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, December 28, 2013

Nautical Term of the Week - Gunkholing

I love the word Gunkholing. Sounds a bit like spelunking. I first came across it after purchasing 'Gunkholing in the San Juan Islands', a classic Pacific Northwest boating guide by Carl Nyberg and Jo Bailey. Now out of print, the couple wrote 3 other guides for our region.  

Definition from Wikipedia...
Gunkholing is a boating term referring to a type of cruising in shallow or shoal water, meandering from place to place, spending the nights in coves. The term refers to the gunk, or mud, typical of the creeks, coves, marshes, sloughs, and rivers that are referred to as gunkholes. While not necessary, gunkholers typically seek out the serenity of isolated anchorages over the crowds of marinas and popular bays, and a minimal draft is preferred, since gunkholers tend to go as far up and into the gunkholes as possible, seeking ever more inaccessible destinations.
Not all boating locales make for good gunkholing. The many inlets, bays, and rivers in places like the San Juan Islands and the Inside Passage can make for ideal gunkholes, as opposed to the relatively inaccessible coastlines of Southern California and Baja. Other locales well-suited to gunkholing include the Intracoastal Waterway, the New York State Canal System, the Chesapeake Bay,[1] the Great Lakes and the many canals and rivers of Ontario.
Carl and Jo used the phrase 'a good gunkhole' to describe an overnight moorage with considerable protection from wind and current.  
One of my favorite gunkholes is Cypress Head on Cypress Island located in the eastern San Juan Islands in Washington State. Others in our region include Mats Mats Bay, Bowman Bay and Cornet Bay.  In the Pacific NW, aside from the Gunkhole book series check out The 2014 Waggoner Cruising Guide.  Marine charts and aerial photos can also help you find protected spots. For paddlers, checking out local Water Trails will be helpful. Water Trails will tell you where to camp especially if you're hoping to keep some distance from boaters.  In WA State, our org is Washington Water Trails, 

Dewatto Bay, a great gunkhole on Hood Canal.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nautical Term of the Week - Clapotis

From Wikipedia - 
In hydrodynamics, the clapotis (from French"lapping of water") is a non-breaking standing wave pattern, caused for example, by the reflection of a traveling surface wave train from a near vertical shoreline like a breakwaterseawall or steep cliff. The resulting clapotic wave does not travel horizontally, but has a fixed pattern of nodes and antinodes. These waves promote erosion at the toe of the wall, and can cause severe damage to shore structures. The term was coined in 1877 by French mathematician and physicist Joseph Valentin Boussinesq who called these waves ‘le clapotis’ meaning ‘standing waves’.

Even More Scientific..
520 Bridge in Seattle.
In the idealized case of "full clapotis" where a purely monotonic incoming wave is completely reflected normal to a solid vertical wall, the standing wave height is twice the height of the incoming waves at a distance of one half wavelength from the wall. In this case, the circular orbits of the water particles in the deep-water wave are converted to purely linear motion, with vertical velocities at the antinodes, and horizontal velocities at the nodes. The standing waves alternately rise and fall in a mirror image pattern, as kinetic energy is converted to potential energy, and vice versa.

Long Story Short - 
Waves hit a wall and bounce back colliding with the incoming waves creating confused waves in all directions. 

How does Clapotis affect paddlers?
The effect creates rough confused water which can be difficult to paddle in but is very good for building your skills in such conditions. Solutions? Use shorter strokes which act as a brace to keep you more stable.  SUPs should in addition keep knees bent to let wave energy pass underneath. 
Advanced paddlers find clapotis fun to paddle in. Scissor waves which are two waves colliding and sending energy upwards has been fun for kayakers for years. The effect can flip or throw a paddler  vertical or even airborne.  

Samples from Seattle's 520 Bridge on Lake Washington - 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Know your Surfing Etiquette

Went surfing yesterday and was surprised by the large volume of folks on the water.  Usually NW surfing in December is a scant bunch of folks willing to brave the 46F water and cold air.  But various factors attributed to the crowd - a bit of sun, the first time in weeks which brought the air temps to a balmy 58 degrees.  This year's ski season is off to a slow start so many who abandon surfing for skiing/snowboarding are still waiting for snow. Then surf forecast sites listed Sunday as a great day to go out. A classic forecast, 12' west swell, 14 seconds. The Seahawks were playing but it was predicted to be an easy win, so folks decided to surf instead or tailgate it in the parking lot.

Everyone knows surfing etiquette, but few take it seriously. At least in my neck of the woods up here in the Pacific Northwest. We rarely have line ups so if they form, many either don't know how to follow the rules or choose not to.

For me, the most important aspects of Surfing Etiquette I use simply are (A.) to not take off on a wave with another at the same time. There's different perspectives on this one.  For example if a bunch of us decide to paddle into a wave at the same time, no worries.  But if the person closest to the foam pile gets it first, the others need to drop off the backside.  If that person doesn't get, then the next down the line gets priority.  If you're out with friends and they are the only ones going for and catching a specific wave then it's ok if they're into it.  I see that all the time.  They know how each person surfs, or calls their direction before dropping in - "I'm going left, you're going right." But if you're going for a wave with strangers and decide to drop in as you would with your friends - think first.  Do you know which way the other person is going? If they have priority but you go anyway, what's the result going to be?

Case in point, a few of us yesterday experienced two SUPs drop in on each other on a steep wave. One went right the other left - but into each other.  A direct collision which surprisingly shocked each person.  It ended well but others around were surprised.  A woman next to me asked "don't they know surfer's etiquette?' Not a good image for SUPs.

