Salmon Bay Paddle - SUP Instruction & Tours in the Pacific Northwest Tel: 206-465-7167 /


Surfing in Seattle?

In my 5 Ways to Surf Shilshole Bay post, I mentioned wind waves. Wind waves create both downwindable conditions but also in the case of the photo here, they like ocean waves will eventually end up at a beach. If the beach has a gentle slope, then waves will build and possible extend some distance giving us a surf opportunity.

Right in front of the Ballard Elks lodge where we teach (below), a SW or strong (30kt) northerly will push waves into the beach. At lower tides waves will build. Boat wakes will also throw waves inside creating nice waves. I once surfed a chest high set, but short lived as it was a drop-in and bail out of there type sort of wave.

Like our freighter waves, waves break like these all over Puget Sound. Just a matter of finding beaches with a gentle slope, then paying attention during storms, boat wakes and varying tide levels to see what happens. You can find good beach break waves on lakes as well. A friend once rode a chest high wave from a boat on Lake Washington. Search for beaches using aerial photo sites like the DNR Shoreline page and Google Earth. Geography to look for may include points of land with lots of sand on one or both sides or crescent shaped beaches which empty out to a flat beach at low tide.

Cleaned up wind waves at the Ballard Elks

Read more about waves on Puget Sound and tools for finding them..
- Armored Shorelines - Essentially bulkheads, create a reverb wave form called clapotis.
- DNR Aerial Photos - View WA shoreline photos from the 1970's to present day.
- Google Earth - Same as above but view from 360 degrees and make measurements, etc.
- Learn to Surf Freighter Waves on Puget Sound (class) - come with a freighter wave manual.

Learn more about my book Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans, 60 Trips. I also offer SUP and Kayak lessons available throughout the year at Salmon Bay Paddle. Questions about paddling on the Salish Sea, give me a holler anytime at or 206-465-7167

Support the Washington Water Trails Association and the Cascadia Marine Trail. The wwta works to create and protect access for paddlers on Puget Sound as well as provide an extensive network of over 60 paddle-in camping sites -


Exploring the Strait of Juan de Fuca - Search for WW2 Bunkers and a Mysterious Door

I had some extra time last weekend to explore a section of the Strait of Juan de Fuca to search for WW2 bunkers and a mysterious metal door in a cliff. Both are around Agate Point, a steep tree topped cliff headland with pocket beaches, breaking waves,
eagles and spectacular views.

Launching from the Crescent Beach RV Park, I timed the surf and punched through 4' waves to access open water and Agate Point, about 3/4 mile from the beach.

Read More..

Beyond Agate Point


We're Bringing Kayaking Lessons back to Salmon Bay in 2017!

I started Salmon Bay with both SUP and sea kayaking lessons, then dropped kayaking as most of our requests were for SUP and stocking both types of equipment gets to be a bit much and pretty pricey.

Problem solved! I'm partnering with Aqua Verde in Seattle to provide SUP and kayaking lessons to both their and our customers. AV has a ton of kayaking gear so we'll teach from their docks on Seattle's Portage Bay and also from Ballard for intermediate to advanced classes and tours.

We will still work out of the Ballard Elks beach for most of our SUP classes. While we're still working out the details, you all also be able to take a SUP class with us on Lake Union from Aqua Verde . In summer, lake water gets up to the mid 70's.

Aqua Verde from Portage Bay

We're also coming up with some fun ideas for trips and tours with SUP and kayaking on the Sound to Deception Pass, to the coast for surf kayaking classes and possible an overnight paddle trip.  And Kids Paddle Camps!

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for updates as we figure out our programming in coming weeks!

Read more about Aqua Verde

Thanks for visiting my blog!
 Check out my year around classes and tours in the Pacific Northwest. or contact me at 206.465.7167 or
Get sup certified with the PSUPA - Courses held all year. Check our site for dates.


