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.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Car Rack Strap Noise - How to Prevent

Have you ever strapped your boards or kayaks on your car then drive away to hear a super annoying vibrating sound that even the best car stereo can't block out?  This is caused by car rack straps that are not twisted - twisting the straps prevent the noise. Sometimes strap ends will do it, but usually not as as annoying as the main straps.

The last time this happened to be, I had two stacks of boards on top and while the straps were twisted, it took me a few pull-over's to find the right one, which of course was inside the two stacks in a difficult to reach spot. 

Hear a sample of the noise from my last experience, click here.

Un-twisted Straps
Twisted Straps

Twisting straps for concave / carved out deck

Any questions give me a holler. Join my mailing list! Contact me: / 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 Instructor Certification.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Interview with John Puakea - Stand Up Paddle the World

Learn about SUP and OC efficiency in this very informative podcast of John Puakea by Darrell Kirk of Stand Up Paddle the World. John, an outrigger canoe designer and world class paddler talks about stroke efficiency, the forward stroke and what it feels like to achieve the perfect stroke.

Click Here for the Stand Up Paddle the World site

From the post page:

John Puakea is a legend in the Outrigger Canoe community and has brought his years of experience to the Stand Up Paddle world.   As an exceptional technical coach, John has helped push world-class paddlers to the next level in international competition. His ability to improve the performance of already-elite paddlers also led Team Bradley to consecutive first-place finishes in the Molokai-to-Oahu Na Wahine O Ke Kai, and to the fastest crossing time by any women’s team in the history of the race.  John talks about his entry into the outrigger canoe world and how to develop a fast paddle stroke in both OC and Stand UP Paddle Board Racing.

Any questions give me a holler. Join my mailing list! Contact me: / 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 Instructor Certification.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

How to Hold your SUP Paddle - 3 Hand Positions

It's not uncommon to see paddle boarders holding the paddle in an incorrect way.

What does incorrect mean?  

Standing Position:
- Hands too close together, which reduces power and control
- Hands too far apart. This creates strain on the inner arm and upper back and you'll have less rotation in your stroke.
- Hands not on the handle when standing.  Unless you're doing a short cadence race start, this technique forces you to bend over a bit to paddle, creating less power and control in your stroke.

Often we see folks holding the handle when kneeling. This increases strain on your arms and shoulders and most likely the paddle shaft will be diagonal thus turning the board on ever stroke (vertical shaft means the board will go straight(er).

Same as above, there's issues with hands being too close together or too far apart.

How to Paddle Correctly - 
I'm always cautious of saying 'proper technique' as folks have different methods of doing things for their own style. But for the most part, the above listed issues do lead to arm and shoulder pain, less power and more work.

Watch this video to learn how to use the Paddler's Box to determine how to hold the paddle when standing, kneeling or sitting. Note when sitting, we use choke up to the blade and use the long end of the shaft for the additional 'blade'.

See more videos and info for holding the paddle, paddling straight and the 3 paddling positions:

Any questions give me a holler. Join my mailing list! Contact me: / 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 Instructor Certification.

Sea Kayak DIY Conversion to a Sit on Top

Inspired by the open deck surf ski cockpits, I wanted the performance of a sea kayak but as a sit on top. My combat roll was never that solid and I like the freedom of putting my legs over the side, jumping in-out anytime and more recovery options in big water.

Kayak fisherman Todd Switzer did the first part of the project removing the top and installing a test interior. Sean Thomas of Echo Composites finished the job with a surf ski style cockpit with scuppers and venturi's and rail leash plugs to attach the thigh straps to.

My first session in the new boat was a success while surfing 5' wind waves in a 25 kt northerly on Puget Sound. The scuppers worked great, the boat was only a few pounds heavier than the original 37 lbs and it rolled without any differences than the prior version.  The skeg will be converted into a pull up - push down variety off the back deck behind the cockpit since we removed the side slider. The skeg never really worked well as a slider, sometimes breaking (cable got jammed).

