Bow and Waves

Do you sea kayakers out there prefer that your bow punch into the waves or ride over them? Why?

Depends on the height of the waves
I did the Wrightsville Beach race a few weeks ago, and on rounding the jetty, they were some squirelly several feet high ones that I was punching through.

In the same race last year on the outside there were three footers, and if I was punching through, I would have been under water more than on top.

For me small ones -punch through

Large ones -up and over the top.

If they are white caps - punch through.



no pearling!
If the waves are going to be hitting me in the chest than I want to go up and over. And surfing a submarine back to shore with a slicer doesnt sound very appealing.

I guess it all depends on what conditions are present.

On a lake with wind chop I guess I would want something like a qcc that doesn’t bounce much.

Depends on the boat

– Last Updated: May-20-07 9:28 PM EST –

In the Explorer, I like taking things at a bit of an angle to reduce the likelihood of that shuddering thud that happens on a straight over the top approach. Taking waves straight, the boat goes airborne then lands hard in the trough.

In the Vela, straight on is the way to go. The boat just slices thru and does so more happily than any other choice.

in my ski
I pretty much slice through the top part of any wave over a foot, in the Caylpso she rides over most, real dry ridin boat actually.

I just like to make it to the other side without getting dunked. I think that it is the wave that matters the most. If you are paddling in ground swells any boat is going to ride up and over like a bobber. Wind chop is differant and depends on the amount of wind, the fetch, and the depth of the water. As the wave stands up and becomes steeper then the boat is going to have a difficult time going over, particularly when hitting the second wave while still sliding down the first. Breaking waves by nature are steep, the top of the wave is falling over as it can not stand up any longer. Hard to get a boat to go over these, have not seen any boat do anything other than go thru or get dunked.


Hey Mark
I was out a few weeks ago… when they predicted slower wind and the wind got faster… and my bow was punching through waves that I’d normally ride over. I realized I had more weight forward than usual. I hated it. I was just wondering if other folks hated it as much as I did. Wondered if there was anything good about it.

The waves make that choice…
not the boat.

The same kayak that is riding over the waves on one day might be punching through them on the next day if the distance between them is too short.

Generally - more rocker and shorter means riding over waves more often. Also in there is your deck height or freeboard.

Racing kayaks are long with no rocker, so it really isn’t about speed.

beat me to it
I was about to say I prefer waves to be 3.25’ with 20’ wavelength. Seems to me that marketers have mislead folks a bit while explaining the uniqueness of their designs.

straight line is much faster
If your boat is traveling up and over a wave that means that your bow is much higher than the under neath of your boat. In larger waves with out enough forward speed you will be back surfing in the foam pile. The foam pile will hit the underside of the boat.

If you have a bow that cuts like a knife your boat tends to stay much flater. If you need to get through breaking surf you can reach over the top and grab the back of the foam pile or tuck forward like a road bicycle and paddle next to the boat like a spear. Again if you expose to much of your body or under neath of the boat you are getting pounded and possibly sent backwards surfing, however, I kinda like back surfs.

SOmething to think about. Boats that go up and down are not as fast as a boat that is flat.

At the very moment that the bow is punching thru the wave, the wave is exerting its control over the bow to a certain extent. It is much harder to turn the boat at that moment. And if the waves are of the nature of a tidal race, eddys, overfalls, or are angling at you, its much harder to hold a line.

I prefer the upswept, flared bow that tends to ride over the waves. I can manuever and hold course much easier that way.

Flaw theory
"If your boat is traveling up and over a wave that means that your bow is much higher than the under neath of your boat. In larger waves with out enough forward speed you will be back surfing in the foam pile. "

I’m not sure that’s the case. With the boat going IN the water instead of ON it, there’s a lot more resistance by the water than by the air.

There maybe other perfectly valid reason a boat that rides over ended up faster, but cutting the distance traveled isn’t it.

I think I agree
I think you are explaining my own observations which. The Qcc 700 and Epic ??? seem to be faster on flat water than the Seda Glider. Both have flatter bows and tend to slice through the water where as the upswept flared Glider bow is a bit harsh on flat water, but gives more bouyancy in the rough stuff. As the water gets rougher, the Glider seems to be faster than the other two for that very reason.

I’m skeptical
Look at the bows on the latest-generation surfskis. Upswept they ain’t.

I enjoy paddling
a kayak that slices through waves for the fun of a wet ride and speed. When conditions are extreme or when playing in the surf I like a kayak that rides over the waves. I find it easier to control and doesn’t get manhandled by the waves.

Nor are they manueverable
relative to a good west greenland style sea kayak.

Its all relative. Compared to a K1 sprint boat, many surf ski bows are upswept and flared.

…just $.01…as I OC-1 more

– Last Updated: May-24-07 10:10 PM EST –

As just previously mentioned, much more stability in rough water somewhat due to higher bow volume-->more flair, rocker...etc....especially, as mentioned, on back of wave.


times , there is absoultly “No Choice”

If going out thru big water conditions (breakers that are 5 feet or more)…it doesn’t really matter what you prefer.

If the conditions are big enough, you have to punch thru them (lean forward and paddle fast, at the last moment, become a spear, and go thru…

when you come out the other side, paddle hard so you have enough umf-ta to carry you thru the next. once you get out to the rollers, then you can ride over them.

the boat should be trimmed so that if you lean back, the boat rides up and over…when you lean forward, it punches thru…

I like enough volume in the bow that as you come down the wave, the bow doesn’t dive too far in, causing you to pitch pole…Brit boats do it for me…

Best Wishes


Was responding to the speed point
specifically. Handling is another matter.