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, October 21, 2016

Stay Drier with the Sweeping Brace

When many paddlers get unstable, they tend to stick the paddle above their head or freeze with the paddle at their waist level - then fall in.  Instead, next time you're feeling wobbly, instead of reaching above your head or freeze, get low and paddle!  Getting low is a lower center of gravity and paddling creates momentum which is stability.  Trying to balance with the paddle out of the water won't work, you're not on a tight rope.

Another option is to use a Brace, which means slapping the paddle blade (flat part) on the water's surface at your side - then paddle.  This surface slapping will usually give you enough stability to regain your balance and keep paddling. Some say the having the Power Face facing up is called a Low Brace. If it's facing down, it's called a High Brace (comes from kayaking terminology)

If you're falling back, sweep the paddle blade across the water's surface starting at your tail sweeping in a semi-circle forward towards the nose. This is called a Sweeping Brace. Apply pressure with your lower arm. Keep the leading edge of the blade up so it hydroplanes across the surface. This provides quite a bit of stability.  Once you've completed your sweep - paddle.  Paddling will help you keep your stability.

Practice on both sides. Try to fall then use the sweeping brace to prevent your fall.  In some cases if you're falling hard and the brace doesn't work, just let yourself go in. Bracing up current on a fast moving river can injure you're shoulder.  Tips on How to Fall Safely

I also apply a sweeping brace when doing a forward stroke in rough water. During the recovery, instead of feathering the blade above the water's surface, I sweep it on the water's surface forward to the catch to set up for my next stroke.  This really provides a lot of stability in bumpy conditions.

Preparing for the Sweeping Brace

Sweeping / Hydroplaning Forward

Sweeping Brace during a Pivot/Buoy Turn

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

Photos by John Patzer

Board: Imagine Surf Connector DLX 14'
PFD: MTI Cascade
Paddle: Accent ProBolt

Thursday, October 20, 2016

How to Fall Safely Off your SUP

Last summer, a friend of ours was downwind surfing at Hood River, Oregon. At some point in his run, he fell on his board breaking a few ribs. He was out of action for at least 2 weeks until he was comfortable enough moving enough for paddling.  Another friend fell on her board during a rough water race a few months late bruising her ribs.  And it happens to even the best of us - last week I was paddling in shallow murky water when my fin hit a rock which threw me forward onto the board. I landed on my knees worried I may of dinged the board. Instead I left a pretty good sized pressure ding on the nose. (Pressure ding is a dent).

Along those lines, you may respond to the above thinking "I never fall" or a one I've heard before, "I haven't fallen in two years!"  Those worried about falling aren't having a good time as they will take less risks, not surf a sweet bump and beginners we see look really stiff.

Falling isn't a failure.  Falling doesn't mean you don't know what you're doing, are showing others you're less experienced or a kook. Pros fall all the time. Falling means you're trying, are pushing yourself and as a result am having more fun.

3 Rules for How to Fall off your SUP - 

- Always fall away from your board, whether it's behind the tail or away from the rails.

- Always fall flat. This means landing like a pancake. For those old enough, remember the Hi-C fall?

- Always wear a leash so your board doesn't get away from you after your fall.  When I pivot turn then fall, the board shoots out like a rocket and can land 10' or more away with no leash. In wind, the board will keep going.

*Tip: Wear a vest style PFD to stay warmer and provide body protection if you hit the board, especially in big water or downwinding. 

How to Practice - 
- Dress for immersion. You'll have more fun and learn more if you're not cold.

- Start by practicing near shore if you're unsure if you can get back on your board.

- Fall in water waist or chest deep (or deeper) to prevent injury.

- Fall of the side of the board and tail.

Check out this great video from Blue Planet Surf on falling off a board.  

Fall Away and Flat!

Model: Salmon Bay Instructor Alex Vaughan

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

Photos by John Patzer

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Flip Rescue - Revised Technique - How to Rescue People Quicker

The Flip Rescue has been a SUP rescue option since day 1. The method came from rafting and sailing, where flipping happens often. It's for pulling anyone out of the water who can't get on their board themselves due to the following reasons..

-Low upper body strength
-Loose fitting vest PFD catching on rail
-Large people whose chest gets in the way
-Hypothermia (too fatigued or numb hands/fingers)
-6" to 8" thick inflatables which can for anyone be difficult to climb on
-Being unconscious
*Or to help swimmers, snorkelers or capsized kayakers who need to get out of the water.

I perform the rescue 1-2 times a year mainly for students with low upper body strength whose boards have thick rails. Watching a high volume rental operation in our neighborhood each summer, we've seen several renters who can't get on their board for a variety of reasons.

