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, August 31, 2012

SUP Surfing - 3 Common Mistakes & Some Solutions..

I've been teaching a bunch of SUP surfing classes recently on the Washington coast.  Here's a list of common errors students routinely make and some solutions to those errors..

Common Mistakes:

Not paddling straight towards the beach while trying to catch a wave.  To best catch a wave you want to be faced perpendicular to the wave - or facing the beach.  I've had students paddle diagnolly with a wave behind them. Sometimes it works, most often not.

Correction: When gaining speed to catch the wave, paddle straight towards the beach while watching the wave behind your shoulder.  Learning to paddle straight and on one side allows you to focus on your speed, your position in catching the wave, and timing in catching the wave.


Many students stand facing the beach without paying attention to waves approaching from behind.  Doing so not only prevents you from choosing waves as they approach you but also prevents you from watching out for other surfers.

The surf zone is a very active environment and can be dangerous if you're not paying attention.  Always look behind you for other surfers, waves, or obstructions.  I often stand sideways with the beach on one side and the horizon on the other while waiting for waves.


A common error is not gaining enough speed before the wave hits you while standing straight up.  The wave will knock your board out below you if you're too slow or standing upright.

Solution:  Start paddling 20' before the wave comes to you.  Crank up your speed when it's 10' away then squat down low as it comes up behind you.  As mentioned above, keep your eye on the wave when it's behind you and when surfing.  Work on your forward stroke so you can effortly paddle fast and straight in the surf.  I use short quick strokes with a wave fast approaching behind me.  Short means taking the blade out at my feet or toes.  Don't stop paddling until you're surfing.

Late Summer is the Season to Buy Used Gear

In early September paddling shops will be liquidating their 2012 gear to make room for 2013 stuff.  This is a great time to check around for considerable discounts on SUPs, kayaks, and related gear.

For the Pacific NW, here's a few to visit..

Norm Hann's biz in BC, (inquire within):

In Seattle:

Urban Surf

Mountains 2 Sound (also Alki Kayaks):

NW Outdoor Center on Westlake:
This is a great shop for both kayaks and SUPs.  In late Sept they do an auction of sorts.  Watch their site for updates:

Know of others?  Add to the list in comments!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tidal Currents Map - Canadian Current Atlas

If you're planning a paddling trip in the San Juan Islands, BC Gulf Islands or similar, there are a few guidebooks (aside from mine) which are essential for a safe journey.  Tidal currents are quite strong in those areas especially in Haro and Rosario Straits and the outer San Juan Islands.  Many deaths and rescues have occured here from poor decision making in negotiating (or not) the tidal currents.

The Canadian Current Atlas is one of my favorite guides which shows the strength and path of currents throughout this region.  It's useful in determining where and when to travel to your destination.  Use the Washburne's Tables to find accurate tide levels in planning your trip.  Both guides should be used together.  Fundamentals of Kayak (or SUP) Navigation is an essential guide in figuring out currents, tides, and paddling in both.  Find both at

Canadian Current Atlas
Washburne's Tables
Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Being a SUP Ambassador

SUP is growing like crazy throughout much of North America, Europe, South America, and some parts of Asia.  Such rapid growth is exciting but can also lead to issues usually in already crowded surfing beaches or urban waterways with a lot of boating traffic.

Beaches such as San Onofre north of San Diego have a specific SUP surfing beach called the Dog Patch.  If one paddles a SUP outside of the Patch, a stiff fine often can be given.

Vacation beaches of Hawaii have seen a heavy use of SUPs mostly from tourists passing through town.  Issues here have included tourists with little or no surfing experience trying to surf SUPs in crowded beaches where a large SUP can be a hazard to others if out of control. SUPs in many surfing areas may take more waves than traditional surfers thus sparking a bit of tension.

Here in the Seattle area, SUPs are paddling in crowded boating areas without any knowledge of boating right-of-way rules thus are pissing off boaters.  At the Seattle Boat Show this year, several tour boat operators told me they hate SUP'ers due to being cut-off or having paddlers fall in their path while underway.

In my Instructor Certification course, the first topic we cover is becoming a good SUP Ambassador for your community.

A few tips to becoming a good SUP Ambassador..

- Boating Channels - Know your local boating right-of-way rules.  In most areas, SUPs don't have right-of-way over boaters.  That said, wait to cross a busy waterway.  Learn where the specified boating channels are and stay clear when it's busy.  Give yourself ample time to cross when clear.  View a boating channel as a two lane highway, always look before crossing - remember Frogger?

- Surf -  don't go out in waves beyond your skill level.  If a beginner, stay in waves about 3' tall or waist high.  Don't paddle into a crowd of surfers unless you can 100% control your board both paddling in and out.  Sit down while waiting for waves and talk to those around you.  Don't be a wave hog.  SUPs being so long can catch waves easier than traditional surfboards.  Give more than you take and avoid taking waves outside of the line-up.  Consider surfing 50'+ away from others - your leash and 12' board make a 24' radius around you when you fall.  Also learn Surf Etiquette (google it).

- Marinas - Slow down at each entry and boat aisle and slowly peek around the corner before crossing. Boats don't have brakes and in narrow marina passageways have little room to work with.  Don't lean on boats and stay off the docks.  Many live in marinas so doing so is the same as standing on someone's front yard.  Watch marina entrances as boats can come in around a sharp corner without warning.
* Note: I do take my students in a local marina for calmer conditions if the outside conditions are too bumpy.