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 28, 2016

How to Not Paddle into Pilings, Rocks or other Paddlers

In 1985, a driver's ED teacher told me, "If you look out the window at a dog, you'll drive off the road!" She was right. Same goes with paddling. If you don't want hit that piling, wall or buddy, look where you want to go and your body will compensate.

For those that have taken our Tidal Rapids class or do river paddling, you should have learned to ferry across current. This means angling your board at approx a 45 degree angle up current, then watching your destination. If you look away from your destination (up or down stream) the current will push you away from your destination.

Paddler ferrying tidal rapids at Deception Pass near Seattle
In teaching, we've noticed couples run into each other on their first day - because they're watching each other.

And don't look at what you fear. Years ago, a whitewater kayaking buddy saw a big rock he didn't want to hit - but he locked his gaze on it, and run into it thus capsizing his boat. I've seen many nervous beginning students do the same. They'll lock their gaze on an obstruction vs looking where they want to go. We teach to look and turn away from the obstruction or worse case, stop asap (back paddling).

When performing turns such as the Cross Bow, look in the direction your paddle is going when crossing over our nose/bow. Many look straight during the turn thus limiting their flexibility and result of the turn.

In learning to surf a SUP, we may contradict the above by looking at the wave behind you as you paddle forward. This allows you to determine when to pick up speed, where to be on the wave and look for other surfers - while paddling towards the beach (using a vertical shaft). That conversation is for another future lesson.

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, December 14, 2016

How to Dress for Winter Paddling

Below are tips for what to wear when paddling in cold region areas in winter. I'm in the Pacific NW, its currently 29F out. Send in tips for what you wear for this or colder temps!

- Wetsuit - Modern wetsuits not bought from your local general sports store are actually quite dry and have less issues than more expensive drysuits. I prefer a RipCurl 5.5/4mm suit which has a fleecy interior. It looks thick but is quite flexible and comfortable. Mine is top loading which isn't fun to get into, so I wear a rash guard under for additional warmth and to help get out. Most 5/4's come with hoods. Slightly less thick would be a non fleece lined 5/4mm or an upper end 4/3. These should be seam sealed either with a hood or not, and back zip or top loading. If you have shoulder issues get a back zip. I find them as warm and dry as the top loaders. If yours doesn't have a hood buy one separately (or scull cap) or get a hooded vest to wear over or under. Try before you buy. You'll lose your no tax benefit online ordering from Oregon or elsewhere if your neck is too tight or your arms are too short.

What does 4/3 mean? 4mm thickness in legs and chest, 3mm in arms. 

- Drysuits - Drysuits are good option for cold temps as well. Personally, I prefer wetsuits as they're easier to swim in, aren't toast if you get a hole and have less maintenance (no latex gaskets). Some drysuits have neoprene gaskets making it less work to keep in shape. Kayakers tend to prefer drysuits. I did have two Kokatat Meridians in my kayaking days here in the PNW and I find I stay warmer in a good wetsuit. But I know others prefer drysuit, it's a personal thing. Drysuits do come with pee zippers (often women now wear men's versions to assist with this).  Good brands are Ocean Rodeo, Stohquist, Kokatat, NRS.  

-Making your Wetsuit Warmer - Have a 3/2 or cooler 4/3? Wear a thin polypro or SmartWool top under your suit, add a hooded vest under your suit as well (either or both). Over your suit, wear a nylon or Gortex shell or paddling jacket to cut the wind chill. Add a hood/scull cap (below). On cold days I may put a scull cap over my hooded vest hood. :)  NRS has a few nice zip up and pull-over neoprene jackets. Got a Farmer John? Get a full suit for winter. If you run hot, that's great but if you fall in you'll take longer to warm up, if at all and I don't like worrying about whether I'll fall or not.

-Booties - 7mm surfing booties are popular, but I found mine only lasted one season after the pull tab ripped out. I now use the NRS Desperado Wet Shoe (and Freestyle shoe). Both are fleece lined, waterproof and quite warm but not as thick and hard to get on as the 7mm versions. Zipper booties tend to leak but are fine in warmer seasons. I haven't found a sock-bootie combo yet that keeps me warm. On a few super cold days, I've been wearing a SmartWool sock under my bootie. Make sure to place your wetsuit legs over your bootie to reduce water seepage. The Desperado bootie has a nice thick sole with a good tread. Many surf style booties have a thin sole to 'feel the board' and every rock on the path.

-Gloves - I use Glacier Gloves which are fleece lined. The Maverick glove by NRS is good but not as warm.

-PFD/Lifejacket - Vest style will keep you warmer and overall is more safe than a c02 version which will inflated slower in cold temps. Get one with good visibility, a pocket or two and again, try it on first. Great brands are MTI, Kokatat, NRS, Stolquist, and Astral.

-Scull Caps / Hoods - I carry an extra in my PFD even with my hooded suit. I prefer one with a chin strap so it stays on when I surf or fall off the board.  Kokatat has a toasty fleece lined cap. ProMotion ( has a few nice options. Some sell a full neck/head thing but we've found those make turning your head difficult.

