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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Can You Swim?

I teach SUP and work the Naish tent at local paddling festivals.  Last weekend near Portland, Oregon due to the beginning to what some call  'paddling season' and warm weather, we had a high volume crowd of folks coming out to take basic SUP lessons and demo boards and paddles.  It's great training for SUP instructors as we deal with many different body types, personalities, and skill levels.  

I had two guys in their upper 50's and 60's who had bad knees with little or no flexibility in one leg.  Wearing PFDs, we managed to get them up standing from the beach.  Later in the day Sunday, a woman in her 60's was flailing in the water asking for help.  She had fallen off her board, her PFD had slipped nearly over her head, and she said she couldn't swim.  As I paddled close to her she was panicking and trying to grab my board but in such a way she would've capsized me.   Given we were 30 feet from shore, I was able to have her hold on to my board and drag her to where she could touch bottom quickly.  If I were further out, I would do the flip rescue to get on her own board.  More on that in future posts.

A few thoughts here..  If you can't swim, take a swimming lesson first, then take a SUP or kayak class.  Even with a PFD on your fear of the water may lead to panic or even worse being rescued.  Swimming classes are held regularly, and it's without question an invaluable skill to have.  By entering the water without this skills, you're also endangering those around you who will need to perform a rescue, hopefully not in open water or rough conditions.

Looking for swimming lessons?  Here's a site which can help you find them.. Swim Lessons.

Police trace clues of missing Tampa paddleboarder

Today on a Tampa news station there's a story HERE on a missing paddle boarder.  In this particuliar paddler's case, he's in great shape, probably a very experienced paddler in his home waters.  A board was found.  Without knowing the details, I'll on speculate that a leash wasn't being worn.

Anything I say below isn't directed towards the specific paddler listed above.

Many think SUP is so easy and such a minimalistic experience that little if no training should be involved.    Leashes and vest style PFDs are considered by one local paddler here as a 'hassle'.  Maybe they are.  But in retrospect even as an experienced paddler on your home waters, shit happens.  Given that when I paddle in challenging conditions, moving current, high wind, or offshore, I do the following.

- Tell a friend of family member where you're going, time you'll be back, and leave a phone #.

- Wear a leash.  I wear mine 100% even on flat calm days because shit happens.

- Wear a PFD.  Note the first word - 'wear'.  Even a inflatable belt style PFD should be on you.  If you fall off your leashless board and the wind or current takes it with your PFD strapped onto the deck, consider your distance of swimming back to shore or to a nearby boat for help.  I'd rather avoid that situation.  Many who read this blog know I'm a fan of vest style PFDs way more pros and cons vs a belt style, but each his own.  And in Florida or Hawaii vest style PFDs can get pretty hot.

- Purchase and bring with you a floatable waterproof VHF. ICOM makes a good one I use.  Double protect it from saltwater and put it in a drybag you can control and talk through.  Learn how to use it and keep it charged.  Also learn your local channels.  For Seattle Channel 14 covers all local marine chat for Elliott Bay and Shilshole Bay.

- Carry hand held rocket flares.  These are so small you can pack them into your PFD or fanny pack.  Double bag them with ziplocks or a good drybag.  I used these once to direct the attention of a Police boat to where we were rescuing a fisherman who had capsized in Puget Sound.  They essentially found is much sooner than if they were looking on their own.

- Drybag or similar to carry extra clothes, hydration, etc.  Getting too cold? Grab an extra hat or hoodie from your kayaking style deckbag.  Or the opposite, shed a layer and you have a place to put it rather than around your waist.

- Proper hydration for your body.  If I don't drink enough water I get migraines.  Thus am hydrating all the time, especially in warmer temps or arid regions.

- Tow Rope. See my post on Towing.  If your buddy gets fatigued, sea sick, heat stroke, hypothermia, or is injured in some way, you have a chance of getting him/her back to shore without having to sacrifice your own leash and safety.  Some PFDs such as th Astral Green Jacket have a built in short town line.  You can make your own tow system as well.

- Paddle with a friend with similar or more experience than you.  Make sure they're also considering some of the options above.  In this case, listen to yourself in terms of what you need to take along.  My buddy Todd says 'it's warm, you don't need a wetsuit.' But Todd never wears gloves even if it's snowing.

