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, December 31, 2014

Thanks for your reading my site in 2014! Take our 2 minute Survey...

Thanks for checking in and trying out Stoke Magazine in 2014!

Looking forward, if you could take my 2 minute survey below, it'll help in making sure this blog is benefitial to you!

All responses are checked out prior to going public; or send in private to me at salmonbaypaddle@gmail.com

- How did you find Stoke Magazine? (search engine, referral, etc)

- What do you think of our content?

- What can we do to offer better content or be more useful to you?

- Any topics you'd like to see on Stoke Magazine?

Thanks again for your time!

To learn more about SUP'ing or Kayaking, join my mailing list by sending me your email or signing up on our other page, Salmon Bay Paddle.

I also offer montly SUP instructor training courses through the PSUPA.  We can also travel to you.

Coming to the Pacific Northwest?  Give us a holler to take one of our tours or classes. We can also develop custom online content to help you learn how to paddle.

We can teach you:


- Freighter Wave Surfing
- Tug Wave Surfing
- Tidal Rapids Training in Deception Pass
- SUP or Kayak 101
- Downwinding for SUP or Kayak
- SUP or Kayak Surfing
- Racing
- Anything missing? We'd like to help you fill in the gaps.

Thanks again!  

Rob Casey

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cowboy Rescue for SUPs - Getting on at the tail

I teach 3 different ways to get on a SUP after falling off.  Most common is getting on at the middle, less common is at the last third of the board adjacent to the tail, then at the tail, which we call the Cowboy Rescue.

The term Cowboy or Cowgirl if that sounds better for you, came from kayaking in getting on the boat at end ends, like jumping on top the rear of a horse.

Pro's:
- Easy way to get on the board if the board is too wide or thick in the middle.

Con's:
- May not work for thick inflatables 6" to 8" which may also curve up at the tail.
- You may have to let go of the paddle to get on (by placing in front of you on board)
- If the board has a wide tail, it may not work.

How it works...
- Move to the back of the board, so you are facing the tail.

- Grab both ends of the board with your hands.  Waxing the rails makes it easier to grab.

- Place the paddle across the deck in front you or hold on with one hand while placing it partially over the deck. Sometimes the paddle may bounce around and may fall off the board.

- Start kicking your feet to create white water behind you. This raises your body to the surface thus making it easier to pull yourself on the board.  Not doing this means having to lift you body on with your arms only.

- Continue pulling yourself on the board until you reach the middle.

Watch it here:
Can't see it? Click Here.



Tip:  Got a thick rail or inflatable too thick to climb on the tail?  Try my stirrup rescue. Read more here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How to Get on your Paddle Board from the Side

Many try to avoid falling off their SUP, but eventually you will fall in - and it's no big deal or a fail if you do.  I say that as I hear all the time 'did you fall?' It is a water sport and in my opinion if you're not falling, you're not trying hard enough or not having enough fun.

That said, how do you get back on?  Most will try to get back on from the side in the middle. For most boards this is actually the most difficult place to get back on as the board will be the thickest, and unless you're tall like me, you may struggle to grab the handle or opposite side to help pull yourself back on. It's actually easier to get on at the back 1/3 of the board by the tail where you board should be less thick and where there's less width.  Watch for future videos from me on other mounting techniques.

Here's a few tips for getting back on from the side...

Why folks fail in getting back on:
- Their vest style PFD is catching on the rail as they try to pull themselves up.

- They lack upper body strength to pull themselves on.

- Their board is really thick thus making it more difficult to pull up on (5-6" thick)

- They have an inflatable which may be 6" thick from nose to tail thus difficult to get on and slippery.

Your Paddle:
- Hold on to your paddle when you fall off.  If you let go, get on the board the prone paddle to your paddle (paddling on chest like a surfer with alternating hands)

- While getting on, place your paddle on the deck and hold with one hand while getting on. Or stick in deck outfitting or bungees to keep you hands free to climb on.

Getting on Easier:

Holding on to the side of the board with paddle in one hand, kick your feet vigorously which will raise your body to the surface.  You should be creating whitewater with your feet. As you body reaches the surface, begin to pull up on the board simultaneously.  Grab on the deck handle if that helps as you pull yourself on.

I don't quit kicking until I'm 100% on the board. Thick race boards with heightened rails can be difficult to get over, as well as some 6" and 8" thick inflatables.

Alternative to Side Mounting:
- Get on the tail of the board. Place paddle on deck in front of you as you use both hands to pull on.
- Get on the deck next to the tail (last 1/3rd of board).
- Attach a caribiner connected to a short car rack strap to your leash plug string and use as a step or stirrup to assist in getting back on. Search this blog for how to do this.

Tip: Use surf wax on your rails to make them stickier thus easier to grab.

Note of Caution: If your PFD is strapped to the deck but you can't get back on and are in cold water, you may have a problem. Consider wearing your pfd (waist or pfd) to stay afloat if you're too cold or tired to swim or stay afloat.




Winter River SUP Surfing Tips

Paddling rivers in winter (northern winters) can take some creativity to stay warm.  Here's a few tips to keep you paddling in the 'off season.'  With a warm wetsuit and related gear there's no reason to stop paddling in winter, unless your water spot is frozen over.

Before the Paddle:
- Wear your wet or drysuit to the river.  If your drive to the river is less than an hour, wear your wetsuit to avoid having to put it on in a cold parking lot or alongside the road.

- Bring a 1-2 gallon jug of hot water to pour on your hands before going out or on yourself after the
paddle.

- Warm booties. I'm a big fan of 7mm booties and those with thick soles not only for walking on rocks but also keeping your feet warm on cold pavement or ground. Try to keep your feet at dry as possible in frigid temperatures.  Currently I'm using the NRS ShockSock & FreeStyle wetshoes which solve all those issues.

- Bring a old foam camping pad to stand on while changing in the parking lot. This will keep your feet insulated and warmer.

- Changing Poncho. These oversized fabric ponchos cover you up in public and keep you warmer when changing into your gear.

- Bring a puffy warm coat and hat to put on while taking your board off the car. I don't remove my coat until I'm ready to head out to the river. Same with coming back - coat goes on as soon as I get to the car while loading gear, or after I take my wetsuit off (if I do so there).  Warm grippy gloves are great too for changing and loading gear.

After the Paddle:
- Start your car immediately to get the heat going.

