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

Monday, July 28, 2014

How to tie a SUP to a Car with Roof Rails

Got a car with this type of rack?  I'm a big fan of using what you have vs buying a whole separate rack system.


Here's how to secure your board to the car:

If you have a stock cross bar.
- Place the deck pad down on the cross bar (fin up).  If the pad doesn't rest directly on the cross bar, pad the bar with insulation foam or soft surfboard pads.  

- Place the board in the center of the cross bars, so it sticks out evenly on both sides.

- Secure down with cam straps to the cross bars.  Make sure the straps are vertical in reaching the cross bar. This helps prevent sideways slippage.

- Do a shake and shove test to make sure the board won't slip around while underway.  

If you don't have a cross bar: 
- Place a yoga mat or other softener on the roof, remove the radio attennae. Yoga mats are sticky so are great for securing stuff down.  A friend uses a half inflated camping pad.

- Tie down using the side rails with rope or cam straps.  You may get a tempory dent in the roof.  

- Do a shake test before leaving – try to slide nose/tail back and fourth. You may get a temporary dent on the roof but it should recover.  

- If there is slippage consider tying down either the tail and/or nose to keep secure.  Attach to the leash plug or add at plug such as the NSI Spectral loop stick on to the nose (deck).  

These images are of a Subaru Forester (my loan car) with a yoga mat for protection.  



Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Look for & Understand Tidal Current

Here on Puget Sound near Seattle, tidal currents are a big part of paddling.  If you want to get somewhere in a timely manner, learning how to work with rather than against the currents is essential.

The question is, how do know how to look for currents?  Here's a few tips..

- Go online for Current tables. Type in your location with something like "Deception Pass currents".  A variety of options will appear giving you the info needed.  I like Mobile Graphics and NOAA as they give me an easy to read list of flows.  Some like a visual graph instead of a list. I also use Captain Jack's, a small spiral booklet when scheduling my classes, and I keep one in the car.

- Check if you area has a book like this one Currents of Puget Sound.  This gives me a visual guide to how currents move in my area. Although once you see the samples from the book below, you can figure out how current (or water) moves and flows when it rounds a point, bumps into a headland or bay, etc.  For the Washington San Juan Islands, BC's Gulf Island the similar areas check out Current Atlas Juan de Fuca Strait & Strait of Georgia.  

- Learn to read current when looking at the water.  Fast flowing current may appear like a smooth section of water or bumpy if it's bucking (going against) wind.  Open water may have weird sections of glassy water winding through.  Check the Rivers section of my SUP book to learn how tidal rapids work and how to read them - learn about eddies, eddy lines and the like.

- Take a class.  Starpath School of Navigation is an example of a place to learn about the marine environment, navigation, weather and the like.

- Buy a book on marine navigation.  Not to overly push Starpath, but David Burch the owner does have some great tools to help us out on the water!  His book Fundamentals of Kayak Navigation is an invaluable resource I've had for years.  It covers the basics of how to read a chart, compass and GPS through how to paddle in currents.




Sunday, July 20, 2014

Inflatable SUPs - All the Rage but Sometimes Difficult to Get Back On

I love everthing I see about the inflatable SUPs coming out.  They don't require a car rack, are great for folks living in apartments, commuting, travelling for business, or who don't want to or can't carry a heavy fiberglass or plastic board.  The better products are as stiff as epoxy boards, equally as fast but offer a soft landing if you fall on the deck.

A downside I recently came across recently is being able to get back on the 6" thick inflatables.  I had a student in moving water who is a good paddler but couldn't get back on her board without assistance.  She had recently bought the board, had been on it a few times but only getting on in shallow water.  After falling off in deep water and in a river environment she required a flip rescue the first time, and a tow the second into a shallow eddy (calmer water).

The difference between an inflatable and a fiberglass/epoxy boards is the foil.  Foil is the shape of the board if seen from the side or profile view. Notice hard boards are thin in the nose, thick in the standing area then thin in the tail.  This means if the standing area is too thick to climb over (some are 5" thick), you can move to the side rear or tail which has less floatation and can be pushed down in the water easier to get your body on top.

Bigger or less flexible paddlers will find the tail area an easier way to get back on.  Inflatable boards don't have foil.  They're they same thickness from nose to tail. Some inflatable tails have a slight rocker rising up thus making it even more difficult to climb on top of.

What to do about it?  

- Should you get that 6" board you're been looking at?  Sure.  But with a friend nearby in a calm area near shore, try to get on.   Kick your feet as if you're swimming to rise your body to the surface while simultaneously pulling yourself up on the deck. Recommended before going out in open water.

- Figure out a stirrup system to get on the board.  This could be done with your leash or another piece of webbing or strap stored on your board or PFD.

- Too difficult to get on? Get a 4" board, compensate for stability by getting one that is wider.

- Flip Rescue.  Can't get a friend on?  Learn the flip rescue.  Practice to make it efficient when you need it - especially if you're an instructor.

Note lack of Foil tail to Nose (board thickness).


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Finding Used SUP Boards

I get several calls a week from students and others seeking used paddle boards.  Not only does it show the sport is popular but that retail priced boards are also expensive.  While most epoxy and inflatable boards are expensive to make, most are over priced.  The market is hot, so manufacturers can get away with it.  My 17' carbon sea kayak with 3 storage hatches, deck hardware is still a better buy than most carbon race boards which are just fiberglass or carbon wrapped over foam.  The downside is that most folks can't afford new boards.