A bit earlier one of those involved with that collision decided to drop in on another steep wave directly in front of two surfers paddling out.  Luckily he spotted them just after his take-off and jumped off.  But his board shot forward with the wave and missed the above mentioned women by about two feet. Sketchy.  A friend used to paddle out with me on my side.  If a wave came in he'd swing it around with no warning and paddle for it nearly missing me.  Maybe it's a compulsive trait - the need to get every wave no matter what even though more are coming only a few seconds away.

How to avoid?  Take a look around you before taking off.  Are there surfers on either your left or right wanting to take the same wave?  Are there anyone paddling out from the beach who may be in your path?  If so, can you clear them?  If not, don't go. I see it the same as crossing a busy street.  Do you cross without looking?  Sometimes I've noticed surfers so focused on catching a wave they mentally block out everything around them. And even Eddy may not go.

(B.) Don't jump on a wave which another surfer is already riding.  This happened repeatedly yesterday. I'm the only one taking a specific wave, all's good, then while I'm surfing down the line a surfer paddling out decides to swing it around and catch my wave.  One time it happened in front of me in the direction I was going thus could've be a collision issue. I pulled off the wave to avoid anything.  The other happened behind me.  And behind us were an entire set of waves with no one on them, why not take those?  I think it's a matter of patience - more waves are coming folks!

Learn more about surfing etiquette: (Good pov on not crowding spots).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Don't Get Lost! Location Technology for Paddlers

Around 2004ish, I was on a multi day sea kayaking trip in the Broughton Archipelago north of Vancouver BC with friend Steve Worchester.  On our last day, we woke up to pea soup fog.  Our paddle back to Telegraph Cove would be through a section of many tiny islets and small islands with a few knots of current flowing past. Luckily Steve, a former Air Force F-15 pilot and Alaska Air captain knew what to do. He spread out our marine chart, and using a compass and GPS plotted our route.  Once underway, we hit every islet, rock and island right on the money per Steve's route.

While mariners and paddlers still use those and even simpler techniques for navigation, since then there are technologies developed to make life easier, providing your batteries are fresh.

Marine Traffic - This online site uses boat's AIS data to mark their positions. You can use the site to track shipping if you're planning a crossing. Track ship departure and arrival times and by clicking on the boat symbol, you can get info on the boat itself - what kind, speed, destination, a photo, etc. We use it to track freighters and tugs for surfing near Seattle.  Like anything, it's not always 100% accurate.  So have a backup even it's your own eyes.

Boat Beacon - An app that works with Marine Traffic, Ship Finder and other sites which  allows you to track yourself or have others track you. A great tool for paddling in fog, at night or for loved ones to see how you're doing.

Spot - These nifty devices allow for satellites to track you whether on-water or in the mountains anywhere (or most places) in the world.  You can send regular and emergency messages to friends, mark waypoints etc so folks can track your every move.  The devices are water resistent and float.

Kate Hives Full Sea Kayak Surfing Sequence - See her entire run!

Here's the entire series of Kate Hive's ride from our current Stoke Magazine Facebook page cover shot on the Washington Coast in 2012.

Surfing backwards!

Nice Run Kate!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Layering Options for Winter Paddling

The bummer with a 5/4mm wetsuit is that the shoulders can get really stiff from all that neoprene.  Same goes for wearing several layers of insulation under a dry suit. It's a catch 22, because you need the insulation but then you begin to look and feel like the Michelin Man or an astronaut.

Luckily there are some innovative products which adds insulation but not bulk to important areas such as your shoulders. SeasonFive's Tech Arm Sleeve is just an arm sleeve which can go under your wet or dry suit without chaffing or adding bulk to your shoulder.  The sleeve is windproof and has a touch of insulation so can be added to the exterior as well. I tend to wear out my right elbow on wetsuits so the arm sleeve helps keep water out in that area.

SeasonFive also has a Tech Leg Sleeve as well. You can find the sleeves at REI, surf and SUP shops and some bicycle shops

More Info:

Kate Hives at the 2012 Hobuck Hoedown

Victoria BC paddler Kite Hives getting a bit wet during the 2012 Hobuck Hoedown on the Washington Coast.  Boat: Sterlings Kayaks 'Illusion'.

Paddlers Gift Idea for 12/12

Photographer David Hall has covered the Puget Sound to BC waters beautifully with amazing underwater and semi underwater images showing marine life from sockeye salmon spawning to immense kelp forests.  His use of creative flash is brilliant in lighting many otherwise dark underwater scenes.  Buy the book,

Some of my favorite images..

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Recommended Christmas for Paddlers

Someone on your list who's a paddler? Or getting requests for your needs? Here's a few publications I get annually.

Capt'n Jack's Tide & Current Almanac 2014.
This spiral bound guide has been essential in determing when to paddle for tides and currents. I plan my classes around the guide and of course use it for play too, such as determining the right tidal level for freighter wave surfing.  Some prefer online but I like the book format and keep one in the car and one at the office.  The guides are available nationwide but to support my local bookstore, consider purchasing here:

Evergreen Pacific publishes a tide calendar I put on the wall. I use it as my annual office calender and of course to take a quick glance at it for the day's tide levels or to roughly plan a few days ahead. It also lists the sequences of the moon.  The calenders are sold directly through the publisher and are available at most marine stores.  They only do Seattle and one for Port Townsend/San Juan Islands.  If you're not in our area, check to see if there's something available elsewhere.  Check it out here:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Industry Changes...

Technology always creates change and in the last twenty or so years when I've paid attention I've experienced major changes as well.  I got out of college in the late 1980's and began work as a photographer's assistant in Seattle.  Film was still king. By 2005, my stock agencies didn't take film anymore so we all bought digital cameras. A few years later Polaroid went under as digital imaging became commonplace.  Gone were the days of late night film drops, meeting other photogs at the 'Pro Room' of various labs, lab bills, and waiting for our 'roids' to develop in the studio.  Ten or so years later all the photographers I know sit in their home offices staring at the computer while mostly connecting online or via text. The stock photo biz we once thrived on isn't profitable anymore and assignments are few and far between and/or not paying much.  But no worries, I don't miss the lab bills and have always enjoyed the instant digital image thing. Chasing clients down to get paid was getting old anyway.

