Rob Casey is the owner of Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle and is the author of two paddling guides.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ever Loose a Filling Before Surfing?

Just in case this happens to you..
This was a weird one..  was getting ready to go surfing and as I bit into a chewy ShotBlock energy candy thing, I felt a hard object in my mouth. First I was thinking there was something hard in the candy, but realized later it was probably a filling.  I fished it out then realized I had a problem. My ride has just dropped me off and here I was at a remote put-in for a river and surf break and no pockets, PFD or waist pouch to put this thing in.  I figured my wetsuit had a key pocket but didn't know where and rolling up my sleeves didn't reveal anything. I didn't have a key on me since I was paddling back to our beach house.

After a bit of thought, I first tried to put it in my glove, but realized the sharp edges may cut me and I have a few holes in the fingers.  Then figured I could put it in my bootie, but it could slip down below my feet and again the sharp edge would be a problem.  So my final solution was to stuff it in the ShotBlock package, roll it up then stick it in my bootie. That worked but could still feel the edge on occasion during my surf session.

Unfortantly am spending half my Monday at the dentist..

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gear I Use (for now)

Here's some of the gear I'm using now.  Things change as I find more suitable gear or change my methods of paddling.  I have some sponsorship items but use only what I find is the best gear for my needs vs using just what they send me.

Amundson Source 11-6 board
I'm 6-5 230lbs and like the thicker rails to displace my weight. I'm not into super tippy boards - would rather be stable and comfortable in standing vs always struggling to stand. The board's shape is good enough for some ripping but still tracks on flat water for paddling in a mile or so.  The ledge (indented) handle helps on long carries. I use this board for most body types for instruction.  I use their 11-10 for folks up to 300lbs and a friend's Hooked SUP by Alex Aguero for larger folks.

Imagine Surf Recruit/Focus 11'
This is a fun one for surfing and ripping on river and surf waves.  Light to carry and just thick enough for my weight so I can move it around easily while staying stable in bumps.  I like pointy noses for cutting through waves paddling out or upwind.

17' and 18' Prototype Touring Boards
Working with shaper Sean Thomas of Echo Composites, we're designing a real touring SUP board with kayak style hatches and foot rudder. With a surf ski high volume nose for big water and incredible speed we're excited to take it to the next level. We'll run a Kickstarter campaign early 2015 to generate funds to take it to production. Contact me if interested in learning more. I use the boards on flat water, camping trips, downwinders, surf and river conditions or tidal rapids.

I use the Accent ProBolt for most of my paddling. It has a narrow blade width which is nice to my shoulders but plenty enough power.  A carbon paddle, its super light, has a comfortable hand grip and shaft.  Also durable, I've used it in rivers, tidal rapids, surf and drawing things in the sand for students.  It's also reasonable priced unlike many paddles of it's design.

RipCurl 5/3 Dawn Patrol, back zip - Keeps me mostly dry on cold PNW days yet is very flexible and comfortable. The 3mm on the arms can get chilly so I add a polypro top under or a neoprene jacket top over for 20-30F weather. I just ordered a 5/4 FlashBomb from RipCurl for teaching, as I don't work as hard physically with beginning students thus get colder (in winter).

ProMotion & RipCurl Hooded Vest
I'm a big fan of hooded vests. You can pull them over a back zip suit to prevent flushing in the neck area, wear under the suit on super cold days to boost core heat or add in summer with shorts to add some warmth up top.  If you get hot, slide the hood off or add when chilled. The ProMotion neoprene is nearly 2.5mm with a substantially warm hood.  The RipCurl vest has their #FlashBomb fleecy material which dries super quick but also adds warmth.

Season5 top
I use this over my 5/3 suit on super cold days when I need the wind chill reduced. Or in summer as a solo top with shorts.  It cuts wind and is mostly waterproof yet very light.  I use the Season5 short for wearing under my 5/3 in really cold water and/or under shorts in summer 0n slightly chilled days.

Glacier fleeced lined gloves for winter. I get cold easily so these are great for super chilled days but not too bulky either.  Like most gloves they last about a season of heavy paddling.

NRS Mavericks Gloves - These are a great winter glove but not as warm as the Glacier glove above (for me). I use them in autumn and Spring or warmer winter days. They're waterproof and pretty comfortable.

