Discouraging afternoon paddle ...

-- Last Updated: Jul-02-07 9:02 PM EST --

Boy do I suck ...

Does anyone know of a video showing someone bracing for a wave that's coming up broadside? I'm assuming that's what I should have done.

That's how I ate it today on the Bay.

It was a beautiful day, was the 2nd time taking my Episea out in the Chesapeake Bay (Norfolk VA) -- I've had the boat for over a year (thanks Marshall) and paddle a couple of nearby lakes, at least twice a week for morning/afternoon 1 hour workouts. Over the past year, I'm finding myself more comfortable in the Episea; taking some effort to properly outfit it with thigh and knee minicell, and padded the seat. My 1st time out in the Bay with Episea, I was fine, the seas and wind where calm (under 10kt). I paddled about a 3 mile loop paddling against the current on the way back.

Today, I was fine paddling through the minimal surf (chest high) that was breaking pretty frequently but gentle enough that I had no problem launching. The waves were breaking further out than the shoreline this afternoon (it was low tide). Once I got paddles through that, the seas were not choppy but it was not glassy. No whitecaps. I headed out to the end of this fishing pier that's about 1/4 mile long.

I was NOT feeling too confident; I felt tippy and felt like I was fighting the little "swells" (for lack of a better description) and decided to head back. This is when I felt even less confident. I was not feeling confident enough to put the boat on edge to turn it around and relied on sweep strokes to turn it. By now I managed to turn myself around and head towards the shore (by now about 5 minutes in the water). Waves were swelling and I was trying to ride some of the swells, somewhat successfully -- but only because it seemed like the right thing to do to keep my balance - lean back and dig in. I really wasn't able to get up much momentum to ride the swell ... was getting towards shore.

I was in chest high water when a wave that wasn't quite breaking hit me starboard side, and instead of bracing towards the wave -- I did the classic instinctual no-no and dove right in the other side. Wet exited fine, laughed/cursed it off and beached it. I was mad at myself for wigging out. Even madder to realize my presription sunglasses came off and disappeared when I went under.

I've paddled in much choppier seas with my Manitou, but in the Episea -- I was nervous. This is the boat that I am planning to learn how to scull, brace and roll. I'm looking forward to my first roll class later this month. I've had EJ's DVD for a year now ...

Last year, I took an entry level strokes and self rescue class when I first got the Manitou. I've upgraded over the year (safety/emergency gear) with hopes of doing some more adventurous, multi-day group paddles. While I mainly paddle flat water, I would like to expand my exercise arena to the plentiful bayside access. Guess I'll have to stick with the flatwater for now ... I'm anxious to have a try at a static balance brace with my girlfriend being the hand of god standing in the beach shallows. Freya on her website makes it look so easy.

Just a little discouraged -- pardon the newbie.

Relax man
and get some good instruction. Kayaking is a pretty easy sport to become pretty good at quickly, so worry not and enjoy the ride. Don’t feed your head with negative thoughts. All your hero’s were where you are at once upon a time.

Listen to Salty
Sounds like you were tense, eh? Don’t sweat it but if you had been more relaxed, you might have been fine – loose hips. Sounds like you used good judgment and did fine. You didn’t dump in the middle of the bay.

Some instruction would be good but I bet the real solution is seat-time. You will get there.

Join us next Tuesday night…
You might be interested in our Tune Up session next Tuesday – a two hour paddle session with two Virginia Beach / Chesapeake instructors who have plenty of open water time. The July 10 session is free and it’s a good chance to pick our brains and try some confidence building exercises.

You may find that feeling comfortable with braces will make those rough-water days a lot more fun. Details are here: http://www.virginiaseakayakcenter.com/instruction.htm#tuneup Be sure to use the contact form on the site or give us a call if you want to reserve a spot (rather than posting here) – we still have several slots open.

If you can’t make it then, we can always provide private instruction anywhere in and around Hampton Roads.

  • Tom

Even Some “Experienced” Paddlers
will have a tough go in chest high surf. It’s not easy to tackle in a first go. No harm, no foul. You now have a better sense of what it’s like in the surf zone.

I am believer that one would have more fun in the surf after learning a roll (unless you’re using a SOT). With a budding roll and braces, you can use smaller the waves, 3’ and under, to really practice those skills and to develop new ones in figuring how a boat reacts on a waveface and to begin learning to read the waves and manuevering.

When you get back out there, don’t be hard on yourself. Focus on the fun and the learning. There are good days and there are bad days. Even the latter is “good” because I find it just makes me want to go out and do again but better.


