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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Inflatable SUPs

Folks are always asking me about inflatable SUPs. I've only tried two, and have either heard or seen others. Adam of Leavenworth Mountain Sports in WA State who runs the Wenatchee River daily tells me he loves the C4 Inflatable board for it's high PSI (stiffness).

Updated 9/16 - Popular inflatables are available from Imagine Surf, HolaGear, NRS, Uli, Red Co, etc.

A good friend has a 10' Uli (pictured) which is also stiff which he enjoys surfing and paddling flat water on. He even completed the first 13 mile Round the Rock Race on this board in 2009. I had the opportunity to try the NRS Big Earl which was a great board as well, and unlike the above boards, has 3 removable fins, so you can choose your fin arrangement. Both the Uli and C4 have plastic fins which are part of the board.

PSI - Some boards brag of being able to hold 25 PSI, while others max out at 15 PSI.  Both are constructed differently and are equally stiff just have different PSI ratings.

Pros of inflatables:
- Great for boney (rocks) rivers whereas many expoxy boards will get dinged.
- Smart idea for travelling with your board on a plane or similar. Many pack down small.
- Light to carry. Unlike most SUPS, inflatables are super light.
- All the above inflatables have a tough exterior skin, so no worries about punctures.
- All the above can surf, run rivers and drops, do expeditions, etc.

- Slower than an epoxy board but not by much. The engine (paddler) sometimes makes the difference between slow or fast.
- Some such as the Uli have a fixed fin arrangement only, (3 fin). Others allow for any fins to be attached such as those by Imagine Surf.

Any questions give me a holler: / 206.465.7167
Check out our SUP classes - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Monday, May 30, 2011

SUP Whitewater Footage in the Pacific NW..

I interviewed Adam at Leavenworth Mountain Sports last weekend. He's leading the way in WA State as a shop that provides river SUP lessons and tours. He'll take you on the river as your first time on a SUP and have you surfing Happy Wave, a standing wave. I'm working on a story on him and will post it later this week. Check out this link! Also check out Strongwater in Missoula, Montana - some epic big wave whitewater action Here!

Also check out the Wenatchee River Festival in June 11th in Leavenworth, here.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

SUP Expedition to Alaska Progress - Current Location: Powell River

Now in his 10th day after leaving Anacortes, WA on a SUP solo trip to Alaska, Jonathan Francis is now in Powell River, BC. Pulling off nearly 30 miles per day, some against strong sidewinds and current...

Read more from his blog which he updates daily..

Some of Jonathan's gear:
- Integral Designs 8x10 siltarp
- Katabatic Gear Bristlecone Bivy
- Bark 14' Expedition SUP
- Solar Charger by

Read my story on Jonathan's trip in SUP Magazine online, Here.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tying a SUP to Your Car Rack

Post updated 8/4/16

I get a lot of folks asking how to tie their SUP to their car rack. Here's a few tips to make the search for the tying down solution easier..

First of all, many cars already have racks. Why add more if you don't need to? Subaru for example as other vehicles have cross bars built in - you're good to go!  One thing I try to avoid is a rack system that takes over the top of my car preventing me from using it to carry other items whether it be a bicycle, lumber, etc.

TIP for SUPs - Place boads on your roof fins first and fins up (over windshield). This is more aerodynamic and if they slip while in transit, the fins hit your rope first. Sometimes I put the deck up so I can get into my trunk easier, without the curved (or rocker) of the boards getting in my way.  I also remove my fins when I have a few boards to stack more evenly. Stack each by matching the board rocker (curve of hull). SUPs are so big that there really are no true aeodynamic solutions.  But I do on long road trips place a minimal length of the board over my windshield - thus sticking more out the back to help gas mileage.