Read my 30 Tips for Staying Warm in Winter on SUP Magazine / Contact me for any questions or to demo rentals.

How to Choose a Wetsuit - (Stoke Mag post) - Click Here

PSUPA members get a discount at ProMotion, MTI, Astral) 

Spokane River surf wave day with the Cindric family, winter 2015. 

Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

SUP Backup Gear for your Car

I run a mobile SUP business, which means I need to bring all my gear with me to the beach. Forgetting gear is a bummer, so I have a checklist for every class to make sure students get the right sized wetsuit, booties, paddles and boards for their height and weight or skill level.

Being human, I still forget items on occasion. My students may also forget gear, so I stock my car with the most commonly forgotten items.  Here they are...

-Leash string (parachute cord)
-Knife or multi-tool (for cutting leash string, fin screws, etc)
-Extra fin screws (I keep all Philip heads)
-Philips head screwdrivers and an Allen wrench set for fin screws. I carry extras so students can help.
-Cliff bars (peanut butter)
-Waterproof Pelican light for night paddling.  (clips to PFD)
-Surf wax (also used on paddle shaft on occasion and board rails)
-Warm hats - Nice for cooler days before or after classes, or while changing clothes in parking lot.
-Neoprene gloves in 2 sizes, (M and L). Most common sizes, plus I can use the L.
-Handheld VHF radio - Waterproof floating Standard Horizon on string.
-First Aid marine mini guidebook, via Mountaineers Books
-Foil tape - for ding repairs. Sticks on when wet. Can also be used as a reflector.
-First aid stuff - band aids, pain relievers, my migraine meds, sam splint, etc.
-Binoculars - used for surf search or freighter wave spotting
-Paddling Washington - All rivers and lakes in WA State, via Mountaineers Books
-WA State fishing regs
-Chemical heat packets
-Click-in fin that can also be screwed in (not all fins fit in all fin boxes)
-Leash (most forgotten item)
-Neoprene clothing - paddling pants, top, extra rash guard, scull cap, hooded vest.
-Rain shell or puffy down coat to put on after classes or while changing in winter.
-Old camping pad piece to stand on when changing in parking lots.  Nice insulation underfoot.
-My books - SUP book and Kayaking Puget Sound to promote to students on on the road. Even I use my Puget Sound guidebook for reference!

For tours, classes and casual paddles, I carry an extra adjustable paddle and vest lifejacket. Both regularly forgotten by students.

Sounds like a lot?  All of the items are in the pic below and are placed under my Subaru Outback rear compartment. The clothing goes in a small plastic bin in the trunk area.

Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Downwind Surfing Article from Suzie Cooney

Here's a great very informative blog post from Maui's Suzie Cooney.  I added my 2 cents in comments by adding a few more much needed items.

It’s been an amazing downwind Maliko run pre-winter season this past October through November here on Maui; with stronger than usual trades consistently pushing through, coupled with massive surf and wind swells. With conditions like these everyone who enjoys OC-1. OC-2, OC-6, prone, surfski and SUP, safety for downwind paddling on the Maliko Run has been on the top of everyone’s mind.
Maliko Run Ocean Safety Checklist
This blog post is intended to provide helpful suggestions on what to carry with you on the really big and small days on Maliko. I will also share a couple of very intense, true stories and lessons learned that just could save your life or someone else you know who loves to downwind paddle.

Click here to read the full post!

Contact Suzie Cooney on Maui for her fitness and downwind training.

Any questions give me a holler: / 206.465.7167
Check out our 
SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

SUP Review - Imagine Surf 14' Connector (Inflatable) DLX

Tomorrow I'm selling the last of my 2016 Imagine Surf 14' Connector Inflatables. I'll be sorry to see the board go as I had a hoot on it during the past season or so.  Here's my 2 cents on the board..

I'm a fan of long fast boards. For an inflatable, this board is fast. Friends who race regularly have borrowed it and have either stayed with or passed other paddlers on 14' carbon boards.  Designed as the sister downwinder board of the Connector CC (carbon), I've found this board does well for flat and rough water racing, touring, downwind, and light surfing.

Imagine Surf 14' Connector (Inflatable) DLX
Product Link  Dimensions: 14’ x 30 x 6” 356 LTR

Blown up to 15psi, the board is rock solid with minimal flex. The valve is on the tail and stops automatically at full psi.  I use the tail handle to attach my leash to, but the board also has a D-ring for leash attachment as well.  The diamond plate deck pad is great for traction.  The board comes with a double action pump, extra break down paddle, quick release plastic fin and repair kit.  The board is very light, I can lift it up with one hand with no problem. Imagine's LTE series is even lighter but not available for this model.

For us big guys, the board is a bit nimble. Advanced big guy/gal paddlers will get used to it.  I think the board is best for small to tall (5'-9") paddlers, but not super tall (I'm 6'-5") or larger paddlers over 240lbs.

Fin Box..
The board has a regular long board style fin box where you can add any fin you want. It comes with a plastic quick release fin that is great for easy in/out. But I usually use a ProTeck Superflex rubber fin with a QFR quick release as I find myself in a lot of shallow water situations.  Sometimes I throw in a Larry Allison Ninja fin for tug surfing which requires stability on steep faces with long glides.