I'm a bit fanatical about booties.  I paddle in rocky areas often having to walk over barnacles, mussels and other bumpy sharp items.  So I like a flexible but thick sole to protect my feet. Feeling sharp gravel isn't fun.  Plus I can stick a nearly 90 degree (vertical) pivot turn with the shoe tread.  I use the NRS Shocksock and Freestyle Wetshoes.  Both are waterproof, warm as any surf style 5mm or 7mm bootie, comfortable and less expensive than some 7mm booties. I still use these in summer for protecting feet on our beaches. I can feel the board fine while watching the summer people with soft bare feet struggle to do it Maui style over rocky Puget Sound beaches.

In summer I use my older leaky NRS booties so I don't get too hot but still have the nice shoe tread for walking on rocky beaches or over pavement.

Currently using the NorthWater coiled leash for flat water days, a coiled Dakine SUP leash for flat water, river and small surf, then a Dakine straight leash for bigger surf (doesn't bounce back at me).

Gath Surf Hat and Gedi.  Surf hat for medium easy surf or deep river current. The Gedi for heavy crazy surf and shallow rivers.  Super comfortable, flexible, ears remove on the Gedi, and affordable. Purpose of the helmet in surf is to prevent the board from cracking my skull when landing on my head.

I'm a big rubber fin fan.  Ya they shudder and flex but I'm not trying to break a speed record or am competing in world class events.  I can run them up on beaches, over kelp beds and they won't slice me in a wipeut.  My beginning students always drag fins, hit walls or steps walking in.  I use ProTek fins in the 9" for most paddling and a thruster set for rivers and surf.  Got one QR Quick Release fin for quick setup or to adjust on water.

To carry stuff on water such as a first aid kit, communication devices for lessons, or to have a place to remove clothing when hot, I use kayaking style deck bags.  Seattle Sports has a variety of ones to use but I use the Parabolic Deck Bag which is waterproof and slender shaped for letting water pass.  Attach to your board using Seattle Sports plugs or NRS (North Shore Inc) spectral loops.

For summer and flat water paddles, I use the MTI Cascade.  It has a substantial but not bulky front pocket which I use to carry a power bar, knife, night light, VHF (tied in), etc. Under the pocket is a fleece lined hand warmer.  The PFD is light and comfortable.

For big water and river conditions, I use the Astral Green Jacket which has a built in 8' tow rope, quick release belt to attach the leash to in whitewater and a great but not bulky front pocket.

I rarely use C02 styles as the vest styles keep me warm here in our non tropical NW weather. But for freighter wave surfing we surf in location that is flat water and thus requires some sort of PFD to be legal.  So I use the MTI waist belt packs to surf in.  We also use these in instructor training courses to show how to fire them off, which I recommend prior to use.

I teach thus I get people on the water who don't know their limits and may have to be towed to shore. You want good gear for this.  I use the NorthWater Regulation MicroTow and Micro Throw Line which is much smaller and was developed for SUPs..  It wraps comforably around my waist and has a short and longer tow option.  I prefer bags with a the open velcro bag so I can stuff it in quickly after a rescue, vs having to thread it in a small hole which takes time.

My trusty 2006 Subaru Forester is holding up well at 155k miles. With an extended Yakima Rack on top, I can carry 8 boards on the freeway plus lots of gear inside.

Give me a holler if you have any questions on the above.  

My car overlooking the tidal rapids of Burrows Island, WA

Thursday, December 11, 2014

11 SUP Tips for the Deception Pass Dash (or Tidal Rapids Paddle Tips)

This 6 mile race in it's 9th year is one of the most challenging and fun races in the NW for all paddle craft. The veterans say 2008 was the last gnarly weather race, it has been mostly flat since, fingers crossed for an epic race this sunday.

Most SUPs who do the race don't paddle the Pass throughout the year, so many get caught in kelp beds and funky currents.

Here's a few tips on being more successful racing in the Pass..

- Bring a weed or rubber fin.  To save energy and get the most out of the race you should be paddling in eddies. Eddies are also the location for kelp beds and rocks.  Avoid getting caught in kelp and raking over raking over rocks with a smart fin choice.  Rubber fins will glide over kelp, and bump off rocks with less face plants.  I use the ProTek 9" fins or Ninja fin which has a anti-weed design. If you get caught in kelp, walk to your nose to lift your tail/fin out, then paddle forward.  Tip: Wax your nose, (of your board).

- Use eddies to get upstream.  Eddies are recirculating current from downstream current bouncing off an obstruction like a rock (eddies will be behind the rock).  Eddy current will either be going against the main current upstream, will be swirling upstream in a circle, or may be dead water.  In either case they're there to help you get upstream. Even if only 2' wide, use it, it's better than bucking the current directly.  Use an aerial view of the Pass to look for a route upstream along Pass Island and Strawberry Island.  Both islands themselves create huge eddies in their shadow.