- Check the weather.  Is a storm front approaching. Is the barometer 'Falling Rapidly"?  Think before you go.  Do you know which direction the wind or current is going or may switch to and when?  NOAA has great info for your region on what's going on in real time.  Here's my local station for Seattle at Discovery Park's West Point.

There's certainly more to consider, but that's a starting point.  Think before you go.

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Salmon Bay Paddle Website! Check it out!

I have a new website for my SUP and kayak instruction and tour business, Salmon Bay Paddle.

New this year - SUP tours on the Snoqualmie River, Yakima River Canyon, and custom tours - where do you want to paddle?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 NW Spring & Summer Paddling Festivals

Tis the season for paddling festivals and symposiums.  If you're looking for your perfect board or kayak, these events are a great way to demo gear at a minimal cost and visit vendor booths to learn more about paddling.  Here's a short list of Pacific NW events for 2012..

April 28-29
Spring Paddle Festival in Portland, OR, at Vancouver Lake, Rob will demo Naish SUP boards.

April 28-29
Gig Harbor Paddlers Cup & Expo,

May 12
Northwest Paddling Festival at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah. REI will be doing their annual demo day during this event.  Sign up for one of Rob’s SUP classes. Schedule TBA.

June 2 – 4 p.m.
Anacortes Paddle Fest. Rob will be giving a talk on his new book on the 2nd at 4pm.  There are at this time no SUP vendors or classes only kayaking.

June 9-10
Adventure Sports Festival, Port Gamble, WA.

June 30th
Jetty Jam, Jetty Island, Everett, WA

June 30th
MEC Paddlefest, Victoria BC

July 7th
MEC Paddlefest, Vancouver, BC

This is not a complete list of paddling Races.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Do You Know How to Use Your Inflatable Belt PFD?

A woman with a C02 inflatable belt style PFD came to me at the beach the other day and asked if the C02 cartridge was properly armed.  Not ever having used an inflatable PFD, I took a peek but told her I couldn't confirm her question.

Have you actually tested your inflatable PFD?  Pull the string and see what happens.  Learn to put the inflated PFD on in the water so if the day happens when you have to do it for real you can do so with ease.  Many of the belt style PFDs also have an manual inflation tube.  Test this as well and see how many breaths it takes to fill the bladder.

Drowing Last Summer..
In Wa State last summer, we had a drowning when a paddler was unable to inflate his belt style PFD.  He was a renter and wasn't given a leash.  In windy conditions he wasn't able to use his board as a secondary floatation device and was unable to inflate his belt style PFD without having any experience in using such gear.

Test your gear before you hit the water - Try to inflate the PFD doing the following:

- Treading water.
- With one arm only.  If you blew a shoulder, how will you be able to pull the string?
- Try to pull the string with the PFD spun around on your backside, (a common place to put it).  
- If you store it on your board, learn how to remove it and inflate and put it on it while on your board and in the water.

Be Prepared -  
- Buy extra C02 cartridges and carry one extra on you while on the water.  
- Know how to arm the PFD with the C02 cartridge.
- Wash your PFD after each use, especially when paddling in saltwater.

Belt style PFDs are a great option for those who know how to use them and are commonly used in racing and for those living in warm weather locations where a Type 3 vest style PFD may be too uncomfortable to wear.

Below - the Fluid Pack by MTI.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Do Your Cam Straps Whistle In the Wind?

A student of mine was frustrated at the deep whistling sound of her board when she was driving. She had thought it was her board making the odd annoying sound. But it was actually the cam straps which are known for a low toned sound which builds as you drive faster.

The Solution?
Put several twists in the straps both on top of the board (or kayak) and in the section of cam strap between the board and the rack bar. Others have known to tie an old rag or sock to the strap which can reduces the sound as well. Or use ropes which don't whistle.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Soul by Ocean Rodeo - A Drysuit designed for SUP

I gave up drysuits several years ago as I was tired of the baggy fit and high maintenance of taking care of the suit - zippers, latex gaskets, and gortex repairs. They never seemed that dry and as a kayaker even after burping, or removing air out, there always some air pockets left which became an issue with rolling. Despite the popularity of drysuits in my region mostly with kayakers, I also never felt completely warm in them thus eventually switched to full surfing wetsuits.

A friend suggested I try out the Soul drysuit by Ocean Rodeo of Victoria, BC. After a week of paddling a SUP and kayak in classic late winter NW conditions - 30 degree air, 40 degree water, high wind and rain, the Soul may of changed my mind about drysuits.

