Avoiding bruising capsizing in surf

Ok -

I have capsized in surf various times (Lake MI mostly and ocean once), and I’m tired of wearing the bruises on my legs for 2 weeks afterwards. What the heck is happening? I really can’t tell, but on both sides of the lower legs below the knee is a favored area. I had two capsizes in surf this past weekend and was pretty sore afterwards (still am). I capsized on landing with following waves this time, got an assisted rescue and re-entered, got the skirt on, but no time to pump before capsizing again (boat very unstable full of water). I did the re-enter just to see how it would work in the surf zone - probably not the smartest thing to try, but it worked. I’ve also capsized with bruises on launch, but it’s usually on landings.

I’m a 130 lb female paddling a CD Caribou (kevlar) with about 15 lbs of added weight to keep it from corking. I have added no extra padding anywhere. It is slightly loose, but I have sciatica problems (sore butt, numb-sore right leg and foot) so appreciate being able to shift around a bit in the cockpit. When practicing rolls, I need to move my foot pegs up one notch to get me wedged in the boat better.

Any ideas or am I doomed to look like this every time I capsize? I am getting better at handling surf, but my roll is not working (yet) so I just wet exit.



Use !/4" Minicell Padding…
around the thigh braces and the side of the hull where the knees touch. I assume that you’re getting bruised around the thighs/legs. You can get banged around on a capsize and then trying to come out of the boat while it’s getting moved by wave action.

The times I’ve come of the boat in surf, I find cuts and bruises on me after I get back on dry land. I have a pretty high pain tolerance and really don’t notice while things are happening.


More padding maybe

– Last Updated: Aug-29-05 5:21 PM EST –

I have a very tight fitting surf kayak. My calves and knees, just below the knees tend to hang up on the minifoam outfitting. I got a leg stuck while trying to exit on the beach in dumping surf and I swear one leg is still 2" longer than the other one. I have worked on concentrating on making a clean exit when I decide to swim, practicing it several times, not something you normally need to do for a wet exit. Maybe you need to focus on what the boat is doing to you until you are out of it.

But playing in the surf zone leads to bumps, cuts and bruises. No matter what you do those waves are unpredictable. Something usually hurts after each session. Board surfers pride themselves on stoicism under pain. Having a good roll is probably the best way to avoid getting bruised. It may increase your danger of shoulder dislocation, everything is a trade off. This morning I thought I was surfing on a fairly tame beach. I tried a late take-off on a wave that was about 2.5 times bigger than any of the other waves all morning. It swallowed me and spit me out and I still stayed upright. I couldn't believe how much energy there was in the wave. It was not until I was headed to work that I noticed I had punched myself in the face with my fist, I'm still feeling a little woozy.

"Board surfers pride themselves on stoicism under pain. "

I can still aspire to being a boardie yet. :wink: Does it count when I pass out without a yelp?


Oh Yeah…
please wear a helmet out there. I saw several folks out this weekend in the surf zone, in boats, without brain buckets. (Of course, a couple of them were in rec boats that constantly got flooded. So they were draining more than surfing…) Heck, I know my head got dragged along the sand several times. And, if you come out of the boat, your chances of getting conked on the noggin by the boat increases significantly…

Of course, wearing a helmet takes one right out of the “stoic surfers’ league.”


Fins, Fins, Fins
The good thing about surf kayaking/waveskis is that we tend to stay away from our fins while attached to the boat. Boardies aren’t so lucky.

wet suit?
Are you wearing a wetsuit, or at least wetsuit bottoms? The neoprene can help protect your legs and hips from bruising. I got some super bruises the other day practicing balance braces w/o a wetsuit.

especially if you take NSAIDS on a regular basis. I came to realize that I can’t wear a skirt or dress (formerly known to me as summer luxury items) during the summer because between the bruises, poison ivy, mosquito bites, and URBBBs (unidentified red/black/blue blotches) I would be just too scary for the NY streets.

I actually had my OB-GYN screen me for spousal abuse after my PAP smear this summer. Hah, that sounds like the beginnning of a you know you’re really a kayaker when…thread .


Women tend to bruise more easily then men, especially on the legs. Vitamin C can often help, and cutting back on NSAIDs.