Where do I put my paddle?
My 86" long Werner Nitro and Accent ProBolt are attached to the inside ceiling of my car to the 'oh shit' handles via bungies.  Here it stays clear of my head and from others in the car, and is more secure than on my rack. I'm not using Gear Tie's from Nite-Ize to secure the paddle to the handle. Years of a bungi created too much pressure this removing part of the handle from the car. Two piece adjustable paddles can be stored inside the car easier. If I have a few 2 pc paddles I don't want to break down, or a few one piece paddles, I'll wrap a Gear Tie around both ends of the shaft to keep them together then place the bundle from the trunk area to the rear seating area, then secure the bundle to the rear seat head rest posts with another Gear Tie or bungi.

Alternatively, you can attach your paddle to your rack with attachments from Yakima, Thule and others, some of which have secure locks.  I sometimes use bungy for this when security isn't an issue.

What type of rack should I get?
I prefer Thule as the rail attachments are stainless steel whereas Yakima has more plastic parts which I don't necessary trust when carrying heavy loads. For a Subaru, for example, I have two cross bars and that's all your need. (see pic of 3 boards on Subaru Forester above). This is also a nice system if you want to tie down wood or other items - you won't be stuck with having to tie down stuff over curvy kayak racks. See the links below for tying down boards to various type of car roofs and racks.

Bob Smith loading his gear.
Soft Racks -
These are great if you don't want a dedicated rack system attached to you car.  These are ideal for travelling (taking with you) for rental cars.  The compact HandiRack is an inflatable soft rack that can hold both SUPs, regular surfboards, and kayaks.  Soft racks are secured down by running straps through the doors and tied or attached inside.  Others may use a similar old school method of placing a blanket or towel on the car roof and securing the board down with straps through the doors.  Since SUPs are heavy, a towel may not be a enough protection to prevent dings or rather dents on your car.
Consider using a 3rd tie-down from your leash plug (up front) to your bumper to prevent sideways slippage.

Straps or Ropes?
Use cam straps or rope to tie your load down. Bungy stretches thus will put your load and the car behind you at risk. Straps can whistle in wind, so twist them before securing. I used to like rope which was low key, works fine, doesn't whistle, and I can find it anywhere for a replacement.  But it can shift and needs to be adjusted if on highway hauls. Learn the Trucker's Hitch for using rope, a simple knot system that I now use for lots of non related uses as well.

Mile 22 straps are 2" wide with wide plastic buckles which hold the strap quite well. I use these straps for big loads or big boards. Seattle Sports has 1" wide straps which have a bit of texture in the fabric which is less likely to slide in the buckle. Companies can add their name to their straps as well.

Some cam straps come with paddled buckles, a great idea for when you need to throw the buckle over the load and want to prevent ding or window repairs!

Securing Kayaks and/or Boards:
If you also have kayaks, the two padded bars work fine. I routinely add surf kayaks, sea kayaks and SUPs together on one load without any additional attachments. Add additional block foam if needed for rounded kayak hulls. Kayak Stacker bars from Thule help as well for multiple gear loads.  The SUP Carrier from Seattle Sports is another great option.

Some recommend not carrying more than 2 SUPs at once. If you're in business like me, I have to carry several. With 78" long bars cut to the width of my side mirrors I can carry tow stacks of 4 boards side by side, each tied down separately. In a full load of 8 boards I'll throw an additional 1-2 straps over the entire thing and secure the buckle inside the car as a backup safety. If the straps come too close to the end of the rack bars, I'll attach 1-2 straps across the roof of the car (between boards and rack bar) pulling in the rack traps (inwards towards roof) to prevent them from sliding off the bar. Close the loop then tighten as needed.

*See comment below about carrying 8 boards. Here's a photo of a busy summer teaching day with 10 boards which was carried a short distance from my garage to the beach (about 4 miles). There are a few deflated inflatables in there which also prevent slippage between the hard boards. Note not all straps are secured in this pic..