PS. Did you outfit the Episea with thigh braces? Without these, the episea would be harder to edge and control with that cockpit.


– Last Updated: Jul-03-07 7:02 AM EST –

I swam in similar circumstances a couple months back. It's time for the Scarlett O'Hara attitude:

"As God is my witness, that will never happen again."

Now go work on your brace and roll.

EJ's DVD helped me tremendously. Try his 'head back' technique with an extended Greenland paddle. When he says 'hip snap', think 'thigh twist'. Get that knee involved in the snap.

bracing exercise

– Last Updated: Jul-03-07 6:53 AM EST –


This is a fun exercise to try with a companion. Start gently and work up to a realistic sudden dump. Just keep your elbows down and bent and the paddle in front of you to protect your shoulders.

Try not to be discouraged. It takes time to build bracing reflexes -- I can't count the number of times I've seen people start to fall over and reach a hand towards the water to stop themselves while the other hand holds the paddle high in the air...

I know your new boat feels less stable, but it's also more responsive to your actions. Keep working on hip snaps and on staying loose, and you'll soon be dancing together.

two types
of sea kayakers—those who have already swam and those who have not yet done it but will–don’t worry we have all been there—btw never heard of your type of boat—could you describe it? Long seakayak or short surfboat—SINK or SOT?

thanks for the support
Thanks everyone – I knew I could count on P-netters for encouragement and advice. You all ROCK!

and thanks to Tom, I’ve got a local contact for good instruction starting next week.

I almost feel ready to get back in the saddle. I’ve got an overnight camp/paddle at Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern Shore in VA this weekend so I’ll try to get more “seat-time” before then.

re: Episea
the Episea is a plastic kids’ SINK made by Englehart Products Inc (EPI).

Here’s the specs:

36 lbs., 14’ x 20", 11" depth

Here’s a link:


I’m a small framed adult, 105 lbs, 5’3" – I outfitted the cockpit with hip and thigh minicell braces, padded the seat out about 1/2" and added an Immersion Research backband.

Sculling brace
The one technique that really pushed me ahead with confidence is the sculling brace. Forget sculling down to the water. Just paractice leaning a bit on each side with the sculling brace until it’s totally natural. You will then be able to lean the kayak and turn efortlessly with a lean in full confidence. It’s one of the most important techniques in kayaking.

You can take lessons but they won’t make you a better paddler. You will only know more. You have to practice a bit every time you go out.

Pic of broaching wave

– Last Updated: Jul-03-07 2:21 PM EST –

Angstrom - Thanks for the link and advice. The pictures of the broaching wave accompanying the article really shed some light and confirm as to what my body is supposed to be doing.

When in the normal forward paddle position and I lean back - am I supposed to feel really tippy? Is that the feeling that I'm supposed to work WITH to help lean over for a sculling brace ?

Also, when leaning back -- (because of the deck/seat height) to get all the way back, I have to lift off the seat. Is that common -- or do I need a different kayak to do that?

A little is better than a lot
At this point forget about leaning back or far over. All you want to do is get a sculling movement on the water on your strong side. Keep the paddle in a climbing angle going back and forth with about a three ft. sweep. The hand closest to the water does all the work the other hand just acts like a cradle. Then just lean about 1 foot to that side putting a little pressure on it. Thats it! Practice that on both sides in a foot of water so you can recover if you screw up. As you get more comfortable with it you can lean on it a bit more. It will take weeks. Always practice that. You’re training your wrist to the movement so it’s automatic.

Assuming you’re using a regular paddle, your blade should be skimming along the surface.

When you hit the water with a brace, you will now be able to go into that motion keeping the paddle on the surface and you very solid and stable. If you see an experienced kayker they can demonstrate a few of those things for you which will clarify it more. All these things take time and there’s no magic way to cut the process short.

It’s normal to feel unstable when you lean back. Leaning back puts your center of mass closer to the boat’s axis of rotation, decreasing your rotational inertia. It’s like a spinning skater pulling in her arms.

So although layback makes it easier to rotate the boat/body system upright, it also makes you less stable once you get there. Finishing a layback roll on a forward sweeping brace is one way to get back up to a stronger, more stable position.

Layback isn’t necessary for rolling. Until recently layback rolls were considered dangerous by the whitewater community, but most active whitewater boaters still managed to roll just fine.

A low rear deck is nice but not vital. You don’t need to pin your head on the back deck unless you’re trying some of the more difficult rolls. My butt does come off my seat when I’m trying to balance brace or do a face-up sculling brace.