Surfing -
I've surfed it in up to 5' waves and got long glides. Like any long board, it won't rip but you will catch long glides with some maneuverability if standing on the tail.  The slightly raised nose rocker helps with surfing down wave faces. Like any 6" inflatable it doesn't have performance rails but any good surfer will make do.

Downwinding -
What it's made for, the board catches glides easily and has great acceleration.

Touring -
The board has 4 loops on the deck for attaching tie-downs. I use kayaking style deck bags to hold gear (or instruction first aid and rescue gear for lessons).  The board's speed would be great for long trips. At the campsite, the lightweight board would be easy to carry above the waterline, even with gear. I've found the exterior is pretty stout and haven't had any leaks in dealing with barnacles and rocky beaches.

Rivers -
Shane Donogh of Experience SUP in Duvall, WA has been using the board in Class 1 to Class 2 rivers and exploring backwaters, oxbows and small streams. I've taught a few classes on the board in tidal rapids near Seattle and have been impressed.  See pics of Shane on his Connector below.

Racing -
Unlike the 2015 version the nose rocker is lower thus with a longer waterline the board is pretty fast. I raced it a few times last summer and one of our local paddlers races it exclusively and comes in in the faster pack at larger races.

Shane exploring the backwaters of WA State

Shane exploring the backwaters of WA State

Bag Accessories - Extra paddle, pump, repair kit and quick release fin

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, November 17, 2016

Video - Freighter Wave Surfing in Seattle!

Thanks to Evan Loeng of for visiting us in early Fall in Seattle. Check out this great video and interview he did of me while Freighter Wave Surfing in Seattle!  Even as an Oahu native he was skeptical that a location such as Puget Sound could go from flat to chest high breaking sets in in a few minutes. Evan scored that day and enjoyed a 45 minute session with us surfing waist to chest high sets with several other friends.

Check out my Freighter Wave Surfing class, held in Seattle Spring - Fall.  

Boards are all Imagine Surf - Connector 14' CC, Connector 14' inflatable DLX and Icon 11'.  

Any questions give me a holler: / 206.465.7167
Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hawaii Travel Tips for Paddlers

Traveling to Hawaii this Winter?  Here's some tips for a better trip...
Every year, I've had friends come back from Hawaii with everything from reef cuts in their feet, a twisted knee to unpleasant experiences with locals. Follow these tips and your trip will more likely feel like paradise. I was on Oahu a few weeks ago with a few fresh reminders to pass on to you..

Wear Reef Shoes or Booties - A local once told me 'no one here wears shoes in the water.'  Guess what? I'm not from there and in the NW winter, I've been wearing shoes and socks for several months so my feet are no where close to the leathered bottoms of locals' feet. In October, I brought over my NRS Freestyle booties which unlike cheap reef shoes, provided ankle support and protection from walking on razor sharp reefs and protection from the smoking hot pavement and sand. The wider tow box worked as additional propulsion and floatation for swimming. If you get shoes, make sure they fit your feet and don't slide around inside. Local surfers have told me that cheap reef shoes can lead to broken ankles.

Security - Always Lock your Car and Keep it Clear of Stuff - Our local friends suggested we always locked the car make sure nothing can be seen in our car while out on excursions. In Makaha, we saw a rental car with a freshly broken window at the Kaena Point trailhead. That was our sign to move on. We later hiked from the other side at Kaena Point State Park which had state park rangers present in the lot.

Rental SUP Gear - Friends suggested I rent from a specific surf rental shack on Waikiki.  I did but the gear was awful. I won't give out the name of the company unless you're going and inquire directly as they did give me a great discount due to my friend's connection. But I had a heavy aluminum paddle with pool noodle zip tied to the shaft to prevent it from sinking. The board was one I sold 4 years ago, a super heavy old school Surftech which I dragged to the water. If you want good gear, check out Blue Planet Surf in Honolulu or inquire on for the other islands.  We did rent two light plastic boards from Rob at Blue Planet for a day tour. They tied the boards on the rental car as well.

Tip: If you really like your paddle, bring your own. This is a simple carry on the plane. And 2 and 3pc paddles are available from various manufacturers.  Pad it with bubble wrap and/or foam. There are paddle bags, but I recommend adding more padding just in case. Write your name on your paddle with a sharpie. They can easily be ripped off. Shipping SUPs to Hawaii is pretty expensive, unless it's a short board.

Surfing - Inquire from local shops before surfing. Surfing on Hawaii can be crowded, territorial and dangerous if you don't know your stuff. If you don't see a SUP in the line-up, don't go out. Strong offshore winds can blow you offshore easily if you're not paying attention. Maui has regular rescues of inexperienced tourists being blown offshore. In 2014, a Seattle man was blown 11 miles off Waikiki. If you downwind on Hawaii, note you'll be entering and/or leaving the water through a surf break most often. Unless you can handle shore break, go with a local who can help you out.  Take a lesson if you're not experienced. We teach surfing all year here and others such as Blue Planet Surf on Oahu can provide lessons as well.

