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.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Trends in SUP - "I'm not in shape to try SUP"

The past few years, most folks felt they didn't have good enough balance to do SUP.  I talked a lot of folks out of this by convincing them unless they have specific inner ear issues, starting out on a large board and the use of the paddle on the water will provide adequete balance to feel comfortable.

This year, folks have a new roadblock preventing them from trying SUP.  I've been hearing the following the past few months..

"I'm not in good enough shape to do SUP."
"My core isn't strong enough to try SUP."
"I'm in the best shape of my life, I'm finally ready to try SUP."

We believe this feeling comes from the media which regularly shows very in shape folks on SUPs in magazines, on TV, in instructional videos, etc.

I respond to these reactions by mentioning to foks that SUP is for all physical levels and body types.  Even as a paddlesports author and SUP instructor, I certainly don't have six pack abs (far from it). SUP can get you in shape and with a good stroke and regular water time you can achieve similar or the same benefits of cross fit without views of concrete walls and other sweaty people!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Darwinism in Shilshole Bay

Summer on the water in Seattle is usually a circus. Most wait for those warm sunny days to get out so imagine how few days those are giving our reputation for rain.  That said, most get so excited of a sunny they skip the paddle lesson refresher and dust off that old canoe or kayak and head for the beach.

Problem is, everyone else is doing the same thing.  When they get to the beach every type of boat is trying to launch or floating in some format offshore.  Power boats end up throwing off large wakes as paddle boarders, kayakers and inflatable rafts bob over the wave crests, some falling in.  Not a big issue on the lakes as the water has warmed up by August to the upper 60's or low 70's.  Puget Sound stays in hte 50's due to several tides a day flushing out it's bays and open water areas. There are warm pockets of water such as Hood Canal and the South Sound but most sections feel like an ice pack on your legs after about a minute.

Today while waiting about 100' offshore for a series of freighter waves which could potential get up to chest high (standing), two sea kayakers came towards me.  Timing would have it they would pass between me and the shore just as the waves came in.  One passed by just as a few 2-3' waves came in. I said howdy! but no answer.  The second guy approached just as a nice set of steep faced 4-5' waves came in.  I put up my hand to signify 'stop' so I could surf through.  He kept going preventing me from taking a wave and then as the set hit him - he froze while taking mini strokes with no power and the blade mostly out of the water.  I instructed him to keep paddling, "keep strokes short, paddle hard!" He continued to freeze and then as most beginners in surf do, he leaned away from a wave as it approached him and capsized.

Before he capsized, I noticed a few things about this paddler.  He had a belly and his PFD was unclipped in the 2 lower clips, overall it wasn't on very well.  No sprayskirt, probably a good thing, and the classic laid back stroke as if sitting in a lounge chair. His paddle had a slim width blade face and seemed really short for his size.  He seemed to struggle to get in the water, probably his buddy's gear.

Luckily he wet exited quickly.  I asked if he could get back in, no answer.  I approached and asked his buddy who was just sitting 20' away if he knew the T-Rescue.  He mumbled "I can't get back into that narrow cockpit." No answer as he continued to sit there. I asked again and think I heard a 'yes'.  I said I could do one on my SUP (it works!) but no interest. The first paddler found a tow rope of some sort and towed his buddy towards shore.  The capsized kayaker was holding on to the back of his kayak but was in the water. They took about 20 minutes to get to shore, only about 50'.  Where he capsized it would've become shallow in 15' but his buddy took the long route going at an angle to shore and into deeper water.  Eventually while near shore, about 10' off I saw pumping of water going on, other dude still in the water.

About 30 minutes later they were off again. This time they went about 3/4 mile offshore into open water just as 2 freighters going over 20kts sped past.  One was throwing off a 5' face in the shipping channel.  I watched the guys but they were too far out to see any details.  Hopefully they made it back, as a second capsize in 300' of water that far offshore with no rescue skills might gurantee a spot on the evening news.