Parts used:
Boat: 2009 Sterling Illusion
 Scupper: Home Depot parts
Venturi's - custom molded by Sean (he has a cnc).
Foam: Mixture of EPS 1lb and blue insulation foam
Foot Pegs - out of production model purchased from

Contact Sean Thomas of Echo Composites for more tech builders info. He's thinking of creating a plug to more easily place a cockpit in existing boats. Doing so manually was quite a bit of work.
Sean Thomas in Issaquah, WA

Any questions give me a holler. Join my mailing list! Contact me: / 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 Instructor Certification.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Paddlers Tips for how to Prevent Blisters and Arm/Wrist Pain

Ever get a blister on your finger when paddling? Most likely it's due to either holding the paddle too tight and/or with all your hand at once.  The key is to let go just enough that the paddle doesn't fall out of your hands. You really don't need to hold on that hard to be in full control, even when surfing, paddling rivers and racing.

A looser grip also means reduced or no pain in your wrists, elbow and shoulders. Many who get shoulder issues are holding on too tight.

Letting go also means you'll have more overall flexibility in turns and other core and full body movements on your board.

Watch this video for examples of how to have a loose grip on the paddle shaft and handle

Tight lower grip (see tension in wrist)

Loose grip, fingers only during power phase

Tight 'death' grip

Loose grip, thumb hooked below T-Grip/Handle

Any questions give me a holler. Join my mailing list! Contact me: / 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 Instructor Certification.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

How to Paddle a SUP Straight

Paddle goes in straight line

Having a hard time keeping your sup straight? Back in the day when I was new to SUP, about 2006, I devised a way to keep my board straight when paddling. I added pressure to one rail, adjusted my trim (where you stand on the board) to where the board would go straight. Then I'd hold that angle for a few miles. Luckily, I overheard Dan Gavere mention paddling straight with a vertical paddle shaft.

There's a few reasons why you're not going straight. Here's what I teach my students to help them paddle not only straight, but on one side. You can do 2 of the three tips or even just one if you have a long race or downwind board with a straight waterline.

Paddling on one side is less work, will make you go faster and have more fun...

1. Look where you're going (not down or to the side, for the most part).

2. As the image shows on the right, draw your paddle blade down a straight line from the catch to your feet. The catch is where your blade goes in. If you follow the contour of your board from the nose down, you're actually doing a sweep turn which is very common.

3. Make sure your paddle shaft is vertical through the power phase of your stroke, so from your catch to your exit at your feet. This means your upper hand is over the water. If your upper hand is over the board, the shaft/blade will be doing a C shape turning the board.

      Keep Paddle shaft vertical

For your Forward Stroke - Avoid..

- Pulling your paddle past your feet. A little bit is fine but too much, your body will rotate thus will turn your board.

- Over Grip your Paddle - This extra tension will put strain on your arm/shoulders and limit the flexibility of your arms thus will affect the efficiency and direction of your stroke.

- Paddle with your Arms Only - Make sure to have both arms mostly straight (slight bend in upper arm) thus rotating your torso for your stroke vs bending your arms to paddle. Making sure to reach from your waist (hinging) for your reach to the catch.

Try This...

Count your Strokes - Start counting your strokes on each side. You may notice that you'll get more strokes from one side than the other. For many it's their dominant side. For me, a lefty (goofy foot) I can paddle forever on my left side - but not so effective on the right side. In races when my competitor is changing sides a lot, I can pass him/her by not changing my sides. Downside of paddling on one side is possibly over using that shoulder. Keeping a loose grip (super loose) does reduce arm/shoulder strain.

Fins - Fins can make a difference of whether you're paddling straight. A small fin 3"-5" can not only affect balance but also be too small to really affect your tracking. If the above techniques don't work for you, get a bigger fin. Many race fins are 10" deep and 4-6" wide. Larry Allison's Ninja and Gladiator Fins are examples of popular fins that help paddlers not only go straighter but will make them more stable.  Most of my surf style boards have 9" fins. I use the Ninja for my race board.

Your Stance Affects Direction - Years ago, I called Prijon, the kayak manufacturer for my boat at the time. I complained that the boat must've been warped as I couldn't keep it going straight. I never heard back. Turns out, I was probably sitting slightly ajar in my cockpit. Same goes for SUPs. If you're adding more pressure to one rail than another, your board will go in the weighted direction. If the board isn't flat on the water - nose up or tail up, then this will affect your forward direction. Have someone look at your board from the side to make sure your it's flat (with u on it).

