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 2, 2015

Understanding Tidal Rapids

I teach and love paddling in the tidal rapids of Deception Pass which is 1.5hrs north of Seattle. Much like a whitewater river, there's eddies, eddylines, holes, standing waves and swift current up to 9 kts.  Unlike a river, these rapids change direction four times a day, saltwater and are located on Puget Sound.

There's never an issue of low water, no current or a specific season in which they run. Unlike rivers there's no hazards such as big holes or strainers and the energy is concentrated in a small area vs the length of an entire river.  There's many tidal rapids on the Sound, some very small which only go a few knots, and others in British Columbia, Canada that run twice as fast as Deception Pass!  Look up Skookumchuck on Sechlet Inlet, Seymore Narrows, Surge Narrows, etc.
Tidal rapids are also a super way to build your overall rough water skills and confidence as well as cross train for other pursuits such as overnight open water trips, surfing, downwinding and racing. We also use tidal currents to give us a free tide to get to our destination quicker. Learning how to use them makes for covering a lot of water in short
time. Not planning for currents can lead to a long day! On December 6th 2015 is the Deception Pass Dash a legendary 6 mile race through the Pass in current which has gone on for nearly a decade and open to all paddle craft.  A super fun race to do or watch!
Tidal Rapids - When tidal current pulls or pushes saltwater over a shallow reef or narrow passageway thus creating river like effects such as waves, whirlpools, boils, eddy lines and swift current.  Search 'Surf Skookumchuck' for a stronger version up in BC.
Current - Horizontal movement of water. We use Current Tables for planning DP trips. Tides - Vertical movement of water.  We use Tide Tables for planning trips in areas of no or little current.  We'll use both in areas of mixed tides/current to determine if there will be a beach to land on and/or which currents use to get to our destination quicker or to avoid. Boaters and paddlers alike often wait for currents to change to make better time.  
Ebb - Outgoing tide - We prefer the ebb in DP for beginning classes. Easier to work with, cleaner lines.Flood - Incoming tide - Stronger than the ebb in DP, more advanced current in specific spots. Slack - 10-15min period between the ebb and flood. Usually no or little current.  
Mixed Diurnal Tides - 2 ebbs and 2 floods during a 24hr period. These are common in Puget
Sound. Diurnal tides with just one ebb and one flood are more common in the Strait of Juan de Fuca or Pacific Coast. Most tidal cycles here are 6 hours long. 
Tidal Exchange - General term for describing a full tidal cycle (approx 6 hours) from low to high tide or reverse. Here in Seattle we get larger daytime tidal exchanges in the Spring
from a -3 tide in the morning to a +13 in the evening. A cycle of this range means there's a lot of water moving in or out thus stronger currents.  

Spring Tides - Large tidal exchanges that occur not because of the season but during New and Full moons.Neap Tides  - Smallest tidal exchanges during quarter moons. Neap is the Saxon word neafte meaning scarcity. 
Eddy - Not Eddy Vedder or Van Halen! A section of water that pushes upstream due to downstream current wrapping around an obstruction like a rock. We use eddies to enter current from and/or rest in. Often bull kelp will be in eddies. Eddylines - The division between moving current and the eddy. It can flip a board or boat if you hit it wrong!Ferrying - Crossing a river without losing ground. Aim your board at approx 45 degrees to the downstream current (facing upstream) and watch your destination, usually another eddy.  Less angle for faster current. 

Reading Current Tables - 015-11-07 Sat 12:42 AM PST -0.0 knots Slack, Ebb Begins2015-11-07 Sat 3:13 AM PST -5.9 knots Max Ebb2015-11-07 Sat 6:39 AM PST 0.1 knots Slack, Flood Begins

What does this mean? At 12:42, slack gives us time to paddle through the Pass with no or
minimal current. A great time to enter and see the Pass look like a smooth(ish) lake. Soon thereafter, the ebb current begins to build but first as a trickle then rapidly growing in 2-3hrs to a Max Ebb, the fastest of the cycle. Then it tapers off and drops in the next 2-3hrs back to minimal current, then slack. Then it switches direction and the Flood begins - builds, maxes, drops, slacks, then ebb...
When I take beginners to current into the Pass, we go ideally at slack before the ebb. Canoe Pass is the most tame section, easily accessible from Bowman Bay. Canoe also has less boating traffic in summer. For the flood we enter at Cornet Bay. It's fun to enter on the tail end of the flood, work it until it dies, slacks then turns into the ebb, so you see a sample of the entire cycle!

Resources -
I use Captain Jacks and online sites such as Mobile Graphics for planning my trips and classes. I'm a visual person and need a simple visual guide to the tides/currents. Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation is the best guide I've found for understanding currents and tides for paddling. Author David Burch is in Seattle and owns Starpath School of Navigation. He has many marine guides on navigation and weather. Another fun one is his Tidal Currents of Puget Sound which shows using arrows how currents move in Puget Sound. Planning a trip? U need these guides! 

