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, September 28, 2016

Paddle board Tips for Big People - 5 Low Profile Lifejackets

Sometimes teaching is a live and learn experience. When we teach SUP classes, we have a certain protocol we start with, then adjust per each student's learning style. On a recent class in tidal rapids north of Seattle, we asked all our students to wear vest style lifejackets, a necessity for any whitewater paddling. Once in the rapids, two students who were around 300lbs couldn't get back on their boards as their vest PFDs were too bulky against their chest to get a good grab-hold of the SUP and to climb on. Essentially, the vests shortened their arm reach thus they couldn't reach the deck handle or get a good grip of the rail. We were able to use the flip rescue to get both back on their boards.  We tried to use my Stirrup method but the water was too chaotic to establish a solid foot-hold in the aerated whitewater.

That evening, I began to research PFDs for a low profile product that would still be safe for use in whitewater or flat water for large folks. Here's what I found..

Type 3 Inflatables- 
Normally I'm not a fan of inflatables especially for beginner paddlers or those that haven't water tested the devices. We've seen beginners panic when they hit the water Without practice they may not pull the handle choosing to nervously tread water or swim to the shore or to their board. But in the experience above the vest style PFDs were too bulky for climbing back on and didn't fit comfortably.

Test Before Use - With a waist style, try on deflated before you get on the water to make sure the removed PFD will extend comfortably from the waist to your shoulders (an extendable strap connects the two sections).  Then on shallow water, pull the handle and learn how to put it on before going in deep water offshore.  Learn to get on your board in shallow water before going offshore.  

Hyde Wingman - Google results for 'minimalist lifejacket' showed this product, a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign is an inflatable but fits on your body like a deflated vest PFD. So it's already there, you don't have to put it on when trying to hold onto your gear in rough water. Like most PFD's there's a manual inflation option if your C02 mechanism fails (or you don't have a cartridge).  The product has been Coast Guard approved (US) and is in pre-order. Retails for $180.  
Hyde Wingman

Downside is that it only comes in one size. They claim its a one size fits all but as us big folks know, that's always the case. Max chest size is 50", belly size not included. I'm 42" in the chest, 46" in the belly (IPAs).  I'm a tall 230lb guy with a belly, other body types or a barrel chested person may not apply here. Possibly the company may consider larger sizes once they get going. I've asked for a sample to test and review.

Yoke Style
Yoke Style Inflatables - More common with boaters than paddlers, these like the Wingman are already on your body and only need to be inflated. The MTI Helios 2.0 is an example of a yoke style. Some fire the cartridge upon entry in the water, but with some paddlers this may be an issue of they're regularly in the water planned or not.  The PFD is CG approved, is low profile and has a 52" chest.  

Waist style C02
Waist Style  - Most common with SUP paddlers are the waist style PFDs which are most minimalist but have to be placed over the shoulders to be effective as a worn PFD. The USCG approves it if worn on the front of your body, but most slide it behind them. Downside here is to properly work, the PFD must be slide to the front, handle pulled (either front or back) or manually inflated and with luck the PFD will fit over your head and/or hat/helmet. An example of this PFD is the MTI Fluid 2.0. 

 Tips for Inflatables - With an inflated PFD, try to swim. While these do a great job of holding your head above water, peripheral vision is limited and the PFD will bounce around your shoulders while swimming.

Care for your C02 PFD 

Repacking your C02 PFD

Type 3 - Non-Inflatable - 

Mocke Racer PFD - This one was recommended by surf ski friends. Also minimalist like the Wingman, this one is not a C02 but has floatation, but isn't approved by the US Coast Guard (from what I can tell).  And it looks like it has a max chest width of 36".  But it is colorful.  

Vaikobi Hi-Vis PFD
Vaikobi Hi-Vis Ocean Racing PFD - A similar design to the Mocke Racer, is high visibility and this one is available in XXL with a max chest width of 55".  But also doesn't appear to be USCG approved but is ISO 12402-5 Approved.


Read More: 
Big People Tips for Climbing Back on your Board

The Flip Rescue - Helping others get back on their board

How to Safely Fall and Climb Back on a SUP

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

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How Can I Help You?

Let me know how I can help you -

We're doing a survey - A few questions..
- What led you to checking out Stoke Magazine?
- What are you hoping to learn?
- What's the one thing you're struggling with in paddling?

All comments are moderated and for your privacy, won't be shared.

Thanks a bunch!  Rob

Any questions, give me a holler, / +1 206.465.7167

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.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Paddleboard Tips for Big People - How to Climb on your Board

Occasionally I get students who are either large in frame or overweight. Of these, a few can't climb back on their board without assistance due to fatigue, lower upper body strength or the shape of their belly which hinders climbing on a floating 5-6" (Tower boards can be 8" thick) board from water level.

