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Re: question, please teach me..
In Response To: question, please teach me.. ()

: David,

: I kayak in the ocean with a 17' sea kayak maybe 10 times a year and the rest
: is lake paddling. In the area I go I have not come across any rip tide in
: the past 3 years. Please tell me what this rip tide looks like and why it
: is dangerous to a kayaker in his or her boat. Is it the same rip tide I
: look out for when swimming? To escape that all I do is paddle paralled to
: the shore until I can feel it "releasing" me and then swim
: toward shore. I'd like to know so I don't wind up a statistic.

: Thanks for the education.


I referred to a tide rip. Rip tides are different. A rip tide occurs at a beach, where there is a strong current, usually at several places along the beach, outward. It is a zone of counterflow, generally about 2-3 knots. Please see John Dowd's "Sea Kayaking", updated addition, pages 157-158 for a nice explanation. The rip tide is a localized zone where water is returning from the surf zone, and it is hard to predict where they will be along a beach, they vary with beach geography, etc...Rip tides are hazardous in surf zones, and, if sufficiently strong, will pull you and your craft well out from the shoreline. As a lifeguard, I had to pull more than a few people out of the rip tide.

There are also wind-rips, places where wind and current oppose each other.

A tide rip, to which I referred, occurs when two currents moving in opposite directions meet. For example, around a headland, where an easterly going current meets up with a southerly going current. When these two meet, the result is a confused sea, ie., waves meet, interrupt each other, clash and it becomes difficult if not impossible to control the boat. The boat is very unstable in tide rips, it is like kayaking in boiling water. Tide rips are hazardous for a number of reasons; a. they produce unpredictable and difficult paddling conditions, b. they can push you into a strong current, which then carries you away from your planned course, and c., avoiding them can create hazards. With respect to the last point, sometimes you need to stay so far away from the tide rip, that you end up quite aways off shore, and you can end up in a strong current which is faster than you can paddle.

Tide rips, fortunately, can be predicted, for the most part. If you look on a nautical map, you will see little arrows showing dominant tidal currents. There is a small number next to them, indicating their approximate speed in knots. Before you head out, you check the map for the current arrows. Next, have a look at the tide chart. Don't go anywhere near the intersection of two opposing currents when tides are full or rising. Slack tide is a reasonably safe time to cross potential tide rip zones. So in summary, tide rips occur when 2 currents, coming from opposite directions, or different directions, meet. You also have a look at the geography of the area you are paddling. Headlands are potentially problematic because of clapotois, that is, rebound waves, waves that hit an unmovable object like a sea wall and bounce back out to sea, colliding with incoming waves, and creating confused conditions. Also, as you come around a headland, you are often exposed to prevailing wind conditions on the other side of the headland, which may produce hazards such as wind opposing current. Currents run strongest and closest to shore on steep-to headlands. So headlands are to be carefully watched, and small, careful forays are needed when exploring water beyond a suspect headland. Of course, there are also cases where major rivers have an outflow into the ocean, and produce a significant current. This type of current can carry you very far of course, and when it meets other tidal currents, can produce chaotic paddling conditions. I, for one, prefer predictable seas (an oxymoron, or an ideal...but still), that is, seas in which one can see which way the waves are coming. You can adjust your paddling to these conditions, whether you take the waves head on, surf with a following sea, ferry, or brace and boogey, as I call it, with a strong beam sea. When the sea is confused, no such allowances can be made. You just paddle like hell, and use bracing to get through it. John Dowd says to paddle with short, choppy strokes, kind of using each forward stroke as a mini-brace. The idea being to get out of there ASAP. In tide rips, capsize is more likely, with the victim later reporting "I don't know where the hell that one came from!". Its a lousy ride.

So your nautical map, some inspection of the geography, and a knowledge of tide tables can spare you most encounters with tide rips. Hope this helps.