Paddling Ocean Waves

When you first go out on the sea in waves, you'll probably find that paddling into the waves is really comfortable. When you turn around and the waves creep up from behind you, it's a little bit unsettling on your balance. But you can actually make use of those waves to help you along if you get your timing right.

What I've done here in the sand is simulate waves out on open ocean, where they're about the same size coming along and they are going along in this direction. I have my little kayaker here.

When you feel a wave come up behind you, that's the time to stop paddling. You're going downhill. Make two or three rapid paddle strokes. That's accelerating down the face. So it's a burst of energy. And then pause and steer with a stern rudder or stern draw stroke to keep your boat tracking down the wave.

You'll get a ride - maybe only for a second or two - and then the wave will go underneath you and you'll stall. The nose will be in the air and the tail will be down. Don't paddle, just wait until the next wave starts to lift your stern, lean your body forward and have another burst of power. Two or three fast paddle strokes and you'll surge forward again.

The waves that are coming up behind you will vary in steepness. You'll get some that are a little bigger and a little steeper and a little faster. And some that are less steep, not so high, and a little slower. You'll find that you'll be able to catch quite a long ride on some waves, but not on others.

If you follow the same paddle rhythm throughout - where you're catching every wave, maintaining a certain amount of speed, and paddling only when you're going downhill - you'll actually go along much faster, with a lot less effort. So, let the wave go underneath you when you're stalling, wait until the stern starts to rise, and then a burst of speed forward. 

The video clip shown above is a segment taken from the DVD: "Nigel Foster's Sea Kayaking: Volume #5 Forward Paddling."

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