Dumping surf

It was bound to happen sooner or later. After 2 months and over 50 hours of paddling my Q700, I finally was forced into a wet exit in dumping surf.

The northeast beaches of Key Biscayne have a half mile run of breakers. The shallow water exposed to easterly winds piles up the waves and creates constant surf as long as the wind blows. (Today it was at 15 MPH) Of course, I was sucked right out of the cockpit.

I immediately cowboyed back into the cockpit and dangled legs and paddled till I got out of the surf. I was dumped because I leaned into the wave too far and under the crest and it washed over me. I can’t see any other way to take on beam surf. Is there a trick or is it just practice or does one usually go over?

beam surf/ side surfing

– Last Updated: May-22-04 9:12 PM EST –

If you fell into the wave face, you leaned too far in to foam pile. It's a matter of feel, lean far enough to avoid going over the other side but not so far that your brace can't support you. If you're really screaming sideways then you should be able to lay out about parallel to the surface of the water hanging on a brace. However, in most cases where you're dealing with crumbling wind waves [as I'm picturing occurring in a 1/2mile wide break from with the short period steep waves generated by a 15mph wind blowing across the short fetch between the Islands and Key Biscayne] little lean is likely needed. Probably a low brace and let the boat skid sideways will do. However, without actually seeing the wave that dumped you I can't say for sure.

I don't know of any real trick though. Bracing, balance, and feel. Oh yeah, and timing. I've leaned too soon into a wave and fallen right into it on my ski. Then again I've had it all perfect (everything except that I should've been behind the wave instead of on the face) skidding nicely sideways into a total coverup barrel where I promptly eat it when the wave closes on my head.

Today I had the ski up at New Smyrna Beach on the 2' wind waves rolling in on the 10-15mph seabreeze and was able to take waves on beam without much bracing or leaning of any kind. Coming in, the waves were slow enough that I was easily able to surf the face and then accellerate out ahead of the whitewater just as the wave crumbled without broaching. Of course that's on a 21' boat with a round bottom and a tonne of rocker. I'm not sure that a Q700 is fast enough to behave the same way in surf. However, should be able to just let the white water wash by without any serious leaning. just a quick brace as the whitewater strikes and then move on.

How big of wave?
It sounds as if you braced too early? if its head high or slightly over, I try to balance on edge till it starts to push me and then tuck in with a body/low brace and a shortend blade. as you know shore side edge up. good luck hope this helps

I have noted that waves with white foam caps seem the most likely to cause a spill. The big waves look more menacing, but are quite easy to deal with.

Tomorrow we have identical wind and waves and I am returning to the same spot with my tupperware boat (tarpon 140) to see how it handles the same situation. I am pretty confident it will just be lifted and pushed along. It won’t be as much fun as the Q700, but I will at least not suffer the indignity of an unexpected dunk.

Why not take your 700?
That way you can get practice surfing it and try some braces.

because he’s FLOJO

– Last Updated: May-22-04 11:27 PM EST –

pronounced flo-ho,,even offshore in the gulfstream today we had only 2ftrs ,can't imagine biscayne having anything bigger than a boat wake.

I find it very hard to describe

– Last Updated: May-23-04 4:25 PM EST –

these things, and admittedly, it's one of the things I find most anxiety provoking in a sea kayak-trying to get in through the surf!

Maybe these links will help some:

http://www.ckf.org/ (click on tips & tricks and then follow the surf landings hyperlink)


the old surfing practice of
counting waves and setting your wristwatch to time sets before entering the water helps a lot when it comes to returning back in. but here in s. fla the mushy beachbreak we have is usually wind driven and rarely has a timed pattern to it.the bahamas break any real swells,so you need to be north of jupiter to catch an actual “swell”

and get some unbroken face to carve on.

and you think you had a bad day

– Last Updated: May-23-04 1:40 AM EST –

check out this picture from a few weeks ago


Best thing to do is to go find those gnarly waves and paddle parallel to shore and practice letting them hit you bracing and side surfing, increasing in size until you are comfortable in the maximun surf you will be paddling in. You might want to wear a helmet if you are going to practice bongo slides.