In other industries, recently NOAA decided to end the printing of marine charts as it's easier for most to find them online, view on our phones, and/or print out at our leisure.  Another company, SeaTrails which made handy waterproofed marine charts for kayakers is apparently gone as well.  The same info can also be found online and many paddlers choose to view charts on their phones while underway.  GPS has changed things where if you're lost, just check your device. No need to pull out a chart and do compass readings unless you're GPS batteries are dead or you're navigating a complicated multi island situation.

From a marketing pov, SeaTrails charts say they're for 'kayakers'. In the world of paddling, people buy only for their specific sport. So if you're a SUP'er, you'll most likely only look for and buy SUP charts, buy SUP magazines, or SUP/surfing booties.  My Kayaking Puget Sound book is a revision of a book by Randel Washburne that has been out for 20 years.  I asked for the new title to be 'Paddling Puget Sound' but that would require selling it all over again to all the stores. They did allow for SUP and canoe pics in the book, so surf/SUP shops feel better about carrying it.  But why buy the book when you can get it on your iPad?

RIP SeaTrails.  I bought a few remaining copies at Seattle's Captain's Nautical Supplies today.

Friday, December 6, 2013

WA AIS Legislation Hits Paddlers Hard in WA State

From Dan Henderson's Cascade PaddleSports Newsletter today:

At $10 per seat in a boat per year, WDFW wants to stop you on the water!

Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) is a real threat in Washington State.  It has the potential to foul waterways, clog hydro pipes, fill agriculture irrigation ditches, and sterilize water and kill fish and wildlife. In legislative bill Z-0454.4/13 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) asks for the authority over AIS activities is Washington State. This is the correct department to lead this effort and WDFW should have this important authority.  However, their proposed funding mechanism places the entire burden on recreational boaters - for paddlers, the simple version is that everyone who goes on the water would be required to pay a $10 fee per year. And WDFW would have the authority to stop you while you're out paddling and require you to produce evidence that you paid the fee. I consider this a gross invasion of our privacy and potentially diminish our paddling experience.

Please contact your state legislature and urge them to grant Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife the authority to fight AIS, and urge them to fund this effort from a broad spectrum of the population, particularly the power generation, agriculture and commercial fishing interests that most benefit from this effort, and not on the backs of recreational boaters. Please urge them to resist efforts by WDFW, or any other law enforcement agency, to have the authority to stop paddlers for any reason other than probable cause - observed illegal activity. When we're on the water, we want government to leave us alone.

Here's the link to the bill:

Dan Henderson

Thanks for the heads up Dan!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Problem with Yelp

If you're traveling, or even local, and you're seeking the best coffee houses in a certain neighborhood, you may use Yelp or Trip Advisor to see what others prefer for that listing.  So you type in 'coffee' for let's say my neighborhood in Seattle, 'Ballard'.  Then 47 listings come up.  You begin your search.  The first one to come up is Peet's, which interestingly isn't in Ballard.  Then you notice Peet's listing is in a slightly off colored box and in the upper right corner is 'Yelp Ad'.  The listings below Peet's I've barely heard of. Then the more commonly known coffee houses are listed mid page or below.

If you scroll to the bottom of each listing you'll see in grey letters, "14 other reviews that are not currently recommended"  What's this?  Click on it and you'll notice more reviews no different than those in the main listings.

My business, Salmon Bay Paddle, has 14 'unrecommeded reviews'.  I inquired to Yelp, they said they have a bot that runs through the system looking for untruthful reviews, or those your friends posted.  Problem is, all my 14 filtered reviews are from clients who chose to post on their own without me asking them to. There is one bad one in there, he was nuts anyway.  The only problem with having great lessons and customer service is that to some it may sound too good?  Another shop has mostly bad reviews and their few good ones are too good which interestingly didn't get filtered.

In October a rep from Yelp called me repeatedly to get me to pay for advertising, or rather better ranking for my listing like the Peet's listing/ad.  She didn't answer about the filtered reviews, but I wonder if they release those as well? Anyone know? I turned down the offer since it's impossible to secure regular business in Seattle in winter and Spring despite even the best reviews.  

This summer I had a student who was in Seattle from Alberta, Canada. She mentioned she knew how to read Yelp reviews, and in doing so knew to look for and read the 'not currently recommended' reviews.  Whew!  That's a relief that some travelers are aware of the problem.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guerilla Camping Tips for Trips

Here's a great article about guerilla camping or rather not paying for lodging while on an expedition.  The piece is from bicyclist Tom Allen who paddled from the UK to Turkey and has a great blog about his trip and lessons learned.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Winter SUP Clothing for Cold Water Areas

Tis the season for thick neoprene for those of us in the cold water regions. Many give it up until summer, but if you really love paddling you'll find a way to keep warm on the water.  To me skiing is colder, infact frozen, expensive, a long drive and standing in line isn't much fun in the front country.

Here's what I wear on water in winter.  Note that I tend to get cold easily, so my choices may sound hot to others. A kayaking friend never uses gloves or a hood.  If i don't, my fingers go white and numb, not a good thing.

Type of Paddling - Mostly rough water, surf, tidal rapids, downwind, boat wakes, etc.  Also basic SUP lessons require a lot of low activity which can get chilly.

