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

- 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.

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

- 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

- 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

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 .

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.

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.

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.

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..

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: / 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.