Folks regularly ask me if I have a 'beater board' 'super cheap' 'cosmetic blem' 'less than $500'.  They are out there.  I'm not a retailer so don't sell my gear.  But foam and rotomolded plastic boards are cheaper, usually less than $600.  Some make a go of making it themselves but foam, epoxy and glass will cost you about the same price of a new board, unless you're really crafty at building things.

But even used epoxy or inflatable boards still aren't cheap.  Sellers want to re coop what they paid or have a nostalgic bond to the board thus won't let it go for less.  $600 is standard for a used board.

One local outdoor second use mountaineering shop has an idea of selling used boards because they see the market. I thought about an extension page off my site to connect buyers with sellers but realized it could get messy with the transactions.  Go for it if you find a smart way of making it work.

A few tips for finding 'affordable' boards:
- Get to know the industry reps.  They'll dump their 2014 boards in the fall.

- Pay attention to local paddling/surf shops.  As above, they'll sell their current year's stock in the fall for less. One local shops does sell beater boards for $300 in the fall.  They do need ding repair though.

- CraigsList - Watch for sellers desperate to sell maybe due to a last minute move.  But also beware of those selling stolen boards.

- Bring your wallet to paddling festivals, races, etc.  Many will try to sell gear at events.  Often you'll get 'show deals'.

- Do you really need that epoxy or carbon board? Keep it simple for your first board.  My first sea kayak was a $600 plastic beast but it got me started until I learned what type of boat I really wanted.  In a year I instead bought a surf kayak instead of a sea kayak.  Glad I waited.

Note: Try before you buy.  It may be cheap but is it stable, sea worthy, and light to carry?  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Do You have a Race Strategy?

A few years ago Dan Gavere was visiting and participated in a local weekly race.  When the race started most of the racers followed one of our local guys who usually wins.  This route was straight towards the turn-a-round buoy directly upwind in open water with knee to waist high wind waves.
Dan on the other hand took a completely sheltered route with no wind or waves which instead was curved vs straight. When the sheltered section ended, Dan was clearly ahead of our local fast racer, and the rest of the pack.  Not only was he ahead, he had more energy left since the sheltered section was easy paddling vs fighting bumpy incoming waves and 15 knots of wind.

After the racers went around the buoy (actually a navigational tower) Dan and the lead racer downwind surfed the waves back to the finish line in no time.  The pack was scattered throughout the race area, some still rounding the buoy, most finishing quite a bit later and most trying to paddle vs surf the waves back.

The Lesson?  Study your race course and look for environmental advantages where you can excel.

Point A to B isn't always the quickest way there.  I put on a weekly race in Seattle on Shilshole Bay where we have tidal current, river current, wind and boat traffic.  The faster racers are not necessarily the strongest. Often they know how to read the water conditions to make the smartest decisions vs just powering through it.

Some things to keep in mind:

Incoming wind - Use points of land, slight curves or dips in the shoreline to use to avoid going directly upwind.

Incoming current - Eddies are recirculating sections of water behind an obstruction like a dock, point of land or large rock.  River paddlers use these to take breaks or to link to each other to cross current. Often it's back current pushing you back upstream giving a free ride.

Paddling Downind - Use every little wave or wavelet to help propel you forward.  Even an ankle high wave can give you a push - don't be picky.  Surfing will give a break and a free ride.  I once passed a much stronger paddler who was paddling hard through little waves which I was surfing.

Learn to Read the Water - Look for sections of calm or sections of moving water.  Check a marine chart or aerial photo of the route before you go.  Look for how the wind will affect you from one or a few directions - where are the breaks from wind or current?  What is the main direction for wind in this location during the time of day the race occurs?  In Seattle we get a northerly on blue sky days in summer - but not in winter.

Paddle the Race Course - Paddle the course before the race.  Get to know it's quarks, cons and benefits.

One Big One - Don't expect races to be flat calm.  Most I see are waiting for 'nice days' to paddle.  That fails if the wind is totally upwind or side wind.  Can you handle those conditions? If not, you won't win or place well in the race. Even big race starts are super rough.

Drafting - It's legal to draft in most races.  Essentially you get behind the tail of a racer of the same or slightly better speed than you.  Get right up there nearly but not hitting their board.  Those popular square tailed race boards create a great back eddy which you can use to push you forward - easy paddling!

One that drives me nuts - I teach because I like to help people.  In my races I watch participants struggle with pivot turns, paddling against direct wind when they could save a ton of energy and pain by using an eddy or wind break.  Take a lesson from a quality instructor who can help you solve these problems and become a more successful racer with just a few tips!  It's about finesse and smart planning, not just power or pure strength.

The above works for wind or current


Monday, July 7, 2014

Always Test Your Rack

I carry anywhere from 1 to 8 boards on my Subaru Forester for my SUP classes and tours. A few are surprised by the loads I carry.  But before every trip I test my rack with a shake test to assure the rack itself is secure to the car, then I load and secure the boards.

Yesterday while loading only one board, the rack tower attachment pulled off the car roof rail. Luckily I was in my alley not yet on the road.  The attachments been on the car since 2006, so definitely time for replacement.  I replaced the remaining 3 towers (Yakima) for preventative maintenance. Here's an image of the slipped part with a strap holding the rack bar to the car until I had time to replace it.