Wetsuit - ProMotion Storm 5/4/3mm.  ProMotion is a Hood River, OR based company which makes their own gear, has quick repairs and a ton of options for clothing.  I'm not a drysuit fan and had two in my earlier kayaking days.  I prefer less gear maintenance, no ripped gaskets, and the more streamline feel of a wetsuit when swimming. Warmth? I stay warmer in a wetsuit.

Under wetsuit to boost warmth -
Top: Capeline or polypro thin or medium weight top. The goal here is to add warmth without adding bulk or restricting my shoulder movement. I'm not a fan of top loading wetsuits as the shoulder areas can be too stiff.  If the windchill is in the teens or I'm doing a lot in-water swimming for rescue classes, then I may add the Season5 Barrier top over the suit to reduce windchill and boost heat a touch without adding stiffness.

Bottom: Neoprene shorts or Season5 barrier short or Reed Chill Cheater shorts.

Gloves - 
Currently using NRS Maverick.  In summer or early fall I use a $19 Glacier Glove bought at Swain's in Port Angeles, WA.

Booties - 
NRS Paddle Wetshoe. This is a fleece lined bootie with a thick sole and grippy bottom for rocks.  Unlike surfing booties this flushes with water. It was great til it got in the 30's.  I now line it with a SmartWool sock and waterproof sock to keep dry.  $40+ plus waterproof sock.


7mm Xcel DryLock, RipCurl FlashBombs or similar.  These have little grip on the sole for rocks but are waterproof and quite warm. $80+.  **I'll be switching to these in a week or so as the latter option becomes too much of a hassle adding socks, liners, etc.

Been a big fan of neoprene hooded vests for years.  Both sleeveless and with sleeves.  Currently using and loving the ProMotion 1.5mm hooded vest. This one has a wind block layer, helpful in windchill.  These are worn under or over the wetsuit. Great for layering over a sprayskirt for kayaking.

Helmet - 
Love the Gath helmets for their innovative full head shapes, ear protection, lightweight feel, and options. Helmets also help keep me warm on frigid days in tidal rapids, surf, etc.

Other Options for Rough Cold Water Paddling?  Patagonia's R5 Merino wool lined wetsuit with hood; 7mm booties (Xcel, RipCurl or Patagonia), Ocean Rodeo's Soul drysuit.  Or move to Hawaii.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

On the Cutting Edge of Sea Kayaking - Sterlings Kayaks

Tired of lugging around a super heavy Brit style sea kayak, I purchased a 37lb carbon Sterlings Kayaks 'Illusion' about 2009 ish. The Illusion had a perfect blend of superb tracking and enough rocker to nail a bottom turn for surfing.  The boat's exterior was nearly bombproof allowing me to thrash and trash the kayak without worry of puncturing the hull.  I'm not a big fan of a pretty boat, so chipped gel coat is fine with me.

In the years since, Sterling and his right hand designer legendary whitewater kayaker Reg Lake have developed some of the industry's most innovate boats.  The Reflection is a result of two Illusion sterns.  Reg introduced a retractable skeg located in the day hatch (right behind the seat) of the Reflection a few years ago.

This week, the guys presented a surfboard style thruster fin system, the first I've ever seen on a sea kayak.  Surf kayaks and wave ski's have had these for years, but I believe this is a first for a sea kayak. More info about Sterling,

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Search for the Perfect Winter Bootie

Here in the Pacific Northwest, winter temps hit the mid 30's the past two weeks. After a stellar summer I refused to put away my Chaco's and have been wearing my Summer/Fall paddling gear. I've been wearing my ProMotion 5/4/3 wetsuit, booties, holey seasonal gloves and a hood since October. I added a SmartWool sock under my booties when the temp dropped.

But last week I had two SUP classes in a row on Friday.  The first started at 35F and was in a calm marina with little paddling or chance to generate heat. At the end of the class, my right foot was frozen solid as were a few tips of my fingers. It was time to winterize and purchase warmer booties.

Coming from both kayaking and SUP, I get my gear from both types of shops. As I've blogged in recent years, each shop carries different gear suited for paddling whether on a SUP, kayak, or canoe.

PNW kayak shops tend to have drysuits, dry tops, NRS booties and gloves, helmets and vest style lifejackets.  'Wetsuits' are farmer john's.  They do have a lot of safety gear - flares, tow systems, lights, drybags, knives, etc.

Surf / SUP shops instead have full neoprene surfing wetsuits, neoprene tops, wax, ding repair kits, no safety gear, limited vest style PFDs (more C02 PFDs).  Booties and gloves come from surfing companies such as QuickSilver, O'Neill and BodyGlove.

But each shop still lacks what I consider the perfect bootie - for my purposes.  I teach in Deception Pass State Park which has a rugged rock shoreline, surf the Strait of Juan de Fuca which also a varied shoreline with a few rocky breaks, and stand on the shore preparing for and teaching basic SUP stuff. For me, I want a bootie with a solid grip underfoot. The NRS booties achieves this with the fleece lined Wet Shoes with a wrap around sole that grips to everything.  Overall the bootie is pretty solid.  But it's not a dry bootie so in frigid temps, my feet can't generate enough heat to warm the water.

I've been using 7mm Xcel DryLock booties for the past few years. Totally waterproof and super warm these have been ideal except they fall apart after a half year and have minimal support in the sole. Walking over barnacled covered rocks feels like going barefoot while slipping on the bare spots.

Finding a bootie that covers both a great grip and enough warmth has been tough.  I added a waterproof lining and Smart Wool sock to my NRS bootie but it still got wet from water leaking down my leg into it.  It was warmer for sure but wouldn't stay for a paddle longer than a few hours.  Plus having all those layers gets old after awhile.  I know contacting the companies will result in 'what I'm looking for is a niche product.' Just like trying to find an ideal touring SUP, the answer is - make my own!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SUP Straps Review

I'm currently using two kinds of straps to tie down my SUP and kayaks.