Spray legs
If your wet suit is not thick enough to protect you I’d recooment you wear spray legs over the wet suit to protect your shins. They are available on line from bart water sport and other water ski shops. These neoprene shin guards are made to keep the skin on your back leg if you are an aggressive slalom skier. You’ll need one for each leg and they are about 13 to 15 each.

another option would be to thick wear knee high neoprene booties

Yes, I do bruise much more easily
than my partner. He too thinks that I look like an abused woman, and I always get the “Oh no not more bruises” remark after another spill.

Trying to exit without touching anything, when it feels like you’re in the spin cycle of a washing machine, isn’t easy. I exit as soon as I’m upside down. Should I hang out longer to wait for a calmer moment? I haven’t tried staying in to see what happens. It’s always been very turbulent when I’ve capsized and exited.

The minicell foam is something I will try on the underside of the boat. I hate wearing a wet suit when it’s hot and don’t when the water temps are over 60, but you’re right, it does seem to offer some protection.

The helmet is a good idea too.


Have you tried this?
A wetsuit would be plenty of padding, more stuff means you actually are more likely to get hung up on the outfitting etc when trying to slip out of the boat.

When I bought a helmet
was right after making a couple of attempts to use my rudimentary roll in my little surf SOT, missing, bailing out, and looking up to find myself looking across the bottom of the boat at the top of the next wave getting ready to drop on me. Amazing how quickly you can duck under a boat and grab the bow toggle when you really need to!

Hanging out
If you want to learn how to roll, you have to learn to hang out until the turbulence passes a bit. Part of getting banged up may be thrashing out of the boat while it is getting worked. Try going to the protected set up position before exiting. You can even tuck your paddle under one arm to help keep track of it while you are pulling the loop on your skirt.

got me thinking here. If it is that turbulent isn’t that because you are really close to shore and wouldn’t this increase your chances of dragging your head through sand and shells if you stayed in your boat? I don’t know but I think I would probably exit pretty quickly if I thought I was going to have a 50 lb boat thrashing on top while my neck and head were plowing the sand.


Have Helmet And Tuck…
many a times I’ve been dragged across the bottom this way before being able to roll. Ditto in ww with dings into rocks and boulders. You can take these usually with minimal ill effects, provided you can stay calm about it.


you sir
are special. I guess I like the idea of paddling,rolling, bracing, sculling, and being in deeper water…surf is something I have to get through to get to where I want to be (either out there or on the beach)and as such I must practice and prepare for it…but to play in? mmm…nah.

I guess I am a wuss…


And The Reason I Got Into Surf…

– Last Updated: Aug-30-05 8:02 AM EST –

before I got addicted to it as an art form in itself, is because I figure if I am going to paddle anything but flat water, I am going to have to learn to paddle out through surf or land by going through surf zones.

If when the poop hits the fan, you may not have a choice of a nice calm place to bail out. It would just be lousy to make it towards shore, only to get killed and maimed by breaking waves 50 feet from shore.

The fact of the matter is that if you can handle the surf zone on a given day, you can handle jut about anything outside of the breakzone on that same given day. There are few better rough water practice than the surf zone. And, it's safe if you pick the right location with the right conditions (on shore wind, shallow break, minimal rips). Okay, also add on playing in tidal races to learn ferrying and attaining. White water will also prepare you better for this than sometimes doing tidal races themselves.


Based on your description…

– Last Updated: Aug-30-05 9:00 AM EST –

...of your injuries and the fact that a Caribou is a pretty large boat for someone your size, I suspect that you're slipping off the thigh braces and banging your legs on the keyhole area of the cockpit. I suggest padding out the boat for a close, but comfortable fit and padding the underside, edge and inside of the keyhole section of the coaming. Either thin Minicel or neoprene should do the job.

I would second Bynstrom’s notion. Women friends in our club of your size got into that boat when novices not knowing that the hard chine and large size made them feel more confident, i.e., hard to capsize. But the volume and hard chine for a person of your weight makes the boat get pushed around more in surf. Of course, there are advantages, such as using the edges to place yourself on wave faces, carve turns, etc. This is a bit radical but have you considered in addition to the fine advice possibly using a lower volume and somewhat smaller boat in surf?