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, March 26, 2016

The Benefit of Being Prepared - in the Parking Lot

For those of us in the northern regions of North America, we deal with cold air and water on a regular  basis, even on a brisk day in summer. Most paddlers have figured out how to stay warm on the water but we've noticed some who get colder changing into street clothes in the parking lot than they do on the water.  I do get colder than some of my paddling colleagues, so over the years have developed a few methods of staying comfortable.

Here's a few tips for staying warm before and after your paddle.. (All stored in my car)
See also my 30 Tips for Cold Weather Paddling for SUP Magazine

Create a Hypo Kit
"Hypo" means hypothermia.

On-Water. I carry one on-water for myself and for students which may include extra gloves, sun block, hoods and/or a neoprene top to layer over existing gear if we get chilled.  Also a All this stored in a compact waterproof dry bag in a waterproof deck bag on the forward deck of by boards.  I use Seattle Sports, OR and SealLine bags. Teaching classes, I'll add a First Aid and repair kit.

Tip from my instructor Darrell Kirk - Add a $20 bill to your on-water kit in case you land at a location where you could buy extra food, water, or need emergency assistance.
Car Hypo Kit

In My Car. I use a old dry bag to store synthetic thermal clothing such as a 600 fill down jacket with hood, fleece gloves, 2 wind proof fleece beanies, a rain/wind shell, fleece jacket, rain pants. I may throw in extras of each of older clothing for students. In summer, I add a hoody, shorts, pants and a baseball cap to wear after paddles if going out with friends for a beer.  I tend to get wet in my paddles while surfing or playing around so usually my baseball hat will be soaked as well as my shorts and other summer on-water wear.  Nice to put on a dry replacement.

Beyond the Hypo Kit - In my car, I have some nooks and crannies where I tuck away a few other items of comfort and convince..  Chemical heat packs, first aid kit, repair kit (ding repair, para cord, etc), changing towel, head lamp, sun block, drying towel, surf wax, extra fin, extra leash, fin screws, multi-tool, Paddling Washington (River Guide) by Mountaineers Books. And of course one copy of both my Puget Sound Kayak Guide and SUP Book also by the Mountaineers for my reference or others.  I also have extra batteries for my VHF and/or car charge cord.

House Shoes For Convenience - In winter I bring along a pair of fleece lined or other warm material house shoes to slip on after a paddle. Instead of fighting to pull on socks over your sorta wet feet, these slip right on and work for driving home. Uggs are another nice option here.

Tip: Get or make a Changing Robe.  These are great for throwing on to keep the elements on while changing into or out of our wet gear. DryRobe and other brands make one. Kokatat, a kayaking company has one that is Goretex lined to keep the wind chill out.  Add an old camping or yoga mat to stand on to keep your feet insulated from the cold concrete. I cut old camping mats (foam) in half.

Nerding Out a bit, here's my procedure for changing after a paddle in winter..
- Immediately turn on my car to get the heat going.
- Without changing out of my wetsuit and PFD, remove leashes, fins, wash off and load boards, paddles etc.
-Then remove my PFD, wetsuit, booties, etc while standing on my old foam pad. I use a towel around my waist, (smarter) friends use changing robes. Once my hood comes off, my dry beanie goes on. Once I remove my upper wetsuit, a fleece jacket and down jacket go on. Once the lower part of my wetsuit is removed, I immediately put on my pants, house shoes, etc.  One replacing the other to keep as warm as possible.  Reverse process for putting wetsuit on.
- By then the car is warm and I'm good to go.

Car Tip: I recently rusted out my ol' trusty 06' Subaru Forester by not cleaning saltwater off my gear  and wearing my wet wetsuit in the car. With a newish Outback, I'm now washing off my gear, drying it, and changing out of my wetsuit before I leave for home. All wet gear goes in a bucket.

Warm Climate Options -
For those of you in Hawaii or other warm or tropical locations, much of the above gear may be replaced out for UV protected clothing (i.e.: long sleeved shirts), wide brimmed hats, more sun block,  hydration options, etc.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tips for Falling Off a SUP

Falling off your board is a fact of life in stand up paddling.  If you're not falling or trying not to fall, you're not having much fun or learning. Beginners admit thinking about not falling distracts them from having a good time on the water.

We get students who admit they haven't fallen off yet, thinking that's an accomplishment.  In my mind, it's not a fail to fall.  Infact learning to fall means you can learn how to get back on your board.  Some actually find out they can't due to poor upper body strength, a super wide or thick board (34" or wider, or 6" thick) or they get into panic mode in rough weather while trying to get back on.  Falling in a protected area allows you to test your gear so you're better prepared for a storm or surf wipeout.

Here's a few tips for falling and safely getting back on..

Practice Falling - 
- Before falling, test the water depth.  Ideally don't fall in less than a few feet unless you're experienced with the following..

- Always fall flat like a pancake.  We also called it the Hi-C Plunge.  Not doing so means that if you didn't test the depth before going it, you may catch your leg or ankle going in, or even worse break your neck diving.  While surfing, I can fall in 2-3 of water and not hit the bottom (I'm 6-5, 230lbs).

- Videotape yourself and friends falling to see who can fall the flattest.

Wear a Leash -
We see a ton of folks in open water far from shore without a leash.  It's common to hear 'I never fall away from my board' or 'I don't plan on falling in.'  Murphy's Law comes to mind with both of these.  You will fall, and it's not guaranteed you'll fall next to your board, especially in wind, waves, current and how you fall.  Boards tend to shoot out if you fall off the tail. Next question, how far can you swim?  In Puget Sound where we see non leash activity in summer, water is only 55-60F.  How far can you swim in this temp before you get numb and/or hypothermia?   Interesting, most SUP fatalities in 2015 involved not having a leash, in Florida and similar warm water locations.

If you find your leash gets in your way, attach it to your PFD waist straps (or Co2 waist strap).  Some surfers wear a removable waist strap with a Fastex buckle when not wearing a PFD for this purpose.

In the enclosed photo, I was surfing a tug wave and had fallen off the back of the board.  The board continued to follow the wave after I had fallen off, leaving me behind - until my leash stretched out and pulled it back.

Double Leash - This means while in strong winds, surf and/or off shore conditions, consider either doubling up your leash string in the leash plug (2 strings) or with 2 strings, wear 2 leashes.  It's common in down winding, a popular part of SUP.

Not Going to Wear a Leash?
If you're not going to wear a leash...
- Dress for the water temperature
- Wear a PFD (not on your board). If you lose your board you also lose your PFD.
- Practice swimming long distances in rough water.  2 SUP accidents in 2014 involved paddlers without leashes or a broken leash having to swim 2-3 miles back to shore in open ocean, one in 30t winds.