a few questions

After renting some kayaks with my kids and having lots of fun I decided to buy a couple.One of the begginer ems ones and a decent borealdesigns inukshuck.I really like this one.Going out in bays with the inukshuck and practicing self rescues.

Wondering when I get out by myself to paddle on the other side along the coast what do I need to know about the winds and currents.If I am just going along the coast how best to plan for a 2-4 hr paddle.

Also the entrances to the oceans from the bays are a little intimidating.Do I only plan to leave the bays when the tide is going out of the bay or do I just paddle threw it.


Take a class

– Last Updated: Aug-11-11 7:21 PM EST –

How about taking a kayak class instead of just winging it Kevin ?

“Do I only plan to leave the bays when the tide is going out of the bay or do I just paddle threw it.”

Actually, you should study the tide (not just tide height, but tide CURRENT) so you can COME BACK WITH THE TIDE.

If that means you have to paddle out AGAINST the current, so be it. It’s better to NOT able to get out than to not able to get BACK!

Also, keep a keen eye on the wind forecast. It’s hard to paddle against it when it’s really blowing, even if you have arms like those of schwarzenegger!

I dont think I am winging it but lessons would be good idea.Money is a issue.I have grown up on the ocean my entire life.I have been down the rivers and bays in my area just looking for a little more.Cruising along the coastline seems like fun and not to dangerous just learning to get in and out of the bays seem a little tough.I dont know that it is tough because I havent tried but would hate to try it unprepared.

lots of issues here
Tides cause 2 issues:

  1. changes to depth
  2. currents

    Changes to depth matter, because launch beaches could disappear at high or low tides, fixed height objects (like bridges) could be a problem to get under, water disappears leaving mud behind, etc.

    Currents are an issue because if they go too fast, you can’t paddle against them. Currents at least here in CA) generally lag behind tides by an hour or so (if high tide is at 5pm, high slack current would be around 6pm).

    Ocean paddling - one of the big issue is waves and swell. If the water is too choppy, it can be uncomfortable to paddle. But getting to and from this ocean is even more of a challenge. Often you can launch in bays and marinas and paddle straight out, but sometimes there will be breaking waves at the mouth. Other option would be a beach launch, but you have to get through the surf zone.

    These are just a small portion of the issues. I’d suggest finding a club, a knowledgeable person, or go on a paid trip with an outffitter to take you out at lest once to get a start on this process.

I somewhat understand tides and currents.My planning for the bays and rivers have been to leave around high tide get down the river then when the tide changes head back getting help from the outgoing.

My plan would probably be something like getting out of the bay just paddle around on other side until the current/tide comes in then come back in bay with helping tide.Is that somewhat of a decent plan.

I will try to be always around the shoreline so any problems would be close to shore

beach launch
I could always beach launch but learning to get in and out of the bays is what I want.I would always check forecast waves and such and only do it on the calmer days.Until I am decent enuff.

find a club
I grew up on a river near the ocean. I was AWARE of the effect of tides. But how little I knew how that affects a kayak I only realized after I did a few trips with the kayak club in SF bay.

Your concern is well founded. Just knowing vaguely or in theory the tide isn’t enough. Kayak paddlers don’t have the kind of power a motorized boat has to get out of trouble when your rough calculation (or guess-timation) is off. You just don’t have the margin to be even slightly wrong.

Find a club or an outfitter and go with them for a few times. Better yet, do your own trip planning ahead of time and compare notes with others in the group (or ask questions to the outfitter). Once you do it a few times with the more experinced paddlers, you can gauge your own knowledge of tide and current. Then you’ll have a lot more confidence in your own estimation.

You should paddle with a group
Venturing into unsheltered water all alone is a really BAD idea. At least until you are a grizzled old veteran.

Well I guess that means I should wait a while maybe next summer it will be getting cold here in a few months.

Thanks for the replies

One major effect of current
is how much it can reduce or increase wave height and cause waves to start breaking over your kayak instead of rolling under it.

