Category Archives: Safety

SUP Downwind Safety Guidelines

SUP Downwinding Safety Guidelines

Steve Gates

(with help from my friends)

Big Winds

2014

Here in the Gorge, and elsewhere, SUP downwinding is on fire. Everyone wants to go. On a warm, sunny day in a 15-20 mph breeze, it’s a walk in the park for most skilled paddlers. On a 25-35 mph cranker with a ton of current, huge swells and cold water, it’s a whole different ball game. We’ve had both types of experiences and everything in between in the Gorge, on Maui, and the Oregon coast and have had a pile of truly memorable runs. However, we have also had scary things happen, hence this list of guidelines for downwinding in the Gorge (that you can apply anywhere) to help us all get home safely.

Big Winds Downwinder

Big Winds Downwinder

Assess the conditions. If it’s not safe don’t go. It may be safe for some and not for others, or you. Remember that the conditions change fast, and vary as you travel along — particularly on the river. Your friends might look out for you, but it’s a big place. You have to know that you’ll be able to handle everything you encounter, by yourself.

Comply with the law. When in the Gorge (or elsewhere in Oregon), Oregon law states must have a PFD, a whistle and an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) permit. You may not agree with this, but the Marine Sheriff won’t care. The fines are stiff. Attach your whistle on the strap of your hydration pack so you can access it quickly and easily in case of an emergency. In other areas, be sure to know local laws.

downwinder8853p

Hydrate. The Viento Run can take an experienced, strong paddler almost two hours when the current is ripping. You most assuredly will become dehydrated without water. Wear a hydration pack. You won’t regret it. For any outing over an hour, I suggest hydration.tours-viento-2

Wear appropriate rubber. Assume you will break down, or someone else will and you’ll be in the water for some time. You can become hypothermic, even in relatively mild temperatures, so wear a wetsuit and accessories if needed.

Wear a BRIGHT rash guard or jersey! It’s hard to see you out there!

Mitchell Point

Heading to Mitchell Point on the way to Hood River.

Use leashes. When the current is strong and the wind is pushing your board upriver your board zooms away from you. You almost certainly can’t catch it by swimming after it. Make sure you have a STRONG leash! Make sure your leash tether is super strong and knotted so it will NOT come undone. Consider adding a second tether tied loosely, so if the first fails the second keeps you attached. If you fall in and your leash gets tangled, Do NOT take your leash off! Bad things will happen. This is the voice of experience talking.

east-dw-12

Finishing up the Blalock run.

Booties. Everyone hates booties till something weird happens and you are halfway between Viento and Hood River and you have to climb up the rip rap, through the blackberries, hauling your fourteen footer onto I-84. Booties look pretty good then.

PFDs. Know how to use your PFD, and if it’s inflatable, try it out. You don’t want to learn about problems in the middle Swell City.downwind-clinics-300

Helmets. Everyone hates helmets, too. However, when it’s blowing 25+ knots, a fourteen foot SUP becomes a lethal weapon in the air. I just barely missed being getting clobbered by one while in the middle of Malaaea Bay on a 30-40+ day. Getting knocked out by a flying board will most certainly ruin your day. On really windy days, a brain bucket is recommended.

Cell phone. Someone in the group should have a waterproof cell phone. An emergency is just that.

Look out for each other! This trumps all else. If you blast off and are a few hundred yards away, you may not see your paddling partner in distress, or be able to get there quickly to render aid. Establish a plan in advance on who’s looking out for whom; determine who’s paddling sweep.

steve-dw

The author riding the river swell.

Be aware of changing conditions. Is the wind increasing or dying? Is the current ripping or mellow? Ask someone in the know if you don’t. Allow plenty of time to complete the run before darkness sets in.

Have a bailout plan. Make sure the less skilled paddlers are aware of what to do (get to your knees) or where to go (next to the Oregon shore) if they are struggling in the swells and current.

Consider other players. Swell City and the Hatchery on windy days are high performance, crowded windsurfing and kiteboarding spots. Taking your SUP through there on a Sunday afternoon with 300 people ripping along at 30 mph ninety degrees to your path is asking for trouble. They probably won’t even see you before they take you completely out. If you want to ride big swells at the Hatch on your SUP, get out during dawn patrol.

jun3-12

The Hatchery.

Have fun, and be careful. The Columbia is an amazing resource for downwinding. Let’s keep it safe and sane. It’s challenging enough without adding unnecessary risks.

Click to go to bigwinds.com

 

 

 

Big Winds

207 Front Street

Hood River, OR 97031

888-509-4210

www.bigwinds.com

2014 Cabrinha Overdrive 1X Control and Security System

overdrive4We’ve been receiving many questions regarding the new 2014 Cabrinha Control Bar, known as the Overdrive 1X. This 2014 bar is Cabrinha’s answer to the one-bar fits all question, simplifying and reducing the overall cost to your next quiver of various sized Cabrinha kites. The Overdrive has many new features and has brought up a number of questions regarding the use of it.