Nature Showing off Big High and Low Tides in Ballard

One of the reasons why I prefer to paddle and teach on Puget Sound versus a lake is experiencing daily changes in the tides. Many know that my daily schedule is based upon the tides and that I not only have NOAA tide/current apps on my phone but also a Evergreen Pacific wall calendar tide chart. If there's a low tide and a freighter coming, all appointments will have to wait a few hours.

Below are two extreme tides at the Elks Beach in Ballard where we do most of our teaching, freighter surfing, etc.  The top image is from last June, close to the summer solstice, which means daily tidal exchanges can range from -3 to +12. This image is about -2.  We only get a few -3's. When we do, we can nearly walk out to the green channel buoy and see the dredged channel leading to the Locks. It's a great time to beach comb, view marine life and see what's under us most of the year.

In Seattle, we have low tides in the day Spring-Fall, and high tides during the day late Fall to late Winter. We're on a diurnal tide system with two lows and two high tides each day.

The below image is shot today, January 10, 2017 on a 12.1' tide. 26kt north winds (later increased to 40 kts) pushing water in has slowed the ebb (outgoing tide). On a calmer day, the tide would've dropped quite a bit by this time.  Beautiful winter day with some fun wind bumps to surf beyond the pilings.

Here's a few tide charts to check out for planning trips or a day paddle:
Dairiki - A local source so more correct than others 
Mobile Graphics - I like these for the list viewing option, plus they have tidal currents as well.  
NOAA - NOAA has a nice phone app I use. 
Books - Captn Jack

Tide Terms:
Ebb - outgoing tide
Flood - incoming tide
Slack - short period of relatively little current between an ebb and a flood.

Wind Terms:
Northerly - means winds are coming from the north. 
Sound Breeze - term for the NE wind we get on Puget Sound on blue sky days (high pressure).  

Thanks for visiting my blog!
 Check out my year around classes and tours in the Pacific Northwest. or contact me at 206.465.7167 or
Get sup certified with the PSUPA - Courses held all year. Check our site for dates.


SUP Instructor Certification Courses with PSUPA in Seattle 2017

If you're interested in becoming a certified SUP instructor, I'm offering monthly PSUPA (Professional Stand Up Paddle Association) courses in Seattle from Feb to June 2017.  The Flat Water 1 course is 3 days and will cover how to teach paddling, SUP business skills, risk management, rescues and we'll refine your paddling technique. You will also receive our 105 page teaching manual.

Cost / Details: The course is $499 per person. Add $45 a day for rental gear (board, paddle, leash, PFD, wetsuit, booties, hood).  You'll also need to join the PSUPA as a member, which is $65 a year. Prior to class we require you have a current First Aid / CPR certificate.

Who is this course for?
Experienced stand up paddlers who have been paddling for a few years who have solid skills on flat water and can handle wind, small waves and related rough water. You should be comfortable falling off your board and getting on.  If you feel you need more  experience, we offer year around basic paddling courses.

2017 Course Dates for FW1: (Instructor: Rob Casey)

Feb 3-5 (4 spots left)
March 24-26
April 7-9
May 9-11 (NW Paddling Festival May 12-13)
June 2-4

Why is PSUPA Different?
- We have the biggest course (some say the best) manual in the industry
- We are an international organization with instructors in the US, Canada, Australia and Mexico.
- Our curriculum includes SUP Business - How to start a business, marketing, risk management, legal info, buying gear and how to build a community.
- Our course content is updated 2x a year.
- We're adding FW2, River, Downwind, Surf and Camp Instructor certifications.
- As a smaller organization, we return your calls in a timely manner.
- We accept input from all levels of PSUPA members to benefit our curriculum and overall program.
- Unlike some other programs, it is possible to become an Instructor Trainer with the PSUPA

PSUPA Member Benefits - Pro-deals, Facebook member discussion page, we promote your business, online Resources page (business, marketing, environmental and paddling links, books and seminars).

Are you planning to start a SUP business?  Don't wait till a month before you open to take this course. Much of our content will help you plan and market your business, choose the right gear, get the right location and train the right instructors. Don't take the course if it's about adding to your resume, take it because we can help you become a better paddler, instructor and have a smarter business.