Riverside Straps
The first are the standard 1" wide webbing with a galvanized buckle by Riverside Straps.  Each buckle is backed by a rubber sleeve to prevent dings on your car and board when throwing over the car. I like the rough webbing texture which helps the buckle grip better.  Each strap end has a hard tip to prevent from fraying making it easier to slide into the buckle.

The straps come in a variety of colors and lengths.  I have a pair for a one board tie down, then extra long for tying down 2-4 boards per side.

Riverside Straps

Mile 22 Straps
These straps are 2" wide which really locks down your gear.  I began using them recently immediately noticing the benefit particuliarly in tying down big loads of 3-5 boards at a time.  Mile 22 have big plastic buckles which unlike metal buckles are actually quite stout and don't slide at all.  I have seen metal buckles slip when the spring gets rusty or stretched.  Also the plastic buckles are great for throwing over the car, no worries of breakage on vehicle or board.  Releasing the buckle is a cinch by pulling up on the tab from underneath.

Safety Tips for Tying Gear on your vehicle: 
- Always do a shake test of your rack to make sure it's 100% solid on your roof.
- I tie a knot behind each buckle just in case of slippage.  Even with the Mile 22 straps.  Though I have never seen slippage, it's my experience with others that keep me doing it.

Check our my post on 10/16/13 on SUP Rack Tips for more ideas.

Mile 22 Straps

Paddle Instructor's On-Water Tool Kit

I always carry the following for most SUP classes and tours...

All stored in a small drybag then stuffed in the Seattle Sports Parabolic deckbag.  I find not all drybags are always dry. Important gear should be double drybagged.

- Extra fin screws and plates.
- Extra leash string. Can double for blown deck outfitting.
- Foil tape for dings. Sticks on when wet.
- Solarez, alternative ding repair. Requires UV to work. I prefer Foil Tape for on-water.
- Multi-tool for misc repairs.
- Sand paper to rough surfaces for ding repairs.
- Extra GoPro battery.  I always forget to charge mine.

*Duct tape doesn't stick on wet surfaces well but is great as a bandaid on cut or scrape on a customer.  BandAids don't stick as well to wet stuff.  

Stickers or packing tape are also great for quick ding repairs on dry surfaces.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rock Gardening or Hopping for SUP

Rock gardening or hopping is a genre of paddling where one works with coastal swell and waves to negotiate paddling through the maze of coastal rocks along the shore. Paddlers will time the swell by watching a rock section, then run it when they feel it's safe or of their liking.  For example, if you want to paddle in a sea cave or under an arch, you shouldn't just go.  Wait, watch it for awhile, then paddle through it when you feel you'll make it and not get your head crunched against the top of the arch or cave. It's essentially a mix of surfing, whitewater and coastal paddling and great cross training for each and many other types of paddling.

Back in the day, the 'extreme' kayaking group the Tsunami Rangers in the Bay Area of Cali, began shooting video of their trips along the rugged northern Californian coast.  Being responsible paddlers, they began to educate others how to safely rock garden, which in turn followed with a book, videos for sale and now their online site.  Their experiences in this environment also led to the group developing solid rescue techniques for extreme rough water environments which are taught in coastal paddling courses (including mine).

Many of the videos depict the paddlers taking huge drops over pour overs, negotiating sketchy surge channels and often rescuing each other.  I came to rock gardening from sea kayaking and have memories of getting caught high and dry after not timing a channel properly as well as getting several thrilling rides getting shot through other channels like a rocket when I did time it right.

Check out this video from SUP Magazine's Will Taylor of Vince Shay and Fletcher Burton at their backyard spot of Shell Beach in Cali.  At 5:15ish Vince talks about gear they use, especially safety gear.
Wanna Learn? Contact Vince at
In the NW, we also do light rock gardening during our Deception Pass and Freshwater Bay tours.

If you go.. As Vince states, it's a dangerous activity and requires good skill, common sense, and proper gear.

I recommend the following for safe paddling:

Common Sense
- Small swell, 1-3' to start.  Get a feel for it before going big. Learn the spot, how it breaks in different conditions and swell/wind heights.
- Know the area especially if coastal. Can you get in and out of the area without getting caught by heavy wind or current? Rescue from these areas can be difficult.
- Take a buddy who can rescue you (and will) or vice versa. Blind leading the blind doesn't help.
- If you find a feature you want to run, watch it for several minutes to see how the swell rolls in and out.  You'll be glad you didn't run it once you see how often they run dry between swells.

- Very durable board either inflatable or something like Surttech's Tuflite, B1 Bomber or similar.
- Fins - Rubber or plastic.  I use ProTek fins for my classes and myself in surfing, etc.
- Paddle.  My Werner Nitro has been through it all - ww, surf, rock gardens, etc. A few chips here and there, but not substantial damage or repairs. And I don't tape the blade.
- Leash - personally mine is attached to my waist where I can easier remove it if my foot get entrapped underwater. Whitewater break-away leashes or the XM PowerClip quick release leashes are recommended. Another method of release are vest style PFD's with a safety release harness.
- PFD - Type 3 Vest style.  Protects your body, and if you get injured helps you float, also the pockets allow you to stash safety gear, a camera, etc.
- Tow Rope - (and know how to use it).
- Helmet - Whitewater or surf helmet like the Gath.  I use the Gath Gedi and Hat.
- Skateboarding or motorcycling pads for knees and elbows.  I know Corran Addison uses a spine protector in whitewater.
- Dress for immersion and the water temp.  Wetsuits help protect you as well.  Dry suits get ripped.
- Hand protection  - neoprene glove or similar.
- Communication - VHF and cell (if there's bars).
- Float Plan - tell others you're going out, when coming back, and where ya going.
- First aid kit - nothing fancy but be prepared for cuts, bruises, etc. (Advil, duct tape, etc.)