Downwinding - Ditto for the above info. Downwinding in Hawaii is another beast vs here. You're in ocean swell, currents and wind. Add big shore break and surf for launches and take-outs. Definitely get with a local. Again Blue Planet on Oahu is a great resource as are Suzie Cooney, Dave Kalama and Jeremy Riggs on Maui. Jeremy has told me he's turned down some tourists who don't have the open water skills to downwind Maui.

Get Off the Beaten Path - I'm not a fan of crowds or the heavy tourism scene. During our Oahu surf Blue Planet took us to the Kahana River (see pic) on the Windward Coast (NE) part of Oahu. This very picturesque bay an hour from Honolulu provided us with a pristine river paddling experience in a jungle like environment. We paddled 2 miles up the slow moving river then back out into the bay. There's several other rivers like this on the island (and other islands), as well as seemingly untouched bays and inlets.  Stay clear of fish ponds and other sites of historical and archaeological status.

Tips for Falling off your Board - Fall as flat as you can! Think like a pancake or the Hi-C Plunge. Falling in shallow water on reefs isn't much fun. Never dive. Booties will prevent feet cuts when kicking in the water above the reef when getting back on our board. Read my blog post on falling off a board. 

Lifejackets in Hawaii - Lifejackets are not required in Hawaii for non surf paddling. But if you feel you need yours, go for it. Co2 cartridges generally can't be brought on planes but check with the airline prior to confirm. If you can't swim 1-2 miles back to shore, a PFD is a good option (and always a leash).

If you're an Elk member, definitely check out the Honolulu Elks! It's on Diamond Head with epic views, great poke and a pool as well as surf break access to Tongs and Old Man's. And a great way to meet local folks.
North Shore Oahu 

Waikiki Public Board Storage

Windward Coast Oahu

Any questions give me a holler: / 206.465.7167
Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Tips for Putting on a Co2 Waist Lifejacket (PFD)

Many get into SUP for the sense of minimalism - just a board and a paddle. Some turned down kayaking as there's more gear and possibly additional instruction to learn how to do it safely. Leading to this trend is the choice of a small waist mounted C02 lifejacket versus a vest style foam filled lifejacket most commonly worn by paddlers of all types.

The waist PFD comes in a velcro closed pouch that looks like a fanny pack. The idea is that if you need a lifejacket, then you pull the handle and the C02 cartridge inflates a pillow or yoke style lifejacket to give you floatation. Once inflated, you place the PFD over your head, then swim to shore or to your board.

The problem is, most who use these waist PFDs have never pulled the handle and know what happens if/when the cartridge fires.  In some cases that I've seen, paddlers who have been wearing one for a few years, then found out there wasn't a cartridge attached. Or that if there is one, the paddler doesn't know the procedure for firing then putting the PFD on. With practice, it's easy, but without practice and under stress in rough water after your leashless board has drifted away, it's a different story. A few folks have drowned in the US from wearing but not pulling or knowing how to pull the handle.

Legally, the waist PFD should be placed on your front side, but many rotate it to set just above their butt. Downside here is that after deflation, it must be rotated with two hands to your front side to place over your head.  This requires letting go of your paddle and board (wear a leash to help).  Note the C02 is a Type 3 Lifejacket and CG approved in the USA. 

Benefits of a Waist C02 PFD - 
Small size makes it more comfortable for racing, surfing or in hot temperatures. Larger people may find that a vest PFD makes their chest even bigger, thus making it difficult to climb on a board or swim.

Cons of a Waist C02 PFD - 
- If the paddler is unconscious or can't reach the pull handle, the C02 cartridge won't fill the pouch.
- A failed or spent cartridge means blowing up manually while under stress or in cold water temps.
- Not having practiced pulling the handle and placing over head may lead to confusion for actual use.
- Not recommended for those that can't swim.  Note: C02 cartridges don't fit on every pfd model. 

Tips for Best Use -
- Buy two cartridges. In chest deep water without help from your board, pull the handle and learn how to put the PFD on. After the cartridge has fired, deflate the PFD then learn how to inflate using the manual inflation tube (by blowing).
- Figure how to contain your paddle and board while firing off the PFD.  A leash prevents your board from floating away. Your paddle can be stuffed in tie-downs (bungies, etc) on your board.
- In case your gear gets away from you, swim with the inflated PFD on.  Then try to get on your board.
- Install the unspent cartridge and re-pack the deflated PFD after doing the above tasks.

2 Types of C02 PFD Pouches - 
- Yoke style - Your head fits through a yoke style hole, then two strings secure the two halves together. Note: Not everyone's head fits in the opening. Doesn't work with a hat on.
- Pouch style - Just a big bag (see below) that fits over your head with a strap. Easiest to get on.