Learn more about this course..

Thanks for visiting my blog!
 Check out my year around classes and tours in the Pacific Northwest. or contact me at 206.465.7167 or
Get sup certified with the PSUPA - Courses held all year. Check our site for dates.


6 Tips for How to Escape the Cold during the NW Winter

- Visit Seattle's various steam rooms and/or saunas. We joined visiting friends at the Olive 8 Hotel before Christmas. Also featured in Seattle Mag, they have a huge hot tub, steam room and sauna. We cooked ourselves in each an I swear my cold was better after.  New Seattle Massage on the Ave also has a great sauna and steam room.

- Alderbrook Resort on Hood Canal where our March 18th race is also has a great steam room, sauna and pool. Go there to scout the course for our March 18 race. Take the Bremerton ferry than an easy drive to Union.

- Have breakfast/lunch at Swanson's Nursery north of Ballard. Encased in glass and at near Hawaiian temps, tropical plants thrive amongst a huge koi pond adjacent a nice cafe for breakfast or lunch.

- Visit the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Also in the mag, this is a great inner-city tropical escape.  Bring a camera.

- Fly to Oahu or Mexico and take a SUP tour or class from my PSUPA certified instructors. Give me a shout for contact info if you're going. We have instructors in Honolulu, Singapore, Australia and Costa Maya, Mexico.

- Embrace the cold. Wearing the right paddling clothing for the temps and realizing that paddling is exercise - you will get warm! We always finish our paddles thinking it has warmed up with our batteries charged, and glad we went out vs holing up at home worrying about the weather.


Looking to Buy a Wetsuit?  Try before you buy. I've heard stories of students recently who chose to buy online thinking they'll save a buck or two. If the suit comes with a tight neck, short arms, etc, you just lost a few bucks of time having to send it back, re-order, etc. Wetsuit sizing varies per body type and by manufacturer. XCEL's fit differently than O'Neill's. I wear a XL shirt but a xxxl wetsuit. Some booties will fit your size, most will be short 1-2 sizes. I also have a few suits, PFDs, hooded vests and NRS booties you can demo. In Seattle, we recommend Urban Surf, WaveHounds and Perfect Wave.

Thanks for visiting my blog!
 Check out my year around classes and tours in the Pacific Northwest. or contact me at 206.465.7167 or
Get sup certified with the PSUPA - Courses held all year. Check our site for dates.

5 Ways to Surf Shilshole Bay in Seattle

5 ways to surf Shilshole Bay in Seattle. With surf always on my mind, I thought I'd share with you all. Coastal surf can be tricky, either too small or too big. These local spots provide a shorter drive to get your stoke on.. 

Tugs - On Wed and Fridays all year, Western Towboat sends us two Titan class tugs (no barges) from the Locks to Elliott Bay. Meeting the boat 1/2 mile offshore, the tugs put on the gas providing us with epic waist to chest high rides nearly 1/2 mile long to West Point. To catch the wave, you need a 12-6 or longer board as the waves are big, but not powerful like a coastal wave. Longer is faster, so we need enough speed to 'drop in' to the wave. The tugs put off 3 waves, so it's tricky. If you fall or don't catch a wave, you can either race to catch up with the wave or wait for a second boat. If you score, you'll be in for the ride of your life. The tugs are safe too. They don't light it up if there's other boats around. We also know them and confirm their schedule before we secure a class with you. If you're having dinner at Ray's around 7pm, the tugs can be seen heading north to Alaska hauling 3-5 story barges for a 2 week journey up and back. We require that you take a few of our classes before surfing tugs as they require us to be off shore and in rough water with 2-4 miles of paddling.  Learn More about Tug Surfing  Tugs don't occur in November when the Locks are closed for a month for cleaning.  