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, November 18, 2015

Rescue Using One Paddle Board to Push Another to Shore

When I train my students and instructor candidates on rescues we cover a lot of options, as no rescue is the same.  Conditions vary, as well as gear and those involved or the situation which led to the rescue. It's best to have as many tools in your toolbox to be ready for any situation.

In the video below, I'm working with my PSUPA instructor trainees (from AK) to learn one of the most simplest ways to get another paddle boarder to shore without using a tow system.

In this method use your board to push another to shore. Here's a few tips to make this technique more successful...  Watch the Video Here or below..

- Work on your pivot turn and lifting your board nose out of the water by stepping on the tail of the board.  Doing so will allow you to place you board nose on their tail to better push them.  A common mistake in doing pivot turns is to walk on the board with the paddle blade out of the water. Instead as you walk, keep the blade flat on the surface of the water and knees bent for more stability.  If you get tippy get low - don't stand up with arms above trying to balance. Lower center is gravity is better.

- Try docking different types of boards onto various board tails.  A displacement pointed nose may not connect well to a 6" inflatable board or vice versa. Some boards will lock perfectly the first time, others not.

- Have the rescuee sit, kneel or lie prone (on belly) to keep a low center of gravity while being pushed.

- Try pushing the board from different angles and different parts of the board for varying effects. I've pushed boards at the middle just 5 feet from swift current into an eddy for safety.

- If paddling upwind, the rescuer and rescuee may both want to remain low to reduce wind drag.  Prone paddling certainly works for the rescuer.

- Play around by pushing multiple boards at once, even in a long train.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

8 Paddle Board Tips for Smarter Car Loading

Loading SUPs onto your car can be a difficult and daunting task.  Many struggle with this. A few years ago I came across a person in a local parking lot who was waiting for someone to come along to assist in putting their board on a car. 

A few tips for easier board loading...
Click Here for a video showing one of the easiest ways to load a board. It works for different lengths of boards and folks of different sizes.  Thule and Yakima both have rods that extend out from your rack bars which provide
Inflatable and epoxy boards on my loaner car
another option for this technique. 

- In high winds, ask a buddy to help you load your boards.  I've seen boards fly off cars, something to avoid.  Once you've put a board on the car, strap down at least one side if you're going to walk away or chat with friends.

Fin up or fin down? Surfers may tell you to go fin up over the windshield to avoid losing the board if your straps are loose. But if you check your straps for tightness, then this won't happen. I tighten each strap by falling back or down thus applying as much tightness as possible. If loading multiple boards and each have fins in, then go fins up offsetting the fins behind each or even on separate ends of the car.  If only one board, either fin up or down works fine. For my Subaru Forester, a fin down over the hatchback makes it difficult to access the rear of the car. I remove fins for multiple board stacking.  

- Have extra strap left over after tightening?  I tightly wrap loose ends around the rack towers and/or bars then secure in case a buckle fails. Buckles can fail so think as safe as possible.  Others may throw their strap ends into the car then close the door. 

Twist your rack straps while tightening.  This helps prevent straps from whistling while underway.  Check for
tightness after a few miles on the road as the twists can extend thus loosen up.

- For long distance drives, I like to make my car more efficient by pushing the boards back as far as possible above the windshield which helps with wind resistance.  

- I prefer straps from Thule, Dakine, Seattle Sports and Mile22 which have texture which prevents the buckles from slipping as much.  I don't use ratchet straps as they can get too tight and damage your board.  After I secure the buckle, I do one knot with the strap next to the buckle in case it fails or slips.  

- Watch Robert Stehlik of Blue Planet Surf tie a board to his car in 30 seconds. Note that he does a shake test of the board at the end of the video. Definitely recommended!  

Search this Blog for more tips on loading a SUP or Kayak on a car.  I have several posts on the subject.  
Inflatables deflated and sandwiched between epoxy boards

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 22, 2015

Stop the Stink - Sanitizing your Neoprene

Stop the Stink!  
Now that we're in wetsuit season this also means our equipment maintenance time has increased as well. After a class I have 2-8 pairs of booties to wash and dry as well as wetsuits. As a result I've become pretty good at cleaning gear and turning it around so the same gear is ready for the next class. Here's some easy tips to keep your neoprene gear from stinking up your car and/or home.  

Washing - 
After washing the sand off I place both my booties, gloves and (inside out) wetsuits in a plastic tub of cold water infused with either Dawn or Castile soap. I swish them around in the water then let them sit an hour or so. Some prefer wetsuit shampoos from McNett or similar products which have enzymes to further clean gear. I haven't found those particularly effective but others swear to those products.  

Rinse and Drip Dry the gear to get the soapy residue off in fresh water. Castile soap leaves a saltwater looking stain if you don't rinse it thoroughly. I then let my gear drip dry for about 1-2 hrs prior to adding heat (below). This speeds overall drying time. 

