O
The ST definitely allows you to get that little bit extra which could be the difference between whether or not you get that extra air bonus or link, which might be what you need to get a medal or into a World’s final. Is it going to benefit or improve your day to day freestyle? Probably not a massively noticeable amount. I still have fun on the water whether I’m in a cag and PFD or an ST. Yes I do feel I have slightly more technically awesome sessions in an ST but when you’ve been aiming to perfect freestyle paddling for 10+ years the margins between a good and an awesome session are very, very small.
Will I always compete in an ST if I have the option? Yes undoubtedly, but unless you’re at the stage of looking for those last few % to be the very best you can be the noticeable benefits will be limited. If you can afford the luxury of a competition cag deck then definitely go for it but if you can’t you’re not going to miss out too much (but can just about use it as an acceptable excuse for getting beaten by someone in one!).
Stay tuned for the Top 2 coming soon...