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.

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.