Yoke style inflated from rear

Yoke style inflated from rear 

Yoke style inflated from rear - must be shifted to front side (Note wrangling of paddle)

Paddler inflating pouch style from front

Paddler inflating pouch style from front

Paddler placing pouch style over head

Paddler swimming with pouch style 

Paddler getting on board with pouch style (we recommend kicking to raise body to surface)

Read More:

Any questions give me a holler: / 206.465.7167
Check out our year round SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Photos by John Patzer

Boards Used - Imagine Icon 10-2 and Starboard. Accent Paddles (top)

Monday, October 31, 2016

10 + Tips for Fall and Winter Cold Paddling Clothing

With lots of rain, wind and dropping temps, many paddlers have stored away their paddling gear with their sights on winter sports. But others are still paddling. Fall and Winter paddling can bring super glassy conditions, clear water visibility and quiet days on the water. Fall colors and blueish-silver winter skies add to the landscape. Big storms bring epic downwind sessions on saltwater and lakes as well as more consistent surf on coast. And one of my favorites, no ferry lines!

Below are some tips for how to dress for paddling in what some call the 'off season'.  Note that everyone runs at a different temperature when it comes to the cold. I tend to get cold, whereas my instructor Joe wears minimal clothing, even in Winter as he's always hot.  I wear a full surfing wetsuit in surf and whitewater, Joe may just wear a farmer john (sleeveless wetsuit). In summer I'm still wearing a full wetsuit, Joe will be in shorts and a rash guard top.  Follow your instinct. If a friend says they're wearing a farmer john on a big windy day, maybe that's not the right solution for you?  I always dress for immersion as I like to surf every boat wake and wind wave I see which increases my chance of falling in.

FLAT WATER CONDITIONS - Minimal if any wind, current and/or bumps

Tops - There's several options for those wanting just a top or a top to go with a bottom for paddling. ProMotion has a nice zipperless top.This can be worn by itself or with a rash guard top under. I also like neoprene hooded vests which can go over or under a wetsuit top or jacket. These provide an optional hood and nice warmth for the upper body. In summer I'll wear the jacket and/or vest with shorts. RipCurl has a nice fleece lined hooded vest while ProMotion has a wind resistant vest. Rash guards also provide insulation under each of these.                                                    

Kayakers can use their paddling tops (Goretex or nylon) with a rash guard or other non-cotton thermal layer under. Good brands are Reed ChillCheater, Kokatat and NRS. I've even put a hooded vest over my kayaking spray jacket. That said, a windproof water resistant shell can work in this way as well. I believe in using what you have. I'm still using a kayaking splash top from 2000. Try before you buy - not all hoods fit every head. Some find connected hoods to be claustrophobic. I know many folks who buy asap on Amazon, but it's never fun to return things.  Kayak shops will have more of the Goretex/Nylon products.

Paddling hoodies are a great option too. SeasonFive, NP and ION have great water and wind proof hoodies that are great for winter paddling. Many are made for kitesurfing but work for SUP too.

Bottoms - NRS has a warm yet flexible paddling pant. I've used mine for years. The zippers at the ankles have blown but it still works. ProMotion has options as well as does Reed ChillCheater, a UK company and SeasonFive. These go well with a paddling top or alone in warmer months. I know many that race in polypro bottoms. The local fashion choice is to put a pair of surfing shorts over your bottoms.  I also wear neoprene shorts under my wetsuit in winter and under my wetsuit pants to boost heat when needed. Then use them with shorts in summer. All of the above companies have the shorts.

Hoods - Hoods are great for keeping your noggin warm. Some are attached to hooded vests and wetsuits. But you can purchase them separately as well. I keep a ProMotion hood in my PFD to use when I need it.  Some have neck and head coverage or just head (also called a skull cap). I wear mine under my helmet at DP for comfort and warmth. They also work to keep the water out of your ears.  I've liked products from NRS, Kokatat (fleece lined), ProMotion, and ReedChillCheater (have a high visibility orange).  I like a hood vs a thermal cap with a chin strap as they stay on my head in surf, rapids and high winds or after fall.

Gloves - Some hate gloves, I love em'.  They also protect your hand from the paddle on long days and add grip.  I use Glacier Gloves that are fleece lined. NRS's Maverick glove is a nice one and turns in at the wrist to reduce water from coming in. I also stuff these in my PFD if not in use. In time the fingers will blow out but they still work. I usually go through one pair a year. Kayakers will see more wear on the upper thumbs.

Booties - Like gloves, some love em' and some don't need them. I get cold and like to protect my feet from rocks, barnacles and glass on the beach or parking lot.  For two years, I use the NRS FreeStyle and Desperado WetShoes for myself and for our class rentals. They're fleece lined, waterproof and cheap but also durable, at around $49 or less if NRS is having a sale. I used to use the 7mm Xcels but they were $90, lasted on season and had poor traction underfoot. There are zip up booties if you don't like ankle high but they're not waterproof. I recently brought my FreeStyle booties to Oahu for reef protection - worked great. 

Tip: Place your wetsuit legs over your booties to slow water from coming in.

ROUGH WATER - i.e.: Surf, rapids, downwind, cold, etc..
Full Wetsuits - In rough water conditions (or actually anything now) I wear a full surfing wetsuit. Since I get cold, I'm already using a 5/4mm.  On balmy days I'll wear a 4/3mm. Wetsuits these days are flexible, comfortable and over $300 dry due to liquid sealed seams. With practice, easy to get in/out.  I use RipCurl but also like the NRS 4/3mm. O'Neil has a good suits as do many others such as Xcel, NP, Hotline, etc. Read more about full wetsuits here. Definitely try before you buy as necks can be too loose or tight, arms short or long, etc. Patagonia's R4 isn't made above an XL or us big guys. Also many wetsuits sizes are off - by a mile. I wear a XL t-shirt but wear a XX or XXL wetsuit. :)  Wet wetsuit tip - put your hand or foot in a plastic bag and then stuff in the suit - it'll slide right on. 