- Keep your gloves and hood on til your board is tied onto the car.  I get coldest if I remove my gloves before changing out my clothes or tying the board down after the paddle.

- Have a warm non-alchololic beverage ready to sip while loading.

- Stand on your foam pad while loading gear and/or removing clothing.

A Few Essential Safety Gear Options:
- Get a quick release river SUP leash like the Badfish re-leash, or thin gauge leashes made by NorthWater or NRS.  These can be cut easier than thicker surf leashes if needed.

- Lifejacket (PFD). Get a river kayaking style vest style PFD with a quick release belt to attach your leash to. A vest style PFD will keep your core warm. I like one with pockets to store essential gear such as a power bar, knife, whistle, etc.

- Helmet. Always wear a helmet in whitewater. SUP'ers like minimalism, but in this environment you're more likely to hit your head than on open water.  And in winter it keeps your head much warmer. I use Gath helmets as they have great ear coverage, are flexible to your head and have innovative designs.

- Always paddle with a friend who has solid river skills and can rescue you (and vice versa).  You always read about the benefit of paddling in groups. It's not benefitial if your buddy can't swim or help you when needed. Check each other's gear before hitting the water.

 Read my 30 Tips for Staying Warm in Winter for SUP Magazine..

Spokane River, 12/27/14 Charlie & Chris Cindric Surfing
#BadFishSUP


Saturday, December 27, 2014

How to use your SUP paddle like a kayak paddle

Ever get caught downwind and don't have enough energy or power to paddle upwind standing? Or maybe you're tired of standing and want to sit. The beauty of SUP is that we have so many options for paddling.

In this video I show how to use your SUP paddle like a kayak paddle while sitting.  This allows for an even stroke and for those from a kayaking background, a familiar technique used in a different setting.

Tips for Sitting
Sit on the middle of the board or over your handle. If paddling into wind waves or surf, sit back a bit to raise the nose of the board so it goes over waves.  You can sit with your legs in front of you, slightly arched or with legs crossed.

Holding the Paddle
If you're using a surf style board hold the paddle with your lower hand just above the blade and your other hand about 2' higher on the shaft.  Use the Paddlers Box to determine hand spacing - Place the paddle on your head, both elbows should be angled 90 degrees creating a box between your hands.

Since you're sitting and are thus 4-5" above the water, you don't need to hold the handle.  For displacement boards which often have thicker or taller rails, consider holding the paddle a few inches above the blade .

Paddling
Stick the blade in the water at one side, then the handle end in the water on your other side pulling both out at your butt or just beyond.  If you're holding the paddle near the blade using the Paddler's box, you should have enough extension or surface area on the shaft and handle to place in the water.

Turning
Use a forward or reverse sweep on both sides to turn the board. Certainly you will get more power on the blade side but try both.  Sweep: Place paddle blade or handle in water at your feet, curve it around the board in a semi circle or rainbow shape to turn the board using an extended arm, but not changing hand positions on shaft.  Watch the handle or blade with your eyes from nose to tail for best effect.

Surfing
I also use this technique when paddling out against onshore winds in surf.  Once at the line up,  stand up and catch a wave in.  Lean back over incoming waves to raise your nose out over the sets.

Rivers
When in funk river sections with a lot of boils, bumps etc, if I'm tired or need a break, I'll sit paddle.

Confused?  Watch the video... 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

SUP Flip Rescue & Towing Video

Check out our new video showing samples of the Flip Rescue and 3 methods of getting a person back to shore in an emergency.  There are other methods of getting someone back on their board and all rescues are different, so try it, try variations including in bumpy water, see what works so you'll be better prepared when you need to help someone.

Read my articles on Flip Rescues & Towing for SUPs. These have tons of details on how to do it, pros and cons, alternatives, etc.  Got questions? Give me a holler.. salmonbaypaddle@gmail.com

Flip Rescue Revisted

Flip Rescue Additional Tips

The Flip Rescue

Towing Articles:

Using Tow Ropes for SUP Rescues

Tow Systems for SUPS




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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ever Loose a Filling Before Surfing?

Just in case this happens to you..
This was a weird one..  was getting ready to go surfing and as I bit into a chewy ShotBlock energy candy thing, I felt a hard object in my mouth. First I was thinking there was something hard in the candy, but realized later it was probably a filling.  I fished it out then realized I had a problem. My ride has just dropped me off and here I was at a remote put-in for a river and surf break and no pockets, PFD or waist pouch to put this thing in.  I figured my wetsuit had a key pocket but didn't know where and rolling up my sleeves didn't reveal anything. I didn't have a key on me since I was paddling back to our beach house.

After a bit of thought, I first tried to put it in my glove, but realized the sharp edges may cut me and I have a few holes in the fingers.  Then figured I could put it in my bootie, but it could slip down below my feet and again the sharp edge would be a problem.  So my final solution was to stuff it in the ShotBlock package, roll it up then stick it in my bootie. That worked but could still feel the edge on occasion during my surf session.

Unfortantly am spending half my Monday at the dentist..






Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gear I Use (for now)

Here's some of the gear I'm using now.  Things change as I find more suitable gear or change my methods of paddling.  I have some sponsorship items but use only what I find is the best gear for my needs vs using just what they send me.

BOARDS
Amundson Source 11-6 board
I'm 6-5 230lbs and like the thicker rails to displace my weight. I'm not into super tippy boards - would rather be stable and comfortable in standing vs always struggling to stand. The board's shape is good enough for some ripping but still tracks on flat water for paddling in a mile or so.  The ledge (indented) handle helps on long carries. I use this board for most body types for instruction.  I use their 11-10 for folks up to 300lbs and a friend's Hooked SUP by Alex Aguero for larger folks.

Imagine Surf Icon 11'
This is a fun one for surfing and ripping on river and surf waves.  Light to carry and just thick enough for my weight so I can move it around easily while staying stable in bumps.  I like pointy noses for cutting through waves paddling out or upwind.

2015-2016 Imagine Epoxy Boards
12-6 Mission, Icon (above), 14' Connector

2015-2016 Inflatables
For instruction and personal use this summer I'll be using the Imagine Mission 14', Rapidfire 9', Rapidfire 14' and Icon 11'. The 14' Connector is very fast yet nimble for my 6-5 frame.