10 boards on a Thule Rack & Subaru Forester

10 boards on a Thule Rack & Subaru Forester
I place pipe insulation foam or cut sections of pool noodles in between the boards which have a lot of rocks to prevent sideways shifting. This also works in loading race/tour boards on top of surf style boards, each with different rocker and foil (thickness) outlines.  Some may tie the extra strap ends around the rack towers while others throw them in car to be secured by the car door.

Check to make sure you load is 100% shift free and solid before getting on the road. At our first gas or snack stop, check your load again and adjust and tighten as needed.

What if I have a pickup truck?
Check out Thule's truck rack options. The rack in the picture below pushes down or flattens when not in use. Some add padding to the bed door then attach the board on the roof of the truck at an angle.  The classic surfer style is to place one end of the board in the bed below the window then have the other end out over the bed door. This is ok only if it's not sticking out too far. Pad the bed door and secure with straps to inside attachment points.

How about vans or tall car roofs?
Around here adding to vans means possible over height charges on the ferry. Try to keep your load low (helps in drive-ins too). A friend has the extension bars that pull out to place his kayak on one side, then he lifts up the other to put on the rack when paddling solo. A stable step ladder helps.  Consider roller rack systems for kayaks which allow you to easily push your board on the car from the rear with little effort then secure once on the car. Or get an inflatable SUP to avoid the height issue altogether.

Protecting Your Boards:
If you're stacking boards, usually the traction pads will give each a little cushion. If not or the rocker profiles of each board (curve) are different so they don't stack evenly, consider using a variety of items - towels, foam, noodles (foam for pools), etc. Surfboard bags are helpful in protecting boards for this situation and also give them protection from flying gravel and UV. Caution: Don't put your paddle in the bag with a board. A student of mine did this end ended up with a 5" long ding after a 14 hour drive.

How do I lock/secure my boards down?
There's a few separate systems out there for this as well as SUP racks that can secure your board the car:
- KanuLocks - These are straps with metal inside with a locking camp lock. Many friends trust these.
- Docks Locks are quite good. They lock into the leash plug.
- Also, the Lasso Cable system for kayaks loops around the ends of your board. Ideal for 14' and UL  length boards.
- Inno Board Locker.

For Safety - 
If you have a factory rack (Yakima, Thule, etc) check it's condition regularly to make sure it's properly secured to your car.  If you have a local car rack business nearby, have them professionally check your rack. Do a Shake Test regularly - shaking each rack end to make sure it's solid to your car.

My Way is the Best or Safest Way!
Every paddler thinks their way of tying down their gear is the 'the way' to do it. Approach a friend's car with caution knowing that they may correct you or even take over the task.

More Useful SUP Rack Links:

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.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

SUP'er Jonathan Francis Paddles his Bark 14' Exped to Alaska..

On May 18th 2011, Jonathan Francis launched from Anacortes, WA for a 3 month paddle trip on a SUP to Glacier Bay, Alaska. The first day of the trip was his first time on a SUP. His gear includes a Bark 14' Expedition, QuickBlade paddles and a SeaLine drybag. Camping gear includes a bivy bag, foam pad, sleeping bag, tarp, and food. He's staying in some lodging along the way and guerilla camping as well. Follow this epic journey on his blog which is updated daily from his satellite phone...

Read my story on Jonathan's trip on SUP Magazine online, Here.

Infinity Surf Update on Shaping a 4 Person SUP

Check out an updated view of the Infinity Surf crew's progress on their 4 person 21' SUP..

My original posting on their project May 4th, 2011:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SUP Lesson today in Tacoma, WA

This morning, I met 3 Tacoma, WA residents for a SUP lesson in Ruston, the waterfront neighborhood near downtown. Lined with popular restaurants and a long walking / biking trail, the views span north to Vashon Island, Dash Point, Pt Brown, and Colvos Passage.

We had a great day with glassy conditions, surprisingly warm water, and a few visits from a harbor seal. Also the local OC-1 club paddled off in the distance.