Can I use the new 2014 bar with my older Cabrinha kites? YES! The new 2014 Overdrive bar can not only be used to fly all IDS kites from 2009 to the current 2014 models, but also improves the overall characteristics and safety of the older models (we will dive into this at length).

Can I use my older IDS bars with the new kites? NO. The older bars may fly the new 2014 kites fine, but the security system will not work, so please do not use older model IDS bars to fly your new kite. It’s just not safe and you will be losing the overall benefits the new bar delivers to the new kites.

Here is an explanation of these benefits:

The newly improved 1X Bridle on the 2014 kites brings an upgrade in kite control and steering. There are fewer moving points on the bridle which equates to faster turning and better responsiveness. All bridles except for the Vector have only 2 pulleys in 2014.

Working in unison with the 1X bridle is the newly designed 1X Bar. Security is one of the biggest selling points for us at Big Winds, which is why we have felt so comfortable recommending the 5th Element bar for the North kites over the years, particularly the Rebel. The new 2014 1X security system is a complete shutdown system, the best we have seen yet for a 4 line system. Cabrinha OverdriveThis full blown shut down system relies on only one line to immediately shut down the power of the kite, in any condition. The 1X security line basically runs up one of the center lines, woven through a couple of loops and pulls way up that line close to the kite.

What if I have twists in my center lines, will the security system still engage? YES! The team at Cabrinha has tested the security system with up to 15 twists in the center lines, and the kite still shuts down when the quick release is pushed. So, if you are not reverting your kite loops, back rolls, or spins, my suggestion is to be a bit aware of your center line twists, and manually un-spin them when doing an upwind reach (located below the bar, same location as the Quicklink in years past).

Diving deeper into the new 2014 Overdrive bar technology, Cabrinha has lowered the front line connection to the CAS in order to provide a more direct and immediate response from your bar input. This “Low V” connection provides direct steering, increased responsiveness and faster turning, especially evident in the 2014 Switchblade and Drifter kites. The new Switchblade turns faster than the 2013, and retains the low end of the 2012 (best of both worlds!).

The adjustability of the new Overdrive 1X is slick, and can be adjusted from the shortest length (49cm) to the longest length (57cm) in a matter of seconds. We tested this on the water too, being able to adjust the bar on the fly in eight seconds. The 49cm length works great on the overdrive1smaller kites (4m-8m) and the 57cm length perfect for the larger sizes (9m-14m). These are only recommended settings as I personally love flying my new 8m Drifter in “Overdrive” mode for a faster turning, quicker responding feel. The Overdrive 49-57cm bar comes standard with 22m rear flying lines and 16m front flying lines. Note that the Overdrive 49-57cm bar should not be used with the Contra kites due to the length of the security line. The Contra must use the Overdrive 1XL to achieve the full function of the security system (57-65cm/24m line set). Cabrinha designed the Overdrive 1X Siren bar specifically for women riders, with a smaller loop and easy to reach Recoil trim adjusters. This bar comes when the Switchblade Siren is purchased kite complete, and has the same adjustability (49-57cm).

To sum it all up, the new 2014 Cabrinha Overdrive 1X control and security system is a huge improvement in safety, simplicity and performance. Upgrade your old kites with this control bar or upgrade your old kites with new ones and be sure to include the Overdrive control bar into your new quiver. Available from Big Winds: 888-509-4210, online or stop by!

–TJ

 

SUP Downwind Safety Guidelines

This post has been updated for 2014.

Click here for the latest.

SUP Downwinding Safety Guidelines

Steve Gates

(with help from my friends)

Big Winds

2013

Here in the Gorge, and elsewhere, SUP downwinding is on fire. Everyone wants to go. On a warm, sunny day in a 15-20 mph breeze, it’s a walk in the park for most skilled paddlers. On a 25-35 mph cranker with a ton of current, huge swells and cold water, it’s a whole different ball game. We’ve had both types of experiences and everything in between in the Gorge, on Maui, and the Oregon coast and have had a pile of truly memorable runs. However, we have also had some pretty scary things happen, hence this list of guidelines to help us all get home safely.

 

Assess the conditions. If it’s not safe don’t go. It may be safe for some and not for others, or you. Remember that the conditions change fast, and vary as you travel along–particularly on the river. Your friends might look out for you, but it’s a big place. You have to know that you’ll be able to handle everything you encounter, by yourself.