Any questions give me a holler. Join my mailing list! Contact me: / 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.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

SUP Podcasts & Adventures on Stand Up Paddle the World Radio

(L to R) Me, Darrel and NOAA Scientist Mark Powell
Despite a lot of rain, we have a lot going on here in Seattle when it comes to SUP. Just so happens, paddler Darrell Kirk lives 2 blocks from me. Darrell runs Stand Up Paddle the World which is a collection of pod casts interviews of SUP paddlers from not only the Pacific Northwest but also around the world.

Darrell's page also includes his explorations of many SUP trips he's taken on the Chicago River, 400' under Missouri in a mine, the Salton Sea and many more places.

Check out his site here..

Search Darrell's many pod casts of paddlers, a NOAA meteorologist, families who paddle together, women in SUP and SUP fitness experts.

Check out Darrell's channel on iTunes

Any questions give me a holler. Join my mailing list! Contact me: / 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.

Yes, It's True: They CAN Shoot You From Shore

Interesting article reposted from

By Tamia Nelson
March 7, 2017
Article by Tamia NelsonMany years ago—William Jefferson Clinton was still living in the White House, and Farwell and I were just starting to write for what was then—I was skimming through a not-very-good book on waterfront photography when I came to a chapter titled "You Can Shoot Them From Shore." The subject was photographing boat races with long lenses, but I couldn't help thinking that the title hinted at another, darker meaning. And no, I wasn't being alarmist. I'd already come under fire when I was on the water. A young man—the son of a neighbor, as it turned out—decided to amuse himself by sending a few rounds over our heads as we took the Tripper out on the 'Flow for an evening paddle. He'd apparently concluded that he could shoot us from shore with complete impunity. He was right, too. The long arm of the law often proves to be pitifully short in the Adirondack foothills. The "jes' havin' a little fun" defense may not figure prominently in the statute books, but it commands respect from many rural cops and courts to this day.
In any event, we escaped unharmed from the shoreline shooter. (It helped to have a bowman with no small experience in assessing—and evading—incoming fire.) Nor did the incident recur. But it served to remind me that paddlers can easily pass for sitting ducks. Deliverance may have been fiction, but almost any one of us could someday share Drew Ballinger's fate.
I hasten to add that this isn't very probable. Though something like 30,000 Americans die of gunshot wounds every year, very few of them die with a paddle in their hands. To keep things in perspective, it's important to remember that a steering wheel is our usual companion when we meet a violent end: The automobile is the reigning champion in America's trauma stakes. Back-of-the-envelope extrapolations suggest that one in every 115 Americans will be killed in or by a car, with two out of every three of us sustaining crash injuries that require medical attention at some point in our lives. And far too many of these injuries will lead to crippling disabilities. My conclusion? The most dangerous part of any paddling holiday is the drive to and from the put-in.
That being said, there's still a chance that you'll someday find yourself on the wrong end of a gun. A case in point: Only a month ago, four kayakers came under fire in Arizona. You can read the details in the Mohave Valley Daily News, but here's the executive summary: The kayakers incurred the wrath of a waterfront property owner, who allegedly expressed his displeasure by shooting at them. One quick-thinking boater made his escape downriver, but his companions were less fortunate. According to newspaper accounts, they were held at gunpoint and forced to leave the water. Luckily, none of the four was injured or killed, but the property owner now faces an impressive roster of felony charges.
Could you someday find yourself in the same boat? Yes. Most navigable rivers pass through private lands, at least now and then, and many rural landowners keep a gun within easy reach. But is it likely you'll ever end up in someone's sights? No. There's comfort to be had in statistics. Still, given the often life-changing (or life-ending) consequences of stopping a bullet, it pays to be prepared. You could add body armor and a Kevlar helmet to your gear list, of course, but unless you're paddling down the Tigris, this would be…er…overkill. The best way to avoid trouble is—you guessed it—to avoid trouble. In short,…
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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

SUP Paddle Repair - Tightening or Replacing the Cable on a Accent or Kialoa Adjustable Paddles

I have a few adjustable lever-lock Accent paddles that after two years of heavy use in saltwater from my students, and my lack of care that have cables inside the shafts have loosened, thus the rubber ring on the bottom of the interior shaft doesn't tighten, so the handle isn't secure.

