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, 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.

SUPs for Big / Tall Folks..

This summer I had a student who was 6-5 290lbs.  I figured my Surftech Universal 12' board (aka 'the Island' as we call it) would work. It's nearly 6" thick and 33" wide and usually does the trick for larger paddlers. Unfortantly it wasn't wide enough to allow him to stand up with confidence.  So I made it my mission to get him standing on a SUP!  A few weeks later, I met another guy who was in the same situation.  In his case he couldn't find rental boards big enough for him, so assumed the sport isn't for him. I've had similar issues being 6-5 x 230lbs. Most of the race boards on the market don't work for me at 27.5" wide or less.

I began to research larger boards.  Shops suggested wide fishing boards but most are pretty short at 10' - 11' which to me means it'll be slow and hard to track straight especially if they're 34" or wider.  Tandem boards are another option as well.

And there are shaping tricks to make standard sizes more stable such as adding concave under foot to the hull, using a square tail (pintail is least stable), and using larger fins such as the Gladiator or Bat fins by Larry Allison.

These are the boards I found which would be suitable for these guys..

- Hooked SUP by Alex Agura Design, 11.8"x36"x5.2".

- Starboard Atlas 12' x 36",

- Starboard Astro Tandem (inflatable), 16'x33",

- Starboard Astro Fisherman 11.2'x39" (inflatable),

- Blair SUPs 11.3E 11'x36"x5.4" Jim is also a custom shaper so a good source something personal.

- Imagine Surf Wizard (rotomolded),  11'x35"x8",

- NRS Baron 6 (Inflatable), 11.4'x36"x6",

Customs - Can't find, have it made!  

- Perfect Wave Bamboocha, 14'x35"x6".  Was designed for a Seahawk player.

- Echo Composites, Sean Thomas; 425.679.1212 Sean is the shaper for my 17' Touring SUP project.  I credit half of the design to his help, brilliant ideas and craftsmanship.

- Jim Blair, listed above.

Boards for tall Thin folks, 200 to 230 ish lbs.  In this case, weight displacment isn't as much of an issue but length and width still are.
- Amundson Source 11'x`10"x5",
- Surftech Universal 12'.

A few thing to think about for researching boards..
- Thickness.  If a paddler is over 230lbs they'll displace or push the board into the water thus need a thicker board so their feet won't be in water.  Been there myself in trying 4" and 4.25" thick boards.

- Width. For the sizes mentioned above, go for at least 34" wide or wider.  The issue of going too wide is hitting the rails with your paddle and carrying the board if there's an indented handle.

- Weight.  Imagine the distance to the water, the height of your car, etc. Can you carry it solo? Inflatables are perfect for carrying.

- Length.  Longer is mostly faster and longer boards can add stability in some cases.  For example a 12'x33" board like m Surftech Universal would be even more stable at 15'x33". And the rider would get a straighter faster ride with less effort.

11 Tips for Paddling Solo

To some given work, kids, and school schedules paddling solo is the only way they'll get on the water. Others haven't gone solo due to not feeling comfortable due to safety concerns or they prefer to be in a group for social reasons.

If you do have a crazy schedule with work and/or kids, solo paddling can be one of the best methods of finding solitude or even yourself again.

Solo paddling varies in risk depending on the type of water you're going on.  In some cases there's no risk at all. I've been solo paddling for years, originally on a sea kayak and now also a SUP.

Some tips to keep in mind for safe solo paddling..

- Leave a Float Plan with a friend or family member.  This is a message detailing where you're going, how long you'll be out, when you're planning on returning, and a cell number you can be contacted at while on-water.  Note text messages often will go through where voice messages will not. Once you return, call your friend notifying of your return.

- Carry an on-water communication device such as a cell phone.  If you don't have cell reception, bring along a VHF radio, and know how to use it.

- Know Your Limits!  If you're not comfortable with wind or current, stick to a calm protected marina or bay with easy access to your car.  Marinas are great for finding super calm water and access.  If you notice wind coming up while on-water, ask yourself if you really can handle it and whether you should return to your car.  Sometimes pushing yourself a little bit is ok to improve your skills but sometimes this can lead to getting over your head.  Save those confidence building days to one with a friend.

For example, I like paddling in heavy wind up to 30kts for the reward of the downwind rides and surfable beach break in Seattle.  But on those days if I go solo, I'll only access areas near my car where getting blown downwind is either impossible or worse case I'll be blown into the shore by my car.  If I'm not feeling confident, I'll call a friend to join who CAN rescue me if needed - and vice versa.

But if I'm out solo in any conditions which feels sketchy, I'll turn back or seek safe harbor to change my plans.  ** Sticking to your original plan because you've always wanted to go there or drove all day to get there isn't the way to go.  My rule of thumb is to stay off the evening news.

- Check Weather Conditions before you go and once you've arrived at your put-in, determine if the real conditions are within your skill level and/or comfort zone.  Is there a storm coming?  It's not uncommon for folks to see blue sky and rush to the water to paddle. It may be calm when you get there but strong wind or a gale may arrive within the hour.  Are you ready for it? Use local web cams, NOAA buoys/stations or inquire from paddling shops.

- Check with Paddling & Surf Shops about the Location where you'll be paddling. They can fill you in on hazards, local conditions, the local vibe, etc.

- Always Wear your Leash!  There's been several SUP paddlers who have disappeared or died due to not wearing their leash.  One two years ago was an experienced racer in Florida. His board was found but not him.  If it 'gets in your way' attach it to your waist or PFD to stay clear of your feet.  I once downwinded with a guy who 'always fell by his board' but never wore a leash.  On that 35kt day downwinding, he fell off and the board took off. Lucky there was two of us.