17' and 18' Prototype Touring Boards
Working with shaper Sean Thomas of Echo Composites, we're designing a real touring SUP board with kayak style hatches and foot rudder. With a surf ski high volume nose for big water and incredible speed we're excited to take it to the next level. We'll run a Kickstarter campaign early 2015 to generate funds to take it to production. Contact me if interested in learning more. I use the boards on flat water, camping trips, downwinders, surf and river conditions or tidal rapids.

PADDLES
I use the Accent ProBolt for most of my paddling. It has a narrow blade width which is nice to my shoulders but plenty enough power.  A carbon paddle, its super light, has a comfortable hand grip and shaft.  Also durable, I've used it in rivers, tidal rapids, surf and drawing things in the sand for students.  It's also reasonable priced unlike many paddles of it's design.

WETSUITS
RipCurl 5/3 Dawn Patrol, back zip - Keeps me mostly dry on cold PNW days yet is very flexible and comfortable. The 3mm on the arms can get chilly so I add a polypro top under or a neoprene jacket top over for 20-30F weather. I just ordered a 5/4 FlashBomb from RipCurl for teaching, as I don't work as hard physically with beginning students thus get colder (in winter). Also trying BodyGlove suits this year.

ProMotion & RipCurl Hooded Vest
I'm a big fan of hooded vests. You can pull them over a back zip suit to prevent flushing in the neck area, wear under the suit on super cold days to boost core heat or add in summer with shorts to add some warmth up top.  If you get hot, slide the hood off or add when chilled. The ProMotion neoprene is nearly 2.5mm with a substantially warm hood.  The RipCurl vest has their #FlashBomb fleecy material which dries super quick but also adds warmth. Am trying the BodyGlove hooded vest.

Season5 top
I use this over my 5/3 suit on super cold days when I need the wind chill reduced. Or in summer as a solo top with shorts.  It cuts wind and is mostly waterproof yet very light.  I use the Season5 short for wearing under my 5/3 in really cold water and/or under shorts in summer 0n slightly chilled days.

GLOVES
Glacier fleeced lined gloves for winter. I get cold easily so these are great for super chilled days but not too bulky either.  Like most gloves they last about a season of heavy paddling.

NRS Mavericks Gloves - These are a great winter glove but not as warm as the Glacier glove above (for me). I use them in autumn and Spring or warmer winter days. They're waterproof and pretty comfortable.

BOOTIES
I'm a bit fanatical about booties.  I paddle in rocky areas often having to walk over barnacles, mussels and other bumpy sharp items.  So I like a flexible but thick sole to protect my feet. Feeling sharp gravel isn't fun.  Plus I can stick a nearly 90 degree (vertical) pivot turn with the shoe tread.  I use the NRS Shocksock and Freestyle Wet shoes.  Both are waterproof, warm as any surf style 5mm or 7mm bootie, comfortable and less expensive than some 7mm booties. I still use these in summer for protecting feet on our beaches. I can feel the board fine while watching the summer people with soft bare feet struggle to do it Maui style over rocky Puget Sound beaches.

In summer I use my older leaky NRS booties so I don't get too hot but still have the nice shoe tread for walking on rocky beaches or over pavement.

LEASHES
Currently using the NorthWater coiled leash for flat water days, a coiled Dakine SUP leash for flat water, river and small surf, then a Dakine straight leash for bigger surf (doesn't bounce back at me).

HELMET
Gath Surf Hat and Gedi.  Surf hat for medium easy surf or deep river current. The Gedi for heavy crazy surf and shallow rivers.  Super comfortable, flexible, ears remove on the Gedi, and affordable. Purpose of the helmet in surf is to prevent the board from cracking my skull when landing on my head.

FINS
I'm a big rubber fin fan.  Ya they shudder and flex but I'm not trying to break a speed record or am competing in world class events.  I can run them up on beaches, over kelp beds and they won't slice me in a wipeout.  My beginning students always drag fins, hit walls or steps walking in.  I use ProTek fins in the 9" for most paddling and a thruster set for rivers and surf.  Got one QR Quick Release fin for quick setup or to adjust on water.

DECK BAGS
To carry stuff on water such as a first aid kit, communication devices for lessons, or to have a place to remove clothing when hot, I use kayaking style deck bags.  Seattle Sports has a variety of ones to use but I use the Parabolic Deck Bag which is waterproof and slender shaped for letting water pass.  Attach to your board using Seattle Sports plugs or NRS (North Shore Inc) spectral loops.

LIFEJACKET - PFD
For summer and flat water paddles, I use the MTI Cascade.  It has a substantial but not bulky front pocket which I use to carry a power bar, knife, night light, VHF (tied in), etc. Under the pocket is a fleece lined hand warmer.  The PFD is light and comfortable.

For big water and river conditions, I use the Astral Green Jacket which has a built in 8' tow rope, quick release belt to attach the leash to in whitewater and a great but not bulky front pocket.

I rarely use C02 styles as the vest styles keep me warm here in our non tropical NW weather. But for freighter wave surfing we surf in location that is flat water and thus requires some sort of PFD to be legal.  So I use the MTI waist belt packs to surf in.  We also use these in instructor training courses to show how to fire them off, which I recommend prior to use.

TOW SYSTEMS
I teach thus I get people on the water who don't know their limits and may have to be towed to shore. You want good gear for this.  I use the NorthWater Regulation MicroTow and Micro Throw Line which is much smaller and was developed for SUPs..  It wraps comforably around my waist and has a short and longer tow option.  I prefer bags with a the open velcro bag so I can stuff it in quickly after a rescue, vs having to thread it in a small hole which takes time.

VEHICLE
My trusty 2006 Subaru Forester is holding up well at 155k miles. With an extended Yakima Rack on top, I can carry 8 boards on the freeway plus lots of gear inside.

Update 1/17 - The Forester rusted out in 2016, now on to a 2006 Subaru Outback.

Give me a holler if you have any questions on the above.  


My car overlooking the tidal rapids of Burrows Island, WA

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.





Thursday, December 11, 2014

11 SUP Tips for the Deception Pass Dash (or Tidal Rapids Paddle Tips)

This 6 mile race in it's 9th year is one of the most challenging and fun races in the NW for all paddle craft. The veterans say 2008 was the last gnarly weather race, it has been mostly flat since, fingers crossed for an epic race this sunday.