A quick field fix is to tape the interior / exterior shafts but the better more long term solution is to tighten the nut on the bottom the interior shaft, or replace the interior cable if tightening isn't working.

Kialoa Paddles created some videos showing solutions for both..

How To Adjust the Tension on a KIALOA / ACCENT Adjustable Paddle

Watch Luke Hopkins of Accent Paddles give another take on tightening the lever-lock paddle shaft. 

How To Replace the Cable on a KIALOA / ACCENT Adjustable Handle

Find these adjustable paddles at..
KIALOA PADDLES - Adjustable Cable Kit

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.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

How to Choose a Surfing SUP

In the past week, I've heard two paddlers talk about the surf sup they plan to buy. In both cases, the boards were 8' long. Also in both cases, neither of these guys are regular surfers and one is a beginner. Where I'm going with this is an 8' board in the surf if pretty unstable, even for experienced surfers. Yesterday in the surf, I saw a 6' tall guy on a 8' board spending more time in rather than on the water. Sometimes I see paddlers on short boards who can barely stay stable in the line-up even before the waves come.

There's 2 solutions to this problem - 
1. Learn how to balance using in rough water. See my last post - 5 Tips for Better Balance on a SUP
2. Get a longer/wider board.
*Fin selection can also affect balance

How do beginning paddler surfers end up with short boards?
1. Those new to surfing a SUP sometimes think it's cool to have a short board so they can rip it up on waves.
2. Or a less skilled paddler went to a shop which not knowing his/her ability, recommended a short board.

Long board (small waves) vs Short board (bigger waves)..
Traditionally, regular (non sup) surfers carry two boards with them. A longboard for small waves and a short board for big waves.  On small days (waist to chest high) they'd use their long board. Generally, longer is faster. Which is why we prefer to race a 14' board vs a 11' board. Smaller waves typically have less power than bigger waves so you need a faster board to get enough hull speed to drop in (catch) a wave to successfully surf it. And sometimes larger waves may have current or wind going against thus slowing the waves down. They may look bigger but will be harder to catch. Again a long board will get you better results.

This was the case last weekend, the marine forecast called for a 10' west swell. So everyone showed up with their short boards. But the waves were chest high and 'soft' or had less power than we'd hoped for. So those on short boards were really struggling to catch waves, whereas I was catching more waves resulting in long rides using my faster 14' downwind board.

For larger or steep fast moving waves, a shorter board is preferred. But good surfers can rip using a short board on small waves, so there are exceptions which usually come with more time on the water.

"I was told my board isn't for surfing"
Beware of board manufacturer marketing - Often I hear 'I just bought at surfing sup' or 'that board isn't good for surfing.'  Truth is, all boards surf. It's a matter of what surfing means to you. If you want to do be Laird Hamilton or Kai Lenny and rip 360's on head high sets, then you need a short board.

But if you're not interested in 360's and just want nice easy rides down a wave face or straight towards the beach then you'll be fine on a 10' or longer surf style /all rounder or displacement nose board. I surf a 14' and 18' all the time. In time if you work at it, you can learn to surf your 11'-6" board like a short board. I've surfed 12-6 displacement boards, 14' race boards and touring boards all with good results. And when the surf gets too small to surf, you can use that board to tour around or find waves further from the parking lot and sometimes get it all to yourself!

Yesterday I got a 2 minute ride on my Imagine Connector 14' which started with a chest high peeler. This 'downwind' board has enough nose rocker than I rarely pearl (nose digs in) and can actually do some great mellow turns on wave faces. The 18' just goes straight but surfs everything you can't catch on the 8' or 14' board. Note - Experienced surfers can pull 360's with longer sups. But this blog post is intended for beginners in the surf. 

In Summary...

If you want to do this..  

