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.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Paddling on Puget Sound

Here's a friend paddling off Seattle's West Point Lighthouse in Puget Sound. Note the distant cruise ship, a source of local waves. The minus tides and strong flood on this day turned the surf zone into a big messy rip, funky waves, not the traditional kind. Bob is paddling his 10' Uli board.

Tips on Renting a Board..

I've had friends that after renting a kayak, never wanted to do it again, often complaining of back ache, cramped legs, or capsizing. The problem with renting, is that it's not yours or custom outfitted to fit your individual height, weight or skill level. Rentals get trashed after continuous use by a lot of people, many whom have no skills in that sport. Rental shops can't often keep up with the number repairs needed. That said, make sure when renting to check the gear before getting on the water.

In stand up paddling, I've found that the most common issue in rentals are paddle handles being loose, or missing altogether. Plastic shipping tape is used by my shop for repairs and seems to work well when applied properly. Make sure the paddle is long enough for you. Being 6'-5, rental shop employees will often give me a paddle that works for them, not me. For flat water, a paddle 8-12" taller than you is good. If the blade is wood, make sure the wooden panels are solid. I got one last week that flexed too much, kinda like a broom, from stress. When you find the paddle you like, it might be easier to buy it, then just rent the board.

On the Puget Sound near Seattle, wind and currents pick up such that you can loose a board quickly if separated from it creating a super long swim, and possibly hypothermia if you left the wetsuit at home. I've seen it with kayaks in areas of heavy current or high wind, where a kayak will literally take off away from the paddler after a capsize. Make sure you have a leash before going out, and that the Velcro strap fits snugly around your ankle when attached. I've rented boards and have walked a hundred yards to the beach to find out that the Velcro strap is too short to wrap around my ankle, bummer! Also make sure the leash is attached to the board. If there's no leash at all, inquire within. Bungy leashes are great for not catching on kelp and for less drag when racing.

My local shop has two NSP boards that have been leaking through the handles, thus making the board heavy to carry and funky in the water. Check with the shop whether the board you're using has been repaired recently. Is the traction pad full size and stuck to the board? is the fin in good shape and attached well? Sups are much easier to take care of than kayaks! I'd recommend trying different boards to figure out which works best for your skill level, height and weight, and level of balance. Longer boards are faster, shorter are better for surfing.

Does your rental shop sell water bottles, lip baum, sunglasses (and retainers), and sun hats? If not, bring your own for UV protection on the water and to stay hydrated. I have my own wetsuit (Xcel Infinity 4/3) and various kayak clothing instead of using the rental shop gear which is often too small, already rented, etc. We rented three suits last weekend for family visiting from out of town. Two suits had holes in them, one bootie had a hole and we were given two right feet for a specific size. Check the gear before leaving the shop. Do you get cold easily? Make sure you wear a wetsuit if you think the water is cold, despite what others may say. I've fallen for the peer pressure thing where friends say it's warm enough, but for me, its not. Kayaking gear is great cross over gear for SUP'ing. Drysuits, drytops, and gortex paddling pants work well.

Water - Staying Hydrated
I get migraines if I don't drink enough water. Rental boards often don't have bungis of deck bags to carry extra gear, so you have to carry your own, on you. Fanny packs and small sports day packs are good to carry extra water, hydration tablets, and other essential items. I carry a water bottle, extra neoprene gloves, a food bar, a neoprene hood and flares in a fanny pack around my waist. I bought the pack from a local used backpacking supply store, and put small holes in the pockets to allow water to drain. Hydration packs are also a good idea and can be attached to PFDs.

Life Jacket (PFD)
Life jackets are required by the Coast Guard for use on non surfing areas on a board. Does you rental shop have PFDs? If so, does your pfd not ride up over your chin while in the water, and fit snugly around your waist? Good PFDs have extra pockets to carry personal items and reflector tape to make you more visable in busy waterways or in low light. I carry an energy bar, a small roll of duct tape, flares, a waterproof light, and an extra neoprene hood in my PFD (at minimum) on any given paddle day. As stated above, a hydration pack is a good idea to carry water. There seems to be a trend among SUP'ers to duct tape their PFD's to their board which makes it legal in some areas where PFDs are required. But what if you need it asap? Goodluck unwrapping the duct tape as the hyperthermia sets in. I've been wearing PFDs for years in kayaking. They're really not that bulk, and keep you warmer too.

Weather Forcast:
Does your local rental shop have the daily weather forcast posted in the store? If not, ask. Here in the Puget Sound region, our summer mornings are calm, but in the afternoon a strong northerly kicks up often up to 15-20kts. If you're not used to paddling upwind or aren't prepared for a temperature drop on the water, it's best to stay on land. Always stay within your skill level, particuliarly if you're not dressed properly or are paddling with more skilled paddlers. I use the NOAA site to check weather. If the barometer level is dropping or rising rapidly, prepare for inclement weather. Here's the page for my area:

Broken Paddle!

I've sea, surfed, and whitewater kayaked for nearly a decade in all conditions, including up to 50 mph winds. I've never broken a paddle. Yesterday, I had just rented a sup and paddled casually only a hundred yards, and my paddle broke in half on flat water. A little taken back, here I was holding both ends, and now with the issue of how to paddle back to shore. Luckily, the end with the blade worked as a short canoe paddle while sitting on the board and I made it back rather quickly, missing a few good boat wakes en route. The brand of the paddle wasn't on it, but it was made on Camano Island, Washington. The shaft was metal, the blade wood. Pretty, but no not too functional.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Buying a Paddle

I've been testing paddles to find the right one for me. Tried a super long one that was nearly 18" tall than me. This one provided great speed, but was hard to not catch the water's surface after pulling the blade out and starting the next stroke. I've already had a bout with tendinitis in kayaking due to a paddle that was too long and a poor stroke, so never again! Yesterday, I tried a Werner that was too short, maybe 6" taller than me. Paddling was slow, and it wasn't enough stick to brace quickly. Looks like something in between.

KaHoe SUP, seen at Westport, Wa

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Washington State Surfing Academy

Seattle surf shop Cheka Looka just started a new surf school, Wa Surf Academy. Instructors include Jeff Abandonato, Jim Simpson, and Andrew Drake. Lessons will include stand up paddling and traditional surfing on the Washington coast and in the city.

Friday, June 5, 2009

New Stand Up Paddle Board from SurfWoodBoards..

During the past few months, I've been renting NSP, Surftech and Angulo stand up boards from Seattle's Cheka Looka surfshop. Those boards look like the standard sups out there with a traditional longboard look, 11-12' long, a soft deck, and gentle rounded rails. Two weeks ago, a new board from Pacific Paddleboards appeared on Cheka Looka's racks. Then yesterday, two more new boards showed up from Turns out all the new boards were designed in by Tim Niemier, who more or less invented sit on top kayaks and owned Ocean Kayaks, a highly successful kayak company based here in Washington State. All the new boards were designed along the idea of the Ocean Kayak products to be super stable and very affordable, thus allowing a less skilled and larger demographic to enjoy the boards, and stand up paddling. Much like kayak designer Corran Addison who is also making stand up paddle boards, I'm excited to see designers from both the kayaking and board surfing worlds merge their knowledge into one product.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Stand Up Paddle Boarding Blog..

I've decided to turn this blog into a forum for learning about the sorta new sport of Stand Up Paddling. I hope to be covering instruction, gear reviews, trip reports, and news on my upcoming instruction book on the sport.