About fifteen years ago a friend and I were kayaking near our home on Puget Sound in Seattle and came across a large surfable wave.  We surfed it and then wondered where it came from.  We realized that ocean swell wouldn’t get into Puget Sound so where did the wave come from?  A few days later, we were out paddling and noticed a few container ships going by.  Twenty minutes after it passed we a sweet wave set of 4′ faces rolled in – and we put it together.

We looked the horizon and saw a black dot and soon the dot came closer, and it was another ship, then another wave.For several years after we would look the horizon for boat or use bluff parks or road ends above the beach to spot ships.  I later found webcams in locations north of us to help track ships.

Another piece to the puzzle was figuring out which tides were best for these waves. I can’t remember when we noticed it, but one of us came across MarineTraffic.com which solved all our problems of hanging over steep bluffs looking through trees to spot ships coming in.  Marine Traffic is a Greek run app that uses ships’ AIS systems to track their whereabouts, speed and ID.

Apps like Marine Traffic can also be used for planning crossings with shipping traffic.  Webcams are also helpful in tracking ships.

Ship Tracking Apps:

Note: I recommend having at least two of the apps on your phone so if one isn’t working you have a backup.


About Rob Casey – Named a pioneer in the SUP industry by Stand Up Journal, Rob is the author of “Stand Up Paddling Flat Water to Surf and Rivers” and “Kayaking Puget Sound and the San Juans, 60 Trips.” Rob owns SUP and Kayak school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle. He also runs several paddling races.


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