Drying - 
Wetsuits - After drip drying my wetsuits, I hang them on a shower rod in my downstairs bathroom. I then turn on
an oil based floor heater and let them sit overnight. Start drying wetsuits are inside out first, then reverse if you have time. There is a fan powered hanger product you can purchase which blows air into the suit while drying in a closet. These are great for travel. Clothes dryers will break the seams of your suit down thus causing leaks. If your seams are already broken down, then go for it, watching that the heat doesn't get too hot.  

Booties & Gloves - Since I usually need my gear the next day, I use the DryGuy forced air ski boot dryers. You can find these at REI and related stores that sell ski gear. The dryer (see pic) has four tubes which blow hot air into your booties and gloves drying the interiors within an hour. They have a product called the Octopus which has 6 tubes if you have a lot of gear. PEET has good dryers but they're just heat which takes longer to dry, sometimes overnight, whereas my DryGuy does the job in about an hour.  

Alternatively you can stuff newspaper or a rag into your booties to remove moisture. A cheap version of a bootie dryer is a blow dryer but don't leave it in the bootie as you may create another problem.  Some inventive friends are able to build a homemade bootie dyer from PVC tubing and then using a fan or blow dryer. I'd burn my house down if I went that route. :)  Thin 2-3mm booties can be turned inside out. Thicker winter booties 5-7mm require air or heat to be blown inside. 

Drying Gear on the Road - 
Hotels / Cabins - When surfing the coast or travelling elsewhere, I carry a portable electric heater with me to warm up hotel bathrooms. Some hotels have good fans and/or heat lights but many don't. I also carry an extra shower curtain rod as some hotel bathtub bars curve over the floor, thus would make it a wet mess trying to drip dry gear.  I also carry my DryGuy bootie dryer especially in winter. In the car, I carry all my gear in a Rubbermaid plastic tub with a cover to reduce odors. I'll carry the tub into the hotel room to keep dripping down and my gear together.  

Camping - Bring rope or use your tow line to drip dry your wetsuits. Some use clips on the line to hang booties or find a tree branch to hang those from. You can attempt to dry your suit with your campfire but beware of both melting or burning your neoprene as well as receiving a smokey odor. Drying gear in your car means a stinky car afterwards.  The thought of putting a wet wetsuit on sounds super cold, but once it's on and you're moving about you warm up quickly and forget about it.  

Tip: Putting on a wet wetsuit can be difficult as your hands and feet won't slide in easily. Instead put your foot and/or hand/arm into a plastic bag then stuff that into the suit. It'll slide right in!  

Storing Gear - To maintain that lovely clean and dry smell, I'll throw in a few cedar chips or blocks with my booties and gloves (inside booties). Wetsuits are hung by thick hangers in a closet (or for me on a clothing rack) in a well insulated room. Note even dry neoprene can stink up a closet or basement. On occasion air out the room to keep it smelling normal.  

Check out this link from NRS which has good info on gear drying. Click Here

Read More:
3 Bootie Drying Tips
Fixing Wetsuits
13 Things I Learned in my First Year as a SUP Business / Shanon Dell
Tips on Keeping your Wetsuit Free from the Stink

Any questions give me a holler. Feel free to leave comments or other tips / 206.465.7167 Check out our year round SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review - Kodak SP360 Full HD Wi‑Fi 360‑degree Camera

If you're looking for super wide angle views of our paddling, check out the Kodak Pixpro SP360.  I've been testing the camera over the summer and have come up with some fun footage showing 100% of my activity whether surfing, flat water paddling or viewing marine life underwater.

The camera shape is square and small thus easier to work with than most GoPro's.  The lens is a half circle dome which captures everything in it's view so nothing is missed.  Without the waterproof case they have a nice plastic dome cover to protect it.

Working the settings is easy even with a neoprene glove.  I'm not a multi-setting sort of guy but it has all the features of any similar camera, including WiFi and creative things such as split views.

The waterproof case is very durable and survived my normal drops and misuse of camera equipment. Much like GoPro the camera comes with a variety of mounts for all types of rigging from a paddle shaft, suction cup mount, helmet to a tripod mount. The camera fit easily in my PFD where I attached it to string to prevent it from falling out. I often prefer holding action cams for more custom results or to put underwater.

Click Here for Product Link 

Order on Amazon

Here's a few video clips from the camera...

                                            Underwater views of jelly fish in Puget Sound

                                              SUP paddling in Seattle's Chittenden Locks

                                                    Tug Wake Surfing on Puget Sound

                                                  SUP Tour in Seattle's Chittenden Locks

Monday, September 14, 2015

SUP Day Trip Tips

Last Saturday one of my instructors and I decided to paddle across Puget Sound, a distance of 4.5 miles from Seattle neighborhood of Ballard to Fay Bainbridge State Park on Bainbridge Island.

Daily I inform my students about paddling distances and what to do per their various levels. I point to Bainbridge Island pointing out it's distance, the skills required to make the crossing as well as the appropiate type of board to do so in a reasonable period to time. 14' to unlimited race board will take you about 1 to 1.5 hours whereas a surf style all arounder will take awhile longer.  Usually I joke, "Bring some ferry money just in case."