Not as much…

– Last Updated: May-23-04 2:50 AM EST –

... BS as the original post!

To dump in the conditions here in S FL today - Jim would have had to have been blind sided by one heck of a big boat wake (and usually the boat has to be pretty close for the wake to still be that steep - -so usually a bit hard to miss).

The other option is he got his paddle stuck between the hull and the bottom and followed it over! Probably just blew a stroke - zigged instead of zagged. Happens.

I at least hope he meant the Atlantic side - and not the Bay itself - as NE side of the bay would have been a lee shore and a bit protected -or at least a zero fetch area - from the Easterly winds we had Saturday.

Jim just needs another 50 hours - or to just stick to his Tarpon 140 and sell the SINK! He obviously hasn't found the wave riding benefits of the narrower hull yet. Give it time Jim - a capsize once in a while is no big deal here. Water's warm and helps a short wade away!

I applaud the constructive suggestions from the always helpful folks here - but lees was right. I was less than 20 miles North of there and waves on the Atlantic beach (with tons of fetch), while maybe steep, irregular, and short period, were very small and whitecaps very rare (as in none).

Note: I believe lees is a long time boater in these waters - all types - and I was trained in weather and oceanography and used to do sea state and surf observations and forecasts in the Navy. Believe whichever version of local conditions you want :)

Hey, stuff happens - -and no shame in a capsize - (humor sometimes yes) but "breaking surf", "washed over me", and especially "sucked right out of the cockpit" are really hard to believe (I wasn't there - so won't say impossible - but ?????). Makes for better copy - so chalk it up to creative license I guess! Impressive he could cowboy so quickly in such harrowing conditions too!

Nice pic! Jim will have nightmares from that one!!!

Pretty Hard To Get "Dumpers"
from 15 mph wind driven chops… You would have to some underlying groundswell from a storm somewhere out there. Any storms around?

Dumping surf only occurs on steep beaches where the swell quickly peaks, curls and generally collapses right on or near the beach. You would take a serious thrashing in one. Could have the head scrambled too without a helmet.


No soy flojo
They were not 6 foot waves at all…but they were above the shoulder. The bigger, hull slappers were, as I said, easier.

I paddle to have fun, not to dislocate a shoulder or eat sand. I am 54, not 34. Permit me to make measured advances. When I feel ready for some serious hospital time, I’ll take on a gale force nor’easter and get maytagged like the rest of you 30 somethings.

In the gulfstream yesterday, you had much lower winds and most of them would have had short fetches. The only real danger out there were the oyster beds in the calm, shallow water. I was tempted to drive there to paddle for calmer conditions but stayed home. Glad I did because it was fun.

thanks Pam
You are always helpful.

Try paddling this spot in 15MPH winds. It is fun but not a cake walk. There were no whitecaps except where the breakers were.

I can’t believe youv’e never been to that spot. Look on a map of Key Biscayne. There is a section labled “BREAKERS”. Always whitecaps there, even on a near calm day.

I think I’ll ignore your advice about selling the Q700. The waves are fun to ride and the tumble was instructive. The water was warm and the bottom was white, rippled sand. The waves where shoulder high, curling, fast and irregular.

My waves were not like that one! Nor was I in a similar position as the kayaker in the photo. I don;t see myself paddling in those condiions any time soon…:-}

My bad, Sing
Dumpers is maybe a wrong term. I got dumped, hence the word.

They were unlike the other waves near shore elsewhere, though. The other waves were like giant chop but enough space between them for an 18 foot boat to keep right. The rolling whitecapped buggers, though, were long laterally with short space between them. The proper term is breakers I am sure. They are larger waves which are transformed when coming into contact with shallow bottom.

no swell in FL today, never that far sou
There was no swell on Saturday in FL. I had the ski up at New Smyrna and 2foot wind waves was all there was to be had. Way down south, wind waves is all that’s ever available thanks to the Bahamas. Every now and then a swell coming from due north will sneak down between the Bahamas and the peninsula and the reefs down south absolutely fire, but that happens like once or twice per year when Nor-easters get in perfect position. Not the case yesterday. 2-3foot wind waves, nice and steep and perfect for the surfski, are all we have going on the Atlantic side of florida these days.