Most SUPs who do the race don't paddle the Pass throughout the year, so many get caught in kelp beds and funky currents.

Here's a few tips on being more successful racing in the Pass..

- Bring a weed or rubber fin.  To save energy and get the most out of the race you should be paddling in eddies. Eddies are also the location for kelp beds and rocks.  Avoid getting caught in kelp and raking over raking over rocks with a smart fin choice.  Rubber fins will glide over kelp, and bump off rocks with less face plants.  I use the ProTek 9" fins or Ninja fin which has a anti-weed design. If you get caught in kelp, walk to your nose to lift your tail/fin out, then paddle forward.  Tip: Wax your nose, (of your board).

- Use eddies to get upstream.  Eddies are recirculating current from downstream current bouncing off an obstruction like a rock (eddies will be behind the rock).  Eddy current will either be going against the main current upstream, will be swirling upstream in a circle, or may be dead water.  In either case they're there to help you get upstream. Even if only 2' wide, use it, it's better than bucking the current directly.  Use an aerial view of the Pass to look for a route upstream along Pass Island and Strawberry Island.  Both islands themselves create huge eddies in their shadow.

- If mellow weather, most of the bumps will be under the bridge or by Deception Island.  The rest is a mostly flat water paddle. In the beginning of the ebb you won't get much of a push downstream below Strawberry Island or under the bridge. If you do, it'll slow after the bridge.  Bring your hydration.

- Wind. Wind opposing currents builds bumps.  SUPs, get low and power through it with a short yet high cadence. If a NE or SE wind stay as much as possible out of the direct line of wind, so get behind land masses vs being in the open. And Draft, see below..

- Going back to DP Island 2nd time - Ebb will be moving and it moves north between Reservation Head and the island. Be ready to put your board in a ferry angle from the island back to the mainland.

- Draft. It's ok to draft, meaning tailgaiting another paddler in front of you to get their stern/tail eddie. Get 1-3" off their tail and you'll get a sorta free ride. Let them break the wind for you as well.  Some racers work in draft teams switching out the leader to get a break over a long distance.

- Do a test run of the race Saturday morning starting at Slack.  Get familiar with it, look for favorable
eddies, obstructions, kelp beds and get an idea how long you have before the ebb kicks in.  Consider arriving Saturday to take George Gronseth's DP prep class - save yourself a ton of hassle.


- Funky water - This means upwellings or boils, whirlpools, eddy lines and other wacky water.  Use a short quick cadence for stability and bent knees for flexibility. Paddling itself is stability or a brace.  Freezing and putting your paddle in the air means you're going in.  Paddling upwind or up current also means a short fast cadence. Current will stall or push you back if your strokes are too long or your recovery is too long or slow.  Think race start speed and cadence in bumps. Worried about whirlpools? Go with the flow and lit it swirl you around.  Boils may push you around, let it do it then regain your course.

- 175 paddlers on the starting line means a lot of whitewater. I've seen paddlers go in here.  Be ready for it.

- SUPs, attach your leash to your waist.  If you go in, your feet and coiled leash won't get caught up in the kelp.

- PFD - personal choice here, but I wear a vest style PFD in the Pass so when I fall I don't go all the way in and have a quicker recovery.

- Wax your SUP rails.  After falling in, you can grab your board easier if being sent away in current or wind.  Also helps prevent slippage when trying to get back on.

Anyone have other tips? Feel free to add them below. Got questions?  Give me a holler. Join me for a DP tidal rapids class for kayak and SUP year around. salmonbaypaddle@gmail.com




Monday, November 24, 2014

Safety Lasso for Inflatable SUPs

Having difficult climbing back on your 6-8" thick inflatable SUP?  We've seen this as a problem, especially for those who have little upper body strength or are under 5'-5", especially on boards 32" or wider.  Thick race boards are also an issue. Even a flip rescue can be difficult as inflatables are slippery and race boards sometimes have carved out decks with rigid raised rails which are uncomfortable to climb over.

Here's two solutions to try:

Stirrup Strap - Use the following North Water U-Link or fashion your own to attach one end to a clip or D-Ring on your board with a carabiner a or similar secure attachable loop.  Let the foot section of the stirrup sink in the water.  Place the paddlers foot in the stirrup while the other paddler holds down the opposite side of the board to keep it from flipping over the paddler. 

Try it out and see if it works. Make sure the carabiner can detach easily if necessary and that you have a place on the board or in a deck bag to store the stirrup when not in use. 

Testing this last week, I found attaching the caribiner to the leash string and climbing on the tail worked best. The narrow shaped tail less volume tail can be pushed in the water as you climb on top more effortly.  

North Water Stirrup

One of my students who is an EMT/Fireman says they always carry a loop strap in their jacket at all times for any variety of improvised rescues.  Order the North Water strirrup Here.


Wax the Rails of the Board - I learned this one from river SUP guys who wax the rails of their epoxy boards to easier grab them after falling off in moving current.  Make sure to use surf, not ski wax (sticky).  I wax the deck area just outside the traction pad along the rails and my nose area too for walking on the board.  

Have a creative Rescue Idea? Let us know, we would be glad to share it!

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Tips for Keeping a Paddling Biz Open in Winter

Most paddling and surfing shops here in the Pacific NW have either shut down for the winter or are on limited hours.  Now that its getting dark at 5pm, it's impossible to hold evening classes. But when there is daylight, many experienced paddlers are still going.  Seeing this a few years ago I realized I may be able to convince my students to continue their paddling 'season' throughout the year.  I have to do a lot of convincing but when they see the light per se, they're hooked on off season paddling.  Obviously if you're in some places in North America or otherwise, frozen lakes and rivers will prevent from any water time!

Here's a few tips to getting folks paddling in winter.  

- Convince folks that paddling from your local waters in winter is as fun as going skiing.  I love skiing but here it's over $100 per trip these days, a 2-4 hour one way drive and just as cold and wet as paddling.  Infact you wear more clothing to ski.  No lines to get to the beach.

- Last year I had a few folks out thanks to a poor ski season.  But since I didn't have super warm booties I lost a few who got cold.  Very important to have toasty wetsuits (or drysuits), booties, gloves and hoods.  A vest style PFD builds core temps. Get suits that are 5/4mm, 5/4/3, 7mm booties, fleece lined gloves and hoods. If you're from Hawaii you'll think we're crazy. I say, if you're not surfing, no matter where you are - you're crazy. Read my article on how to choose a wetsuit.

