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.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How to choose a wetsuit and other clothing options

Wetsuits are very flexible these days and very warm. I gave up my gortex dry suit a year ago. Got tired of fixing gaskets and the baggy fabric. I wear my Excel 4/3 Infinity Drylock for kayaking as well as SUP'ing, and even wore it on a photo shoot where I had to be fulling immersed in the water to get the shots.

What does 4/3 mean? 4mm in the chest, 3mm in the arms and legs. If you see 5/4/3, that means 5 in the chest, 4 in the legs, 3 in the arms. Around here in the Pacific NW, 4/3 and 5/4 are most common for surfing, winter paddling, and any open water trips. Recommended brands are Xcel, Patagonia, Mateuse, O'Neil, etc.

Accessories -
I wear Xcel 7mm booties, 3-4mm Glacier Gloves, and a neoprene hooded vest (Quicksilver).

Layering with a wetsuit -
I use a 4/3 all the time, but you can layer by adding a layer of capeline or poly pro under and/or a drytop over your top. I use a neoprene hooded vest which can be added if i get cold and the hood keep water from going down my neck. brrr. I wear the vest over the suit, some wear them under.

Dry suits -
Dry suits are waterproof garmets made from Gortex and a few other materials. Latex gaskets keep water from getting in the arms, legs, and neck. They keep you dry, but it's the clothing you wear underneath that keeps your warm. I used to wear fleece tops and bottoms in colder water temps, and a fleece sock. You can request to have gortex water poof feet to which are nice. Dry suits do require maintenance. The latex gaskets require spraying 303 on them every few days to keep them lubricated and from ripping. You should wash your suit after every use. The zipper needs a bit of paraffin (wax) rubbed on it after every few uses to keep it working. Dry suits fun from $400-$900. Popular brands are Palm, Kokotat, and NRS.

Different Options for Staying Warm -
A armless wetsuit called a farmer john is a great for warmer temps or if you're not planning on full immersion such as surfing. You can wear a fleece or poly pro shirt under the top portion of the farmer john, then for wind and water protection, layer a gortex dry top for your chest and arms. Dry tops are waterproof garments that are great to put over a full wetsuit, farmer john, or worn over rash guard to keep the wind off. Paddling pants are essentially gortex rain pants but with a neoprene enclosure on the feet to prevent water from getting in. Paddling pants can be worn over shorts, long johns, or even a full wetsuit. Reed Chill Chater, a UK company, makes light garmets that can used as tops, bottoms, full suits, and hoods. Their material is like neoprene but lighter and coated with a fleece layer. I have one of their tops for putting over a rash guard while wearing shorts in summer. It packs very small for storage.

Your Body Temp -
Everyone is different when it comes to staying warm. I tend to get cold easily, so I have 7mm booties, gloves all year, and usually a layer of capeline under my 4/3 most of the time. Friends shed their gloves in March, don't wear booties in summer, and some never wear hoods. Each his own. Follow your own direction, not your friend's. If they say it's warm, think of what that really means to you. Beware of the parking lot issue. Parking lots where you unload your gear are always warmer than the beach. Take a walk to the beach to confirm the wind and air temps prior to choosing your clothing for the day.

Carrying clothing on the board -
If I go out in my full wetsuit and the wind chill is in the teens or 20's, I'll bring along a dry top in a dry bag to be placed on bungees on the nose of my board. It's there if I need it. In summer, I may bring along the same bag to remove clothing if I get too warm. I may also put a pair of gloves or extra hood in my fanny pack for easy retrieval.

Sources for gear -
NRS - Idaho based kayaking and rafting outfitter. Drysuits, wetsuits, gear, etc,
Kayak Academy - Seattle based kayak store for drysuits,
Surf Ballard - Seattle based surf shop with Mateuse, Patagonia, and Xcel wetsuits, and SUPs,
Urban Surf - Seattle based surf shop with O'Neil, Gath, and SUPS,
NW Outdoor Center - Seattle based kayak shop with drysuits, wetsuits, farmer johns and SUPS,
Olympic Raft and Kayak - Port Angeles based kayak/rafting store with all gear and SUPs,
Reed Chill Cheater,

Friday, April 23, 2010

How to buy your first board

Looking to buy your first SUP?

- Decide which type of paddling you want to do. Rivers, surf, casual flat water, racing, long distance, overnights, expeditions requiring airline travel, or all of the above?

- Rent as many boards as possible to find the one that best works for you. You can also demo boards at races, surfing contests, and public SUP events.

- If you've never paddled before, get a wide (29"-34") board that is easy to stand up on. A tippy board will be frustrating to learn on.

Basics of board profiles -

All around paddling - the most basic sup to start out on for all genres of paddling is a stable and long board up to 12'. If you're tall like me, 12' is appropiate, if not so tall, try 10'-11' boards. Demo before buying to make sure you find the best one. Widths should be 29-34" wide.

