Kayaking Technique Forum

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Re: Ways to stop surfing sideways ?

: Hi all,

: I have recently suffered the unpleasant sensation of bing surfed sideways
: toward somewhere I don't want to - a rocky landing. Luckily the wave
: subsided enough and passed underneath me. I wondered if there was another
: way of stopping this, other than rolling or capsizing and wet exiting?

: thanks, Steve


Just finished packing for the first of a few trips, into thunderstorm zone. I don't know if we will be putting in the water or not....let me try answering your question, but I am sure there are others on this board who will have very useful info....

My first reaction is "what were you doing so close to surf?". I avoid it like the plague, except during emergency landings (ie., wind kicks up bad on rugged coastline-awful). Prevention, prevention. Sea kayaks don't handle surf well. If broached due to a following sea or in a presumably safe zone out from shore, you can control the boat with the stern rudder. Closer to shore, all hell breaks loose.

In my experience, you need to not let the surf broach your boat to begin with. As the broach begins, use a strong stern rudder on the opposite side to the broach, ie., if your stern begins to be pushed to the right, causing your bow to head left, drop the stern rudder in, hard on the right side, and push away from the boat, hold that rudder until the broach eases up, due to the wave's passing and/or expending its energy. Whatever side your bow is being pushed, stern rudder in the opposite side. If you get it early, this will correct the broach. If you don't know how to stern rudder, get some good instruction...the key is both hands on the side of the rudder, blade completely perpendicular to the water, both hands firmly gripping the paddle loom. Students often use a lax grip on the forward hand on the loom, because there is such a reach, a somewhat open grip is favored. However, this grip does not secure the paddle well, and secure it you must, to fight a broaching wave. Secondly, you need to alternatly paddle hard to keep the boat aligned, and immediately drop the stern rudder, very quickly and nimble, the paddle moves around as much as a white water kayaker's does, this is a form of white water.

If your are already near dumping surf or a shallow surf zone, this merely delays the inevitable, eventually you will broach. If you can pick the broach up early, the rudder can straighten out the boat. From this point, you can back paddle, emphasizing the brace on the back paddle, ie., presenting the back face of the blade to the water. This backward retreat can work very well, provided you continue to keep broaching in check with immediate stern rudders.

Once you are broached, and moving into shore, depending on the force of the waves, you can paddle hard straight ahead, with strong sweep stroke on the side of the boat opposite to that being hit by the breaker, and leaning into the breaker. It is a very awkward move, leaning in the opposite direction of your sweep. If you are lucky, and luck is the key, you can sometimes paddle out of the wave by angling the boat toward the waves, coming about, and then blasting through the surf, out back to sea. This is an ideal scenario. In my experience, by the time I am beam to the surf, my boat is pretty well out of control, I simply high brace against the wave face, hoping the wave will pass underneath me, exhaust its power and give me a chance to either back paddle or turn into the surf. Obviously, this only works on moderate surf.

I wish I had more to offer, other than the admonishment to avoid broaching, by stern ruddering early in the broach (like taking a fall on ice in climbing, get the ice axe in deep BEFORE you pick up speed) and being very cautious when approaching surf zones, knowing shoreline depth...etc..

It is an unsettling experience, and it has happened to me both on landing and on launch. Like you, I was fortunate to make it in or out in one piece. It would be great if some surfers and white water breathren could help us out here. Looking forward to responses on this thread.

Hope this small bit helps.

David (dismally reading the national weather service data and small craft and thunderstorm advisory....16 dry bags of various sizes by the door, balance bars neatly divided into his and hers piles, goretex at the ready, and the sneaking suspicion that we won't even get on the water after our 4 hour drive to launch...you know, the best way to bring rain is to (a) organize a kayaking class -never fails, or (b) plan a trip with your one stinking week of vacation on a beautiful archipelago...both are sure fire ways to insure storms, rain, hail, lightning and fog.