Kai Lenny (

Get a (6'-9') 'short' surf SUP.  But you might want to start out on a longer board (10'-12') first to get your basic skills down. Learning to surf on a short sup can be frustrating and may take you longer to get to where you want to be.  Once you get there, use the longer sup for small wave days where an 8' board won't catch a wave.

If you would rather be doing this, then start with a 10' to 14' long board.  
John Kapatocky on right, father of SUP, passed away recently
*Safety tip for beginner surfers - Stay away from other surfers. Unless you can turn your board quickly with full control then you need your own wave away from others so you don't run into them. In wipe-outs, a 12' board becomes 24' with fully extended leash out of control while you're getting worked by the whitewater. If others are around, don't take a wave with others paddling out towards you unless you know you can 100% stay clear of them. Learn Surfer's Etiquette to help keep you and others safe (collisions can get pretty gnarly). Order Surf Survival, a great book on surfing safer and smarter.   Always wear your leash!

Wanna surf better? Consider taking a lesson. Whether in Maui, southern California, the UK or elsewhere, a reputable SUP surf (or traditional surf) instructor can save you tons of time figuring it out.  If in the Pacific Northwest, I teach SUP surfing as 1 day courses and as 2 and 4 day Surf Camps.
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, February 23, 2017

5 Tips for Better Balance on a SUP

Balance is one of the biggest concerns from new paddlers. Often I hear 'I have bad balance." But I tell folks, if you're can walk fine without any instability, then your balance is good enough for SUP.  Of course many of you probably have had lessons where you've been given a board too small for your height/weight or in rough conditions, unsuitable for beginners.

Here's a few tips to give you more confidence on your board...


Start out on a board sized to your height and weight. I'm 6-5 230lbs, so I need a 32" or wider board and 5" thick to support my weight. And not all boards at those dimensions feels right for me. Wide or bull-legged stance folks need a board wider than usual, such as 33"-36" wide.  If you're 6-5 but 200lbs, you may find a 5" thick board is 'corky' meaning the thickness leads to a high center of gravity thus making it unstable.  A square tailed board will be more stable than a pintail. A round nose will be more stable than a displacement (pointy) nosed board.

- Start out on calm flat water with no current. Wait for boat wakes to pass. Find these spots in marinas, coves and bays vs open water. There's calm water even on windy days if you look around.

Tip: Once you stand up, place you paddle at your side, blade flat on the water's surface, like an outrigger. Want to look behind you? Place the paddle at your side, blade flat on the water, then twist around to take a peek.

Dealing with Waves and Wind:
Get low like JLo!

Boat or Wind Waves/Wakes Don't turn into the wave! Instead bend your knees more then do one of two things. #1. If not moving, place your paddle blade flat on the water at your side away from your board. This provides stability and resembles an outrigger. Let the wave pass under your board. Your bent knees will act as shock absorbers (like skiing).  Or #2 if you are moving, keep your course, bend your knees more and use short quick strokes. The bent knees will act like shock absorbers and paddling keeps you stable. Don't freeze or stiffen up when the waves pass, you'll increase your chances of falling in.  Breath - stay calm - smile - bend your knees and paddle, then enjoy the up and down of the waves.  But.. if you're surfing and the oncoming wave is 5' tall and breaking, then turn into it, bend your knees and paddle hard!

Get Low like JLo!  The guy in the pic is doing the #1 thing you don't want to do! When you get unstable, get low and slap your paddle (blade flat) on the water at your side or paddle! When in doubt, paddle!

Sweeping Brace - Use the sweeping brace when paddling in rough water. Instead of feathering your blade above the surface as you bring the paddle back to the catch, instead sweep the blade across the water's surface with the leading edge up. This provides of a ton of stability!  You can also use it when you're losing balance - sweep that blade across the surface then paddle for additional stability.