Shorties are fine for flat water or with other items layered over-under. Farmer John/Janes are a common choice for cold blooded folks. They are armless wet suits insulated by a rash guard under and/or a jacket or hood over. I would only wear one in summer whereas Joe wears his in surf and tidal rapids in winter.

Drysuits? I'm not a fan for SUP as they're hard to swim in and require a bit of maintenance to keep them in good shape.  If you already have one, use it. I switched to wetsuits a decade ago. If interested, good suits come from Kokatat, Ion, and Ocean Rodeo.

Changing Robes are a great innovation for changing your clothes in a public area. I usually use a towel but on hormonal rain days wished I had something more substantial. I did see a guy at the coast using a shower robe which was clever. Companies such as ProMotion make one as well. Check out this one, make your own or let me know if u find one that is water resistant and not cotton.

Changing Tip - Stand on a yoga mat, cut piece of camping sleep pad or in your dry bucket to keep your feet warm.

30 Tips for Better Winter Paddling - My article in SUP Magazine 

Any questions give me a holler: / 206.465.7167
Check out our year round SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Thanks for your support! 

Hooded Vest
Full Surfing Wetsuit

NRS Freestyle Booties

Glacier Gloves

4 Tools for Determining Wind Speed

A regular question I get is, is it too windy to paddle?  
Below are the tools I use to determine whether to go out and where. With practice in conditions of your skill level and/or guidance from my instructors, you'll learn how to be comfortable in and even enjoy paddling in wind. Some also assume wind on lakes will be less than that of the Sound. Here in Seattle, a NE wind will blow on both and have slightly different effects depending on water depth, shoreline shape and angle to the wind. Urban lakes have 'armored' shorelines, meaning a concrete berm or wooden bulkhead which bounce waves back creating a confused sea (chapatis).  Waves that end on a flat or gently steep shaped beach will have a more natural wave shape and period (time between wave crests). Tidal current opposing wind will build wave size.

Downwinding is a super popular activity for SUPs (and other water craft) and is most common Fall-Spring when high winds are more common. Downwinding means paddling with the wind at your back which makes it easier to catch wiDownwind Safely on my Stoke Mag blog post. We also have a Downwinding class.

If waves aren't your thing, there's always a place to find calm water if you know where to look. The nautical term 'lee' (not the pants or General) means calm water created by a hill, cliff or headland. Much like a how a river eddy is created, the wind blows over or around an obstruction creating a calm spot in the areas not affected by wind (ie: if wind blows over a hill, some of the opposite side will be calm). That said, on a windy day, if you look around, you'll find calm waters. Marinas such as one near us can create such an effect. We take our classes in there on windy days. Mornings also tend to be calmer, but not always.

Tip: Paddle upwind first, then at the end of your paddle let the wind push you back to you car. In our classes in summer, the NE wind (comes from NE) occurs on blue sky days. We go upwind into Shilshole Marina, then back to our launch beach. Cloudy days there blow from the SE which pushes the Chittenden Locks outgoing current even faster, so we go towards the Locks using eddies on the sides, then take the wind (and Locks current) back to the Elks. With a SW wind, we find wind protection in the marina and by the Locks which are in a protected bay. We rarely get a E or W wind. *Pay attention to wind at your regular paddling spot and figure out what the patterns are throughout the year.

My 4 Tools for Determining Wind Speed and Direction -

- My backyard bamboo. When it's 2-5kts, the leaves are shaking. 6-10kts, the branches are moving and the tip may be pushed over. 11-15kts, the top half of the bamboo is bent over. 16-20kts, the bamboo is bent over in half.  The Beaufort Wind Scale is helpful in learning about wind speed.

- WindAlert - A fun app I have on my phone but works on a laptop too. I check regularly. Its fun to check all over the state (and beyond) to see what's blowing. The cover pic came from the app for a storm coming later this week. I use the free version but the paid one gives u more info if you need it. There's other wind apps as well.  Locally we have two SUP Facebook groups whose members post weather conditions in Seattle and beyond to give us real time forecasts (also great for networking).

