Dealing with boat wakes...

Newbe question once again… but how do you guys deal with them on the water? Just paddle thru? Line up head into the wake or just paddle along and dont worry about them? Any help appreciated.


If you are in a kayak think
loose hips save flips. And if they are really big (like from a ferry or something) and your boat is sideways to them then get ready to throw in a low brace. Heading straight into them is another option but not as much fun as surfing them.

You got it.
Then, If I am on a river and the boats are not following the no wake rules when passing non powered craft, I normally refer them to local law enforcement. There was a group of power boaters racing up and down a river we were paddling and camping on over Memorial Day weekend. They ended up having a meeting with the local game wardens after swamping some folks that were renting from the local liveries. Did you know that drinking while driving a boat carries the same penalties in many states as if you were driving a car? They didn’t.

I don’t deal with them
I revel in them!

in some states more
for a while drinking and boating in Florida could result in seizure of your boat, trailer, and everything in it. Not sure if the law still exists or not but I like it.

what rwven said, if you are close enough to the stern of the boat, you can surf the wake for quite awhile.

Boat wakes are the dreaded fear of all
new paddlers, and I was no exception.

First take note the next time you are out that the faster the boat is going the less the wake will be, unless you are very close.

Jet skis make almost no wake at all.

Once you realize this, you can take 90 percent of their gentle waves sideways.

If there is an occasion that you will be so close that a wave will be breaking as it hits you, turn into and hit it head on. Just keep paddling into it and let it break over you.

If you do get caught with a sideways breaking wave be prepared to throw a hard brace on the opposite side of the wave.

If you are in shallow water and you see some waves coming at you, head out immediately, since they will build up and break as they come into the shallows.

Hope this helps a bit.



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Good post
You’re right. I recall one day being near the approach to a harbor and one of those big fishing head boats is coming in full throttle. Just as he gets near he cuts power and the wave he throws us is absolutely huge. This thing appears to be way over my head. I turned into it and was prepared to brace. 40 guys on the deck watching in anticipation of the entertainment about to take place before them. Like a cork - way up and down, it was fun. I’ve had tricker moments trying to get a sandwich out and eat it.

slowing boats
Yeah, I’m always quite amazed at the guys in the big power boats that think they’re doing me a favor by slowing down as they approach me. But as you say, it can be fun too.

Turn stern to the wake
and try to ride it!

Enjoy them!
I detest poor/illegal boater courtesy, however, I do enjoy a nice wave or two. Glassy water is nice but an occasional wave is fun and if big enough, refreshing! I once asked a Seadoo guy to run tight circles around me to see how my boat handled. He thought I was upset at first until I explained. I told him to try and swamp me, which he tried. The yak took it in stride.

If a boat or ski tried that without my permission, I’d call the lake patrol, which I’ve done many times.

Boat wake is just a wave
Every paddler at some point gets used to waves. It comes with experience and using your paddle for bracing. It also comes with learning the balance points of your boat. In most wakes you will bob up and down like a cork and need to do nothing. But if you need to feel confident, turn into them a bit.

Play around in some waves close to shore as the water gets warm, - it’s the best thing you can do as a paddler. After a while, waves and wakes will be nothing.

Know what you mean …
… Relative beginner myself … wake can be intimidating, especially if the boat is BIG too (sometimes the boat is more intimidating than the wake).

As noted by others, just turn into them and keep your hips lose … let the boat ride up and over. I find that forward motion (keep paddling) helps with balance.

Most important, there’s NO SHAME in turning into the wake … others with more daring answers are perhaps more experienced\skilled … so will you be someday. Most important thing is your safety, so do what feels right given your skill level.

See, the thing about boat wake is it takes boats to generate it … depending on where you’re at, this might not be a good place to practice wet exits and paddle float rescues. If you’re in or near a channel, for example, and there’s other traffic, boaters maye have a real problem avoiding you … might not even see you if the driver is busy and\or inexperienced.

You’ll encounter boaters who may WANT to intimidate or even flip you … some for fun, some because they don’t want paddlers in what they consider to be their domain. Good thing is there aren’t too many of those. Some boaters assume that as a kayaker you WANT waves … think they’re doing YOU a favor. Others want to slow down and take a peek … show the kids the kayak.

If you want to limit the boats around you, might be able to find places to paddle where a power boat’s draft keeps them away from you. Along a rocky shoreline, shallow areas, etc. Gives you a chance to get used to boats and their wake from as much distance as you want.

Your confidence in you and your boat will increase as you paddle … how you take on boat wake will change over time as well.

On purpose
The skipper of that fishing boat probably did it on purpose. Pretty dumb too as he could have lost his license. I get the same thing when fishing. Not on purpose but they want to watch when you have a fish on.

No, he didn’t
He was entering a channel and nearing the turn into the harbor. I was at least 50 yards away and I’m sure he could care less about me. He’s bringing 40 or more paying customers back to the dock - he’s got better things to do than screw with a kayak.

I was a little intimidated . . . .
A few weeks ago, I was on a wide slow moving river and near the end, it gets deep and wide enough for a lot of pontoons and water skiers. At first I was turning in to the wakes in my little 11’ rec yak, but after awhile, I realized that (since I had already been out about 4 hours) I could get behind the pontoons and keep up with them if I got directly behind. I got on the top of a wave and could basically surf it for about 5-6 seconds until it would finally over take me, and then I’d slow on the down side until the next one started lifting me. These weren’t more than 2’, mind you, but it gave my paddling a boost for about 10 minutes until he realized what I was doing and thought he’d speed up to help. I lost him after that . . . .

touch them
put your blade in the water towards them and shake it’s hand.

“nice to meet you”

“good day, a couple more behind me, good day”


“excuse me”

part of the key right there thanks
Part of it is getting past the notion that power boaters live to harass kayaks. Particularly fisherman and charter operators have more important things on their minds. If you stop perceiving it personally it becomes less of an irritant.

smaile.relax and wiggle those hips
Our boats are wonderfully made to survive big stuff. Murray hailton would call by vhf radio to encourage the coast guard to hit him hard with big wakes. He loves big stuff. Be positive and enjoy the excitemnet. Smile and nod. I try to go into the wave. Love my thigh braces. Great chance to see what your boat will do.

Have fun with them!
I haven’t heard my 4 year old laugh as hard as she did the other day when we paddled straight into some boat wakes. She’s in the bow seat of a Pamlico 135 tandem and got a huge kick out of me pumping up & down the waves. My wife on the other hand… She didn’t laugh, but hey, she was in her own boat.

Turning stern to a wake can be fun if you are perfectly perpindicular to it. But if you’re off by too much you can get swamped. If heading towards the wake, you want to be angled with your bow more than 45 degrees to the face of the first wave. If you’re heading in the same direction or just too close to it, it is easy to get pushed parallel to the waves & flip.

So head straight into them & have fun!