- Keep a 1-2 gallon container of hot water in your car to pour over you and friends when done.

- Provide foam camping pads to stand on in the parking lot when changing or hanging out.  I cut up old camping pads.

- Scout out a great pub or cafe to visit after your paddle for a beer and/or hot soup, etc.

- Provide indoor pool paddling sessions - yoga, basics, rescue practice.

- Offer winter season sports in addition to paddling - surfing, wind sports and yes, snow ports.

Read my article on 30 Tips for Cold Weather Paddling in SUP Magazine, 2010


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cool Deck Bag for SUPs or Kayaks

Most SUP'ers get into the sport because they want to do things simply. Many paddlers we see have a board, paddle and bikini or swimming trunks, not much else.  But the Pacific Northwest packs a surprise every sunny summer afternoon. At noon or sometime thereafter the high pressure rolls in creating a strong North wind.  In a few hours the fetch has created waves up to waist high. If you fall in, which most do lacking skills, the wind will make you chilly.

Solution? You can put bungies on your board and stuff in a synthetic warm layer or rash guard, or get a deck bag.  Deck bags are commonly seen on kayaks and work great on SUPs. Many are waterproof so your gear will be dry when you put it on.  Or if you get too hot, you have a place to put your gear vs trying it aroung your waist or putting it on your deck and fighting to keep it there.

I particuliarly like the Seattle Sports Parabolic Deck Bag.  Admittantly the fifth plastic clip on the end of the bag was my idea and I was stoked that they added it.  If that end of the bag is facing the nose of the board, when wave wash over the bag doesn't flip up, which can throw your forward.  The bag is waterproof, has daisy chain fabric on top to tie more stuff down and has bungy on top to strap a water bottle (we've done 3 at once) or extra clothing down.  We also use the bag on shore to store snacks and a first aid kit for surfing classes.

Note: When I give reviews it's the real mccoy.  I used to do reviews for magazines but the products were also their advertisers so nothing negative was printed.  

Product Link: Here


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Kayak Retrofit Update

In late summer, I asked my neighbor Todd, a Werner/Jackson pro kayak fisherman and kayak/sup repair guy, to cut the top off my $4k sea kayak.  Focused mainly on sup since 2010, I've been wanting to take the kayak out but haven't kept my eskimo rolling skills up to par.  Generally not an issue but I like rough water, so it's essential to have good self rescue skills. Unlike a SUP, you can't just jump back on a closed deck kayak - or at least I can't having long legs at 6'-5".

Long story, Todd agreed and the cockpit top was removed by the time we got back from dinner.  Todd  then steamed oak ribs and made a skeleton frame to lay inside the hull of the boat as a stiffener.  He then filled the remaining space with blow-in foam, then carved it out to fit the contours of my body for sitting.  Fiberglass and epoxy was added, then leash plus on the sides of the cockpit to attach thigh straps for control and rolling if needed.

I've tested the boat several times and have to say I'm having a blast.  I'm an open deck sort of guy whether on a SUP, wave ski, surf ski or kayak.  Next up is raising the cockpit below my knees to better separate out the water wells of the seat and feet. We carved out too much under my knees so since we won't be adding a scupper to remove water while underway, it's best to leave as little areas as possible for water to collect.  Then Todd will spray gel coat to protect the fiberglass and make it prettier (note gnarly fiberglass look now).

The boat did add weight with the blow foam and fiberglass.  Certainly the smartest way to do this is to create a mould of the seating area leaving the space underneath hollow or fill it with 1lb foam.  Or buy a whole new boat.  I didn't have the funds so this was our answer.  And shipping a performance sit on top sea kayak to the US from the manufacturers in South Africa and Australia would've cost more than retrofit.  Plus I like the Illusion hull.

Need kayak or SUP repairs? Contact Todd at Specialized Kayak, 206.229.3764

Almost done. Gel coat next.



Adding leash plugs for thigh straps

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Paddlers Guide to Storing SUP Gear in your Car

Storing gear in your car can be tricky and lead to not find things easily. A wet wetsuit or adjustable paddle can drip and get  your dry clothes wet after a surf session.  Watch this video get some ideas on how to store gear easier.  The video also shows how to wrangle multiple paddles and store one piece paddles safely in your car

Watch the video.

Gear I use to store gear in my car, plus a few extras:

- Bungy tie-down for multiple paddles - Found at West Marine but I couldn't find the product title on their website. Any bungy with hooks will do.

- Oh shit bar bunny - Any bungy with hooks will work. Velcro strips can be useful too.

- Plastic bucket - I like something durable as I carry a lot of gear in the bucket especially for classes and often take it out and drop it when heavy on the pavement.  I've been through a few.

- Rubber mat to stand on - I use a piece of a closed cell foam camping pad. They can be purchased from outdoor stores or found at Value Village type stores.  Alternatives include standing on a towel, inflatable camping pad and some stand in their bucket while removing their wet clothing.

- Under my floor mat I have extra fins, leashes, fin screws, foil tape, my books, common tools and other items I regularly use when teaching on the road.

- When cold, I'll bring along a 2 gallon container of hot water to wash off after a session. Some wrap their wetsuits around their containers to keep it warm when not in use.

Search this blog for more car tips - Racks, loading gear, lifting boards, etc.



More Useful Rack Links: 




http://stokemagazine.blogspot.com/2014/07/how-to-tie-sup-to-car-with-no-rack.html



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.



Friday, October 24, 2014

Safety Gear Tips for Paddling Trips, Rough Water and Instructors

Whether you're a paddling instructor, solo paddler or like to play in rough water offshore, being prepared means you'll have more fun and be better prepared if something goes wrong to you, a friend or a student.

Here's a few items I carry on me for a variety of paddling conditions both personally and as an instructor.  I vary the list of items depending on the type of water and/or paddling I'm doing. Everything can be stuffed in a small dry bag, can be carried in a waist mounted fanny bag and smaller bunches can be stored in a vest style life jacket.

Watch Video describing all the items and how to pack into dry bags.

Dry Bags..
I use SealLine, Outdoor Research and Seattle Sports bags. Seattle Sports has a few deck bags which are waterproof and can fit easily on my SUPs or kayak decks with proper outfitting.  I tend to double dry bag my items as dry bags can leak and some get condensation. I prefer bags with a daisy chain to attach with straps if securing directly to my board's outfitting.