- If mellow weather, most of the bumps will be under the bridge or by Deception Island.  The rest is a mostly flat water paddle. In the beginning of the ebb you won't get much of a push downstream below Strawberry Island or under the bridge. If you do, it'll slow after the bridge.  Bring your hydration.

- Wind. Wind opposing currents builds bumps.  SUPs, get low and power through it with a short yet high cadence. If a NE or SE wind stay as much as possible out of the direct line of wind, so get behind land masses vs being in the open. And Draft, see below..

- Going back to DP Island 2nd time - Ebb will be moving and it moves north between Reservation Head and the island. Be ready to put your board in a ferry angle from the island back to the mainland.

- Draft. It's ok to draft, meaning tailgaiting another paddler in front of you to get their stern/tail eddie. Get 1-3" off their tail and you'll get a sorta free ride. Let them break the wind for you as well.  Some racers work in draft teams switching out the leader to get a break over a long distance.

- Do a test run of the race Saturday morning starting at Slack.  Get familiar with it, look for favorable
eddies, obstructions, kelp beds and get an idea how long you have before the ebb kicks in.  Consider arriving Saturday to take George Gronseth's DP prep class - save yourself a ton of hassle.

- Funky water - This means upwellings or boils, whirlpools, eddy lines and other wacky water.  Use a short quick cadence for stability and bent knees for flexibility. Paddling itself is stability or a brace.  Freezing and putting your paddle in the air means you're going in.  Paddling upwind or up current also means a short fast cadence. Current will stall or push you back if your strokes are too long or your recovery is too long or slow.  Think race start speed and cadence in bumps. Worried about whirlpools? Go with the flow and lit it swirl you around.  Boils may push you around, let it do it then regain your course.

- 175 paddlers on the starting line means a lot of whitewater. I've seen paddlers go in here.  Be ready for it.

- SUPs, attach your leash to your waist.  If you go in, your feet and coiled leash won't get caught up in the kelp.

- PFD - personal choice here, but I wear a vest style PFD in the Pass so when I fall I don't go all the way in and have a quicker recovery.

- Wax your SUP rails.  After falling in, you can grab your board easier if being sent away in current or wind.  Also helps prevent slippage when trying to get back on.

Anyone have other tips? Feel free to add them below. Got questions?  Give me a holler. Join me for a DP tidal rapids class for kayak and SUP year around.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Safety Lasso for Inflatable SUPs

Having difficult climbing back on your 6-8" thick inflatable SUP?  We've seen this as a problem, especially for those who have little upper body strength or are under 5'-5", especially on boards 32" or wider.  Thick race boards are also an issue. Even a flip rescue can be difficult as inflatables are slippery and race boards sometimes have carved out decks with rigid raised rails which are uncomfortable to climb over.

Here's two solutions to try:

Stirrup Strap - Use the following North Water U-Link or fashion your own to attach one end to a clip or D-Ring on your board with a carabiner a or similar secure attachable loop.  Let the foot section of the stirrup sink in the water.  Place the paddlers foot in the stirrup while the other paddler holds down the opposite side of the board to keep it from flipping over the paddler. 

Try it out and see if it works. Make sure the carabiner can detach easily if necessary and that you have a place on the board or in a deck bag to store the stirrup when not in use. 

Testing this last week, I found attaching the caribiner to the leash string and climbing on the tail worked best. The narrow shaped tail less volume tail can be pushed in the water as you climb on top more effortly.  

North Water Stirrup

One of my students who is an EMT/Fireman says they always carry a loop strap in their jacket at all times for any variety of improvised rescues.  Order the North Water strirrup Here.

Wax the Rails of the Board - I learned this one from river SUP guys who wax the rails of their epoxy boards to easier grab them after falling off in moving current.  Make sure to use surf, not ski wax (sticky).  I wax the deck area just outside the traction pad along the rails and my nose area too for walking on the board.  

Have a creative Rescue Idea? Let us know, we would be glad to share it!

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Tips for Keeping a Paddling Biz Open in Winter

Most paddling and surfing shops here in the Pacific NW have either shut down for the winter or are on limited hours.  Now that its getting dark at 5pm, it's impossible to hold evening classes. But when there is daylight, many experienced paddlers are still going.  Seeing this a few years ago I realized I may be able to convince my students to continue their paddling 'season' throughout the year.  I have to do a lot of convincing but when they see the light per se, they're hooked on off season paddling.  Obviously if you're in some places in North America or otherwise, frozen lakes and rivers will prevent from any water time!

Here's a few tips to getting folks paddling in winter.  