-  Sea Kayaking Safety & Rescue, John Lull, Wilderness Press. (Lull is a Tsunami Ranger).
- My SUP book of course (above right). I have section on coastal paddling, rescues, currents, etc.
- *Tsunami Rangers main page:

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.

Taking C02 Cartridges on Airplanes

A student of mine who was flying to Seattle from the East Coast inquired if he could bring his inflatable PFD with him with the Co2 cartridge. Not knowing the answer, I posted the question on Facebook and immediately received 30 comments.

The TSA lists on their site the following info: 
Small compressed gas cartridges (Up to 2 in life vests and 2 spares. The spares must accompany the life vests and presented as one unit) - OK for Carry-On & Checked Baggage.

Many who posted about their experiences said they had their cartridges taken by TSA officials.  One had the entire waist inflatable PFD taken as well.  Some had a few positive experiences.

Since like anything with these things, you can bring yours but it may or may not be taken.  Plan ahead for finding a new cartridge in your destination if yours is taken from you!  And probably best to separate it from the PFD to you don't lose both.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Surfing the Mosh Pit - WA State

Just off the Highway 101 on the Olympic Peninsula in WA State is an intermittent standing wave called the Mosh Pit. Named by local whitewater kayaker Gary Korb, the feature is on the Sol Duc River and only fires during flood stage. It's a great winter alternative when La Push is blown out.

Find the wave at the Fish Hatchery exit at Sappho just before the town of Forks (heading west).  Follow the Fish Hatchery road towards it's end and park at the derelict concrete building.  I'm not sure about access permits, etc.

The Pit is the result of a weir which is actually a dangerous hydraulic at low water.  Last I heard there was a log in it, so scout and determine if safe before going in.  There's eddies along the shore on both sides. Only surf if you're an advanced intermediate or advanced paddler, preferebly with strong river skills.

Jon Almquist & Chris Totten, about 2007ish.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to Fall off your Board & Get Back On

Falling off and getting back on a SUP board is something that many paddlers fear.  I have a few students who hired me just for a falling/recovery clinic. And there's others who have never fallen and probably look stiff while paddling. I've heard a few times, "I've paddled 12x (or 2yrs) and haven't fallen off yet!"  The downside here is that their paddling experience is mostly uncomfortable while fearing the unknown.  There's no shame in falling, I do it all the time. You'll be a better paddler if you do fall and can get back on by yourself.

All my beginning students learn to fall of and get back on. Here's the methods I use for each. I teach both how to get on in the middle of the board and on the tail. Here we'll cover getting on in the middle.

Jumping Off
Many who jump off a board do so as if jumping of a dock. My main suggestion to to never dive off a board unless you know for sure it's deep enough to avoid a neck injury. Also make sure there not other boards or fins in your path.

In my classes we do a pivot turn to fall off - so you learn how to push your pivot turn skills and also learn how to fall of the board with style.


Wear a Leash - Ever fall of a board and have it take off, then you have to swim after it?  Imagine doing so in light to heavy wind or current. Good luck catching it. Falling it a lot easier when you don't have to chase your board and can keep it right next to you when it's time to get back on.

Wear a Vest Style PFD (Type 3) - In every environment except surf, the vest style PFD will keep you afloat when injured or tired and will keep you warmer when cold.  When you fall off a board it prevents you from sinking down very far and when you're not treading water to stay afloat, it's a lot easier to gather your paddle and board to get back on.

Fall to the Side - Usually we don't have much choice of how we fall.  But if you do, try to fall to the side of your board. When falling don't try to brace your fall with your hand as you can sprain your thumb (been there) or wrist if it catches on the rail.

Fall Flat - For surfing, a friend suggested always falling using the NesTea Plunge - that is flat on the surface of the water to prevent your body from sinking. Usually surf happens in shallow water, so diving is sketchy, falling on the side could be an issue of ankle sprain but falling flat is most safe.

Hold on to Your Paddle - Whenever you fall of the board, hold onto your paddle. Certainly there are times in shallow water where doing so may be an issue of a shoulder injury but in deep water you don't want to go find your paddle after falling.  If you drop it - get on the board first then prone paddle (on your chest, hands as paddles) to the paddle.

Getting Back on in the Middle

Look Around - Before getting back on, look around to make sure there's no immediate hazards such as oncoming boats, waves, etc.  If there's strong wind, climb on facing downwind (wind at your back).  If you get on facing the wind, the board may flip you back in the water when the wind hits the rail you're pulling up on.

Move yourself in the water to the middle of the board. If it's not deck up, then flip it over so the fin is down. Moving slightly on the board to grab the opposite rail then falling back can flip it as well.

Hold on to the Paddle - and put it on the deck while holding with one hand.

Grab the deck handle or if you have longer arms the opposite rail.

Kick your feet in the water vigorously.  Make sure the water is splashing behind you, like a strong kick when swimming.  This will bring your body to the surface which makes it easier to get on the board.  If you don't do this and have poor upper body strength, you'll be pulling your body up vs sliding on from the side.  Keep kicking until you're 100% on the board and can turn around to sit or stand back up. Remember to face the nose or front of the board.

Downsides of this approach:
- Some bulky Type 3 PFDs, front positioned inflatable PFDs or large chested folks may catch those items on the rail as they try to climb on.  Kicking so your body rises flat on the surface minimizes these issues.  Can't get on at all? If with a buddy, consider learning the Flip Rescue, (search blog) or get a board with less volume thus thinner rails.

- Rub on surfer's wax on your rails to make them easier to grab onto while in the water and climbing on.  Some even wax slippy deck pads as well.

