Don't get caught in this frequently lethal trap


I appreciate and respect the intended warning of this post, especially for those newer to the sport.

I would nitpick with the wording. What is depicted presents “dangerous” and “potentially” lethal traps for the unsuspecting and/or unskilled/unconditioned. If it were truly “frequently lethal”, there would not be many paddlers and small boaters left over time. Again, just disagreeing with wording BUT not the intent.

Locally in New England, the features you described often provide the training and playground venue for those with requisite knowledge, gear, skills and stamina to ramp up their kayaking skills and abilities.

I think of the annual Autumn Gales Symposium as well known example of known/notorious Fisher Island Race being used as the training ground for intermediate and advanced paddlers to ramp up their skill levels. The venue has been more or less “challenging”, depending on the actual wind and wave conditions of a given year.

Here in Beantown, I know of three or four similar but smaller scale coastal/tidal features that offer very good venues. These are places that more intermediate and advanced paddlers routinely train/play at. Novice paddlers get initiated by more advanced paddling partners who are willing to provide coaching and to increase the safety parameters for the newer paddler.



I wish I had seen this video before I went out that ONE day. Got my education and subsequent inspiration the hard way. I stayed upright but just barely. The tide was gushing out and I was trying to paddle in at Beaufort Inlet in NC.
Blackbeard’s ship sunk nearby and I think I know why!

“As God is my witness I WILL learn to brace and roll.”

I had another learning experience not far from that inlet in the sound. The wind picked up and the water depth was all over the place so the wave action was pretty crazy. I swam and got some more inspiration / motivation.

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And, so you have!

As God knows I’m “witless”, I may also need to accept a “hand of God” rescue at some point! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


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Great photo of the Gorge.
I have relatives in Washington, and go there frequently. The Gorge is often rough, especially in the afternoon. The venturi of the canyon creates a lot of wind and the fetch is really long.

I went up the Columbia R on a paddlewheeler from Portland and then up the Snake R to Lewiston. It was a great way to see the River. Below Portland we sailed past my great grandfather’s house in Kalama, built in 1905. My grandfather used to spend time on the river boats when he was a kid. He told the story of attending a lecture by Ezra Meeker in Vancouver talking about his oxen pulling wagons across the Oregon Trail. That was around 1902.


Beavertail can get very tricky, and my most memorable dumb ass moment to date was around Dutch Island (southern tip was when the real fun started) on a day with the wind blowing 29 knots with higher gusts. Yes, knots. We measured it once we landed.

Not wimpy treating that area with respect.


Learn to read the signs. Learn to read the tide table. Check the weather report. Notice everything.
That is your job every time you go out.


I appreciate what you’re saying, Sing, and agree with the points you made. My reasoning for the title was that this video isn’t aimed at intermediate or advanced paddlers. For them, as you pointed out, these areas are often a playground, and rightly viewed as a training ground for those paddlers who want to build their rough water skills. Gales certainly falls into both categories.

But I would argue that getting caught in these conditions because you had no idea that they existed or no understanding of the forces that cause them - and you also lack the skill to handle them - sets the stage for a lot of close calls and fatalities. In other words, one person’s playground is another’s horror show. When unaware, newbie paddlers get caught, the outcome is frequently fatal.

So my purpose in making the video was to educate those unaware paddlers. Hopefully many of them will watch it and learn to be safer paddlers as a result. Maybe not. Most of what I do safety-wise is like planting acorns. There’s no way to know whether the message will take root, let alone grow into a tree. But if we more experienced paddlers work together on promoting such awareness, then our sport becomes safer over time. Just my 2 cents.


If I don’t plan, Daniel, I tend to screw things up. On the flip side, it’s hard to back off a plan when conditions or circumstances change. Some days, it’s better to stay on shore, find a nice pub with your mates and tell tall tales. I love your point about work vs fun. I paddle to drown the demons, not attract them.

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Yes - always lots of waves at Beavertail. I’ve been going there for years to get pictures of the Beavertail Light from the rocks.

Beavertail Light

I really wanted to get a picture of the lighthouse from the water directly below the point, but this is the best that I got.

Beavertail Light

It doesn’t look like much, maybe two-foot rollers here. They got bigger as we got closer to the point. For a guy not use to bobbing around in 3-4 foot rollers in a sea kayak it was an experience. Maybe I’ll get back there sometime and try it again - in a larger group, and after having practiced some assisted rescues. (I am not from the “let’s just do it and hope for the best” school of paddling. :wink: )

Been to Dutch Island Light on that southern point many times. I paddle out in my canoe from the Jamestown side in the protected water of Dutch Harbor.

Dutch Island Light

It is a mile from Jamestown across Dutch Harbor, or a mile from the URI Bay Campus in Narragansett across the West Passage. I’d never do the West Passage crossing alone in my canoe. Usually I can paddle out around the point, but if the tide is coming in and the wind is from the south it can get tricky there as well. The ocean is amazing, so different from the rivers or lakes that I usually paddle.