The Technique - 
No rescue is ever the same or is ideal. In the new revised technique below, I cross from my board to theirs to speed up the flip-over time. But if you're rescuing a swimmer or snorkeler or paddler who lost their board (no leash?) then you'll have to get in the water to flip their board, get on it, then flip then on.  Or possibly you don't have a board then you'll flip them onto their own board.

In the NRS video here, the lifeguard throws his paddle away then rescues the person. That's fine providing you don't need the paddle, thus I don't recommend that option.  Also the 2 person prone technique works if the one or both people are not big people and the rescue board is thick (over 4.5" thick) - otherwise you'll sink their board. I'm 6-5 230lbs so this option most likely won''t work for me.    If a smaller person is on top, they may not be able to reach the water, this paddle back.

Our Revised Technique - 
- Approach the victim's board from the opposite side that they're facing.
- While doing so, ask the victim how they're doing - Are they cold? How long in the water? Any injuries? Keep talking to them throughout this process.
- From your board, flip the end of their board upside down (ends are easier to flip)
- Climb on their upside down board using your paddle over each to brace
- Pull the victim in towards their upside down board (facing you).
- Place both your paddles between the victim and their board rail. This corrals them from floating away. Once there, neither you or the victim needs to hold the paddles. Once they flip on the board, the paddles get pinned under their chest on the board.
- At this point determine the following
A. If the person is smaller than you, grab their vest lifejacket strap (it not loose), or under their shoulder (arm pit) and fall back into the water behind you. Make sure your board isn't directly behind you (kick yours out then fall).
B. If the person is bigger than you, ask them to cross their arms, grab their hands (not wrists) then stand up on the board. Step to the opposite rail (or heels over opposite rail), clear your board, then fall back. If you don't stand, you'll fail and have to try again. If they're cold, you need to get them out of the water asap - get it right the first time.
- Once on the victim is on the board, move towards the tail and reach over and pull their legs toward you onto the board. Pulling is easier than pushing from the opposite side.
-Then tow/push to shore.

Approach victim. Talk to them access situation.

Flip their board over at the nose or tail

Climb on their board, use paddle to brace boards

Pull in victim. Place paddles between him and his rail

Grab PFD straps, under arm or cross arms

Clear your board, then fall back

Victim on board

From same side, pull victim legs on board

For big people - Stand on board & cross arms, hold hand for falling back
How to Get to Shore?
-Use your leash to two their board to shore. They can hold your leash, strap it around their paddle shaft or attach it to deck outfitting (bungie etc)

- Tow Systems - Our instructors carry a tow rope at all times from NorthWater. Other great systems available from Kokatat, NRS, Salamander, etc. Throw or tow rope works, various lengths.  Or make your own if you're crafty.

- Push their board to shore with yours, nose to tail.  If really close too shore you can push their middle rail to shore with your board nose.

- Have victim lay flat (prone) with their board overlapping your tail. Have them wrap their arms around both boards to lock them. Then paddle both boards to shore.

- If you don't have a board, swim their board to shore pushing from their tail.

- Prone, as shown in the video providing you can reach the water and aren't sinking the board.

Practice - We teach and practice it often in our PSUPA Instructor Training courses and my regular SUP classes to where I can do the rescue on any body type in rough water in less than a minute. Try it with different body types (especially larger people) and board types, both hard and inflatable boards.

Other Ways of Getting a Person on a  Board - 
- With a non inflatable, sit on their board and sink one rail so water comes up, then pull person on over sunken part (like a dry dock), then flatten once they're on, kicking water off.  Not as easy as it sounds but practise it. Inflatables have too much floatation for this.
- Stirrup technique
- Paddle Support technique - Look for future posts on this technique. Ask now if interested.
- Parallel Board technique (paddles as supports between each) - ditto as above
- How to Fall Safety off a SUP

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

Photos by John Patzer

Boards Used - Imagine Surf Connector DLX 14' and Imagine Icon 10-2

Friday, October 14, 2016

9 Downwinding Equipment and Tips

As I write this, it's blowing 42 kts outside and the local SUP community is chomping at the bit to hit the water.  In previous years, many of the local paddlers showed up to the beach with minimal clothing and gear, sometimes leading to mishaps and lessons learned.  Before we get too far into the storms this year, here's a few tips and equipment option for safety downwinding.  Note since I'm based in Seattle, much of the gear listed is for cold weather/water paddling.

Communication On-Water - 
A cell phone is great, if you have reception, battery power, have a solid waterproofing option and your neoprene gloves allow you to manipulate the wet screen. If you've figured out a system for the above issues, also consider a short string attached to your PFD to you don't lose it.

A waterproof floating VHF is in many ways a smarter option as they can handle wet conditions better, can work as a two way radio with your buddies, many have very long battery life and the simple buttons make it easier to use than a phone.  If something dire happens, contacting Channel 16 is a lot more useful than trying to call 911 and explain your situation while 2 miles offshore in 34kts of wind.     Also use a short string for your VHF to keep it from floating away. I use Standard Horizon and ICOM handheld radios.