Freighters - Freighter waves break in the same way as a coastal wave at the beach. We track large fast moving ships going south to Seattle or Tacoma. After the ship has passed West Point, on a good day, the wave can hit our spot in Ballard in 20 minutes. We may get one set (5-7 waves) or one hour of waist high waves from a single boat. On epic days, the first set can be a chest high peelers providing rides up to 2 minutes of ripping!  We teach beginning surf lessons as well starting novices on small non intimidating waves. By July or August on hot summer days, regulars at the surf break are in shorts and swimsuits surfing good waves - in Seattle. I didn't surf the coast as much last year since I had waves 5 minutes from my house.  Best season is later Winter to early Fall. We need low daytime tides. In winter, tides are mostly high during the day (low at night).  There's other places that freighter waves break on the Sound. Ryan Deters has been finding high tide spots near Tacoma. Check our calendar for upcoming freighter wave classes.  Read about Freighters

Tug surfing on Puget Sound. Photo: Jasmine Speaks

Is Tug and Freighter Wave Surfing Safe? I get this question occasionally, so created a blog post to describe how we surf these. 
Wind Waves - Very popular among the local SUP community is Downwinding. This means going out on windy days and surfing the wind generated waves. Paddlers will pick a 'run' in which they can get a straight path from one launch to the other running a shuttle or paddling downwind, then up. The key to downwinding is to look for surfable bumps or waves that will connect into one continuous ride (or glide).  Over time you learn to read the water and look for patterns in the bumps that will translate to a ride. It's something you can do anywhere there's water and wind. You really don't need a huge wind day to get bumps or a long board but those will give your and easier and longer ride. Paddlers have been out in up to 40 knot days which translates to 5' waves in open water.  Two of our local paddlers have ended up on Shilshole jetty this winter, a result of not lining up their run properly and/or being in conditions above their skill level. 2 guys were rescued in separate incidents off Maui this winter, one due to no or broken leash and the other from drifting too far from his buddies (and his buddies not noticing this). Read Suzie Cooney's post on Downwinding in Maui. Our Downwinding class will educate you on safety and how to catch bumps easier. Classes are set once we know we have wind! You should be comfortable paddling to take this class. Downwinding is rough water but we can teach you techniques for safety and stability on bumps.

Rob surfing a freighter wave in Seattle

Wind Generated Surf Waves - Instead of riding bumps off shore, take advantage of places on the Sound where the wind waves hit the shore. Much like a coastal swell, wind waves will wrap around a point, jack up in shallow water and create well formed clean waves in the right places. Yesterday, I was reminded of this when surfing 3' to 4' waves at our freighter wave spot in Ballard. These came from the 25 knot Northerly wind waves further offshore that found their way inside the wind protected (glassy) pocket between the Shilshole Marina and the entry to Salmon Bay. I surfed beach break waves for 2 hours (was only planning on an hour) while a bald eagle soared above and our local overly friendly harbor seals darted around under my board. Meadow Point, or Golden Gardens has a nice surfable wave on big SW or S wind days 20 knots of more. Our friend Jon Kwon has started a movement of paddlers who now body board this section and get great rides. Many are buying body boards, fins and hitting the water!

Boat Wakes - We surf behind power boats and smaller commercial craft as they enter or leave the Locks. This means waiting for the boat to pass, then get on it's stern (back) wave.  The waves are tricky to catch but on outgoing Locks current, we've caught rides up to 100yds or longer! Boards vary from 11' to 18', but use what you have.  Boat wakes are tough to catch but will make you a better surfer, as surf waves are easy in comparison. They will also build your balance, confidence and help you learn to read waves.  For safety, don't cut in front of the boat or move too quickly towards them - they'll cut their engines! If there's two directions of boats, stay on one side of the channel and only work the outgoing or just the incoming boats.  If there's two boats coming in a row, catch the second wave so the first boat won't run you over or have to swerve (they don't have brakes).  On Lake Washington, there are folks who have friends with ski boats that generate a nice short board wave. Admitantly, I haven't done that, we tend to get our waves organically.  :)

Thanks for visiting my blog!
 Check out my year around classes and tours in the Pacific Northwest. or contact me at 206.465.7167 or
Get sup certified with the PSUPA - Courses held all year. Check our site for dates.