 

Comply with Oregon law. You must have a PFD, a whistle and an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) permit. You may not agree with this, but the Marine Sheriff won’t care. The fines are stiff. Attach your whistle on the strap of your hydration pack so you can access it quickly and easily in case of an emergency.

 

Wear appropriate rubber. Assume you will break down, or someone else will and you’ll be in the water for some time. You can become hypothermic, even in relatively mild temperatures.

 

Wear a BRIGHT rash guard or jersey! It’s hard to see you out there!

 

Hydration! The Viento Run can take an experienced, strong paddler almost two hours when the current is ripping. You most assuredly become dehydrated in that time without water. Wear a hydration pack. You won’t regret it. For any outing over an hour, I suggest hydration.

 

Leashes! When the current is strong and the wind is pushing your board upriver your board zooms away from you. You almost certainly can’t catch it by swimming after it. Make sure you have a STRONG leash! Make sure your leash tether is super strong and knotted so it will NOT come undone. Consider adding a second tether tied loosely, so if the first fails the second keeps you attached. If you fall in and your leash gets tangled, Do NOT take your leash off! Bad things will happen. This is the voice of experience talking.

 

Booties. Everyone hates booties till something weird happens and you are halfway between Viento and Hood River and you have to climb up the rip rap, through the blackberries, hauling your fourteen footer onto I-84. Booties look pretty good then.

 

Helmets. Everyone hates helmets, too. However, when it’s blowing 25+ knots, a fourteen foot SUP becomes a lethal weapon in the air. I just barely missed being getting clobbered by one while in the middle of Malaaea Bay on a 30-40+ day. Getting knocked out by a flying board will most certainly ruin your day. On really windy days, a brain bucket is recommended.

 

Look out for each other! This trumps all else. If you blast off and are a few hundred yards away, you may not see your paddling partner in distress, or be able to get there quickly to render aid.

 

Establish a plan in advance on who’s looking out for whom, determine who’s paddling sweep.

 

Be aware of changing conditions. Is the wind increasing or dying? Is the current ripping or mellow? Ask someone in the know if you don’t. Allow plenty of time to complete the run before darkness sets in.

 

Someone in the group should have a waterproof cell phone in case of emergency.

 

Have a bailout plan. Make sure the less skilled paddlers are aware of what to do (get to your knees) or where to go (next to the Oregon shore) if they are struggling in the swells and current.

 

Know how to use your PFD, and if it’s inflatable, try it out. You don’t want to learn about problems in the middle of Swell City.

 

Speaking of Swell City and the Hatchery, on windy days these are first and foremost high performance, crowded windsurfing and kiteboarding spots. Taking your SUP through there on a Sunday afternoon with 300 people ripping along at 30 mph ninety degrees to your path is asking for trouble. They probably won’t even see you before they take you completely out. If you want to ride big swells at the Hatch on your SUP, get out during dawn patrol.

 

Have fun, and be careful. The Columbia is an amazing resource for downwinding. Let’s keep it safe and sane. It’s challenging enough without adding unnecessary risks.
Click to go to bigwinds.com

 

 

 

Big Winds

207 Front Street

Hood River, OR 97031

888-509-4210

www.bigwinds.com

The Unusual Conditions on the Columbia

Updated 6/29/2011: Mosier emerges.

For quite awhile, the Mosier launch was farther underwater than a lot of Bank of America mortgages. Finally, it has been bailed out by the dam operators.

Mosier launch

Updated 5/31/2011 with images of Mosier.

Mosier launchThe flooded Mosier launch site, looking north under the I-84 bridge

Mosier launch
The flooded Mosier launch site, looking north east

Mosier launch
The flooded Mosier launch site, looking north west

west-marina-beach

The West Marina Beach

The staff at Big Winds wants to make all of our friends aware of the unusual conditions we’re experiencing on the Columbia River this spring. The snow pack, cool temperatures and extensive rains have made the Columbia and its tributaries run at levels not seen since 1997. We want to convey a general “heads up” for those taking advantage of this dynamic and exciting situation. Many of the familiar landmarks, wave patterns and river currents have undergone a lot of change. We’re encouraging everyone to be extra-aware of their surroundings, double check the integrity of their gear and ensure that your cold water wetsuits are sufficient to sustain your body heat in case you find yourself in the water for a prolonged period.

The east end of the event site

Currently, the Spit and Mosier launch sites are submerged, as is the west Marina beach. You’ll also find a highly turbid river that can hide logs, deadheads and other debris just below the surface. We’re not saying, “don’t go”. We just want everyone to raise their level of awareness a few notches before ripping it up!

submerged-spit

The spit, underwater

These conditions are forecast to last longer than usual, perhaps extending into July. We will provide updates here, on Facebook and on our main website as the conditions change. Also, feel free to call us for more information and advice at 888-509-4210.

Thanks!

The Big Winds Team