- NOAA - Using my phone or laptop, I check my local NOAA station which is at West Point  in Seattle's Discovery Park. My VHF also provides two Canadian and 2 US weather channels that run 24/7.  Canadians use Environment Canada for their info. Like WindAlert these give me updated wind speeds, wind direction air temps, wind chill and a history of each for that day. You can see when the wind increased/decreased. But it also gives me a barometer reading (air pressure).  If it's decreasing, things are getting windier maybe colder too. If it's decreasing a lot, such as -13, we have a storm coming in 2-3hrs. +13 means the storm is finishing soon (for the most part).  Here's the West Point station. I use the regional marine forecast listings to plan trips for surfing, Deception Pass or here. Here's that link. **From the NOAA page for West Point, find your local station. 
nd waves. Wind waves look chaotic. But there is order is you know how to read the water. Downwind paddlers know how to connect the waves which leads to sometimes long rides (or glides), often longer and equally as exciting as surfing on the coast. Unlike the coastal surfing, you can downwind anywhere there's wind. You don't need big waves to connect. Smaller waves up to knee high are ridable. Long boards 14'-18+' are best to easier gain speed to catch waves, but use what you have. I've downwinded on 11' boards and inflatables. Downwinding can be dangerous. Some have been led too far off shore, become separated from their groups, etc. Read about how to

The storm forecast pic (from WindAlert) shown here was predicted to hit Seattle at 60+kts. Instead it fizzled to much less bumming out the local downwind paddlers hoping for epic sessions, but a relief for everyone else!

- In Person Observations - Just because it took you two hours in bad traffic to get to the beach, doesn't mean you should go in. If the forecast said flat calm but instead it's ripping 30kts SE save it for another day. How do you tell if it's too much? Whitecaps are 10kts or greater. These are surfable waves, can you handle those? If not, look for a protected area to paddle in. Sometimes it's the opposite. You expected a storm, but instead it's glassy calm. You won't know until you check it in person.  Note that sometimes my bamboo leaves may flutter slightly but the NOAA link at West Point is going 20kts! A in person observation may also reveal a different story than my backyard a mile away.

Going solo? Here's some things to think about.

Any questions give me a holler: / 206.465.7167
Check out our year round SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Thanks for your support!  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Stay Drier with the Sweeping Brace

When many paddlers get unstable, they tend to stick the paddle above their head or freeze with the paddle at their waist level - then fall in.  Instead, next time you're feeling wobbly, instead of reaching above your head or freeze, get low and paddle!  Getting low is a lower center of gravity and paddling creates momentum which is stability.  Trying to balance with the paddle out of the water won't work, you're not on a tight rope.

Another option is to use a Brace, which means slapping the paddle blade (flat part) on the water's surface at your side - then paddle.  This surface slapping will usually give you enough stability to regain your balance and keep paddling. Some say the having the Power Face facing up is called a Low Brace. If it's facing down, it's called a High Brace (comes from kayaking terminology)

If you're falling back, sweep the paddle blade across the water's surface starting at your tail sweeping in a semi-circle forward towards the nose. This is called a Sweeping Brace. Apply pressure with your lower arm. Keep the leading edge of the blade up so it hydroplanes across the surface. This provides quite a bit of stability.  Once you've completed your sweep - paddle.  Paddling will help you keep your stability.

Practice on both sides. Try to fall then use the sweeping brace to prevent your fall.  In some cases if you're falling hard and the brace doesn't work, just let yourself go in. Bracing up current on a fast moving river can injure you're shoulder.  Tips on How to Fall Safely

I also apply a sweeping brace when doing a forward stroke in rough water. During the recovery, instead of feathering the blade above the water's surface, I sweep it on the water's surface forward to the catch to set up for my next stroke.  This really provides a lot of stability in bumpy conditions.

Preparing for the Sweeping Brace

Sweeping / Hydroplaning Forward

Sweeping Brace during a Pivot/Buoy Turn

Any questions give me a holler: / 206.465.7167
Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Photos by John Patzer

Board: Imagine Surf Connector DLX 14'
PFD: MTI Cascade
Paddle: Accent ProBolt

Thursday, October 20, 2016

How to Fall Safely Off your SUP

Last summer, a friend of ours was downwind surfing at Hood River, Oregon. At some point in his run, he fell on his board breaking a few ribs. He was out of action for at least 2 weeks until he was comfortable enough moving enough for paddling.  Another friend fell on her board during a rough water race a few months late bruising her ribs.  And it happens to even the best of us - last week I was paddling in shallow murky water when my fin hit a rock which threw me forward onto the board. I landed on my knees worried I may of dinged the board. Instead I left a pretty good sized pressure ding on the nose. (Pressure ding is a dent).

Along those lines, you may respond to the above thinking "I never fall" or a one I've heard before, "I haven't fallen in two years!"  Those worried about falling aren't having a good time as they will take less risks, not surf a sweet bump and beginners we see look really stiff.

Falling isn't a failure.  Falling doesn't mean you don't know what you're doing, are showing others you're less experienced or a kook. Pros fall all the time. Falling means you're trying, are pushing yourself and as a result am having more fun.

3 Rules for How to Fall off your SUP - 

- Always fall away from your board, whether it's behind the tail or away from the rails.

- Always fall flat. This means landing like a pancake. For those old enough, remember the Hi-C fall?

- Always wear a leash so your board doesn't get away from you after your fall.  When I pivot turn then fall, the board shoots out like a rocket and can land 10' or more away with no leash. In wind, the board will keep going.

*Tip: Wear a vest style PFD to stay warmer and provide body protection if you hit the board, especially in big water or downwinding. 

How to Practice - 
- Dress for immersion. You'll have more fun and learn more if you're not cold.

- Start by practicing near shore if you're unsure if you can get back on your board.