We use a flip rescue to help folks back on and have developed a few other board mounting techniques as well.

In searching for 'big people paddleboard rescue', I came across only one YouTube video on the subject.  This guy (below) developed a smart system to get himself out of the water effectively, thus allowing him to continue to paddle without fear of not getting back on.  

I had already developed a stirrup system but his knotted rope system is a great addition. I made one and tested it out, works great!  Downside is whether it'll work in wind and waves as you're limited to just the back end of the board. Doing so from the side immediately flips the board.

Stirrup Design - The stirrup can be made using a car rack strap 1" wide or thick rope. Something that will support your weight. Keep it stored in your lifejacket (I like pockets) or on your board attached to a tail loop, board handle or in outfitting on the nose. Make a loop out of it so you can attach one end to the back of the board and the other end in the water to step up on. Make sure the length is enough so your step isn't too hard to get on.  Test it prior to going out in deep water. Always wear a leash to keep yourself connected to the board. Even I wear a leash on flat calm water. Don't like standing on your leash? Attach it to the waist strap of your C02 Pfd or side straps on your vest Pfd. 

Connection of Stirrup to Board - Attachment points for the knotted rope/strap only works if you have you have a fabric or loose handle.  You can attach one (if you have a sunken handle) or improve yours by using a handle such as this one by NSI.  The stirrup by itself can be attached by the leash plug string or, tail board handle or D-Ring (use parachute cord or string up to 4mm thick).

Use of Stirrup - Try one leg in the stirrup, then if that doesn't give you enough support, use both feet to get on. Adjust the stirrup length to create the best step level. A car rack strap may be easiest as you can use the metal clamp to tighten or loosen the length. Wash often to keep the metal mechanism operating correctly.  Remember to attach the the very tail of the board, side will flip it.

Tip: Kick the leg not in the stirrup to help leverage yourself on the board. Whenever you climb on a board, kick one or both feet to float raise your body to the water surface - while pulling on.  If you're worried about falling off and having to struggle to get on, you can injure yourself falling on a fiberglass or plastic board. It's safer to fall off away from our board (fall flat, especially in shallow water).

Test it out in shallow water before you go further out to make sure it works. Try different things and report back to me if you find a better solution. I tried to create a stirrup with my leash but couldn't get the right leverage with a straight leash and a coiled leash was too bouncy. 

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How to Forecast Surf

Note: Below, I use surfing in the Pacific NW (north of Seattle) as an example of how to forecast surf. But much of the info will apply to most coastal surf spots.

Long Range Forecasts - I don't trust the TV weather people when they predict weather 7 or more days out. For Seattle or coastal weather I use the NOAA site a few days before a class or my personal surfing time. I use this site Marine Forecast (top selections) and a local app called  Check if there's local weather and/or surf forecast apps for your area.

What do I look for?...

Swell Direction - For the Strait of Juan de Fuca, I want a NW or W swell. S or SW doesn't work as well, it has to get into the Strait. If you were in Vancouver Island, you may want a SW or W, but not a NW.  For WA - NW is best. Many use compass degrees to determine specific angles. Each coastal beach has a specific direction people prefer. If you don't know, go. Over time you'll figure out which you conditions you like best for your skill level.

Swell direction and swell size as well as wind speed and direction are measured on offshore buoys and by some land based towers run by NOAA or Environment Canada. Swell is the incoming waves. If you look at SurfWater, the first listing is La Perouse (46206). This is located in the middle of the Strait between Vancouver Island and WA. This is our best buoy for Hobuck, Neah Bay and Port Angeles breaks.  At time of writing it says - 5 ft - 12 sec. NW - Wind: 10kts SE. Updates occur each hour.

- 5' NW swell. 5' is a good size both on the coast and on the Strait. By the time it reaches Port Angeles it could be 5' or knocked down to 2-4'.  Wind direction and tides effect wave size.
- 12 second period - This is the distance between each wave. Storm surf is lower, so 5-9 sec. This means the waves will be closer to each other making it harder to catch waves and you'll have less clean wave faces. Calmer seas and less wind but more powerful waves will be from 12-18sec more preferred by experienced surfers.
- Wind Direction - For the Strait, South (comes from south) is preferred as it creates 'offshore conditions' building up wave faces making them more ridable. W is ok. North creates 'onshore' conditions which flattens waves faces making 'mushy' waves thus less clean wave faces to surf. This is great for beginners as they just want a ride, don't necessarily need a perfect wave and the break will be less crowded.  East wind kills the incoming W or NW swell, At Hobuck, a SE or E wind creates offshore waves, W is onshore.