So I know you, @eckilson, hold down RICKA’s white water contingent. But, with all that briny water and variety of protected to challenging venues… The “Ocean State” is one of New England’s seakayaking paradise… (Yeah, yeah… Maine also has the variety of venues too and more so… But, that water temp compared to RI’s…)

Never been to Beavertail (just to Point Judith farther south and across the West Passage) for some long, long roling point break waves. But, that setup shown in the first picture reminds of 3rd Beach/Sachusetts Point where explosions can happen when the incoming swells (or wind) hits the ebb of the Sakonnet River. I play it “safer” by hitting 2nd Beach/Easton Point. Every fall/winter, I get in at least one weekend staying at the nearby Atlantic Hotel and paddle surfing 2nd Beach. (1st Beach is bit too tame.) Lots of fun and one memorable occaison when I got a higher level of “excitement” than I expected on a head plus day (which I believed I shared on a session report in this forum).

But, as you well know, moving water has it own “traps” that can really do a number on the newbies and unaware. The difference maybe is the clear classification ratings for rivers and the “challenge” of foaming rapids is visible (excepting that killer hydraulic hole or strainer just situated around the next sharp river bend…) There are more clear parameters for the uninitiated. Not so for ocean paddlers. I could be placid one day, and challenging and potentially life taking the next. I’ve been down to my favorite RI surf spots where it was FLAT, Flat, flat… I should have just stayed home and paddled around the “pond like” conditions of the inner Boston Harbor.


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Waves are at Point Judith are amazing - didn’t realize that you surf down the face of the wave parallel to the shore.

Surfed it once and watched it once. The Pt Judith boardies can be territorial. I am up for a natural challenge and usually avoid the human challenges. The latter can have consequences that follow off the water.

I decided that Easton point, while not as long of a point break, has more “welcoming” locals (especially if surf etiquette is followed). A funny moment was me running into one of my “homebreak locals” in the Easton Point line-up. “Fancy seeing you here… LOL!”


Very nice shots. Thank you for sharing them!

It is a lovely, surprising spot to paddle within a larger area that is so-so on land, at least compared to where I go in Maine. But she wants your attention.

MoultonAvery, you are on point. We so much value freedom, we often lose sight of the meaning by telling other people what he or she has to do to experience it.

I got a mountain bike, and began trail riding with my son. Fixing things that broke and building new wheel sets took away from the riding time. Then I face planted several times hopping logs. The guy I bought parts from told he split a helmet and was in a coma for neary a month. After hitting my target goal for downhill speed, I suddenly became disenchanted with that as well, and felt more comportable setting my own land speed record on the flats.

We set our own goals. All we can do is share our experiences and describe the traps. I always wanted to jump out of airplanes. Thirty-nine years ago, yesterday, I had the opportunity to learn free “with no strings attached”. I decided it was neither the time nor the place. No regrets.

Crossing the Chesapeake Bay is far from adventurous, yet it does have its own traps. I’ve never encourage anyone to attempt a crossing, but I’ve told many how to assess conditions and what skills should be develop before trying. The decision to try is an individual’s choice.

I got out of white water because I didn’t like relying on someone to drop off and pick up, or shuttle. That, and we wrapped two canoes around objects in the way; couldn’t afford to replace them at the time, so the fun ended there.

I’m less adventurous these days. That doesn’t mean others can’t decide for themselves. My adventure started with a cheap rec boat. Now I look forwarded to going further, faster. I don’t need more skill or better tools. I can take it from here.

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“Crossing the Chesapeake Bay is far from adventurous.”
That depends a lot on the day or night we are talking about.
Kent Narrows, Tilghman Island.

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Correct, but it’s not like riding Deception Pass or a 10 ft wave. I like to go out when it’s mellow, but that doesn’t mean it wont get violent. The stretch from Carroll Island to Poole Island can go from 12 inch waves to rolling 30 inch waves in 15 to 30 minutes, when the tide changes. If “I” get there and “find” 30 inch waves, I turn around and go up the Gunpowder. That’s nothing to many kayakers, but I’m not many kayakers. I always go when its best, but anticipate for worse.

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Wow, Jyak, that’s beautifully written and the wisdom of your words really speaks to me. I think outdoor recreation is all about judgement, timing and lighting. If you’re 3/4 the way up a moderate, three pitch climb in Yosemite when the afternoon thunderstorm rolls in, it’s bad news. Ditto trying to ascend some south face couloir on Rainier in the afternoon when the sun turns it into a bowling alley with rockfall. Deception Pass can be a sweet little playground where newbies can practice their ferries or a location that experienced paddlers find quite challenging. Dynamic environments.