- Fall in water waist or chest deep (or deeper) to prevent injury.

- Fall of the side of the board and tail.

Check out this great video from Blue Planet Surf on falling off a board.  

Fall Away and Flat!

Model: Salmon Bay Instructor Alex Vaughan

Any questions give me a holler: / 206.465.7167
Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - beginning to advanced instruction and PSUPA Certification.

Photos by John Patzer

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Flip Rescue - Revised Technique - How to Rescue People Quicker

The Flip Rescue has been a SUP rescue option since day 1. The method came from rafting and sailing, where flipping happens often. It's for pulling anyone out of the water who can't get on their board themselves due to the following reasons..

-Low upper body strength
-Loose fitting vest PFD catching on rail
-Large people whose chest gets in the way
-Hypothermia (too fatigued or numb hands/fingers)
-6" to 8" thick inflatables which can for anyone be difficult to climb on
-Being unconscious
*Or to help swimmers, snorkelers or capsized kayakers who need to get out of the water.

I perform the rescue 1-2 times a year mainly for students with low upper body strength whose boards have thick rails. Watching a high volume rental operation in our neighborhood each summer, we've seen several renters who can't get on their board for a variety of reasons.

The Technique - 
No rescue is ever the same or is ideal. In the new revised technique below, I cross from my board to theirs to speed up the flip-over time. But if you're rescuing a swimmer or snorkeler or paddler who lost their board (no leash?) then you'll have to get in the water to flip their board, get on it, then flip then on.  Or possibly you don't have a board then you'll flip them onto their own board.

In the NRS video here, the lifeguard throws his paddle away then rescues the person. That's fine providing you don't need the paddle, thus I don't recommend that option.  Also the 2 person prone technique works if the one or both people are not big people and the rescue board is thick (over 4.5" thick) - otherwise you'll sink their board. I'm 6-5 230lbs so this option most likely won''t work for me.    If a smaller person is on top, they may not be able to reach the water, this paddle back.

Our Revised Technique - 
- Approach the victim's board from the opposite side that they're facing.
- While doing so, ask the victim how they're doing - Are they cold? How long in the water? Any injuries? Keep talking to them throughout this process.
- From your board, flip the end of their board upside down (ends are easier to flip)
- Climb on their upside down board using your paddle over each to brace
- Pull the victim in towards their upside down board (facing you).
- Place both your paddles between the victim and their board rail. This corrals them from floating away. Once there, neither you or the victim needs to hold the paddles. Once they flip on the board, the paddles get pinned under their chest on the board.
- At this point determine the following
A. If the person is smaller than you, grab their vest lifejacket strap (it not loose), or under their shoulder (arm pit) and fall back into the water behind you. Make sure your board isn't directly behind you (kick yours out then fall).
B. If the person is bigger than you, ask them to cross their arms, grab their hands (not wrists) then stand up on the board. Step to the opposite rail (or heels over opposite rail), clear your board, then fall back. If you don't stand, you'll fail and have to try again. If they're cold, you need to get them out of the water asap - get it right the first time.
- Once on the victim is on the board, move towards the tail and reach over and pull their legs toward you onto the board. Pulling is easier than pushing from the opposite side.
-Then tow/push to shore.

Approach victim. Talk to them access situation.

Flip their board over at the nose or tail

Climb on their board, use paddle to brace boards

Pull in victim. Place paddles between him and his rail

Grab PFD straps, under arm or cross arms

Clear your board, then fall back

Victim on board

From same side, pull victim legs on board

For big people - Stand on board & cross arms, hold hand for falling back
How to Get to Shore?
-Use your leash to two their board to shore. They can hold your leash, strap it around their paddle shaft or attach it to deck outfitting (bungie etc)

- Tow Systems - Our instructors carry a tow rope at all times from NorthWater. Other great systems available from Kokatat, NRS, Salamander, etc. Throw or tow rope works, various lengths.  Or make your own if you're crafty.

- Push their board to shore with yours, nose to tail.  If really close too shore you can push their middle rail to shore with your board nose.

- Have victim lay flat (prone) with their board overlapping your tail. Have them wrap their arms around both boards to lock them. Then paddle both boards to shore.

- If you don't have a board, swim their board to shore pushing from their tail.

- Prone, as shown in the video providing you can reach the water and aren't sinking the board.

Practice - We teach and practice it often in our PSUPA Instructor Training courses and my regular SUP classes to where I can do the rescue on any body type in rough water in less than a minute. Try it with different body types (especially larger people) and board types, both hard and inflatable boards.

Other Ways of Getting a Person on a  Board - 
- With a non inflatable, sit on their board and sink one rail so water comes up, then pull person on over sunken part (like a dry dock), then flatten once they're on, kicking water off.  Not as easy as it sounds but practise it. Inflatables have too much floatation for this.
- Stirrup technique
- Paddle Support technique - Look for future posts on this technique. Ask now if interested.
- Parallel Board technique (paddles as supports between each) - ditto as above
- How to Fall Safety off a SUP

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

Photos by John Patzer

Boards Used - Imagine Surf Connector DLX 14' and Imagine Icon 10-2