The Soul has a built in jacket with detachable hood which protects the zipper and really helps retain your heat. The jacket also has hand warmer pockets and an opening in the front to attach a tow rope, inflatable pfd, or kite harness. The suit's plastic zippers never leaked and were easier to open and close than those of other suits. The Soul was flexible, comfortable, and was less baggy than most suits which also made it easier for swimming. My partner Christy felt it even looked stylish and more like a outer shell jacket and rain pants than the Michelin Man baggy drysuits that we see on paddlers in our area. Retail in US $849.

Check it out..

Video of the Soul in action:

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stand Up Paddle Seattle Meet Up Group

Here's an image from my SUP Meet Up group's gathering last night below the Chittenden Locks in Seattle. With unseasonally warm conditions and glassy water we were jumping in to cool off. A great night. Photo by Reid Warner.

Join us for our Monday evening Skills Clinics. More info here:

Tow Systems for SUPs

I always tell my students that one of the issues of stand up paddling is having deal with wind. If you're an experienced paddler, you know how to use wind to your advantage by surfing it downwind, or using your body as a sail to go downwind even with no waves around.

Last summer when SUP finally become popular in Seattle several surf shops and those offering SUP concession trailers at city parks began offering Groupon like discounts which brought in high volumes of renters. Since SUP is considered by many as easy to learn, most of those businesses put their customers on the water with minimal instruction, clothing and gear. A shop in my neighborhood began to build a reputation for sending novice paddlers out in 50 degree water with no wetsuits and little if any instruction. In Seattle in the summer on blue sky days, the north wind jacks up by noon to late afternoon resulting in up to 3-4' wind waves. The combo of sun starved Seattleites and a stiff northerly pushed many unsuspecting renters south, sometimes 1-3 miles. Friends and I towed several back to the launch beach, and a few had to be rescued by commercial fishing, police, and recreational boaters. With summer approaching again soon and with SUP still growing steadily, we're already thinking of those long tows back to shore.

Kayakers have for years used tow ropes to tow seasick, fatigued, or injured paddlers or other water sports enthusiasts to safety. Tow systems come in several varieties. Some are mounted on the deck of a SUP or kayak. Most often you'll wear a fanny pack like bag around your waist with a tow rope in it. And some PFDs (Type 3) now have a short tow system tucked in a pocket. In all three cases, it's recommended to have a quick release buckle to release the tow rope in case you get into trouble yourself.

I'll get into more detail on methods of towing a SUP in future posts, but the most basic technique is to have the rescuee lay prone on their board for a low center of gravity, holding their paddle under their chest with the shaft sticking out forward. Ask the person to hold the end of your tow rope or even wrap the rope around the paddle shaft (if held sideways) if that helps. For towing, standing will give you the most power but obviously you may have to sit if paddling into wind or if in rough conditions. While many like to kneel, sitting is most efficient in going upwind (when towing).

Towing methods in brief:
- Tail/Stern first: Attach the tow rope caribiner to the leash plug (string) loop.
- If the rescuee has leash plug tie-downs on their nose, attach to these and tow nose/bow first.
- Wrap tow rope around the shaft of the rescuee's paddle if held across the board and tow bow first.
- Wrap the tow rope in a figure eight configuation around their board and tow bow first. I'll do a video on this soon for a better explanation.
- Use the leash of the person you're towing if you don't have a tow system. Downside obviously is your rescuee will be unleashed.

- Ask the rescuee to keep their legs on the board when towing. If they dangle over the sides and drag in the water, you'll go 50% slower - not fun for the rescurer.
- Ask the rescuee to sit or lay prone instead of standing.
- Don't tow in surf or coastal rock gardens. Waves can push the rescuee's board into yours creating more problems.
- Get training for rescues in whitewater:

Myth: You can't tow a SUP backwards fin first. I've tested this, and it does work if towing using the leash plug loop to attach to. Someone on StandUpZone said you'd have to remove the fin for this to work - what if you loose the fin and screw in the process? Bummer.

Find a Tow System:
- Throw Bags are designed for whitewater in throwing a bag/rope from shore to someone in the river. For onwater rescues, get a non throw bag system. Wanna make your own? Use floating rope, a caribiner on one or both sides, and a floatation device to keep the biner from sinking.
Check out these at NRS.. HERE.

The Astral Green Jacket PFD has a short tow system built in.