Bag Contents..

Tool Kit:
- Extra fin screws
- Hex screw driver for thruster fins
- Multi-tool
- Foil tape for ding repairs. Sticks on when wet. Can double as an emergency reflector.
- Bungy and rope - For deck outfitting repair and PFD repair.
- Electrical tape - for PFD repair and other misc repairs.
- Super glue - Great for ding repair and can be used to close wounds (original use).

First Aid:
- Glucose - Energy bars and for diabetic emergencies, tube of cake frosting.
- Personal and student prescriptions. I store my migraine medicine in a waterproof box with silica gels.
- Neosporin for barnacle and coral cuts, open wounds, etc.
- Band aids for land use and duct tape to close wounds while on-water.
- Advil and Aspirin.
- Sunblock and/or zinc face cream.
- Electrolyte for dehydration. (not pictured)
- Chemical heat packets for warmth.
- CPR face shield.
*Students/Friends who are allergic to bee stings should bring their own epi-pen. You can carry their epi-pen to keep dry on-water but can't by law carry extra pens for friends/students on your own.  It's recommended that if an epi-pen is forgotten on shore that the person stays as well.

Safety / Rescue:
- Mylar thermal blanket for hypothermia. Also doubles as a bivy for sleeping bags.
- Rocket flares for signaling in an emergency. Sound extreme? I've used them in a rescues.
- Waterproof light for low light or night paddling. Keep in string if in PFD.
- Neoprene or similar hood to keep students warm.
- Mobile phone in a waterproof case attached to string.
- VHF radio attached to string.  ICOM makes a floating waterproof handheld VHF.
- Whistle (no bead inside).  Attach to PFD.
- Multi-Tool (listed above).
- Tow System for towing people to shore (or to rescue you).  Not pictured. We use NorthWater systems.

For remote areas:
- Spot Beacon or similar devices are a great solution to alerting emergency officials in case of an emergency evacuation.
- Solar re-chargers for communication devices.

Lifejacket (PFD):
Get one with external pockets to store stuff.  I use two from MTI which have adequate pockets but not so bulky they get in my way when paddling or climbing back on my board or boat. One has a quick release system to release a waist mounted leash or tow system in a hurry. Some CO2 life jackets have pockets for storage. A friend slides on a SealLine waterproof bag about 5" long onto his Co2 PFD waist belt to store his GoPro for boogie boarding freighter waves in Seattle.

Search this blog for more info on:
- Communication devices and Float Plan devices.
- Tow Systems.
- Choosing a wetsuit.
- Something you want to know more about? Give me a holler.

Overall bag contents

Seattle Sports bag on 11-6 board

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.








Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Figure out Surfing Forecasts, a Brief Tutorial

I surf on the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a section of water that connects the Pacific Ocean with Puget Sound near Seattle.  It's an indirect link to the ocean, thus requires a funky forecast that skunks even the most experienced surfers.  Once you think you've figured it out, you get skunked or you get the best session of your life but had expected nothing.  Understanding surf forecasts can be very complicated but here's an attempt of explaining it, sorta, in brief..

Basic Terms -
-Period - Space between each wave crest (or wave top)
-Direction - The direction the Swell or wave is going, so West or East. Also listed as a compass direction such as 290 degrees.
-Wave Height - Height of swell (unbroken wave) coming in. 
-Wind Direction - West wind means the direction the wind is coming from (or Westerly).
-Tides - Each surf spot has a specific type of wave in ideal conditions at a certain tide level. Wind direction and speed can alter that effect.  
-Currents - Many surf spots are directly affected by longshore (parallel to beach) or outgoing current. Some places like the Strait list current speeds and direction.  Many miss this detail. 
-Wave sizing: Varies per region, some go by Waist high, overhead, double overhead.  

Beach & Wave Preferences - Some beaches only break at a specific tide, wave size/direction and wind speed. And some have a variety of wave types and each person may be seeking a favorable type of wave produced by specific conditions. For example I like a high tide at a location for a certain type of wave I like but a friend prefers a barrel wave which is produced at the same location at low tides.  

You'll find out what you like by going several times to a specific location.  In time you figure out the personality of that beach, how wind and waves work there and the type of wave that beach produces at varying different conditons.  

Wave Forecast Issues - I mentioned the funky forecasting issues we have here.  Many use online forecasting tools such as Magic Seaweed, NOAA, Surfline or StormSurf.  They're all good but not always 100% correct. Only NOAA lists the Strait specifically. Many think that the forecast on the sites is 100% correct - but it's a forecast which is just a prediction. Friends come home from surf trips pissed that Magic Seaweed skunked them again.  Truth is, you have to use a cross section of each to get an idea whats going to happen, then make the decision if its worth driving 3 hours from Seattle.  My rule of thumb is if it looks 80% good, I'll go and see what I get.  But I'm easy, I can surf any size and be happy. A few friends require only overhead waves to be satisfied.  

Today's forecast of the Strait varies widely per tool.  NOAA says 8' west swell, 5-25kt NE wind rising to 30kt NE winds later in the day, 12 seconds.  Magic Seaweed says 4' west swell, 12-15 NE winds and 12-13 sec period, 3 star.  Hmm... Magic says medium winds, NOAA says gale force winds.  

I know many follow Magic and similar sites because if they have rumored to have a great forecast our beaches get crowded and I see tons of cars with boards on top - and either great or no waves.  

What is Big or Small?  Usually I'll surf a big wave session, come home and post it on Facebook.  There's usually one or two people who feel that my version of big is just a bump, or 'that's not a wave!' Ya whatever.  It IS a wave.  But for some big is Mavericks or Jaws.  Small is 6'.  Make sure you know what work for you and what your friends translate size to before you go.  As a beginner go for 2-4'.  Some say those aren't waves but you'll scare a beginner and they'll never go again if you insist that those are too small.  