While 4.5 miles seems a short distance for many experienced paddlers the width of Puget Sound does include light current, wind can whip up quickly from 0 to 30 kts in 15 minutes, and there's considerable shipping traffic to avoid.  Some crossings feel like a cinch, while others can take considerably longer depending on the conditions.

During our weekend crossing I realized half way across that I left one of my power bars on the roof of my car and had forgot to bring my wallet in case I wanted to purchase more fuel near our destination. This was a last minute trip, with Joe and I deciding to do it only 2 hours prior, so the rush to get ready left us somewhat unprepared.  It ended without incident but we did both bonk (run out of energy) 1-2 miles from Seattle on our return trip. We paddled in at a snail's pace. During this period I realized I should pass on our mistakes for the day to my readers!

Here's a few tips on planning for successful day trip...

- Determine Your Route. Here on Puget Sound our crossings are short and we can see the other side SeaTrails which help me plan my route. Chart reading skills are necessary in using these and other charts by NOAA, an important skill.  Ask local paddlers about routes as well to get personal info to save you time. is a nautical publishing company that has many books and other info on gaining these skills as well as online classes.
View of Seattle from Bainbridge Island
without much effort. I use a series of waterproofed charts made for kayakers (paddlers) called

- Text or call a buddy or family with your trip plans, depart/arrival times, and contact info. This is called a Float Plan.  There are a few apps where you friends can track your movements via phone as well such as Boat Beacon and even Google Maps.  Make sure you have a full phone charge.

- Check weather and Tides via local weather sites and those with real time stats such as NOAA, National Weather Service, etc.  If in coastal waters check for swell and wind direction/size with NOAA again and surf sites such as MagicSeaweed, StormSurf, Surfline, etc.  We have a local version I use often.

- Skill Level - Once at the beach determine if the conditions are safe for your trip and skill level.  It's ok to cancel even if you've been planning this trip for weeks or just drove 4 hrs in traffic to get there.  Live to paddle another day.

- Always travel in groups - or not? If the group members are not skilled enough for the conditions and/or can't pay attention in rough water to you, then you may question if they're ready for the trip and/if you need to find more experienced friends to paddle with on that type of trip.

- Type of board. This is determined by your distance and how fast you want to get there.  A 11' surf style board will take a few hours to do  the 4.5hr crossing on way.  But a 14' or longer race board can cover that distance in a fraction of that time (with a good stroke). Both work.  Just a matter of your pace, time available, etc. I prefer my 17' and 18' boards for most efficiency long paddles.

- Check for Marine Traffic - Doing an open water crossing in a busy shipping area? We saw 4 cruise ships before we crossed back to Seattle. We had to determine whether to cross before the last one came our way. We decided to take a rest (as a sailboat did as well next to us).  Use and similar apps to get real time data on shipping traffic. You can also contact the Coast Guard to tell them your position and plan. They will broadcast your position to shipping traffic to watch for you.

- Skills. To paddle distances efficiently and injury free (no shoulder pain) learn how to get a great forward stroke using your torso/core for strength.  Straight ish arms, reaching from your waist, paddling straight with a vertical shaft, exiting at your feet and feathering the paddle will get you there a lot sooner with a lot less effort.  Take a class and researching distance paddler techniques, will help.

Additional skills to consider depending on your route and location preferred - learn to get comfortable in rough water up to waist high waves, self rescue (getting back on in bumps) and helping others get back on (flip rescue, etc), towing using a tow system (not your leash).

- Physical Condition. Our paddle on Saturday ended up being 15 miles which included a round trip crossing of Puget Sound in open water. At one point we had to book it across the shipping lanes to avoid an incoming cruise ship.  Aside from being low on fuel we had the stamina, cardio and overall endurance to make the trip without a problem. My paddling buddy like myself regularly races, surfs and downwinds in up to 30kts of wind.  We could tow each other if needed.  We also knew when to turn around. We wanted to explore more but knew where our stopping point was to get back safely.

- Fuel. Race paddling and long distance touring are similar in regards to looking at nutrition, hydration and preparation for a trip even days before. A 3 mile versus a 32 mile paddle will have different requirements for preparation. Check out Suzie Cooney's new online book "How to Increase Your Stand Up Paddling Performance" on Amazon for tips on this. She has done several channel crossings and interviewed others on that topic.  A friend loves her Coopers V02 Max Test to determine his personal health plan for preparing for long paddles and races.

During our paddle, I left with 2 bars and several liters of water. We refilled our water bottles at a state park. I was using NUUN hydration but don't have a plan down with that product. Most racers I know test their hydration and get it down to a personal recipe that works for their body type.  Looking back, I needed approx 3-4 Cliff bars (or similar) and extra items such as the trail mix I left on my desk at home.  I'd rather have too much then run out.  And bringing my wallet meant I could purchase additional food if available.

