Rob Casey is the owner of SUP school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle, co-founder for the PSUPA and is the author of two paddling guides.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Homemade Waveski

Since August (yes, August), I've been working on a project. I'm usually not the project type. I have a low attention span and get bored quickly. After trying a few surfing sit on top kayaks last year, I got hooked on the open deck thing. So I bought the kaos, a great boat, but very heavy and I find it hard to throw moves without dislocating my shoulder. Then I traded a whitewater boat for a BigStick plastic waveski. This boat/ski is much lighter and more playful than the kaos, but still heavy, and still plastic. Dropping down a face, I can feel the plastic slowing me down. So I had to get a waveski. With the economy finally hitting my business, there was no way I could buy one, so I decided to follow the local (NW) trend of making my own.

Following Gary Korb's video on making a surf kayak, I bought pink Home Depot foam, and started to shape. One problem, I didn't have a ski to use as a model, so I used online pics from Infinity, Wavemaster, Island, Wold, and various action pics to get an idea on design. Months later, I finally am ready to glass. Here's what I have thus far. I cut too much off the bow, so it looks funky. Will correct that one the next one!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fins or No Fins?

Every once in awhile, I'll show up at the beach and bump into this one guy that always starts the conversation with, 'Have you used the so and so fins on this boat?'. When I state that I don't use fins, he says, 'You can't surf this boat without fins, here, use mine!'. I've been surfing that boat for years, and have never used fins. Works for me just fine. Often I wonder if it's my 230lbs and 6-5' frame that usually sinks sterns, thus making the entire back of the boat a big fin. But I've never had the need, or interest. Some say you get more control. Each his own. But I don't mind a little slippage, a surprise, or possibly a closer connection to nature. Maybe it's my self employed artist style of doing things, always a little different, outside of the box. I even removed the skeg from my sea kayak recently as I never used it. I was intrigued to see a guy from Oregon who surfed in our local surf kayak festival last spring show up with homemade fins, from a plastic garbage can. A friend was complaining today that his fins always break off on rocky beaches or in strong ripping side currents in surf, so he avoids those beaches.

Expat board shaper, Tom Wegener who's now in Australia, has created a new line of finless wood boards which look like fun. Super simple in design, using local woods, just a plank. Definitely a big change for boards, which seem to all have fins. I'm staying finless, less is more, in my opinion.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

2009 La Push Pummel, 'Surf Frolic'...

Since the 1980's surf kayakers in Washington State have been coming together for the only expression session in the region, the La Push Surf Frolic, or also better described as the 'Pummel'. La Push is known for it's steep beaches and steeper waves, strong rips, cold water, and rugged spectacular Northwest coastal scenery. It's also the home of the Quileute Nation, one of the more remote indian reservations in the area. Flanking La Push are the coastal sections of Olympic National Park.

The Pummel has always taken place during the first weeks of January, traditionally the most gnarly wind and wave conditions of the year. Images from photographers such as Joel Rogers and Gary Luhm have shown kayakers on huge storm surf waves with a backdrop of magestic coastal sea stacks pulled in close with 600mm lenses. As a backup, paddlers travelled on Highway 101 to the standing wave on the Soleduck River called the Mosh Pit. The Pit only works in near flood stage conditions. This year, the event was pushed to February, after a few disappointing years of conditions too big, even for the most experienced paddler. Paddlers were awarded with two great days of offshore 5-7' waves and the rare winter sun. Photographer Gary Luhm captured the event beautifully as seen in the following link, and the image above.

Paddler: Ken Debondt on his homemade waveski.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Surfing Freighter Waves

For those of us that live away from the coast, but love to surf, there's still options that allow us to get that stoke of dropping into and riding a wave. In Seattle on Puget Sound, we've found that large freighters and coastal tugs put off 3-15' waves in certain areas, usually beaches whose topography resembles the best breaks on the coast. Waves sometimes break in the middle of the Sound, in deep water. Traditional coastal surfers are perplexed by this. Those are my favorite waves as you can ride a set for nearly a half mile to the beach. We have found that 17-18' sea kayaks are best for speed to catch fast waves and having to paddle long distances to reach the shipping lanes, or to just get to our favorite beach break that isn't accessible by land. SUPs are trying to access the waves but either are too short or slow to catch most of the better waves. I'm sure this will change as the sport matures, and the paddlers figure out how to surf these waves.

Freighter waves require a lot of patience. On the coast on a slow day, if the sets slow down to one every five or ten minutes, surfers tend to leave. I find that I'm willing to wait an hour, usually the only one left. On Puget Sound, if we spot a freighter on the horizon, it'll take 15-45 minutes for the ship to reach us depending on the boat size, speed, and load. Then another 15-30 min for the wave to break at our location, also depending on whether the ship still at full speed, currents, wind, etc. Sometimes it doesn't break, and sometimes we'll find ourselves dropping down a near vertical 10' face hooting and hollering.

Most don't believe us that these waves exist. We never get pics as we'd rather be surfing than shooting images. You get one set, and that's it. Sometimes we get lucky and get multiple freighters and tugs. Due to probably my stoke about these waves, our break has become popular with rental sups from a local surf shop looking for that illusive 15' wave. Most don't get lucky, as it requires multiple trips, as in any surf location to get the good stuff. One has to shift their thinking of how to find surf. Often waves don't break in a consistent location, are fickle at best, and often require the surfer to paddle distances to the wave to get one ride. Some friends would rather drive 3-5 hours to seemingly more consistent breaks on the coast. One jokes that these are 'fabled' waves. But to us, it's a hoot to catch surfable waves in a location where no one would ever think would be possible.

Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - Beginning to advanced instruction including freighter and tug wave surfing, coastal surfing, rivers and racing, plus PSUPA Certification.