Hazards at our Beaches - As fun as surfing is it can be dangerous quick if you're not paying attention.  Biggest hazards we have are offshore wind, which pushes from the beach out to sea and can push unsuspecting surfers out into bigger waves.  Even breaks by little creeks can create enough outgoing current to send you to China. Watch your position - keep yourself in a little box to stay close to the beach. You can be a hazard. If new to surfing, keep a good distance from others until you can control your craft.  SUPs with a leash means a roughly 20' radius around your board when you wipe out.  We don't get much localism but there area few dorks at every beach who occasionally will give your some flack, usually if you're not riding their exact board size. I usually ignore or get some distance from them. Life's too short - I'm surfing today.  

There's many more conditions which I can't fit here, so check out my SUP book for a whole chapter on wind, waves, beach types, surfing terminology, hazards, people issues, gear, etc.  Even if you're a kayaker or traditional surfer the chapter is pretty detailed for all surfers.


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.






Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10 Tips for Better Wind Paddling

10 Tips for Paddling in Wind
With Autumn in full force, we've already experienced strong wind, rain and dropped temperatures.  Many have put up their boards till Spring, while others are stoked to get into the changing conditions. This is prime Downwinding season. Here's 4 tips to help you paddle in wind more efficiently and thus have more fun.

1. Look for the Lee to paddle upwind.  The 'Lee' are sections that are protected from the wind. Behind hills, docks and other obstructions which create areas of calm water. Paddling a curvy path is easier than in a straight line to your destination. Lee are similar to an eddy in a river.

2. Use short quick strokes to paddle upwind taking the blade out at your toes or sooner. Longer strokes mean you'll be pushed back on the recovery.  

3. Bend over at your waist and drop your head to reduce your footprint when paddling upwind.  

4. Wear bright colors so you can be seen and you can see your friends. (see pic).

5. Wear your leash.  Losing a board in wind is very easy.  

6. Feather your blade on the recovery and keep the blade as close to the surface as possible to reduce drag going upwind. 

7. Keep your buddies close.  Wind, current and surfing waves can separate you from your friends very quickly. Last Spring a few guys landed at their cars after a downwind run only to notice they were short one guy. Meanwhile he was swimming 3 miles back to shore in 30kt winds from not wearing a leash. This happened again off Maui with a 2 mile swim by a paddler in September this year.

8. Use wind to your advantage when going downwind. Instead of paddling for power only, use your body and flat part of your blade as a sail. 

9. A Southerly means the wind is coming from the South. Common winds in Seattle are NE, SE and SW. Each section of the Sound has a different wind pattern. If it's SE in Seattle it could be W in Port Angeles. Use a real time wind forecast app like SailFlow or WindAlert. 

10. Take a Downwind and/or rough water class. The more you know the more safer you'll be while having more fun. We offer a Downwind class in Seattle. Also check out Art Aquino in Seattle. If in Oahu check out Blue Planet Surf; on Maui, Paddle with Riggs



Saturday, October 18, 2014

How to deal with a broken roof rack..

Last week was a crazy week. After surf wax melted to my dashboard, a day later while taking the car in for my weekly car wash to clean the salt off, I heard a loud POP sound.  I figured it was the already broken plastic thing on the top of my hatchback (ignore in pic), so I didn't worry.  A few hours later while getting ready for a paddle, I noticed one of my Yakima roof rack towers was broken and the bar was hanging partially over the side of the car. Uh oh. (see picture) 


I pulled the bar back into place then taped it to the roof rail with foil tape which I use for board dings.Rack & Road, a rack shop near me and the guys there worked on finding me a Yakima tower that would match my others. They did find one with a hand tightened screw. I also contacted a favorite paddling shop NW Outdoor Center but they didn't have extra parts.  If Rack & Road hadn't worked out I would have to purchase 4 new towers, approx $168. Certainly worth starting new but during my slow season, I'd rather spend the remainder on something else.

Taking it home, I re-installed the tower but couldn't tighten the screw enough to properly secure the tower to the rack (was wobbly).  Back to the Rack & Road store, they fished out a wrench tightened screw (excuse my lack of tool/parts vocab). After some work, the guy there got it to tighten properly, leaving the tower secure to the roof rail - good to go!

Back at home, I did the shake test where I push up hard on all the bars and push and pull them side to side to make sure the rack is secure.

Rack Pads - I use both store bought pads that slide over the bars and insulation pipe foam. Both work great. Sponsors donated the pads but I'll soon be using only the insulation foam as they stick better to the boards and when surfing at spots where localism is a problem, I don't like showing up looking like an advertisement and getting wax on my car in another location. Hasn't happened to me but friends have experienced it.  :)

Roof Rack Solution if Entire Rack is Broken: Worse case if this happens to you on the road far from a good rack store, you're still in business using a bit of creativity.  Remove the other tower (unbroken one) then store the bar in your car.  Then think like a surfer without a rack - look for a towel, yoga mat thin block of foam and place on the roof in the location of your previous bar (ideally at same level as other bar).

Place your board(s) on top of the material and other bar.  Tie the board to your existing bar as you normally do.  Then place your strap or rope over the board then through your doors and secure both ends in the car so the board is tight above you. If using rope or your strap doesn't have a buckle use a Truckers Hitch to get the most security - unless you're one of those boater or trucker types that knows 5 other better ways to tie things down - but us non industrial minded types stick to granny knots and trucker's hitches. If you have one of those roof rails with holes in it, see my post here on how to tie it down. Test the board after tightening to make sure it's secure. If it's a touch loose on the roof pad end, consider attaching a strap or rope to your bumper. Attach via your leash plug.

Don't Try This at Home...
If that doesn't work try this innovate method of building your own roof rack from the Red Green Show.  Starts at 7:35.

We don't recommend this one





Friday, October 17, 2014

How to not melt your surf wax...

I always lose my board wax. I usually store it in the back of my Subaru or my wet bucket. Providing I remember to bring the right wet bucket (where wet stuff goes).  Last week, I found it and placed in on my dashboard after waxing my boards and paddle shaft.

My class ended four hours later and upon returning to the car I reached in my window to grab the bar.  Or maybe not - it had melted to the dashboard on one of our rare sunny October days.  A week later it's still there.  I could pry it off with a paint scraper but figured I'd leave it there til needed for the next time - better than searching for it in two wet buckets or from the back of the car.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feeling Lost? 4 Apps & Devices to Get Noticed in the Outdoors

A week or so ago a 21 year old hiker got lost while hiking with her two dogs in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle.  She was unprepared for the elements which include two nights in the wilderness.  A friend who works for search and rescue showed me a video of the rescue helicopter and their finding of the lost hiker.  In this case the hiker was found by sight as she lit a small fire and was heard yelling by other hikers.