- Storing Gear. Coming from sea kayaking I'm use to carrying gear. Most SUP'ers are minimalists and refuse to carry any gear even if their life depends on it.  I have NSI plugs on my 18' boards which have spectral loops to attach my kayaking style deck bags. For our trip on Saturday, I have one Seattle Sports parabolic deck bag which carried my essential items and water bottles on top under bungies.  Some boards have leash plugs on the deck to attach gear to.  You can add leash plugs on a fiberglass board if you or a friend has the skills to do it properly.  I don't trust suction cups.

Basic Stuff to Bring:

First Aid kit.  I this I have my migraine medicine which goes everywhere with me. Also electrolytes (NUUN tablets), band aids, Advil, aspirin, Tylenol (in mini travel tubes), cake icing in case my buddy is diabetic, Benadryl in case my buddy has bee issues, and Nauzene for seasickness. Chemical heat packets, sunblock. This is a super basic kit - add more or less per your situation and people you're traveling with. Eli-Pen, an inhaler or other prescriptions would also go in this kit. The kit is in a dry bag that is placed in the dry deck bag.

Repair Kit. Foil tape for dings (cut into strips); elect tape roll, carabiner, para cord (for leash string, pfd and other repairs); extra fin screws, bungie, multi tool, super glue (or Solarez & 5 min epoxy).

Safety Stuff.  Rocket flares, reflective mirror, whistle (on body), VHF radio (I use the floating and waterproof Icom products); paddlers laser (option for night paddling); waterproof flashlights to attach to PFD, etc.

More Safety Stuff - PFD & Leash - Since a recent high profile death of a pro paddler the industry and public are finally on high alert about safety.  We always had our leash and vest PFD on, now it's the thing to wear.  But interestingly, the less is more SUP crowd is still trying to weigh between a leash or a PFD. For us it's a no brainer, we always (Wear) both.  Choosing to do none or one or the other in open water has a bit of Darwism going on - your choice! PFD on board but no leash means you loose you PFD when you lose your board.  Again I choose to gear myself up so I can paddle another day.

Stay tuned for future posts! Give me a holler for any questions! 

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, September 9, 2015

Why I'm Not Racing in the Round the Rock 915

Since about 2009 ish a few SUP colleagues here in the Seattle area have run a well attended 13 mile SUP race around Mercer Island on Lake Washington.  Even in the sport's infancy nearly 100 showed up to race. In later years that number doubled and even rose beyond.  The last one I attended, to take pics for the mags, the starting line of the 13 mile race was in the 175 range. An impressive sight.  In recent years significant cash prizes have brought in the pros from California and Canada.  Vendors line the grounds for visitors to demo boards, talk shop, etc.

With this year's race in a few days, in certain circles of SUP paddlers there's a lot of chatter about what folks are doing for training.  Several have done the course 1-3x this week.  An out of towner is requesting a boat to circumnavigate the island to determine strategy. When it come around to me, many are surprised I'm not racing.  I do put on a weekly summer race, so I do race, but not this one.

Ultimately it comes down to two factors for why I'm not racing this weekend.. One, I've been teaching SUP daily, 5-7 days as week since June. We had a fabulous summer with temps in the 80's nearly every day so business has been great.  But the result of such success is I'm burned out.  Not from SUP, but I'm exhausted physically.  I was glad when we had a full week of wind and rain last week as I got no calls and a few cancellations.  I spent the week sleeping, taking it easy and getting caught up on business.

I'm also nursing a few minor injuries - a re-occuring shoulder injury which is probably from over use.    Aside from rubber band exercises, I find rest works well in reducing pain, even removing the problem on occasion.  When I race, despite an efficient low stress stroke, my shoulder gets sore.  I've been lucky thus far to not have shoulder surgery as many of my colleages have done by my age. I know when to rest, many don't.

Adding to my shoulder, I have a mysterious lower calf and archilles tendon ache that comes and goes. I've been nursing it the past 2 weeks with ice, rest, hottub, light yoga and Advil.  When it re-occurs, i get a sharp pain in my mid calf, then it finishes its cycle in my ankle, where it currently is.

Lastly, I'm more of a surfer personality.  I surf every ripple, wave, bump and boat wake I see.  Knowing there's one of our last summer/fall daytime low tides this weekend, which with good timing ends up in a surfable freighter wave - my eyes are on that ride, not on huffing and puffing in the forecasted 80F temps. I don't have the personality for long distance racing (but prefer a touring pace) and prefer my prize or goal to come a bit sooner.

It's easy to get sucked in to the hype and peer pressure of participating in our region's biggest race.  When I came back from a group paddle with a bunch of friends doing the RTR last week, my partner Christy nearly fell out of her chair when I said I was going to do the race.  I had spent years telling her why I'm not fit for the race and/or why it's not my cup of tea per se, suddenly I'm doing it?  Sleeping on it, I realized she was right, I know where my priorities are and I'm sticking to them. Talking to other paddling friends, I realized there are as many paddlers not doing the race there are those attending. Alternatively, one of my instructors and I paddled 15 miles that day at touring leisurly pace across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island and back. I was in search of a petroglyph on a shoreline rock. That's more my style!

