Big Waves

Last weekend I was paddling an aluminum canoe in the local reservoir for a couple of hours with my sweetheart.

A motor boat makes a pass very close while wakeboarding.

Suddenly we were in 4 foot waves.

We went head on into the first wave paddling strong, by the time the second wave his us we were turning and as quick as the blink of the eye we were upside down and swimming.

Looking for suggestions on how to paddle through “rough conditions” to be better prepared in the future.

Wow what resevoir?
I would have reported to DNR or sheriff’s department. If they caused you to capsize that’s reckless operation of the power boat. Since it’s Utah we are sure they were not under the influence of alcohol. For such a large wake on a Utah lake they must have been very close.

You can stay upright in an aluminum canoe; I have a 16.5 foot smoker craft that has run large waves in whitewater. You want to lower your center of gravity by kneeling when paddling. You want to quater the waves and use strong corrective sweep strokes to keep the boat from broaching. In a boat wake the trailing trough of the wave behaves kind of squirrely, it takes some experience to know where and how to lean. In a canoe that takes experience and teamwork. Also people tend to stop paddling and hang onto the boat and lean away from the wave when a big wave comes. Then it is all over, you have to have your paddle in the water actively bracing and paddling and lowering your effective center of gravity, and actually lean into the wave and then relax and let it roll under you. Try paddling some mild whitewater on the Bear or Weber river with some paddling clubs to get experience or have someone in a jet ski or motor boat intentionally circle you to give you some waves.

In addition to previous comments

– Last Updated: May-02-06 11:28 PM EST –

consider using low brace strokes.

No Drinking
It was Pineview Reservoir. No drinking involved. Smile! The boys did come around and pull us in, and haul us back to our launch site.

When the water warms up a bit we plan on having both big boats or jet skis circle us to practice our skills.

Pardon the (obvious) question - but I’m in trouble maker mode lately.

4 ft should be well over your head when seated in a canoe. The big ocean going fishing boats and mega yachts here don’t make wakes that big - even when abruptly dropping off plane coming in at speed off the ocean.

Regarding capsize avoidance - 80% of the capsizing energy generally comes from the paddler(s) overreacting/over-correcting. Relax, trust the hull, work on bracing strokes.

Hey, can’t you canoe types also drop onto your knees to lower the center of gravity?

Of course you could always get a kayak and learn to roll… :wink:

Well that’s good
At least they came back and helped. You don’t see that around here. I learned to waterski at Pineview when I was about 12 or 13, my friend’s 18 year old brother driving the boat. I wonder how many canoeists we killed that day.

No kidding
The waves were definitely 4 feet (not breaking yet, just rolling).

The boat was slowing down and making a 180 turn around us.

Yes Greyak I have a kayak and can roll it most of the time in the outdoors. Smile again!

Maybe a silly question but…
I’m hoping this board is a safe place to answer it.

When you lost management of the boat - how much of it was because you individually couldn’t keep it on track, and how much of it was from your companion not knowing what to do? Could you tell that at the moment that things went decidedly south?

I wouldn’t have the whatever to try a canoe in that big of stuff myself even rollers - congrats to all who can - but I am wondering if one of the options might have been to have the forward paddler just tuck down to the bottom, maybe move back a bit towards the center, and essentially try to be less of a presence.

You said:
“By the time the second wave hit us we were turnining”

You should not have been turning. when you are caught in a situation like that you should stay head on into the waves.

You might have taken in water over the bow, but you would not have capsized, and after the series of them subsided you could have bailed out the boat.

I am guessing that there might be a little bit of inexperience involved and you guys panicked.



Hmm, I never tried rolling indoors!

– Last Updated: May-02-06 10:09 PM EST –

Well according to USFS, "Pineview Reservoir is the busiest reservoir for it's size in the State of Utah." Whatever that means.

4 ft wide waves maybe? But what do I know about wave/wake formation? I was only a Weather Forecaster in the Navy with Oceanography training after all... I've never seen a 4 ft wake from less than a Destroyer at speed - or maybe an ocean going tug rushing to get on station. Salt water must dampen wake formation...

You real men managing small open boats in that size stuff, on the mighty inland sea of Pineview Reservoir, are impressive! (as Celia politely tiptoes around: Blame the capsize on the sweetheart! *L*)

Me, I'll stick to the very calm and warm waters of South Florida - with our cruise ships, tankers, tugs, fishing fleets, cigarette boats, and other non-wake generating vessels (I can't really even count the wake borders/skiers/jet skis! Barely enough wake for fun).