Lessons Learned..
- Sea kayaking with close deck kayaks requires a class.  Learn how to wet exit and re-enter your boat and only go out with someone who can gurantee getting you back in your boat.
- Paddle boats which fit you.  You can easily enter, exit and wet exit with out any problem.
- Get a PFD (lifejacket) that fits you and learn how to wear it properly.
- Dress for immersion - the water temperature.  Kayaks also can carry a ton of gear easily.
- Study the location you plan to paddle in. What are the hazards? Is the location ideal for your skill level?  And know when to cancel if conditions rise above your level.
- If you see a set of overhead waves (4-5' are overhead for kayaks) avoid the area if you can't surf.
- Want to learn to paddle in rough water?  Take a kayak surf class or similar.
- Only go with friends who can rescue you.
- If a passerby paddler offers help consider taking their assistance.  Drop the ego which is common in rescues. Often victims won't let go of their gear valueing it over their own survival. Or will turn down assistance despite being in considerable danger.  I could've pulled his boat over my SUP, dumped the water in a few seconds, then helped in back in - overall rescue, less than 3-4 minutes.  

Understanding Current in Shilshole Bay, Seattle

If you look across Puget Sound on a glassy day you may think it looks like a big lake.  But in there's lots going on out there. Tidal current is constantly moving and changing, coming in (flooding) or going out (ebbing) effecting how we travel as we paddle.

Padding in a straight line or path isn't always the quickest way to get there.  Current may hit a point then bend around the backside of the point to create a swirling motion pushing current behind the point back in the direction it came from.  This is like an eddy in a river.  This recirculating back current can push you alongside the main flow of current in the opposite direction.  The bends and twists of Puget Sound, every point, cove, bay, or even a slight bend in the shoreline will affect incoming current.

To better understand this, check out a few books or search it online to see visual illustrations of how current moves.  These images will help you figure out the most effecient ways of paddling.  You can use the current to your advantage whether on a trip or in some cases even on a paddling race.

Tidal Currents of Puget Sound, Starpath Publications.

Below are images of how the current moves in Shilshole Bay in Seattle.  Use kelp to see which direction the current is moving.



Thursday, August 1, 2013

SUP Fatality from PFD Strapped on Board

Strapping or in some cases duct taping a PFD to a paddle board never really seemed like a good idea. But rental shops around the nation and individual paddlers do it regularly. Since PFDs are required by the US Coast Guard to have on you in non surf zone waters, folks buy the cheapest PFDs possible and strap or tape them on to be legal.  Downside is that if you really need the PFD, good-luck getting it off in time. Many don't use a leash as well, so if you fall off, your board floats away (wind) with your PFD on it - how far can you swim?  Or given very cold water, how long?

Another common scenario is when rental shops give renters the orange clunky lifejackets most commonly seen on ferries.  They're so uncomfortable and difficult to wear many take them off before getting on the water. An instructor of a nearby shop said they found a few in the bushes.

A classic product I've seen on the market is 'PFD in a Bag.' A clunky orange PFD is tucked neatly in a mesh bag with a little pocket on top. It's attached to a board via suction cups.  I took a class in California two years ago which had these on the boards.  Mine kept falling off due to beach sand getting into the suction cups.  I spent much of the lesson trying to keep the thing on the board using my paddle.

This happened in Idaho recently to a Washington State resident..

The individual drowned after falling off his paddleboard and could not get back on it,” Speer said. “A life jacket was on the front of the board, but the individual could not get the life jacket off the board in time to be used -- and the individual ended up drowning.

You might ask, why couldn't he get back on his board?
- Fatigue. (I've seen this one)
- Poor flexibility.
- A large belly.
- Poor arm strength, (solution is to kick legs as if swimming, this brings body to surface).
- No leash thus getting separated from board.  In wind many can't catch their boards.
- A prior shoulder injury can make climbing on a board painful.
- Cold shock. Sudden immersion in very cold water knocks the wind out of you.
- Not knowing how to get back on, thus loosing balance and falling off again. (Get on in middle or tail).
- Inflatables - some have reported side rails and tails to be so high out of the water they can't get on.

Wanna get an inflatable waist PFD?  Buy two cartridges and test it in the water prior to use. Most don't know what happens when you pull the string.  There's a few fails with this one but as always knowing how to use your equipment is always a good idea.

Here's a few more accidents in 2013 from not wearing a PFD (lifejacket):

Martin County, Florida

Orlando, Florida