When the current is going opposite (into) the wind it will increase wave height and steepen the wave faces. If it steepens them enough they can start breaking in places (deeper water) where you would not expect this to happen. Breaking waves have a much,much larger chance of flipping your kayak than swell type waves.

On the other hand if wind and current are going in the same direction you can get much smoother water than you would expect for that wind speed.

Another consideration for coastal paddle is the effect of changing depth (shallowing) in creating sudden breaking waves (boomers) in areas that otherwise only have swell. Know where there are shallower areas you might have to cross and avoid them if you find the wind and waves increasing.

If you are hugging the shoreline, be especially careful when rounding points. Points, even low ones can block wind and waves and give you a false sense of security. Water usually shallows at the end of points so you can have the boomer problem mentioned above. Points can also create currents in unexpected directions which can cause the wave height and steepen increase mentioned above. Often it is best to paddle out parallel to the point into deeper water before you actually turn and try to head around it. That way you can see and feel what may be waiting for you on the other side.

If you are in a group on a coastal trip do not be afraid to tell the group leader that the current conditions or those you see ahead of you are getting above your limits. A good leader would much rather escort you back or pick a calmer route than have to rescue you in rough water. You would probably be suprised by how often one person mentioning their concerns finds out lots of others in there group are actually feeling the same way, but were afraid to speak up.

Good luck.


Don’t give up!
August and September are a fine time to be introduced to open water and breaking waves. Summer weather and the water is at its warmest. Getting out now could save your life come colder months, whether that means the skills you learned in warmer water kept you safer in the colder months, or what you learned convinced you of what you need to learn to be proficient before going out there again.

The really great thing to take from all this is that it could be risky to introduce yourself to this on your own. Not saying that it can’t be done. I did it on my own. But I had a solid forward stroke, roll, and bracing abilities, and would suggest you should have the same. It’s still not advisable to go out in potentially more difficult water on your own, but I understand about not having a lot of options. You do what you can to do what you want to do and minimize risk.

If you were here, I would be happy to paddle with you, cover some important rough water safety issues, and take you out to experience fairly mild inlet conditions that would probably capsize you if you haven’t experienced such things before. Then you could experience capsize recovery out there. It’s usually a great way to convince people that caution isn’t likely always going to be enough for big open water. There are a few skills that should be considered prerequisites, just like they are in whitewater river kayaking. And it’s a great motivator to quickly master basic ocean strokes like the roll, low brace, and a smooth, comfortable deep high brace (deep meaning you let your body and head fall into the water before using the paddle for leverage and sitting back up. Anyone that has ever regularly met anything but the smallest breaks broadside either understands the importance of this, or gets toppled over regularly).

So I agree that you should find someone experienced (experienced in rough water ocean paddling, not any experienced paddler, don’t worry about certifications - make sure you find someone that actually does it), maybe through a club, tell them what you’re wanting to experience, and ask if there’s a way they would be comfortable introducing you to it that will minimize your risk as someone new to it.

I encourage everyone to use these warm months to explore their limits in a safe environment. I think those who experience their limits are less likely to get themselves in trouble, and have a better handle on what they personally need to work on prior to putting themselves into potentially rougher environments.

If you can become a proficient sea kayaker, you will be among a relatively tiny portion of the kayaking community at large. I think it’s great that you have those ambitions. Stick with it and stay safe.

It’s all fun, but be very careful…
if the mouth of your bay is narrow.

If it is, there are certain times when there could be breakers all the way across it.

Also if it is narrow, and you can study it from the shore at the various tides, you will know what to expect.

If there is no fear of breakers or currents too strong to paddle against, then your best bet is to leave on a outgoing tide, and return on a incoming one and enjoy the ride

Jack L

more practice
Spent another day on the pond getting comfortable doing more braces and failing and practicing wet exits and self rescues.Thanks again for the replies