But seriously - it was very good of them to come around and help you out. Better still your plans to play with getting better by getting some dedicated wake work time in. Good stuff.

Try this
Sit in the bottom of the canoe, in the middle, on the keel line. Hold the gunwales and rock the canoe back and forth. It is difficult to tip the canoe in this position, even when one is trying (tall folks can do it). Now, take what you have experienced and relate it to kneeling in a canoe. If you keep your head centred, and your hips loose, the canoe will just do its thing underneath you and you won’t be nearly as likely to tip. Of course, paddling, bracing, and the right angle are also useful. Your canoe should be able to handle any size swell.

Practice on a beach in warm water with an onshore wind (maybe tie in an inner tube or cheap pool toy to make life easier)

Have fun.

Freshwater Waves
greyak wrote:

“Salt water must dampen wake formation…”

Keep in mind that, on average, a cubic foot of sea water contains 2.2 pounds of salt, which indeed has the effect of dampening both the wave height and its relative ‘sharpness’. Derek Hutchinson mentions this somewhere in his “Complete Book of Sea Kayaking,” as a warning to those who paddle the Great Lakes and other large inland bodies of water typically regarded by ocean paddlers as undemanding quietwater.

I’ll leave it to mud_dog to estimate the height of the waves he encountered that day. As an inland paddler myself, I will say that it takes a pretty large boat passing very close to make a wake of 4 feet in height. I was once caught unawares by the nearby passing of what I took for a harmless pontoon boat. I don’t typically fear any vessel that is covered in Astroturf, but this was evidently one of those tri-hulled deck boats, which threw a very different kind of wake. When this deeper wake hit a submerged limestone shelf between me and the boat, it suddenly leapt up to about 3 feet, and was surprisingly sharp, and I barely had time to turn into it. I got a faceful but punched through. So lake-bottom shape can have an influence on wave height, too.

As others have already said, more paddling practice in progressively larger waves and wakes will do wonders for you and your partner’s competence and confidence. As jackl says, lower your center-of-gravity, always head INTO a large wave/wake, and if you get caught broadside, leaning INTO it as with a kayak—although counterintuitive—, perhaps with a paddle brace added, will help prevent a capsize.

You’ll probably find that the average SIZE of the waves you typically encounter is inversely proportionate to the amount of paddling TIME you spend out in them …

Good observation
Years ago when I first took to the water in small boats, the waves were much bigger than they are now! Developing your skills and a decent comfort level make the waves shrink dramatically.

maybe 2ft?
2 ft up, 2 ft down, 4 feet of movement. a 4 ft wave would give you 8 ft of movement, as least as usually measured. that is an enormous wave for anything short of a freighter. in fact, even surfing freighter wakes in puget sound, i don’t think i ever saw a real 4 ft wave.


Some have debated that before…
…and I came away with the idea that defining wave height as trough to crest is perfectly okay (as long as you recognize the validity of the more “proper” method too), since that’s the height of the wave face we see as it approaches. I’ve been in waves that cause me to occasionally lose sight of shore, and I figure they were roughly three feet, as measured from trough to crest, or only 1.5 feet as measured from centerpoint to the crest. A four-foot wave would definitely cause you to lose sight of shore, with room to spare.

I’m in agreement with what someone else already said, and I’m not going to say the original poster is wrong about the wave height. My first post is just about how one’s perception of wave height and the difficulty in dealing with big waves changes with increasing time on the water.

Last Summer…
Started paddling an outrage, and practiced on the lake during the weekdays, as there is no real whitewater close to Chicago. A typical average ‘wavy’ day would have waves 2’-4’. My friends all bought small kayaks and we went pretty often to play in the waves.

When ‘surfing’, it was harder in my canoe, then in a kayak, to get speed at the right time to try and catch the waves. I tried to lead a set, and build some speed to catch the waves where they changed from rollers and built a ‘face’.

Many times the bow would become deeply burried, and the stern would start to come around, making steering a chore.

Also, leaning back and steering, but once the bow was low in the water, things became tuffer and I did swim a few times…

Any tips on surfing a lake in an outrage??

Seems like…
the boat ended up side surfing a couple times also, which is something I dont really know how to do. Most of the time was able to stick paddle into the wave, turn into the wave near the beach, and paddle back out.