Staying healthy is a priority, so I can paddle another day.

Check out the Round the Rock! 

If you do go...
- You can demo boards and gear from the vendors. Great opportunity to try new stuff!
- The 13m start is pretty awesome. Definitely worth checking that out.
- Fun to see all the pro racers, though they make me feel I need to work out more.
- Great time to talk shop and check out all the participants gear.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

13 Downwinding Tips for Safer (More Fun) Runs

Downwinding is hot in the SUP world. Anyone who has access to water and wind can catch waves whether in Ohio, Oklahoma or Oregon.  But a lot of folks see SUP as easy thus don't take the time to take a class or train with an expert. Downwinding can very easily be dangerous if certain cautions aren't taken.

Recently a respected respected pro paddler went missing on the Friday before the Gorge Paddle Challenge in big downwind conditions in Hood River. Friends were out during his run and reported back of huge waves and very strong wind conditions. The paddler did not wear a PFD or leash.

Here's a few tips on making you more safe on the water - so you have more fun.

Wear a Leash - Ya it's not required, but will save your life if you fall and lose your board in strong winds far offshore.  No matter how good you think you are, you will fall and it won't be by your board every time. Most downwinding deaths and rescues have involved not having a leash.  Two reports 2 and 3 years ago, one in Cali and the other off Maui were of DW paddlers 2-3 miles off shore with no or broken leashes and long swims in big water back to shore.

Use parachute cord or a similar strong string to secure your leash to you board. Some double leash or use two cords to attach a single leash. Consider attaching your leash to your waist strap on your PFD to keep you feet free and for a leash free fall.  Test your leash with a strong jerking motion before getting on the water. Paddlers I talk to use both straight or coiled leashes.

Wear a Lifejacket (PFD) - Similar to a leash, not having a C02 or vest style PFD on DW runs can 

make the difference between not making it to shore or coming home.  Your choice.  Sh..happens especially in 30kts of wind with swell.  If your leash does break (and it can) then the PFD allows you more options to get to shore.

Have you actually pulled the string on your C02 leash? If not do it!  Get in deep water, even holding your gear if you're not a leash type, then pull it and learn how to put it on. It's not as easy as you think.  Once paddler I spoke to this week was surprised his head was too big to fit in the yoke of the PFD once inflated.  Another said the strap attaching the PFD to the belt was too short for his torso.

Float Plan - Tell a friend of you DW plans, route, and time you plan on getting back. Check our the various float plan apps online which friends can use to track your progress.

Communication - Bring a fully charged water proofed cell phone and/or VHF radio.  Attach both so they won't go in the drink. Avoid wearing a soft wp bag around your neck.

Wear Bright Colors - Be seen and keep track of your fellow paddlers by wearing super bright colors such as fluro green, red or yellow.  Same goes with hats. Look for the paddler above in the pic. He's in 46 kts of wind on Puget Sound, November 2013. Paddler is Art Aquino.

Keep Track of Your Buddies - In all three DW incidents mentioned above, each of their friends only noticed the victim missing when they arrived at their destination.  Pay attention and in groups designate a member of your group to run sweep (back) and point (front) and slow down for slower or less experienced paddlers.  Don't get too greedy or compulsive about those epic rides!

Clothing - Bring extra clothing or prepare outfitting on your board to store gear. NSI and SurfCo have plugs which can be attached to add cargo netting on a kayak deck bag.  Cold waiting for that shuttle? Put a hat and coat on!

Have a Dedicated Shuttle Driver - One of my instructors has a driver who he's in contact with by 

phone. If he misses his destination or the wind reverses, the driver can adjust to next spot.

Get in Shape - Downwinding can be very physical.  If the wind reverses or dies can you paddle 8 miles back? Can you handle side and head winds for 5 miles or more?

Hydration / Fuel - Be prepared with proper hydration and fuel to keep strong.  Bring extras just in case you or a buddy bonks.  Food can also keep you warm in frigid temps.

Check Your Friend's Gear - Everyone gets stoked to hit the water. Check your buddy's gear to make sure his/her leash is attached, PFD on, and everything looks good. Gear failure is a bummer.

Skill Level of your Buddies - Don't go into 30kts winds with a novice. You'll end up wrangling that person the entire trip. Only go into high winds with strong experienced paddlers.  Can or will they rescue you?

Know the Currents / Waves - In May on Oahu I downwinded with a few students during our surf camp. We were in 20kts of Westerly wind with 6' swell crossing at an angle.  Messy situation which led to more survival paddling than easy fun wind waves.  Is you run a direct line with all the 

elements? Will the current pull you offshore? Do your research!

Downwinding with a Kayak or Ski?  Use a leash attached to your leg or PFD and boat.

Any questions? Additional Tips? Give me a shout.