A cell phone is useful when you arrive on shore to call for your shuttle to pick you up.  One of our more experienced downwind paddlers has a shuttle driver that can adjust their position in case they don't get to their first take-out. They can call this person on-water to adjust pickup locations.

Non Verbal Communication On-Water -
Sometimes the ol' phone or VHF doesn't work due to battery failure, extreme noise from fast wind or signal mirror, whistle and hand signals. Note, whistles are great in many situations but don't work when blown to someone upwind. Signal mirrors are available as shiny plastic 3"x5" rectangles on a string that are quite bright, even on cloudy days. A friend who is former Navy flier said the mirror was an essential part of their safety kit.  Like the radios, attach on a string to you.  Hand signals are great for directing each other on the water especially if you can't hear over loud wind and waves. If a buddy wants to go left, he can signal left.  If a buddy falls hard, you can pat the top of your head. If he's ok, he'll pat his back.  Check page 149 of my SUP Book for the page shown here. We use hand signals regularly in our classes on whitewater, in surf, in high wind, or for communication at a distance.
you dropped it in the drink. Or you forgot it in the car. Consider manual backup options such as a

Tip for On-Water Communication Methods - Test and sync your gear with your buddies before you leave shore. What VHF channel will you be on? Do the radios work? How's the cell phone battery life and do you have reception? What hand signals will you be using? Does everyone understand each? Using a string to attach gear to you - should long enough to be usable but not long enough to go around your neck.

Life Jackets (PFDs)
Co2's are great if you're in hot weather and you've practiced firing off the cartridge and know how to blow it up when the cartridge fails (they do). A friend of mine wore his for a year, then realized when testing it that the opening of the inflated PFD didn't go over his head.  Know before you go.  **Co2s are also good for those with big bellies that don't fit well with a vest PFD. Check out my article on minimalist PFDs.

If you're not in hot temps, a vest PFD is your best bet. For those worried about on-water fashion, ya it may not be appropriate for the red carpet, but in 45kt winds in the middle of Puget Sound that's the least of my concerns.

Vest PFDs also keep you warmer and help reduce chest injuries if you fall on your board. A friend of ours broke his ribs this year from falling on a board and was using a waist C02 pfd.

PFD Buying Tips:
- Try before you by.  Online may be cheaper, but if you have a belly like me, your PFD will ride high on your chest. If that's not comfortable to you, better to find out before you order it. I'm also 6-5, so I'm at the top end of the fit scale.

- Get something with bright color for visibility.  It's nice to be seen on-water.

- Think about pockets. If you're not going to carry gear on a bag on your board, then it's going in your PFD. Can you access the pockets with neoprene gloves on? Will the upper pocket bump into your chin? Where will your VHF go?  If yo want to use it on rivers, does it have a quick release strap?

- PFD Fit Tips - It should be tight enough to not slip around your chest or come up in your face when you swim. But not so tight if affects breathing.  Also find PFDs with minimal side thickness which can hinder your stroke.

Tip: I carry the following in my PFD of downwinding - knife, small bottle of sunblock, neoprene skull cap, go pro, 1-2 energy bars, VHF, signal mirror, whistle (on exterior), watch (attached to exterior shoulder strap.  If getting close to dark, I'll have a waterproof white non blinking light on.

Where to buy a PFD?  Kayak shops will have the best selection. They've been on the safe path much longer than SUPs, thus will always have more of that type of gear.  Surf and SUP shops - if they have a PFD, it'll be one or two and not women's PFDs or sizes.

Finally we're seeing leashes on paddlers in rough water. For several years many didn't wear them unless they had big water experience.  A friend years ago told me that he only falls by his board so didn't need a leash. On that 30kt day in 5' seas, he fell away from his board and we had to chase him down.  Always wear your leash.  If you disagree, at least wear it in surf (to prevent board collisions) and in big water offshore, (to stay off the news).

Coiled leashes are preferred by most due to not tangling with stuff in the water, and they don't drag behind slowing you down.  We attach your leashes to our PFD side straps so it stays clear of board walking (also preferred for not tangling with stuff in rivers).

Did You Forget Your PFD or Leash?  
I carry extras in my car.  I have an extra fin, fin screws, leash, leash string, PFD, VHF and extra clothing options. I do forget things so that's my solution.

Helmets keep you warmer, offer high visibility, and keep your noggin intact in case of a collision with your board (it happens), paddle or another paddler.  Get a bright color like yellow or red. Black and white blend into the background.  I use Gath which are really comfortable and have removable ears. Try before you buy as a few friends with big heads don't fit into most helmets on the market.   Kayak shops will most likely have more options than a surf shop.  Make sure the helmet doesn't slide forward and back on your head. Size for wearing a neoprene hood under.