Tides. Each beach requires a specific tidal level for specific types of waves. Or surfers have a preference for a specific level for what they like. For example, I prefer a high tide at my favorite break for long rides from the outside to the beach. Low tides close out (wall up then crash on or near beach) which is great for short boarders, but SUPs can't always take a close out steep drop and turn the board before hitting the beach.

In Seattle for Freighters, we need a lower tide for our breaks to work at all.  I determine tides using a few tools depending on what's available and/or if I have an internet connection. Surfwater has a tide chart but ol' dyslexia here can't read it. So I prefer a printed book by Captain Jacks Note link is for 2016, 2017 not available until 12/2016. (I have one in the car too) and Mobile Graphics, an online site. Some like Dairiki which I believe is local. In reading tide charts, note that those are just predictions. Wind, current and recent heavy rain (flooding) will speed up or slow down tides. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is particularly hard to predict, it can be 1-2hrs off the charts in either direction.

That's a lot of info to digest. As surfers we become amateur oceanographers, weather men/women and scientists. The key to improving as a surfer is to go often and over time you get it figured out.  Even with all the best satellite, radar and even your own experience, you can get stumped after a 3hr drive and not find good waves. We've all been there. But you won't learn if you don't go. Many of these breaks are very scenic and have other things to do such as visiting Hurricane Ridge or the Olympic National Park if there's no waves. Or bring along your touring board for a coastal tour.

Some may say, "I'll just go to Hawaii for the warmer water instead.' Problem is Hawaii waves have the same basic requirements for forecasting waves. Each beach there has a different 'best time' to be there. Plus add coral, wind, locals. We recommend learning here where you can get regular time on the water to improve, then take your skills with your while on vacation.  If you visit Oahu, we recommend Blue Planet Surf for lessons, rentals and local info.

Safety & Common Sense.. And always use a leash and apply Surfer's Etiquette on the water to prevent collisions and negative feelings toward you by other surfers. My 3 key etiquette rules are - One person per wave. Don't take a wave if others are paddling out directly towards you. When paddling back out after a ride, don't paddle out directly in line with those surfing in. Lastly, share waves. As SUPs we can take more waves than traditional surfers, and this can lead to jealously or a sense that you're a wave hog. Sit a few out or give that surfer who's been patiently waiting for a perfect wave his/her turn.  Learn Surfer's Etiquette here.

If new to surfing or travelling, ask a local surf shop for tips on where and when to go for your skill level. Take a lesson if you haven't surfed before, this will save you tons of lost waves!

Check out my book Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers for tips on how to surf as well as surf forecasting, beach types, etc. We also teach SUP surfing all year round in Washington State.

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

SUP Drafting - How and When to do it

What is Drafting? 
To some, drafting is the task of drawing up designs and blueprints. For SUP, drafting means you're literally tailgating another paddler to get a free ride. If you've ever heard of cars tailgating large trucks to get an extra push, this works on water in the same way.  When you paddle, like any boat, your board creates a wake pushing away from the rails near the tail. Some of the wake toward the tail (back) of your board creates an eddy, or recirculating force of water that draws backwards to the board. Like an eddy in a river (behind rocks) the water flow rotates around an obstruction like a rock then creates either a stream of upstream water or dead water (no current) behind the obstruction.

Long story... When you paddle, your board is creating a wave behind it for other paddlers to surf.  The technique requires tailgating the tail of the board in front of you - literally a few inches away - to feel the effect. The effect is literally a free ride. You'll feel a surfing sensation that pushes you forward, while the other paddler does the work.  The trick is catching up to another paddler then aligning your nose to where you feel the sweet spot that allows you to surf.

It's not always a free ride, often you may struggle to keep your nose in line, so it's a good exercise in learning to paddling straight.  Square tail boards are easiest to catch and have the best effects as the square tail creates the biggest eddies. My pintail board (pointy tail) has a very small area to surf - often fellow racers tell me afterwards they couldn't draft me.

Drafting is common in races (see pics) to either draft your opponent or work as a team with your friends to draft each other to save energy especially on long races. Some races restrict who can be drafted. For example, a 14' board can't draft a surf style board. Or men can't draft women (though they all do it anyway). It's unethical to draft someone for an entire race then pass them at the finish.

In non racing situations, drafting is great for paddling up wind or on a long paddle, letting your less strong or fatigued friend to draft you to help get back to shore and/or for fun, trying different boards to see how the effect varies.

(C) SUP Racer

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