AquaTrek Marine Center - New SUP and Kayak shop in Everett, WA

Today, I gave have a lesson to the staff at the new Aqua Trek Marine Center in Everett, WA. They're adding SUP to their quiver of rentals and sales, give them a holler if you're in Everett or passing through. The Scuttlebutt Brewery is close-by, worth a visit.

Left to right: Stuart Clift, Connie Campbell.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blue Sky Days in the NW = Strong Northerly Winds

Here in the Pacific NW, we're known for our grey skies, rain, and mild temperatures. Most don't get on the water unless it's sunny or in summer. When the blue sky finally does arrive, folks go nuts - traffic is heavy, people drive faster, tempers flare, and people scrape the moss of their boards and boats and rush to the beach. On these days we see every type of water craft possible - 3 person canoes, homemade boats, pedal boats, kayaks, sups, etc. Interestingly, few go swimming.

What most don't do is actually check the weather forecast. More often than not, a blue sky day here means light to strong northerly winds which begin in the afternoon. This is called a high pressure system. So while the blue sky makes us nostalgic for summer and warmer places - the water in Puget Sound is still 50 degrees, cold enough to get hyperthermia in 30 min or less. While most don't find themselves in perilous situations during this weather, here's a few tips to make those sunny days a bit safer just in case.

- Check the weather forecast - If the barometer is dropping, 'falling' or 'falling rapidly' expect strong winds soon. I use this NOAA link to check my local paddling area:

- If winds are coming, bring your leash. I try to stay off the evening news, this helps.

- Blue sky? Don't just rush to the beach thinking it's going to tropical, often the beach is as it absorbs heat, but the water isn't. Bring a variety of clothes along just in case it's cold. In a small backpack, fanny pack, or deckbag on your deck - stash a wetsuit top and/or bottom, farmer john, and/or neoprene hood in case you get cold. Do what works for you - not what's cool to your friends. I get cold easy, so I follow what my body is telling me. That's way cooler.

- Because the north wind jacks up in the afternoons here on blue sky days, think of how that may affect your paddling. It may be glassy getting to your destination, but can you paddle against the wind on the way back and deal with rough seas? Be willing to sit down when paddling against the wind. Or chose a shorter distance to avoid any issues.

- In summer, tidal exchanges are bigger during the day. Check your tide chart to see what's going on. If you float really easily to your destination, you're probably going with the tide and maybe wind as well. When the wind increases, can you paddle back against both?

- Remember to hydrate - bring a bottle of water, hydration pack or similar. Consider a sun hat, sunglasses, and sunblock.

- If you're skilled with surfing, these northerly winds make for great downwinders in certain places.

Paddling Tide Rips

Tide rips can either scare some folks or get others stoked. They're formed from surface or undersea current colliding with sea mounts which push the current to the surface creating confused waves. The pic here shows a tide rip off Pt Wilson in Port Townsend, WA. You can hear the tide rips sometimes from a mile away - waves crashing and rolling about.

Rip Tides, or Surf Rips are different - these form in surf zones on beaches where water rushes out in a sand channel back to sea, often taking unsuspecting people with it.

For beginners with few rough water skills, rips can throw you off balance as waves come in from all sides. The key is to avoid them and if you can't, keep you paddle in the water at all times and use short quick s strokes to maintain your stability. Sitting down will lower your center of gravity making it easier to get through. For those into the 'stand like a man' thing, well, have fun!

In the case of this rip, it's on the north side of a point of land with current ripping around the point at high speeds. This is a rip that requires some thinking before you enter. Scout each rip and determine your entry and exit plan. What if you can't get out of it and are swept around the point? Can you portage back over the point to your car or can have someone pick you up? If so, bring a cell phone in a wp bag as a backup. The current on this day around Pt Wilson was so strong you wouldn't be able to paddle against it, but a portage would've worked.

To avoid such places, bring a tide and current book for that area and plan around strong tides, or work with the current to let it push your to your destination. Have lunch downstream then when the tide reverses (usually 6hrs), take the tide back to your starting point.

