06 October 2011

VIDEO: Tidal Race Surfing with hard chined kayaks


We can only watch and envy the brilliant conditions that some sea kayakers have. Where I live there are no tidal races worth playing on with a sea kayak: there are no decent standing waves to surf.
What we have to content ourselves with is a medium tidal flow (up to 3 knots) over a flat sea bed that produces just ripples.

But not all is lost: given the right conditions one can find a mock tidal race.
If a strong wind opposes fast flowing water moderate size waves are created and caught on the right day one can dream to be at the Skooks (not really).
The waves are generally short and not really standing: they form and peak for a short time and then fall again.
The flow is there but the waves are not constant; getting a ride on one of those waves requires a bit of effort (furious paddling) that is rewarded with a short glide.
It is similar to short wave surfing but the waves generally don’t crest and break.
The weather forecast was indicating that Sunday was going to be rather windy (20-30knots) and touring onthe Bay would have been hard work (unless we decide to kayak sail).
Since the tide was flooding to midday and the wind would be pushing against the flow, in the morning we hoped to find a spot that would produce waves to play in.
It was weird to be pointing the bow out to sea to surf our kayaks, usually one would be coming in with the waves onto shore.

select 720p if you have fast Internet connection


I find that an ideal boat for such conditions is a shorter sea kayak with rounded chines that can be edged well and that is responsive to the paddler’s input.
A short British style boat comes to mind where one does not rely on the rudder to manoeuvre the boat but uses the hull shape turned on its edge to carve a turn.
My Zegul 520 is not exactly a boat that fits that description; it’s a bit on the long side (at the waterline) with not a lot of rocker and it’s hard to turn since I find that with my weight the extended keel does not released when edged. A lighter person would find the same kayak perform way differently.
I have kayaks that would surf those conditions way easier than this hard chined, low rocker narrow low volume boat.
So why do I use it? Because it’s challenging and makes me a better kayaker.

I assume it must be the same reason why some motor enthusiasts disable the auto traction control to have “more fun” when driving their cars aggressively :-)
Probably why some mountain bikers choose to run a single speed on steep and rough terrain instead of a cluster of gears.
I have to work hard not to fall in the water; hard chined boats are less forgiving as rounded ones. I am heavy and I push the hull deeper into the water; edging the narrow hull does have less effect on manoeuvrability compared to my higher volume British style kayak. I have to sweep stroke aggressively to make that kayak turn.
The kayak does bury her bow into the water when surfed down a steep short wave and gives me a few moments of mild panic hoping it won’t pitch me over.
Hard work but more fun since it keeps me on my toes.

Greg Schwarz also likes his hard chined low profile/low volume kayak for surfing small waves. His kayak is maybe  a bit shorter than mine (at waterline) and has less volume, it's more manoeuvrable but requires good technique to keep it upright in textured water. He finds the Tahe Greenland an excellent kayak for rough waters but Greg is a very skilled kayaker.
With a shorter waterline that helps quickly accellerate the kayak down the wave, the flat bottom puts it on the plane to allow fast runs. Turning that kayak is a real breeze. Carved turns are very effective but sloppy technique would make using that kayak in rough water a handful.
I feel that hard chined kayaks seem to surf better than round hulled ones as long as I concentrate and handle the grabby nature of hard chines.
In the meantime I am learning on how to become more relaxed in bumpy conditions trying to gain better balance.



  1. great !

    thank you for sharing the experience

  2. How great!!! love the surf at 1,27 and the smile...can see you love it!!

    Very cool! Have fun:)

  3. That submarine moment at 1:20 is gold! And it's great to see footage of Greg surfing too, very cool indeed. :)

  4. I know you have a 'Mockpool'; but have you surfed in a Rockpool? (The Alaw or Bach)


  5. Will, I demoed a Rockpool GT.
    It fitted me and it seemed to perform really well (it was avery brief test though). I would have purchased that kayak if only theworkmanship was decent.
    The few Rockpools I have seen all had cracks and problemswith glassing. They cost way too much to exhibit those shortfalls. I am not theonly one that experienced that either.
    I would be however very interested in a Tide RaceXcite

  6. Hi Gnarly,

    Very surprised at that... not denying your experience, but certainly my Alaw has been sound and stood up to a lot of hard use and given the workmanship that I have seen at first hand from Mike and Co at Rockpool, your experience certainly doesn't make much sense to me...anyway...

    Actually I would have been interested in your take on the Alaw, due to the hull shape / chines / flatter mid section...but the GT is certainly a lovely boat to paddle. I'm getting one!


  7. Will, as far as I know there is only one Alaw in Australia and it's on the other side of the country so chances of paddling that one are nil.
    There are a few GTs and those are the ones I have seen. One was a couple of months old and the other was almost new. Both displayed poor workmanship in my opinion. Coaming that was separating because there was no glass on the joint, seats that were cracked, footplates that were cracked, very soft decks... the list goes on.
    Could it be that we, the "convict colony", gets sent the rejects? :-)
    I like the design, a lot, but since those kayaks cost so much I would expect high quality, and rather not spend weeks in the shed reinforcing and fixing the problems.
    What is your opinion on the Tide Race quality though?

  8. Hi - sorry to hear that - a real shame as I believe the Rockpool boats offer something markedly different from the norm...

    To be fair, I have had quite a few repairs done though all have been due to my cavelier approach to rock hopping and / or lack of skill! but I've also had the seat and footplate replaced - both had cracked - Mike replaced both quickly and without charge as well as carrying out minor gel repairs while he had the boat, also without charge...

    I have heard the same or similar issues from paddlers of every type of kayak, including Tiderace...though I have heard more in the way of quality issues from another well known manufacturer in wales...

    Couldn't comment in any detail re Tiderace - I do know that they are built by factory workers who know zero about kayaks, following a manual to the letter. Perhaps not a problem if you want the standard option - definitely problematic if you want any customisation.

    Personaly, being able to walk into Mike's workshop at Rockpool, talk things over, get exactly what I want done without any if's and but's, all in the knowledge that if I do have any problems they will be sorted without quibbling, is worth far more than anything any of the competitors have been able to offer me to date...less easy when you're down under I appreciate!


  9. Will, thank you for your honesty.
    As you mention there are always problems with kayaks and I have done my share of repairs/modifications. Surprisingly the kayak that cost me the least appears to be the most solid. If Rockpool would cost less than my least expensive kayak I would consider it. I would reinforce/replace weak areas and bring it to the standard of my other kayaks.
    As far as other British kayaks go most of us know the poor workmanship of a very famous brand; an informed customer accepts the risk when buying one.
    It’s like buying an old MG: we know that there will be some drama :-)
    I want a Toyota !


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