15 March 2011

TECHNIQUE: riding wind waves

When the weather forecast is a Strong Wind Warning I usually have to amend my weekend paddling plans. While some sheltered areas of Moreton Bay might never experience those predicted high winds I am usually not that fond of paddling in sheltered mangrove cluttered shores.
I don't have the skills nor the desire the be pushing into the wind for hours to complete a long crossing but I still want to paddle.
When the local wind gauges read around 25-35 knots I know that I can still safely paddle in locations on the bay with onshore winds. If wind direction is right, I try to pick an area where the tidal flow will create opposing forces and possibly small standing waves that can be surfed in a sea kayak.
There is a difference between ocean swell and wind waves. Ocean waves tend to have longer faces while wind waves tend to be faster and closely spaced together with a shallower through. Some kayaks with a long hull that don't have a lot of volume in the bow and too little rocker in the keel tend to bury the nose a bit when faced with tidal/wind waves. I found that the best suited kayaks for those conditions are short fish-form hulls where maneuverability prevails over cruising speed.
The latest addition to my fleet, despite not intended as a cruising kayak, has a hard chined hull of slight swede form that requires more attention to surf successfully. I find that, if to be kept on track, I have to work harder on my skills than, let's say, in my high volume bow Mockpool.
It appears that most Valley sea kayaks (not the Rapier) seem to excel in those conditions while higher speed hull boats (longer) don't exactly shine there.
To catch the fast waves I have to time my acceleration carefully. The fist wave in the set helps me to get speed (at 1:45) but I usually can't ride it. The second wave, which follows very closely, needs to be caught with the maximum exertion from my strokes.

It is possible that paddling with traditional paddles requires a modified technique than using a Euro blade. I also tend to give myself a final push with the jolt of my body (at 2:28) to be able to catch some waves that otherwise I would not have the speed to propel myself along the face of it.
A few hours trying to ride short tidal wind waves usually leaves me tired enough to call it a day.
Riding waves is probably the only situation that leaves me anaerobic when sea kayaking. Since I don't really enjoy a fast paced sprint paddle on flat water, I regard sea kayak surfing a real exercise that pushes me physically. I just wish I would do it more often.


  1. here in Israel we don't have tidal waves or flow

    but it is a lot of fun paddling when the wind and waves coming from behind and the kayak is gliding easily on the water

    this is from last saturday :


  2. Nice Gnarly. What camera do you use if you don’t mind me asking?

  3. Looks like a good work out Gnarly. You look like you are enjoying the 520. I had a paddle of one a few weeks ago but in flat conditions, I felt really comfortable in it but it would be good to get it out in some more challenging conditions. Plus I still have couple others to try out yet!

  4. Hi
    I´m not sure about the kayak
    is it zegul 520 hv???
    I´m thinking to buy the 520 lv for surf
    do you think it´s a nice playboat?
    best regards

  5. Anonymous, I have spent only a few days paddling the Zegul 520 and I can not really say yet if it is a great playboat. Give me a few more weeks and maybe I will have a better opinion. So far I have noticed that the Zegul 520 can ride small waves very well (better than other kayaks I have) but is more demanding in steeper short waves than a rounded chined British style kayak. The Swede form also seems to require a slightly different technique to what I am used to.
    BTW Zegul 520 HV and 520 LV have the same hull, the only difference is the height of the deck form mid cockpit to the front hatch.

  6. Thanks for your reply,
    I´m 80 kg and 172 and was thinking to buy one kayak for surfing and the 520 lv looks nice but I don´t knwon if fit me well, because I sail also with surfski epic v10sport and seakayak tiderace xplore s both round hull, and thinking also the zegull can be same that tiderace xplore s, the other on my list it´s the p&h delphin "plastic barge" but also look to nice for surfing small beach waves.
    Best regards

  7. It is always good to watch someone enjoying themselves. It was evident you were by the smile on your face almost all the way through the video. Good one.

  8. Looks like you're either having a really good time, or trying to smile for the camera!

    Steep wind waves (the old timers call the waves square waves with steep sides and flat tops) are typically what we get on the north shore of Lake Superior. In the spring and fall, the rivers tend to run at high rates and create steep standing waves when the wind waves oppose the flows. It's super fun paddling. I've also noticed that you need volume in the bow on the steep waves. Even on 2 to 3' wind waves without the currents, our 1959 Ken Taylor reproduction (Iggy), the boat the Anas Acuta was based on, buries the bow after surfing a wave. I really enjoy my Romany in those conditions.

  9. I don't know what was more fun, watching you catch the waves or the big grin on your face!

    BTW, you left poor Tess back there somewhere over the horizon.

    Safe paddling, Joe


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