Several years ago a group of kayakers greeted a solo kayaker rounding the Brooks Peninsula on northwest Vancouver Island, a rugged exposed coastline. The kayaker was never heard or seen of again.

Use Float Plan whenever you paddle solo and go on extended trips offshore or into the back country.  A float plan is simply telling friends where you're going, your route, when you plan on getting back and leaving contact info.

To avoid getting into those predicaments and ending up on the News, consider using some of the following devices and apps to either be in contact with your friends or family if needed or be found easier using satellite tracking devices.

ACA's Paddle Ready app - Track weather and send a float plan to friends of your trip and current status.

The Float Plan app - Just that.. send out alerts to your friends of your whereabouts.

Spot Trackers - These devices send folks to your location via satellite signal. Ideal for an evacuation.

VHF Radio - Old school, VHF's allow a direct line of communication to the Coast Guard and other boaters.  Most also have a button to check real time NOAA and Canadian marine weather channels and can be used as a walki talki with your friends and/or guides. I use the ICOM waterproof and floating handheld radio. Each of my guides carry these during classes and especially open water tours.

The downside to the apps is that you need a strong mobile signal.  All of the above need working batteries in you phone/device. Consider a mobile solar charger to keep batteries fresh. Test and know how to use all before leaving home.

Icom waterproof floating VHF



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.




Paddlers Guide for Tracking Shipping Traffic

About fifteen years ago a friend and I were kayaking near our home on Puget Sound in Seattle and came across a large surfable wave.  We surfed it and then wondered where it came from.  We realized that ocean swell wouldn't get into Puget Sound so where did the wave come from?  A few days later, we were out paddling and noticed a few container ships going by.  Twenty minutes after it passed we a sweet wave set of 4' faces rolled in - and we put it together.  We looked the horizon and saw a black dot and soon the dot came closer, and it was another ship, then another wave.  That was 2004.

For several years after we would look the horizon for boat or use bluff parks or road ends above the beach to spot ships.  I later found webcams in locations north of us to help track ships.  Another piece to the puzzle was figuring out which tides were best for these waves. I can't remember when we noticed it, but one of us came across MarineTraffic.com which solved all our problems of hanging over steep bluffs looking through trees to spot ships coming in.  Marine Traffic is a Greek run app that uses ships AIS systems to track their whereabouts and ID.

The Automatic Idenification System is required be be on all boats above 299 gross and lists the boat's name, dimensions, home port, voyage details, photos and it's route.  It runs in real time, allowing us to track ships from the Pacific into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then into Puget Sound.  Boats appear in several different colors depending on the type of boat it is - ferry, recreational, tanker vs container ship or military.  Many military ships and subs don't appear, so we rely on friends to spot those, as the waves are often good.  You can turn on or off any selection of boats to only see what you're interested in.  So we only like the green boats which are the biggest container ships and ferries which put off nice waves in specific spots in our area.

This app is also great for planning paddling trips where you may need to cross a channel or section of water and don't want to run into a 300' long ship on your route.  A paddler in Sweden asked how we tracked ships. I sent him the link and he realized he had nearly 50 ships passing his home waters daily, thus got a great source of surfing in miles from the Atlantic.

Check it out.. http://www.marinetraffic.com  or on Facebook

Coming to the Pacific Northwest? Give me a holler if you want to join us freighter and tug wave surfing. We even have a class to show you how and where to catch the waves. More Info


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.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

6 Tips to Help You Choose a Wetsuit

6 Tips to Help You Choose a Wetsuit
------------------------------------------------------------

5/4mm means.. 5mm in the chest and legs but 4mm in the arms.  I prefer 5/4/3 as I get more flexibility in my arms with 3mm. Suits these days are very flexible, warm and comfy. You can also add a poly pro layer under or a wetsuit jacket or vest over to boost the heat rating. I don't recommend 6mm as you'll loose a lot of flexibility. Armless Farmer Johns are great for light paddling but not full immersion in winter.

- Back zip or top entry? I prefer a back zip suit as I can get into it and they dry easier. Retailers will insist that zippers leak and that top entry suits are warmer. I've never had a leaky zipper and find it difficult to get in and out of top entry suits.

- Wetsuit vs Dry suit?  It's a personal choice but for me wetsuits are easier to swim in, are cheaper, just as warm and less maintenance. Dry suits require taking care of latex gaskets, the zipper and fabric. If you get a hole in a dry suit, you have a very wet wetsuit. Many wetsuits above the $275 level are actually dry with waterproof seams. Wetsuits range from $150 to the $600 merino wool lined Patagonia. Dry suits start at $600 and go up to $1,500 and don't include insulation. Ocean Rodeo has a good dry suit that looks like a rain coat and pants.

- Tips for buying a wetsuit - Always try before you buy. Neoprene tends to run small. I wear a XL t-shirt but a XXL wetsuit. Last year I found a RipCurl bootie I liked and had to order a size 14 - I usually wear a size 12 shoe. Maybe you found a deal on an online site? Our local retailers like Urban Surf, Perfect Wave and Wave Hounds have similar deals and you can try it out! O'Neill, Xcel, RipCurl, NP, Roxy and Patagonia are trusted brands.

- Cost vs Quality?  A $125 wetsuit will flush and is great for summer paddling but not that warm for winter or if you get cold easy (like me). Suits $175-275 are warmer and a bit less wet.  Suits $350-450 will be dry, won't flush, and much warmer than the others. Higher end suits by Mateuse or Patagonia are very dry and warm but run $500 plus. If you're a crazy 7 day week all year paddler like me, your suit will only stay dry a year. A normal paddler can keep their suit in good condition for many years.

- Should I pee in my suit?  Downside to wetsuits is that you don't get a pee zipper.  I only pee in mine if I know I can flush it out asap. But if traveling having that stink in the car on the way home sucks, so I usually avoid it. Clean the suit in cold water soaking in Dawn or a similar non abrasive cleaner. I use Simple Green for funky smelling garnets. Some like the McNett (https://www.mcnett.com/m-essentials/wetsuit-and-drysuit-shampoo#30120) cleaners but I've found Dawn is easier to find, just as good and cheaper.

Read More.. Search this blog for more articles on paddling clothing.