- Convince folks that paddling from your local waters in winter is as fun as going skiing.  I love skiing but here it's over $100 per trip these days, a 2-4 hour one way drive and just as cold and wet as paddling.  Infact you wear more clothing to ski.  No lines to get to the beach.

- Last year I had a few folks out thanks to a poor ski season.  But since I didn't have super warm booties I lost a few who got cold.  Very important to have toasty wetsuits (or drysuits), booties, gloves and hoods.  A vest style PFD builds core temps. Get suits that are 5/4mm, 5/4/3, 7mm booties, fleece lined gloves and hoods. If you're from Hawaii you'll think we're crazy. I say, if you're not surfing, no matter where you are - you're crazy. Read my article on how to choose a wetsuit.

- Keep a 1-2 gallon container of hot water in your car to pour over you and friends when done.

- Provide foam camping pads to stand on in the parking lot when changing or hanging out.  I cut up old camping pads.

- Scout out a great pub or cafe to visit after your paddle for a beer and/or hot soup, etc.

- Provide indoor pool paddling sessions - yoga, basics, rescue practice.

- Offer winter season sports in addition to paddling - surfing, wind sports and yes, snow ports.

Read my article on 30 Tips for Cold Weather Paddling in SUP Magazine, 2010

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cool Deck Bag for SUPs or Kayaks

Most SUP'ers get into the sport because they want to do things simply. Many paddlers we see have a board, paddle and bikini or swimming trunks, not much else.  But the Pacific Northwest packs a surprise every sunny summer afternoon. At noon or sometime thereafter the high pressure rolls in creating a strong North wind.  In a few hours the fetch has created waves up to waist high. If you fall in, which most do lacking skills, the wind will make you chilly.

Solution? You can put bungies on your board and stuff in a synthetic warm layer or rash guard, or get a deck bag.  Deck bags are commonly seen on kayaks and work great on SUPs. Many are waterproof so your gear will be dry when you put it on.  Or if you get too hot, you have a place to put your gear vs trying it aroung your waist or putting it on your deck and fighting to keep it there.

I particuliarly like the Seattle Sports Parabolic Deck Bag.  Admittantly the fifth plastic clip on the end of the bag was my idea and I was stoked that they added it.  If that end of the bag is facing the nose of the board, when wave wash over the bag doesn't flip up, which can throw your forward.  The bag is waterproof, has daisy chain fabric on top to tie more stuff down and has bungy on top to strap a water bottle (we've done 3 at once) or extra clothing down.  We also use the bag on shore to store snacks and a first aid kit for surfing classes.

Note: When I give reviews it's the real mccoy.  I used to do reviews for magazines but the products were also their advertisers so nothing negative was printed.  

Product Link: Here

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Kayak Retrofit Update

In late summer, I asked my neighbor Todd, a Werner/Jackson pro kayak fisherman and kayak/sup repair guy, to cut the top off my $4k sea kayak.  Focused mainly on sup since 2010, I've been wanting to take the kayak out but haven't kept my eskimo rolling skills up to par.  Generally not an issue but I like rough water, so it's essential to have good self rescue skills. Unlike a SUP, you can't just jump back on a closed deck kayak - or at least I can't having long legs at 6'-5".

Long story, Todd agreed and the cockpit top was removed by the time we got back from dinner.  Todd  then steamed oak ribs and made a skeleton frame to lay inside the hull of the boat as a stiffener.  He then filled the remaining space with blow-in foam, then carved it out to fit the contours of my body for sitting.  Fiberglass and epoxy was added, then leash plus on the sides of the cockpit to attach thigh straps for control and rolling if needed.

I've tested the boat several times and have to say I'm having a blast.  I'm an open deck sort of guy whether on a SUP, wave ski, surf ski or kayak.  Next up is raising the cockpit below my knees to better separate out the water wells of the seat and feet. We carved out too much under my knees so since we won't be adding a scupper to remove water while underway, it's best to leave as little areas as possible for water to collect.  Then Todd will spray gel coat to protect the fiberglass and make it prettier (note gnarly fiberglass look now).

The boat did add weight with the blow foam and fiberglass.  Certainly the smartest way to do this is to create a mould of the seating area leaving the space underneath hollow or fill it with 1lb foam.  Or buy a whole new boat.  I didn't have the funds so this was our answer.  And shipping a performance sit on top sea kayak to the US from the manufacturers in South Africa and Australia would've cost more than retrofit.  Plus I like the Illusion hull.

Need kayak or SUP repairs? Contact Todd at Specialized Kayak, 206.229.3764

Almost done. Gel coat next.

Adding leash plugs for thigh straps