Tides, Currents and Wind Basics

Covid-19 Update:

Paddling is a naturally distanced activity. We’ll maintain a 6′ distance on shore and on-water. All gear is always cleaned. Instructors are vaccinated. 

Tides, Current and Wind Basics

Tides, current and wind are the essentials to how water moves and how we determine how we move through the water.

Understanding these forces will help you make smarter decisions in planning paddling day and overnight trips in the Pacific Northwest or beyond.

Learning Tides Currents and Wind Basics will prepare you to better learn the hands-on methods of marine navigation.  The next course, Marine Navigation gets into chart work, taking bearings and compass work for crossings, route planning. Much of that require understanding tides and currents and wind first. Getting the bearing for a 4 mile crossing requires ferry angles when current exists.

That means knowing how to read current and intervals to determine crossing bearings and how to adjust them as the current flow will differ in the first and third hours. We use the 50/90 rule for that, which is learned in this class.

Next Class: October 5, 6, 7 at 6:30pm in Ballard/Seattle.  Private classes available anytime

You’ll receive a complimentary copy of SBP owner Rob Casey’s book “Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans, 60 Trips

Covid-19: Due to being in a class environment, must show Proof of Vaccination or negative test.

Your Instructor – Robert Nissenbaum –

An adventure seeker, Robert has paddled much of the Puget Sound, kayaking and camping year-round, navigating tidal currents, wind, rough water, and large, open-water crossings. He is an ACA certified instructor, member of Washington Kayak Club, and instructor with the North Sound Sea Kayaking Association.

He is a member of Qajaq USA and holds the ACA Advanced Communications Instructor Endorsement and can work with students with vision impairment or blindness, hearing impairment, deafness and speech impairments. When not on the water, he’s looking out to it writing from his home off Poverty Bay in Des Moines, WA.


Core Skills You’ll Gain


  • Type of tide cycle in the the Puget Sound
  • Type of tides and tidal range
  • Why do tides matter?
  • Tides Effect on currents
  • Determining tidal height
  • Common Online resources, Apps and Publications
  • Rule of 12th’s
  • Chart Datum
  • Take home exercise – paddle log


  • Practical application for kayaking and paddle boarding Currents
  • What are oceanic currents
  • What drives oceanic currents
  • Flood vs ebb currents, slack water
  • Why we need to understand currents – basics
  • Direction of travel
  • Avoiding strong currents, tide races, tidal rips
  • Timing getting through the area at slack or the lowest current rate
  • Bowman Bay to Cornet Bay….crosses through Deception Pass – need to make sure to hit that point at slack water.
  • Why we need to understand currents – speed
  • Determining the current rate
  • Online resources / Apps / Publications
  • 50/90 rule / Rule of Thirds
  • Current anomalies and features – What are they and how do we identify them
  • Eddy lines, tide races, back eddies, boils, and overflows
  • Take home exercise – paddle log


  • Understanding the effect of speed and direction
  • Understanding the effect of wind with current
  • Understanding the effect of wind with tidal height
  • Understanding the effect of wind on a kayak and SUP Practical exercise – planning a trip
  • Take home exercise – paddle log

Required Texts for Class


Student Benefits

  • Instructor Follow-up After Class – We’ll send you a summary of skills you learned in your lesson as well as our favorite marine weather and tides apps.
  • You’ll receive access to our 24 video SUP 101 Online Course to review skills learned and class and many more techniques!  Get paddle trip check-lists and planning tips.
  • You’ll able to join our Facebook Alumni Group to continue learning and for connecting with other paddlers.
  • SBP owner Rob Casey is always available to help you find paddling gear, find places to paddle and help you get to your next level.
  • Get a 20% discount from Mountaineers Books for any title. Or get Rob’s books: ‘Kayaking Puget Sound‘ and ‘Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers.
  • Receive a Salmon Bay Paddle sticker!



Public Group Class (3 days) : Oct 5, 6, 7 @ 6:30pm 

Location:  Ballard Elks Lodge – Class is on land (not on-water) and we’re looking at an exterior space.

For: Kayakers, rowers and paddle boarders and/or other watercraft folks!  Any skill level. Great for 7048 training.

Duration: 2 hours for public group class.  Can be customized in a private class to a full day experience

Capacity: 8 people

Requirements: Must speak and/or understand English



Private or Public Group Classes (3+ Students): 259 per person

Contact Us!

“I had a bit of time in Seattle and signed up for this class having never done a class before. I was able to set my own time with Rob, the owner. In short, Rob is an excellent teacher. He was extraordinarily thorough and responsible about going over all the basics about skills and safety before we ever got out on the water.”

- Leah P

I took the SUP 2 basics class with Rob and I’m certainly glad I did. Rob has significant experience paddling our local waterways so I also learned about wind, tides/currents, etiquette, gear/apparel, motor boat behavior, and safety. Rob’s style is friendly but serious, patient, and fun. In addition to SUP 2 basics, Rob even included some freighter wave surfing! I recommend taking this course whether you’re new to paddling like me or already great at it, you’ll definitely expand your knowledge, skills, and confidence.
Andy Delano

I wish everyone could take a class or two with Rob so that we could have more safe and prepared paddlers. Very fun and interesting experience. I learned about local water conditions, equipment, technique, safety and local places to go paddle. Great investment overall. I’m planning on signing up for more classes with Rob and his team.  (May 2021)
Yamil M

Rob presented an excellent class to me. He tailored it to my level and gave me lots to think about and practice. Since I primarily want to explore the local Puget Sound, the class helped me to feel comfortable interpreting the wind, currents, and tides. I am now able to use the tide table and wind charts and know what to expect and what I can handle safely. Rob was all about safety and I appreciated his caring and professional attitude. Game changer class. A must-do for anyone wanting to be safe and be good. Thank you Rob!  (May 2021)
Rachel O

I conquered several fears paddling in currents and surfing waves and owe it to Rob, where safety and professional instructions are Salmon Bay Paddle’s top priorities!

- Margrit Ralph

I’ve been paddling on flat water for about a year and thought I was pretty good.  Then Rob patiently explained how to make my paddling more efficient, how to deal with swells and choppy water and how to be more comfortable and safe on the board.  In one hour, I became a much better paddler.  If SUP is new to you or if you’ve been at it for a while, Rob will help you have more fun on a paddle board.

- Karsten Hagen, Bend

“I wanted to pull two visiting teenage girls out of their comfort zone of shopping, make-up and Netflix. Having personally taken lessons with Rob a couple years ago, I contacted him to see if we could arrange something. Instructor Joe McColskey, a former high school teacher and personal trainer was up to the challenge. The girls really enjoyed their SUP Basics session.”

- Lynn P

“Rob is a fantastic stand up paddle board instructor. His knowledge of the sport and the local waters is remarkable. I’ve been out for a couple of lessons with him now and I’ve learned a lot and become a better paddler each time. I especially appreciate his commitment to safety and doing things the right way. He’s also just a good dude and I highly recommend him to anyone interested in SUP.”

- Shanon Dell, Sequim

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