Coming to Seattle? Our DW course is taught by two experts in the DW field both with extensive Hood River and Maui experience. More Info

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How to Set Up a Tow Line / SUP Connect

Here's a great article showing several different methods of setting up tow lines to rescue / assist fellow SUP paddlers.  The article is on SUPConnect, a great resource for a variety of paddling info.

Read Article written by Chris Rea

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Fitting Sea Kayaks & SUPs on Your Rack

In my business I teach both sea kayaking and SUP.  I'm a mobile business so I meet clients at the beach and have to sometimes carry both at the same time.  I  recently came up with a rack idea to work with both craft.

In the pics below I'm using foam pipe insulation over my Thule square rack bars. Cut into sections, each section is secured to the bar with bungees.  In the middle section, I left a one foot wide foam tube section to be removed using velcro strips.  In the last two photos, you can see where I removed the section so I can add a Yakima or Thule kayak stacker.  Using the stacker, I can attach 2-4 sea kayaks on their sides and several SUPs stacked on their deck or hulls on the other side.

Before each trip, I do a shake test with the rack bar before adding gear to make sure it's 100% secure. On large loads I'll throw two straps over the entire load and run them through the doors as a backup.

Note: Yakima kayak stackers do work on Thule bars if the plastic tabs are removed on the square tie-down sections. I add additional pipe insulation on the kayak stacker pipe for extra protection.

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.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fin Details to Look for in Purchasing an Inflatable SUP

Many of my students are liking our inflatable SUPS thus are now purchasing their own.  A few have bought products we don't have and found out after the purchase that they are limited one type of fin or are lacking something else.

Here's a few things to look in regards to fins for in buying an Inflatable SUP

Many inflatables don't allow you to use fins from other companies as their fins are molded on the board or have specific removable fins (black plastic with removable tab to lock in fin). One of my students purchased a Red Company board that allowed him to replace the fin but the fin box is so short that he's limited to a specific type or length of fin.

Personally, I prefer to remove my fin for easier storing and like to be able to choose the type of fin I want for various types of paddling.

Removable Fin Issues:
Some long board fin boxes are too loose to tight for removable fins. I've experienced both.  In once case the fin box is too wide thus won't take any quick release attachments, only the fin screw and plate.  In another the box is too narrow thus won't take a standard fin as well. Sometimes you can deflate the board a bit, put the fin in, then inflate to full PSI again.

Some fin box types: 

This your standard fin box with a removable fin.

Plastic fin with tab to hold it in place

Fin molded into the board (or glued)

Funky fin attachment

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Using Dish Soap to Find Leaks in Inflatable SUPs

I visited my friend Jim Ramey, a local outdoor product rep to get a tutorial on finding leaks in inflatable SUPs.  Students regularly ask me how to do this, so Jim set up a demo.

Basics of finding leaks:
- Start with tightening the valve using your valve wrench. If it still leaks continue with the following.

- Prepare a bucket of soapy water (soapier the better).

- Find a sponge

- Place your SUP on saw horses or similar.

- Using the sponge, squeeze soapy water over all the seams of your SUP and the valve.  Find the best light in order to see any bubbles that may come out of the SUP indicating a leak.

- If the seams don't present a leak, pour soapy water over the entire surface of the SUP.

- When completed, spray off the board with water to prevent any slippy surfaces especially on the deck.

- How to Patch a leaky inflatable SUP by NRS Here.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Read My Article about SUPs for Boats in PNW Boating

Here's an article I wrote about using SUPs on your boat for the June issue of Waggoner's Pacifc Northwest Boating Magazine

- Choosing a board
- About board construction
- Board storage on your boat
- Clothing and safety gear for paddle boarding
- Benefits of taking a lesson.

Click Here to Read More on Page 66:

June 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Air Compressors for Inflatable SUPs

With the growth of inflatable SUPs also comes the issue of having to blow them up quickly vs an exhausting self air pump session (or good pre-paddle warm-up).  In business, I have to blow up a bunch of these before a gig this don't have time to do it manually.

In researching air compressors, many have told me their SUP air compressors burn out over time.  I did a quick survey on Stand Up Zone and found some info that may be helpful to you from those that have done the testing.  I picked up a Pittsburg Automotive 12v 100 PSI compressor which so far is working but is quite slow, about 15 min to blow up  14' iSUP.

Other tips for compressors - please leave in the comment section below!  Thanks in advance.  

test board : airSUP 12'6 x 30" x 6"

Coleman Sevylor single stage pump : 
14psi : 8:20
15psi : 9:22
$50~60 online / amazon

Holee double stage pump :
14psi : 7:45
15psi : 8:25
(max is 20psi, takes another few minutes)
$120-140~ on amazon?
(re-branded by many)

Bravo BP-12 single stage pump : 
says 14.5psi (actually about 13.5psi?) : 5:20
$100 - 200~ on amazon etc ?
(re-branded by many)

the Bravo seems loudest, followed by the Holee and the Sevylor seems less noisy
however using a dB meter on my phone , it reported they all average about 89dB

I've only used the Sevylor a few times, no problems so far.
Bravo had no problems since the end of 2014 batch seemed to clear most problems they had in earlier times.
Holee I've been using for about 6 months, my go-to pump until now, the 20psi is nice if you need it.
Waiting for Bravo to put out the 22psi version of the BP-12, hope it's not over stressed!