If you fall... Fall Flat away from you board. Fall like a pancake or the Hi-c plunge. Trying not to get wet and falling on your board can lead to injury. A friend broke a few ribs last summer down winding in Hood River by falling on his board. A vest PFD would've given him body protection when falling and falling away from the board would've prevented it altogether. If you're practicing, get into chest deep water. Don't dive off your board or go feet first.  **Dressing for the water temp makes falling a lot more fun!
unstable, raising your arms or paddle above your head is making you more unstable by increasing your center of gravity. Others will freeze and try to balance if on a tight rope.  Both of these are very common human instincts. But some things in paddling are counter-intuitive. That said - Get Low.  This means squatting vs standing then paddling vs not paddling or brace by slapping the flat part of your blade on the the water surface. An old kayaking adage works well here -

Safety - Always wear your leash to keep the board close to you. 

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.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Surfing Freighter Waves in Seattle

Freighter Waves Explained..(and how to catch them)

Common FAQ's...
- How do you predict the waves? Like any surfing there's some work involved with getting the best results. We use to track boats coming into Puget Sound. Then we need a low tide when the boat passes at specific locations for the best waves. We have a even more specific tide window we like for the biggest waves and longest rides. And we prefer low or no winds and light outgoing current from the Locks and boats going south over 17kts.

-Do you surf behind the boat?  No, like any boat wave, the waves come to us. After the boat has passed West Point headed south, the waves works its way towards Ballard, breaking on our beach across from Ray's in approx 20min. We're 2.5 miles from the boat when the waves reaches us.
-What's the difference between Freighters and Tankers? - Tankers carry oil and liquid material. Freighters are container ships often carrying containers, trucks, cars, etc. Our biggest boats from TOTE Lines carry vehicles and runs at 23 kts no matter the weather or tides.

-What board do I need?  Anything above 10' long is best. Although, our local Hawaiian Jon Kwon does body board the waves though! But longest rides will be from a board 10' to 18' long. Shorter means more play on the wave, longer (18') is a straight ride in.  Traditional surfboards do work on the waves if in the longboard lengths. The board in the pic is our Imagine Connector 14' (for sale!)

-Is it just one wave?  It varies. Usually if timed right, we can get one set (5-7 waves) or up to 1 hour of waves from one boat! The first set is always the biggest (up to chest high) and the following sets are usual waist to chest high. We've even had head high faces! Sometimes we get stumped and there's no waves (note disclaimer on our site). But this happens on the coast too!

- Where else do these waves break?  All throughout the Puget Sound where there's fast container ship traffic or high winds. We look at beaches that resemble what breaks on the coast. Usually beaches that are shallow aways out even at high tides. Strong wind can create nice surfable waves at these beaches. Ryan Deters has been scouting beaches south of Alki and have found good results at Dash Point, Saltwater State Park and the Cove park by 3 Tree Point. I know it also breaks at Marrowstone Point, Richmond Beach, Pt Robinson, Rolling Bay, Blake Island, 4 Mile Rock and Point Hudson in PT.  Not from the NW? Look for shallow beaches and points where wind or boat wakes could jack up and create waves. Watch the same spots over time in different conditions.

- Where can I learn? We offer Freighter Wave classes in Seattle March to Sept for daytime low tides. Wed is the best day for the biggest boat, but we get good rides all week. We also offer Tug Surfing but freighters are easier to catch with more options to become a better surfer, (tugs are one wave only).  Go as often as possible. Our coastal surfing classes will also help becoming a more confident skilled surfer. Freighters allow us to stay local and keep our skills up for bigger days on the coast.
Rob surfing in Seattle (courtesy

Watch my interview with Evan of on Freighter Wave Surfing in Seattle!

Tips for surfing - Always fall flat to avoid injury. Use a leash to prevent a loose board which can be a hazard. If you're not a solid surfer, keep your distance from others. Surf often to keep your skills up. Live on a lake? Surf wakes from boats and wind waves, everything produces a ride even if small.

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, February 2, 2017

9 Tips for Paddling the Coast

Surfing is what many think about when you think of paddling the coast. But there's other ways of paddling the coast. Touring can be a super fun option to explore the coastal shoreline while using a variety of skills from flat water to surf, downwind and specific coastal paddling skills. No surf? Get the 14' board out and go explore!
Deception Pass - Photo by Bill Hughlet

Here's a few tips on how to be a better coastal paddler..