- Practice in shallow water (chest deep) with a friend.

- Learn the Flip Rescue to help others who can't get on or to instruct a rescuer to assist you in getting on.

Plan B for getting back on a SUP?  Cowboy Rescue - from the tail.  I'll cover that soon.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How to Choose a Wetsuit

A good wetsuit can extend your paddling time from one season to all year. Choosing what to purchase can be confusing and for some may lead to buying the wrong suit and having to return it.  Here's a few tips to hopefully make the process easier.

Determine what type of paddling you'll be doing to decide how much coverage you need.
- Flat water paddling in no waves or wind - Farmer John/Jane and/or wetsuit pants and separate top.
- Surfing, downwind or river SUP in water 60F or less - full wetsuit.
- Racing on flat water, slight chop all year. Many get super hot so wear wetsuit pants and/or a top.
- Coastal racing, whitewater or downwind in cold water - full wetsuit.
- Tropical locations of Southern Cali in Spring - 2-3mm suit or wetsuit top only.

Dry suit vs Wetsuit?
Dry suits only keep you warm from the insulation you add underneath, such as a fleece shirt and long john's. They're not always dry and sweating is another factor. Most look and feel baggy though the Ocean Rodeo Soul is the first cool looking dry suit. I switched from dry suits to wetsuits as with SUP I swim more than I did with kayaking and found wetsuits better for this as the dry suit fabric flap in wind/water.  I also don't like maintenance which dry suits require to keep latex gaskets in shape or if they tear on a trip, they're difficult to fix. Dry suits range from $500-$1,200 and wetsuits range from $125-$650.

Cons of a full wetsuit?  No pee zipper.  I rarely have to pee in my suit. If I do I wash it immediately.  Students do occasionally so I separate their suit from the others and give it extra soaking in soap. On hot flat SUP days full suits aren't very comfortable to paddle in when pulled down to your waist.

For slightly cold water or for flat water paddling you could get away with a Farmer John/Jane armless suit. These provide good insulation especially layered under with a fleece and/or neoprene top. Most are 3mm. Brands may include NRS, NPX, O'Neil and Xcel.

Cold water upper 50's and below you may consider a full surfing wetsuit (with arms).  These come in varying thicknesses:
4/3mm = 4mm in chest and legs and 3mm in arms.
5/4/3mm = 5mm in chest; 4mm in legs; 3mm in arms.
5/4mm = 5mm chest and 4mm arms and legs. These are often too stiff in the shoulders for paddling.
5/3mm = 5mm in chest and legs, 3mm in arms.

Zipper vs Top Entry?  
Some say top entry suits are warmer but I disagree. I've never had a leaky or colder back zip suit.

Top Entry: The downside to top entry is that they're hard to get into especially if you have sore, lack of flexibility or injured shoulders. Often top entry suits have too much neoprene in the shoulder area thus making it harder to paddle.

Back Zip: These are easier to try, get into and I've never felt they're colder than top entry. Sometimes getting it fully zipped on your own can be difficult. There are a few techniques to use to make this happen such as securing the pull strap to a door knob and dropping below thus zipping it up.

Hood or Not?
Hoods are great if you know you'll use it a lot.  But if you're not sure how often you'll use it. consider getting a hoodless suit, then add a separate scull cap (hood) or hooded vest when needed. This way you can leave the hood at home in summer then add it when necessary.  

Getting flushed with water has pros and cons.  Some suits flush or 'leak' more than others.  This is OK if your body temp can warm the water which acts as an additional layer of warmth.  I've found suits in the $300+ range such as the Xcel DryLocks don't flush at all and their insulation alone is enough to keep me warm in our winter NW conditions.  I'm currently using a ProMotion Storm 5/4/3mm suit which flushes but keeps me plenty warm. Some suits have loose fitting necks, which will flush every time you fall in, sometimes a bit shocking if it's really cold water.  A hooded vest prevents this for me.

High end suits such as Patagonia have a Merino wool layer underneath making them quite warm.  These run from $350ish to $600 ish.  Still cheaper than most dry suits and better bang for your buck.

Cost of full suits vary.  I've found the $125 range 4/3mm suits are better for warmer water or summer use but not as good for water in the 50's or lower.  Whereas a 4/3mm in the $200+ range begins to have more features such as a layer of neoprene behind the zipper, neck enclosure strips, and slightly better neoprene. When you hit the $350+ range suits tend to flush less, last longer and be warmer overall.

Life of a Wetsuit?  I'm not good with taking care of things and I paddle often in saltwater.  So my suits are in their best condition for only a year. Friends who paddle only on weekends and/or only a few times a month or seasonally can have suits last for a few years or longer.  First things to go are the seams.  I also get neoprene tears which create leaks. U can fix your own but I send my rental suits in bunch after my working season to ProMotion Hood River, Oregon. They're cheap, do an amazing job and have very quick turn a round.

Environmental Materials. Brands are saturating the marketplace with terms such as sustainable, green and organic. If you're worried about all this rubber being in the environment, worry no more.  Most brands now boast about limestone or charcoal neoprene and the like.  Patagonia's suits are described as "the post consumer recycled polyester jersey increases durability while minimizing environmental impact.." TreeHugger has a good article on the subject of green wetsuits, Here.

Layering clothing on top of or under your suit works great to add warmth to any suit.  In winter I wear a thin Capeline synthetic top under my 4/3mm or 5/4/3 to increase warmth.  Additionally, I'll add a neoprene hooded vest under the top as well.  This bumps up my chest area to 5mm but keeps my arms free for movement.  The hooded vest hoods provide neck protection as well which also reduces flushing.  Kayaking paddle tops made from Gortex or nylon can also bump up your heat and cut wind exposure. Consider neoprene or SeasonFive shorts under for well in frigid temperatures. SeasonFive also has arm and leg sleeves which area great option for warmth without reducing flexibility in your shoulders or knees.

