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.