Race or fitness boards - these tend to be narrow, 26-29" wide, tippy, and long. Not best for beginners unless you specifically want to race. But it may still be easier to learn on a wider board, then move to a narrow race board once you get your balance. There's several great race boards out now such as Bark, Starboard, Ohana, Infinity, and Hobie.

Surfing - All boards can surf. For performance surfing, especially if you're an experienced surfer, use short boards 6-10' long. Beginners should start out on a wide (to 34") and longer board (to 12').

Rivers - Inflatable or rotomolded (plastic) are best to prevent dings or breaking of the board. Consider Uli, Tomahawk and Imagine Surfboards to try. Shorter boards are best to work in between rocks and slide into eddies with short turns, etc. See my posting on rivers prior to going out.

Expeditions / Overnight boards - for overnight trips, consider a longer board from 12-18' to carry your gear without effecting your effeciency. Lighter is better, but lighter boards in carbon are also most expensive. There's a folks out there that have done extensive trips with just 12' Laird boards. Attach NSI or EZ Plugs on your board with bungy or rope to attach gear bags. Condider a break-down kayak paddle for upwind paddles and a backup.

International Travel / Remote Trips - Inflatable boards are great for travels requiring airline connections or 3rd world and remote locations. Inflatables will require less maintenance (no dings) and can roll up for easy stowage.

Other things to consider when starting out -
- PFD (lifejacket). Check your local regs. Many areas require PFDs for non surf zone paddling.
- Always wear a leash. You'll be surprised how far you're board will go when you fall off, especially in wind.
- Always hydtrate either with a bladder in a fanny or backpack, or with water bottles stashed on you or the board.
- Check for local info on where you're paddling. Are there books, online, or a surf or paddling shop with info on tides, weather, and any tips or precautions?
- Take a class on stand up paddling to get the basic strokes, or ask an experienced paddler to give you a lesson.
- Visit a kayaking or SUP symposium to try boards, take paddling clinics, and network with other paddlers.
- Dress for the conditions you're paddling in. SUPs have the reputation for keeping paddlers dry, so many avoid wearing wetsuits in colder temps. If the water is below 70 degrees F, wear a wet or drysuit until your sklll are solid enough to choose otherwise.

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.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wanna run a river on a SUP?

In the mood to try our SUP on a river? A few important thoughts to consider..

- Take a SUP river class from Werner/Starboard rep, Dan Gavere in Hood River, Oregon. He's the man on the river when it comes to sups.

- Can't get Dan for a class? Take a basic whitewater kayaking class to learn how to read rivers, peel out, peel in, run eddy lines, and how not to get caught in a strainer. Rivers are dangerous, take it seriously.

Tips for experienced paddlers with whitewater skills:
- Don't wear a leash around your ankle. If you do wear one, attach it to your PFD on a quick release tow belt strap.
- Carry a knife to cut your leash in a worse case scenario.
- Wear a river or surf kayaking helmet. I use Gath. Sweet helmets are good too.
- Wear motocross shin pads. When you fall, you'll either hit your shins on your board or a rock below.
- Stay low at all times. I mean really low. Check out Corran Addison's videos for tips.
- Scout the river. Check the flow (CFS). Make sure your skill level is appropiate for the conditions. Portage any obstructions.
- Use an inflatable board such as Uli or Tomawhawk.
- Use a fiberglass (not carbon!) paddle.
- Don't go alone!
- If you fall in, swim for the board immediately. Get on asap, then get to shore.
- Be willing to sit or kneel on your board if you can't stand up.
- Get info on the river prior to running it from local paddling clubs or online sites.
- Wear a PFD for floatation, warmth, and body protection.
- Wear booties that will protect your feet from sharp rocks.

-Dan Gavere, river sup instruction:
-Corran Addison, sup river instruction & videos:
-American Whitewater (river database):

The Essential Whitewater Kayaker (or SUP'er), Jeff Bennett, McGraw Hill

* Call me if you have any questions about running rivers or tidal rapids. This is a chapter in my book due out Spring 2011.

42 Surfboards on Oregon..

Check out the beautiful natural boards from Lars Bergstrom, a college pal in Oregon..

Monday, April 19, 2010

Have poor balance and worried about trying a SUP board?

Last weekend, I taught a class and a few dozen folks to paddle SUPs at a kayaking symposium in Port Angeles, WA. The most common fear of trying a board was about balance. Nearly everyone was worried they wouldn't be able to stand up. In kayaking the most common fear is tipping over.

In trying a SUP for the first time, make sure you rent a board that is the longest and widest board available. If you get on one and feel tippy and have troubles standing up, ask for a larger board. Many have been intimidated by not being able to stand up and often don't try again. I'm 6-5 220lbs and use a 30" wide and 12' long board, as well as one that is 34" wide and 10 long, yet 5.5" thick. Both are great for keeping me completely stable, even in rough conditions or surf.