Rule #1 - Try before you buy.  I just had a student return a suit which didn't fit which he bought online.  Everyone's body is different so what works for one may not fit for another.

#2 - Neoprene tends to be rated bigger than it fits.  I wear a XL shirt but have to wear a XXL suit.  Same goes with booties. A student who normally wears a XXL shirt can't find a suit his size.

#3 - Wash regularly. I wash mine every other use. Soak in very hot or cold water with a non detergent soap or wetsuit soap from McNett.  Rinse and hang dry.  I have a floor heater to bake my basement bathroom.  Dry inside out, then the outside.

What I use:
RipCurl 5/3 Dawn Patrol and their 5.5/4mm Flashbomb for winter.
ProMotion 4/3mm for Summer offshore paddling and/or surf.
NRS Rodeo Pants for summer or mild fall-spring days.
SeasonFive or Reed ChillCheater top for summer.
NRS WetShoes booties, Glacier gloves, ProMotion hooded vest.

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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

SUP Rack Tips

Every week I get several inquiries from folks struggling to figure out how to tie down their SUP on their car.  My main suggestion is to keep things as simple as possible. Personally, I'm not a fan of SUP specific racks as they take over your rack not allowing you to tie anything else down and can be difficult to use. Sometimes I carry both kayaks and SUPs at once so I need flexibility for both type of crafts.

2 Cross Bars
Often I carry one board to the beach, other times I carry 8 for my classes. In either case, I have 2 cross bars with pads and tie boards down with straps for my Subaru Forester. A local surf shop whom I partner with supplied me with pads for the bars but I previously used insulation pipe foam which worked fine.  I use Yakima round bars, but Thule or other brands are certainly fine as well.

Carrying Big Loads
A friend recommend getting a trailer for my big loads of 8 boards for classes. But I'm not a fan of backing those up, finding huge parking spaces or storing it at home.  I found out that with 70" wide bars, I could do two stacks of 4 boards (no wider than side mirrors). Luckily I mostly do smaller classes and don't need to carry more than 8 boards.  If I need to do 2-4 boards on one side and 2 kayaks or race/tour boards on the other, I attach my Yakima Kayak Stacker which allows me to secure the boards and kayaks together without any issues. The Stackers fold flat on the car roof when not in use.

Towel / Foam Pad / Soft Rack Route
Several friends who only carry 1-2 SUPs go the Hawaiian surfer route and just put a towel, inflatable sleeping pad or soft foam pad on the roof then secure the boards by extending the straps through the doors.  Soft Racks are also available via surf shops.  This is a great method of if you're on a budget or have a car roof which makes a standard car rack difficult to connect to.  If done right, you can use this method on highways.  Consider adding a line to from the tail to the bumper to prevent sideways shifting (tail first orientation).

How Many Straps?  I use two per each stack at both ends. Some know how to use one strap for all!

How Much to Tighten?  I hand tighten mine and test the boards by trying to shift or push them from the side and ends.

Which Board Orientation on Car?
Fin or Nose First? Many put fins first for the idea of having the fins catch the rope in case of slippage. For my Subaru, if i need to get into the back of the car, fins up means the board rocker curves down thus making it difficult to access my hatchback.

Wind Resistence - I find with SUPs, being so big there's no easy answer for efficiency in wind so I put them nose first and see the wind as water flowing past the nose. On long drives I'll push the nose of a surf style board nearly back to the top of the windshield to be more wind resistent.

Long Boards - I attach an old red strap to the end of the board which extends over the end of the car.  Sometimes a fin does the trick here as well giving the car behind something to see.

Stacking Boards - Sometimes the traction pad works well in protecting boards from each other. But if you have different shapes of boards stacked or with varying rocker shapes, they may scrape against each other or not have enough contact to make a solid hold. Stuff foam noodles, insulation pipe foam, foam camping pad, a PFD, or a towel in between the gaps prior to cinching down your straps.

Tips for Safety
- Do a shake test with your rack to prior to attaching any boards. Vigoriously shake the rack back and fourth, and up and down.

- Straps vs Ropes?  I used to use ropes. But when I began carring large loads for classes, I found the loads slipped occasionally or were difficult to tie down even with my trusty trucker's hitch. I use straps now but still tie off the extra strap end over the buckle as I've seen buckles slip and fail. I like straps with a bit of texture so the buckle grips better. Mile22 Straps are 2' wide and have plastic buckles which don't ding your board when you throw it over. For metal buckle straps I also use Riverside Straps.  In business?  Some companies can put your business name on your straps such as Salamander Paddle Gear.

- Twist your straps to avoid the humming sound on the highway.

- Check your tie-downs after the first ten or so miles on the road for any loosening or shifting.

- Try to keep your straps as vertical as possible when attached to the rack bar. Angled straps may shift on the road.

- Consider adding another strap under a double stack load wrapping around each strap just above the bar to further tighten and secure the loops onto the rack bar.  Tighten below the stack or above the car roof.

- Ratchet Straps. These are fine for SUP tie-downs providing you don't over tighten it thus damaging your board.

- Hooks. These can work in some situations but may unhook on a bumpy road. Probably best on a truck bed or under car carriage attachment loop.

- Padding Under Straps - Straps can damage your rails if tightened too much. Place a flat piece of foam or similar under each strap bend over the rails.  With the double stack as below, I also had foam strips in between each stack to protect the rails from rubbing against each other.

The following set up is 8 boards on a 2 cross bars with pads. Each stack has two straps plus one strap under each to further tighten the stacks. The class required driving 180 miles RT.

More Useful Rack Links Below..

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