Brett Bennett
Owner : airSUP inflatable SUPs

Read the whole thread on Stand Up Zone

Brett Benett's photo of the above testing session:

Note: I've been using the Bravo Pump for 2.5 years regularly with no issues!
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.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

How to Install the Leash Plug String for SUPs and Surfboards

While at my local SUP shop a few weeks ago, a guy came in looking for a leash string.  He didn't know that it's not really a product but rather any strong string you can find to install in around your leash plug, in the video below I'm using parachute cord.  I go to a marine supply store to get extra strong strings but I've seen friends use shoe laces and plastic zip ties. One student even used in a remote area, a Bald Eagle feather (the long hard part) which lasted for a month.  Bungy can be used if there's nothing else available.

Tip: Carry extra sting on you as it can wear down in saltwater and from use. Also a good idea to give extra string to your buddy (or studets) who forgot his/hers.

2 Techniques:

- Find strong string that will tuck under the leash plug pin.
- Cut to desirable length to be able to tie properly.  Overall length once tied should be 3-4".
- Tuck one end of the string under the leash plug pin (metal or plastic pin) and pull out the other side.
- Match the two string ends to each other and tie an over head loop knot (see both videos). Tighten.

Tie the knot before you stick the string in the leash plug.  Push the non knot end under the leash plug pin the send through itself to tighten.  See this video for a better description.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

8 Tips for Running a Successful Surf Camp

I've always wanted to host a surf camp. After some time of researching locations we decided on Oahu for the ease of travel, popularity being a destination and gurantee of surf somewhere on the island at anytime.  Writing this, we're midway through our first camp week and am sharing some tips on running a successful camp. So far it has been successful and we'll run another Oahu SUP camp in the fall.

Pick a location you're familiar with. 
While Mexico sounded great, I've never been there and didn't have the bandwith to travel there to check it out prior to running our camp.  We picked Oahu because we've been there several times, know the breaks, culture, language and it's an easy flight from Seattle where most of our customers came from. If you're not familiar with a location - travel there prior to scope out lodging, local contacts, board vendors and any permits or fees you need to pay to run our camp.

Find a reliable local surf shop that has a good reputation. 
We also chose Oahu as we already had a good relationship with Blue Planet Surf, a Honolulu based surf/SUP shop. The owner is one of our certified PSUPA instructors so we trust him, know he's safe and responsible and runs a professional business.  Plus provided us with gear and his own local certified instructors who know the surf culture, permits, rules, breaks, etc.  Why certified? That's one more level of responsibility and safety from instructors when working in a foreign or unfamiliar location.

Have Your Own Reliable Transportation
Make sure you have your own transportation if the local shop doesn't provide it to run students to the beach, carry boards and gear and run additonal trips to town for food and supplies.

Have Several Instructors
Our camp included three local SUP instructors who each had their own way of doing things thus provided us with a well rounded experience.  Students will identify with each instructor differently as well.

Mix up your days
Sure, I wouldn't mind surfing all day for 7 days straight but most don't have the stamina or drive and would prefer to mix of their days with other activities.  Whether is be yoga, beach walks, private time, island exploration or flat water paddling or kayaking, mixing up your agenda will make those surf sessions even better.  We offered an off day for folks to go their own way or in my case, stay local and get caught up on work, check out the neighborhood etc.

The above point leads to.. How much do you want to socialize with customers?
In remote areas you'll be with your customers most of the time.  In some camps with famous surfers people sign up to hang with famous paddlers so the hosts most likely are there for social time after paddling/surfing.  I inquired to a colleague who hosts surf camps about how he spends his camp time with participants. He said he felt responsible to be present for those that wanted to connect with him and pointed out that the independent folks will take off on their own from time to time.  In contrast to the military where officers and enlisted soldiers stay and socialize in separate quarters, you have to make the call what works best for your situation, personality and location.

Hold Briefs of Daily Sessions
At the end of each session or full day, gather your students for some time to talk about what they learned for the day.  They are there to learn so maximize their time in doing so.  Half way through our week I realized we were surfing and downwinding but not talking about tides, currents, forecasts etc. Evening is a good time to go over land based learning.  But don't over due it by providing so much info that students are always tired and/or may get burned out from info overload. They are on vacation and need need their own time as well.

Course Evaluations
Be willing to ask participants how their week is going, is it going the way they had hoped and what could improve or change.  At the end of the course send out a document again stating the above questions as well as - how was the signup process? did you like the food? was the camp well planned? etc...  The more info you get from them the more successful you'll future camps will be.