- Take a Surf Class. Most coastal paddling requires launching and landing in surf. Knowing not only how to surf but also forecast surf can help you better plan your launches and overall experience. Many don't round Cape Flattery unless the swell size is less than 4'.  It can get pretty nuts out there over that size - or with wind opposing the swell direction and outgoing current from the Strait.

- Go when wind is non-existent or very light (less than 10kts). Wind can build wave size. Learn

- Always wear a vest PFD and Leash. Not one or the other, unless you want to get on the news.  We attach our leashes to our vest PFD straps to keep our free from getting caught in heavy kelp beds or on rocks below the surface. Tip: Bring extra leash string they can break.

- Bring Communication Devices like a VHF radio. Cell phones may not work in offshore places. For example here in WA State, Verizon is the only carrier that works in our most NW corner, 5 hours from Seattle in Neah Bay, WA. I use both a ICOM and Standard Horizon handheld floating VHF attached to a string on my PFD. Leave a Float Plan with a friend - info on your whereabouts, departure/arrival times.  There are a few Float Plan apps but make sure you have reception.

- Dress for Immersion. Our coastal waters are cold all year. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is always colder than Puget Sound. Full wetsuits 4/3 and warmer are best. Add a helmet for falls in shallow water. Gloves and booties for barnacled rocks walking or climbing on.  Ask about suits or check out my articles on Stoke Magazine on choosing wetsuits.

Strait of Juan de Fuca, WA State
- Bombproof Boards - Coastal rocks have barnacled or have sharp edges. A loose board even if on your leash can bang up against a rock and get severely dinged (damaged). Bring silver Foil Tape for field fixes. Inflatable SUPs are actually quite stout as are boards with a few layers of epoxy. Carbon boards will ding easily.  A shaper friends suggests Gorilla Glue to fill in dings quickly.  Solarez is another option, if you have UV to cure it.

- Take our Freshwater Bay Tour or Deception Pass Tidal Rapids Classes - Both take place in rough conditions that resemble our outer coastal regions. The 'FWB' Tour will be on the calendar soon, it's west of Port Angeles, WA 20min on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

- Bring Extra Gear - I always have an extra fin, leash, gloves and other small items in my car. For class trips I bring extra paddles, PFD's and a wetsuit in case students forget gear - and they do! Even I forget stuff. Nothing worse than driving 3 hours to find out your paddle is at home. One of my instructors did leave his paddle at home during a surf trip. But we found a backup at the Swain's Hardware Store in 'PA' Port Angeles.

- Deck Bag - Deck outfitting is smart to have along to carry extra gear on your board. I use kayaking deck bags to carry a First Aid kit, food, water, extra clothing and gear repair kit. Dry Bags are flimsy and roll around on your deck.  Bungees alone won't hold essential gear. The first wave will rip everything out. No leash plugs on your board? There's several products to stick on your board for attaching gear. If you have fiberglass skills or know a shaper, add leash plugs to your board.
how to forecast wind and how to read air pressure to plan your trip for less hidden surprises.  We can help with that.

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.

Monday, January 9, 2017

SUP or Kayak Rack Hack for Getting in the back of your Car Easier

I purchased a Subaru Outback in the Spring. After I installed my Thule rack, I placed my board on the rack and tied it down. Then I opened by back hatch but noticed it only opened half way with the top real brake light pushing up agains the bottom of the board. In order to get in my car I'd have to squat down and snake my 6'-5" tall frame into the back of the car. Bummer.

Not long after, Jim Ramey, an outdoor industry rep for our region mentioned he had the same issue with his Toyota Sienna. Being an innovative type of guy with tools, he devised a hack to raise the rear rack towers allowing the rear brake light section to open just enough more to solve the problem.  

See below for his solution.. That's closed cell foam glued to the top of the wood block. 

How to Install..
- Place block on rack bar under your board or kayak (Here I have square Thule rack bars)
- Place your craft on top of the block.
- Secure your craft to the bar using straps or rope as you normally would. Pressure from the strap tie-down secures the block to the rack bar.  