- Wear or Have Easy Access to your PFD.  Many find PFDs uncool to wear or in some climates too hot. There's several ways to still have one on you or your board.  Wearing it is best whether an inflatable or vest style.  If inflatable - buy two cartridges and test fire one in the water so you know how to put it on. It's not as easy as you may think.  If you do decide to attach a vest style to your board, make sure it fits you and you can remove it very quickly.  I can recall two recent deaths of paddlers who weren't wearing leashes and also couldn't remove the strapped down PFD in time. It does happen.

- Know How to Get On Your Board.  You'll be surprised how many paddlers can't get back on their board or have difficulty doing so.  Overweight paddlers, those who are tired or have an arm or shoulder injury (or recent surgery), sea sickness, or not enough upper body strength - are all reasons for not getting back on. I've seen a few of the above myself. Once again, there's been a few deaths from those unable to get back on their boards.  A leash really helps as you never get far from your board and can at least hold on if you can't get on but won't lose the board.

Getting on in middle - Hold board by handle, deck or opposite rail and kick feet vigously behind you. This brings your body to the surface and is easier to slide or pull yourself on.
Getting on at the tail (cowboy style) - Same technique as above.  Some inflatables rise up in the tail and are so bouyant most can't get onto.  Test before you go.  * Never let go of your paddle!

- Know Self Rescue Paddling Techniques.  If you get caught downwind in 10kts or more, can you get back to your car?  Standing is useless even for strong paddlers in winds 15kts or more.  Ya it's stand up paddling but.. use your common sense - get down!
Prone Paddling - Body down on board paddling like a surfer with both hands. Paddle under chest.  This is the most efficient way to get upwind.  Practice as it can be tiring but is great cross training.
Sitting - 2nd most efficient way of getting upwind.  Single blade pull or hold paddle at throat/neck and use rest of paddle shaft as a second paddle - use like a kayak paddle! It works.
Kneeling - Most common but you're still a sail!  Hold paddle mid shaft.

Carry hydration, an energy bar and a first aid kit - The latter can just be your medications (I get migraines and carry my Imitrix with me at all times).  Store in your PFD, fanny pack or an on deck bag.

- Do a Gear Check Before Leaving the Beach.  Is your fin secure? Is your leash properly attached and is the string in good shape (knot secure?).

Wow, that's alot!  Why hell would you want to go solo??  Truth is, the above tips are easy to learn, and common sense for any paddling you do and good practice.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

SUP Instructor's On Water Gear

There's two type of SUP instructors.  Those who feel the sport is so easy you can teach anyone in ten minutes, then the rest of us who know to really learn how to paddle well, it takes time.  And not every student will pick it up asap. Many will come with low self esteem or a worry of their stability.  Others may have poor flexibility, recovering knee injuries or am out of shape.

When you get on the water anything can happen or as they say, sh.. happens.  And it does.  Everyone has an ego and that is one thing that may lead to an issue in class.  I've had students tell me one minute they're feeling good and then next tell me they don't have the energy to paddle to shore.

In either case, good instructors should be prepared for anything. Here's a list of what I carry on-water for my lessons:

Flat Water 1-2.5 hr class in the Pacific NW:
- 75' tow rope - floating line (found at kayaking stores). Salamander, North Water, Kokatat (brands).
(if it's a glassy day, I'll just bring my 8' tow line attached to my PFD).
- First Aid kit. Advil, bandaids, Neosporin (barnacle cuts), duct tape.
- VHF radio.  Used as a walki talkie with guides; check NOAA weather and can call the Coast Guard directly.
- Cell Phone (where there's reception).  Also great for taking pics of students.
- Tool Kit - extra fin screws; extra leash string; foil tape for dings.
- Energy Bar or similar (ShotBlocks..)
- Hydration for me.
- Electrolytes.
- Extra clothing for students if in cold weather. I get their sizes prior so have the right sized gloves, hoods, etc.  Usually they don't know what they need on-water so bringing it helps if they get chilled.
- Medications (for me, migraine medicine) or for students.
- Mylar emergency blanket.
- Chemical heat packet.
- Waterproofed light for dusk or night paddling (also fits in my pfd).

Sound like a lot?  It all packs in a small 5"x5"waterproof drybag which then fits in my Seattle Sports Parabolic deck bag which is attached to cargo netting or leash plugs on my board (nose).  The tow line is strapped to my waist if I'm in windy conditions when I'm more likely to tow someone. And being on the water means you may have to tow someone else other than a customer such as capsized kayakers, a fatigued swimmer, or kite surfer with a lost board.

In our area I wear a PFD (Vest style) in my classes.  It keeps me warmer and has pockets to put some of the above items (VHF, cell, whistle, tow line, etc).

Rough Water 2-4hr class in Surf, tidal rapids, whitewater or open water:

Add to the above list:
- 3-4 rocket flares (hand held) double zip locked.
- More substantial First Aid kit.
- Add a few more chemical heat packets.

*Consider having your students carry their own gear by adding drybags or deck bags to their boards.  

SUP PE for Schools

In my second year of teaching SUP to Bush School in Seattle. I'm in talks with another school to offer another class.  I hear in Oregon there's a few highschool SUP racing teams - pretty cool!

Here's an article on SUP PE in SUP Magazine and the growth of SUP school programs..