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, 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)

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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)