Also wind opposing current can make some big waves and increase wave size in a rip. Boat wakes can also build large waves in a rip. On this day, a cruise ship passed which built these waves to nearly 4'-5' faces.

If you do have surfing, river, and strong rough water skills, tide rips can be a lot of fun. They're essentially standing waves - fully surfable.

Terms to know:
ebb - outgoing tide
flood - incoming tide
tide chart - vertical measurement of water, up and down.
current chart - horizontal flow of water. for areas of strong current.
eddy - in the case of Pt Wilson, a large eddy formed behind the point - or opposite side of where curent is coming in from creating a big swirl of recirculating current. Learn how to use this to your advantage and know when to avoid it.
portage - walking around or in this case over an obstacle.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Want to SUP in Spokane and Eastern WA / Idaho?

Last month Spokane based Out There Monthly interviewed me for a story on paddle boarding in Eastern WA and Idaho. The article includes background of the sport and where to go paddling in the Inland Empire, More Here.

Check out my SUP book signing in the Spokane REI on June 9th..

Monday, May 9, 2011

WA Aerial Photos - A great resource for finding paddle spots

This is a great resource for planning paddling trips, finding surf spots, etc. I've used it for years. One note: the images were probably shot nearly 10 years ago, so some shoreline features may have changed. There has also been a signficant increase in residential development.

Welcome to Department of Ecology's aerial photos of Washington's marine shorelines. More about the photos...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Freighter Wave Surfing in Seattle 5/4/11

After weeks of rain and high winds, we had a few sun breaks this week and somewhat calm conditions. Spring low tides and 2 fast moving freighters resulted in a nice set of waves during our lunch hour on Shilshole Bay in Seattle today..

Who says 4 people can't stand on a SUP?

Always an innovator, Steve Boehne of Infinity Surfboards in Dana Pt, CA is shaping a 21' blank to create at 4 person SUP. A contributor to my book, I've admired Steve's designs for years. While known as surfboard designer, he makes great wave skis, and adaptive paddling ski's and boards for disabled folks. He entered the SUP arena a few years ago and now has a CNC machine to assist with his high volume orders. Everything he designs is made in the USA.

Read More..

Updated progress of this project:

Monday, May 2, 2011

2 Bark SUP Noses - Planning vs Displacement

You hear a lot of terms describing SUPs these days - 'kayak style nose' 'displacement hull'

There's actually no board with a true kayak nose, but more of a surf ski nose/bow using a plum and sometimes a reverse or inverted bow/nose. In any case, this essentially means that the nose is pointed with vee extending from the nose to slightly under the hull. This type of nose is more efficient than a rounded planning hull (flat) seen on most common surfboard style SUPs. The vee helps a board track and slice through the water. Too much vee from nose to tail can make the board tippy.

In this image, the Bark Expedition 14' (red board) has a pointy nose and planning (flat) hull. The board tapers to a square pintail in the rear. The pointy nose helps it cut through wind easier than a rounded nose. The upturned nose helps it rise above bumps and make it easier to surf down waves without pearling (endo) easily. This board is fast and is often used for racing, downwind surfing, and touring. A few friends have used it for overnight trips securing gear on the nose, and I just hear for a guy using this board to paddle this summer from Seattle to Alaska.

The orange/yellow board is the Bark 12-6 Competitor. It's nose is also pointed but with less rocker (curve in the nose) and is a fast racing board. Many friends have used it and won several competitive races. Less rocker means it can surf, but you'd have to stand on the tail to keep the low profile nose from digging into waves and flipping the board over. This type of nose is very common in race boards now, and tends to go over small bumps but will dig into larger waves unless you stand on the tail to raise it above the waves, (which raises the pointed vee nose out of the water leaving a planning hull.)

Both boards are designed by Joe Bark and manufactured by Surftech.