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.