Deck Storage
A deck bag will allow you carry more water, extra clothing and extra safety gear that won't fit in your PFD. Though don't put anything in the bag that you would need if you got separated from your board.   I use bags from Sealine and Seattle Sports which are waterproof and have 4 attachment points. Attaching to the board - I use NSI spectral loops which epoxy to the board. Some of my boards have leash plugs on the nose (most secure).  If not, I add them.  I don't trust suction cups.

Picking Paddling Buddies
There's a lot of articles about how folks think it's safer to paddle with others. But what if the others don't have experience, can or even know how to rescue you or get you into conditions about your skill level?  Do low or wind paddles with folks before hitting the big stuff. One person's version of 'small waves' may be way too big for your skill level.  Start in small waves and build to larger wind with more experience. Your buddy may think 45kts sounds epic! But you may struggle and have a bad experience in such wind. If in doubt, don't go out.

Tip: Check each other's gear before going out.

Prone, Sitting and Kneeling
Just because it's a stand up board, that doesn't mean you have to do that.  It's just a platform.  When I paddle in strong upwind conditions, I sit (see video on sitting) and blow past my friends who are destroying their shoulders trying to fight 20+kts of wind. Kneeling works but you're still a sail going upwind.  Prone is the smartest way to get upwind, but it takes practice to get in shape for it.  If you lose your paddle, prone home.  (and phone home).  Tips for Prone Paddling

More of my articles on Downwind Paddling:
- 10 Tips for Safer Downwinding
- Tow Systems for SUP
- 11 Tips for Paddling Solo
- 13 Downwinding Tip for Safer & More Runs

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

2 Reasons How Rail Tape Can be Useful to You

One of our Stoke Magazine readers asked me whether Rail Tape is necessary. I did some research, here's the results..

What is Rail Tape?  Rail tape is used to re-enforce the rails of your boards to prevent or reduce damage from a variety of sources (see below). The tape is a clear plastic material that sticks on and runs the length of both rails (2pc) adding additional protection to your rails. RailSaverPro does have decorative rail tape. Rail tape is popular with SUP rental operations as inexperienced paddlers can afflict a lot damage to boards.

Rail tape can also be used to re-enforce soft rails on super light carbon and fiberglass race boards.
Light often means that the exterior material isn't strong or may ding easily. While standing up on a few light boards, I've seen the rails and upper deck by the rails flex.

But is it necessary?
For rentals - yes!  In my opinion, if you don't hit your rails, carry and treat your board well, then it's not necessary.  Some ask if a paddle should be taped. Maybe for rentals who may hit the board, but for experienced paddlers if you don't hit the board, neither paddle or board needs taping.  Those with super wide blade paddles (Werner Spanker) may hit the board more often, but practice not doing so does help.

Tip for not hitting your board with your paddle - 
Use a vertical shaft (upper hand over water) and draw your stroke from your catch (nose) to your feet in a straight line. This means don't start the blade at the nose, instead place the blade in the water a few inches from the nose but in line with the rail at your feet. Doing so means you paddle straight and you don't hit your board.

Fancy Rail Tape - Fiberglass.
Sea kayakers have been using keel tape for years. A similar product, keel tape is thicker and runs the hull length of kayaks from stern to bow preventing from dinging the hull on rocks or beach landings. The tape on my kayak collected sand in the seams and eventually came of in places. So we began apply a strip of fiberglass instead.  Some SUP paddlers I know have applied a strip of fiberglass done the length of their rails not only to reduce dings, but to re-enforce thus make their board stronger.  If you're not skilled with fiberglass, hire a professional. I do, I usually end up making a mess of things.

How can your rails get damaged?
- Boards banging against other boards on water
- Dropping, sliding or sometimes even resting a board on the ground, especially concrete
- Collisions with rocks, docks, or armored shorelines (concrete bulkheads, pilings, etc).
- Stacking boards on each other for storage, especially boards with raised rails (use foam for racks).
- Riders falling on their board deck (not recommended)

Board that don't need rail tape - 
Soft tops that have a non fiberglass rail, plastic sups, inflatables or boards with a super strong hull with lots of fiberglass. I used to have the Surftech Universal boards which used closed cell foam (didn't absorb water) and several layers of fiberglass - downside was they were super heavy. Glide boards have truck liner sprayed on their exterior and Bounce have a super solid exterior without the weight that doesn't ding easily.

Best Products - 
The following seem to be the most popular - RailSaverPro and Surfco.

How to Apply Rail Tape - 
Click here to see this great video by BluePlanetSurf in Oahu. They're using RailSaverPro

Additional info on Rail Tape to check out..
- How to Apply
- Interesting chat about Rail and Paddle tape on Standupzone

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

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