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.

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.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

2 Rookie Mistakes for Paddle Boarders

When the masses appear on the waterways in summer (or anytime in tropical places), we begin to see a lot of poor paddling form.  Here's 2 most common mistakes:

Backwards Paddle - "They told me to do it this way."  We've heard that one a few times and unfortantly some of lesser quality instructors probably did teach it. I've seen entire classes with a backwards paddle. What confuses people is that most SUP and many outrigger and canoe blades are canted. This is the 10-13 degree angle of the blade to the paddle shaft.

Correction: The Power Face is the smooth curved spoon shaped part of the paddle that you paddle with. In otherwards it faces behind you while at your feet.  We use the power face as it gives you extra reach forward at the catch (nose) when you take a stroke.  At your feet the blade will be vertical in the water thus will allow for a cleaner exit leading to a smoother transition to feathering then the recovery (bringing blade back to the catch).

If the blade is backwards, you get a shorter reach to your stroke, and at your feet the blade will be curved at a backwards angle thus will scoop water up when you exit the blade from the water.  You'll have to cock your wrists back way back to get a feathered blade on the recovery.  For bracing at your side, the powerface will be upside down and won't give you as much surface area to slap the water with.

Super Long Forward Strokes - I saw a guy yesterday putting the blade in at the nose then with the help of really bent knees, pulled the blade all the way to the tail, then bringing the paddle forward in the air at shoulder length plopped it back in at the nose. It looked like a lot work and unfortantly is very common.

The super long stroke people do to the tail means you're working twice as hard. If paddling upwind we use shorter strokes or cadence to prevent the wind from pushing us backwards sometimes taking the blade out at our toes. If you're pulling the blade out at the tail, you have twice the recovery distance to get back to the catch thus in some wind conditions you won't move forward and even may be pushed backwards. Also when the blade goes behind you your body rotates slightly and can lead to the board turning a bit thus making it hard to go straight. If you finish on the left tail, you'll turn the board right. Use a slight bend in your knees not a full bending which also doesn't add any benefit other than looking like you're working out.

Correction: We take the blade out at your feet or slightly behind as the most useful power for the forward stroke is in the forward part of the board.  Placing the blade in at the nose actually slightly lifts the nose up thus lightening the board. By bending at your waist (called hinging) we reach as far forward as possible putting the blade in adjacent to the nose (or catch), then with a lower straight arm we rotate our torso leading the paddle parallel to the board (power phase) back to the feet.  Using the above correct use of the power face, we exit the blade from the water out to the side slightly and rotate the blade forward into a feather to lead it back to the nose/catch (power face up) just above the water surface (a few inches) while reaching forward again to the catch.  Keeping the blade just above the surface means it's going to have less wind resistance, a more efficient recovery and if you need to brace, the blade is flat and close to the water thus ready for a nice slap on the surface to keep your balance.  While paddling keep you hands super loose on the paddle and body over the center line. How to stay straight? I'll cover the next..