I lead a very easy and sheltered 1st world life that’s the result of a tightly-coupled, highly-efficient and stable supply chain miracle. Fresh, potable water appears at will and sewage disappears just as easily. Electricity, internal combustion engines, central heat and AC all add smoothness to my ride through life.

You’d think that would be satisfactory, but no, I seek out situations that are far less safe than sitting at my desk. They make me feel “more alive” and connected to the natural world. I’ve marveled at this for over half a century and think I have some insight into it - whatever that’s worth.

I’m 74-years-old this year, and although my mind is willing, my body tends to betray me, injecting reality into the situation. Old hips, old knees, other stuff. I live within a stones throw of Hood, Rainier, Adams etc. They call to me - a siren song that tempts but doesn’t persuade.

Like everyone else, I’m skilled at self-deception and rationalization. The challenge is spotting the self-generated BS and cutting it short. In that respect, my old standards are my safety line. Back in the day, my standard for climbing fitness was that you needed plenty of reserve strength. Climb the peak, get down alive, hit the parking lot, and still have enough juice to do it again - right then and there - if your life depended on it. I don’t have enough juice to safely do the climb once these days. So it’s not that hard to resist the temptation to get up on the mountain.

However, the fact that I can’t do many of the things I used to do doesn’t mean that I can’t help younger mates find a safer path in the wilderness. When I was a newbie in the outdoors, more experienced friends showed me the way, took me under their broad wings and smoothed my journey with their gift of knowledge. I’ve been paying it forward ever since.


River runners have their scale. For the ocean or large bodies of water, I like the Sea Conditions Rating System (SCRS) that Tsunami Rangers co-founder Eric Soares developed. It’s another tool that helps me to be realistic about the conditions that I see standing on the beach at the put-in. Rating Sea Conditions - Extreme Sea Kayaking Adventures

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Moved to the West Coast 4.5 years ago. It’s a different scene. Went paddling in the ocean with some friends for the first time in a long time on a day with 3-5 foot swells at 10 seconds. Pretty small day by Pacific standards, but I couldn’t get out beyond the outer break. It’s pretty easy to get thrashed if your timing is off. Still, had a blast. Some days it’s pretty flat, but those are rare. Manzanita Surf Zone - YouTube. Couple months ago, we drove down to the Oregon coast to get some footage of reflected waves on a day with 17 foot swell @ 14 seconds. Watching storm waves is a Pacific Northwest pastime for a lot of folks. I’m certainly hooked. Very dramatic ocean.

Nah, you were speaking to me. Let’s see who was the OP . . . Oh, MoultonAvery, thanks! This was a great thread throughout and I don’t think any posted info conflicted. Very nice topic set up. Very nice.

I think of what I could have been able to achieve if I found kayaking in my 30s. Probably would have killed myself by now, so maybe it’s a blessing. It is odd, how we live protected lives. We practice safety and savor our protected zones, while we go out and do incredibly stupid things. We admonish rec boaters for being unsafe. Then go out and battle waves.

Kayaking can be an extreme sport, or a serene one, all in the same trip. I was on my brother’s power boat fishing and he decided to go back because it was too rough. I regularly traveled that course in my 145 Tsunami and though it was typical.

We watch scary movies, like the roller coaster and swinging ferris wheel seat, sometimes drive too fast around mountain corners, take death defying leaps connected to bungee cords, swim with sharks while relying on compressed air, and get close to the edge on mountain peaks - some even fall off taking selfies.

Why would anybody brave massive swells in a skinny boat? Why would anyone who is busted up push themselve to the limit on the water. Some may get tired of being safe, and the boat levels the playing field. The sense of adventure is so great, most of us fall into the trap of wanting to introduce everyone to it. That notion ended for me when I’d take a novice out, just to have them paddle a quarter mile and sit. Now I avoid anyone who says kayaking sounds like fun, and limit my help to those willing to make the investment of time and money.

I once told my father that the kids in my son’s scout troop could plan a program, set up camp in the dark, sometimes in rain storms or snow and ice, tolerated temperatures as low as zero degrees, and do it all without adult intervention. All he said was that he couldn’t understand how anyone would work to buy a home, heat and furnish it, then go out and sleep on the cold ground . . . All I could say was. “Dunno, just dunno!”

I guess some need a challange and even seek danger! So telling people don’t do it won’t work. Best we can do is guide new kayakers in the craft. I have to laugh thinking about taking up some activity like golf. You can really screw up using the wrong club or swing and still have a good game. You can do that with kayaking, and you can also find yourself “up the creek without a paddle.”

One thing seems constant on the forum. Members appear to be within their comfort zone, regardless of the level of skill. I have to believe it’s the knowledge acquired through sharing that helps keep everyone safe. The simple act of reviewing the range of experiences is the key. The number of members over 50 should be enough to convince newcomers that age isn’t a limiting factor.