Board in pictures - Bounce SUP

Thanks to Jim Ramey of Adventure Sales. Jim reps Bounce SUPs, Imagine Surf, KanuLock, Accent and Cannon Paddles, MTI Lifejackets and a few more lines. Contact Jim

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, January 6, 2017

How to Downwind Shilshole Bay and Stay off the Jetty

Note: This post applies to any downwind run, even if you've never hear of Shilshole Bay. 

Downwinding is super popular for SUP paddlers as well as outrigger canoe paddlers. Here in Seattle when the 20 - 40 kt wind start cranking in winter, the paddlers come out to ride the bumps made from the wind waves. Winter paddling has increased as a result of downwinding because it is surf and waves you can ride anywhere there's water and wind.

As with anything that gets popular especially in water, accidents begin to happen usually as a result of unskilled paddlers (for the conditions) getting blown offshore, into a jetty (see below) or they'll paddle past their destination. Accidents also happen as a result of new paddlers joining up with other paddlers who don't have adequate skills to keep one or both of them out of trouble. Safety in numbers doesn't work out if your buddy is as inexperienced as you. Two paddlers downwinding on Maui's north shore were rescued in November as a result of the above.

Check my posts about downwinding and downwind safety to learn how to prepare for and pick your partners for downwind surfing.

In the pics below, both show the most common ways to get into trouble on my home waters of Shilshole Bay in Seattle.  Downwinding Shilshole isn't easy. It's hard to get a good long line unless you're going from West Point to GG or north to Edmonds, or vice versa. I like to surf the inside bay doing loops on strong NE winds, using the lee (wind protected areas) of Ray's and Elks to paddle back upwind.

This is a very urban paddle so getting to the shore isn't a problem, unless it's a jetty where you'd rather avoid to prevent from banging up your board or being stranded on in case of big winds and waves.

Twice in 2 months from 2016 and 2017, local paddlers whose skill level wasn't appropriate for the conditions ended up on Shilshole jetty, one nearly destroying his board due to wave action.  Using the diagrams below, you can avoid this situation.

In this diagram, the red arrows show the flow of waves/swell generated from the Northerly winds. A NE wind wraps around Meadow Pt (Golden Gardens) and swings into the bay.  If you're coming out from the marina or from the beach at GG, paddle straight out (west) about a quarter to half mile to get in line with with the straighter direction swells headed North to South.  Even if you're not paddling (swimming or resting) these swells will bring you to Magnolia vs into the jetty.  Not going out that far will mean a lot of hard work trying to keep your nose from going into the jetty. Not fun!

NE Winds around Meadow Point on Shilshole Bay - Paddle Route in Green

Below is the diagram for a SW wind coming from West Point into Shilshole Bay and Ballard.  I heard of two groups in December that launched too close to the jetty from the Elks and got blown into the jetty due to the swift Locks current and SW winds. Instead, paddle upstream towards the Locks by Ray's, then cross at the channel at the narrow bottleneck, then paddle directly below the Magnolia bluff to the big erratic boulders below Day Break Star Center. Then begin to paddle offshore heading north to Golden Gardens.

Note a SE or SW wind can wind tunnel down the Locks speeding up current 2x. Rains will also speed up the current. Use a ferrying angle to cross (45 degree angle facing up current - look at where you want to go (prior post). Use the edges (eddies) of the channel to paddle upstream to save energy. This means directly below the pilings at Ray's etc.

Avoid the Rip - On a strong SE wind, as mentioned above, the wind will push through the Locks speeding up the outgoing current up to 2x. Add an outgoing tide (ebb) and paddlers trying to paddle up current (south) in the channel between the south end of the Shilshole Marina and the outer red buoy will find themselves in a rip. It can be so strong, even strong paddlers will struggle to paddle back to shore. Instead paddle straight towards Magnolia to get less Locks current, then cross the channel by Ray's.

SW winds and Locks current into Shilshole Bay. Paddler route in green. 
New to Wind?
SE - means wind comes from the SE. 

Most common wind directions in Seattle - SE, SW and NE.

Tip for choosing the right 'line' to your destination.  In strong winds or current, aim for a spot just before your destination in case you get blown downwind too far.  Always wear your leash. 

Downwind Posts to Check out.. 
Great post from Suzie Cooney on Maui on Downwind Safety

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.