Don't stand up until you feel 100% stable on your knees. Move around on the board to make sure you've found your sweet spot for stability. If you do stand up, use your paddle as a tripod leg of sorts in the water to brace to add stability. Just having the paddle in the water helps with balance. Take a few strokes to also add stability.

Tips for better balance:
- stand on one leg while at the grocery store or coffee shop.
- work on your balance with a bosu ball.
- if you have tight hamstrings, loosen them up by stretching or asking a masseuse to work on that area. Yoga is great too.

'Do you pick the wave or does it pick you?' - Posting from Last Wilderness Blog

A great read from a NW paddler Ken Campbell's Last Wilderness Blog..

'Do you pick the wave or does it pick you?'

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Watertrails and paddle in campsites in Western USA -

The Washington Watertrails Org has created an awesome network or non-motorized watetrails linking multiple camping sites in areas such as Puget Sound, Willapa Bay, and the Columbia River. Whether you're choosing to do a simple overnight or an epic month long adventure, the wwta has online and print info detailing paddling distances in between sites, local paddling info, and even photos to recognized each site from the water. Here's their site,

For a list of watertrails in other states, click this link,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Need Ding Repair in the Pacific NW?

Seattle -

Mountains 2 Sound Outfitters - West Seattle.

Steve deKoch, Hemel Board Company:

Auburn -
Rhonda Schwab, Kayakers Go Coastal,, 253-735-9402

Bellingham -
Sterling Donaldson,


In The Gorge:

In Bend, Oregon:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Upwind Paddling Tips

Upwind Paddling Tips

- Sit down and paddle it like a kayak feet out front slightly bent. I've used this one in up to 41kts of wind.
- Sit cross legged, use that torso to paddle.
- Kneel, a popular technique, but I think the least efficient.

Holding the paddle while sitting:
My lower hand goes right above the blade, with the other 2’ higher, use nearly a straight upper arm and torso for power. Think like a outrigger paddler, or canoeist.

- Use a kayak paddle! Beware that kayak paddles aren’t built for the torque of paddling with one end, so I’ve broken two standing up.

Something to think about when you're going paddling..

After a busy sunny weekend in Seattle, our local beaches were strewn with garbage. Kinda of a bummer. I already have to watch out for broken glass, but today we found beer cans, empty water bottles, sandals, cigarette buds, and bottle caps. For us, Earth Day is every day, not just when others do their annual single day beach clean up. Pick something up every time you go to the beach, you'll notice a difference the next time you're there.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How to Put on Your Wetsuit

Ever put on a wetsuit backwards? I think most of us have. I even did a photo shoot and didn't realized that all three models had their suits on backwards until the client in LA noticed it. oops. I was a drysuit guy back then, didn't know the difference.

Here's a great article on 'Hot to Put On Your Wetstuit':

Congrats to Beau Whitehead, the new Naish Team Rider

Congrats to Bellingham, WA based SUP paddler Beau Whitehead for becoming the newest Naish team rider, more info here:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Take my SUP class at the Port Angeles Kayaking Symposium, 4/18

I'll be teaching a basic SUP class at the Port Angeles Kayaking Symposium on Sunday 4/18. Check the event site for details.

Stay tuned here as I'm starting a SUP and sea kayak guide business in Seattle very soon. We'll be offering instruction as well as tours in Seattle or on request elsewhere. Our site will be up by mid April. If you want to book a lesson in the meantime, give me a holler.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My SUP book is almost done!

My instructional guidebook on stand up paddling is almost done! It'll be published next spring (2011) by Mountaineers Books in Seattle. The book will include detailed chapters describing how to paddle on rivers and tidal rapids, in surf, how to do overnight trips and expeditions, fish, race, surf boat wakes, and fitness / cross training.

I've interviewed:
Dan Gavere, Nikki Gregg, Calvin Tom, Beau Whitehead, Tim Niemier, Steve deKoch, Candice Appleby, Jennifer Kalmbach, Clay Feeter, Ken Campbell, Dave Collins, Ken Hoeve, Steve Boehne, Bob McDermott, Corran Addison, Brandi Baksic, Wade Lawsen, Evan Lloyd, Kristi Carlson, Reg Lake, Dan Hogg, etc.

See photographs of many of the above as well as:
Chuck Patterson, Fletcher Burton, Lars LE Hansen, Mike Vaugn, Tom Swetish, etc.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sails for SUPS

Got some wind and want to speed up your SUP? Check out SUP Sails by WindPaddle. Based in the very windy Hood River, Oregon, WindPaddle has easily collapsable colorful yet maneagable sails that will fit on any SUP. They also have a similar sail for kayaks. Check it out -