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. salmonbaypaddle@gmail.com

Salmon Bay Paddle SUP Tips

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