Extreme weather paddling

-- Last Updated: Feb-20-06 3:39 PM EST --

There has been a lot of chatter about GP vs Euro paddles, especially if there is a wind. The last few weeks exposed the NW with a few extremes I thought I would share with you. A few weeks ago, sustained winds of 35-45 MPH and gusts to 60 blew in to Puget Sound. A few hard cores decided on a particular beach to which they said the wind would blow you up to if things went bad. Well 5 or 6 of us showed up. Things got bad in a hurry. The "beach" was a boiling soup of tree trunks crashing against car sized boulders with the wind swept high tide. It was pouring down rain and we just looked outside... waiting for some sort of change that never occured. Launching was a feat, just to find an opening. No matter how hard you tried to turn into the wind, the minute you cleared the beach you were blown left. No matter what blade you used, or rudder or lean, nothing would turn the boat South into the wind. The first few who went in were quickly in rescue mode. Their bombproof rolls were blow to bits. Third guy with a GP was blown into the rock soup, his Valley boat, empty was skyrocketed staight up by the surf, the gel coat taking a beating from the granite boulders. The GP was just not getting enough bite, and I doubt any paddle would have made a difference. I would have been 4th or 5th to launch but the boat never left the rack because of rescues and assistance I was involved with.

I posted a few pictures here if you want to see what I mean:

Then we had cold weather. Last year, the most I saw was 1/8 inch of ice and had no problem breaking through and had a interesting time. This weekend, it went from 1/4 inch to 3/4 inches think and was impassible. The hull could crack the ice, but the paddle could not. And turning? Forget about it. Bottom line is when things get extreme, the paddle does not matter. But the experience is great. Especially when you can do this close to home and have great friends bail you out and share in somewhat controlled circumstances. Better this, than in the wild somewhere.

Paddle on

You have winds that gust up to 60 mph with tree trunks crashing to shore and you guys decide to go paddle? That doesn’t seem very wise to me. Bombproof roll blown to bits by wind? I don’t get it. Doesn’t the wind help you roll assuming you can roll on both sides?

and your point is ???
It’s hard to judge how rough things really are in pictures sometimes. Are you sure the winds were 35-45 with 60 mph gusts? Was this several people going out to see if they could handle conditions, a few inexperienced folks or an experienced group taken by surprise?

Just go’s
to show the limitations of kayaking in bad weather. At least you attempted it close to shore and hopefully knowing all of your possible “outs.”

It makes me think about some of the reading in “Deep Trouble” and other similiar books/articles where the odds where already stacked up against a paddler and he chose to go anyway.

Let me explain…

– Last Updated: Feb-20-06 4:25 PM EST –

These were some of the best paddlers you would ever run across. Folks who push themselves and their limits, without risking too much in safety. Everyone had a morbid curiosity to see what it would be like in high winds and rough conditions, fairly close to shore.

I guess one point is, in rough weather and winds, both GP and Euro paddles are not worth a dime. Not to bash GP's cuz I want to try them out.. Another point, kayaking can, and is a year round sport in the NW.

There were others that day that got somewhere and decided it was NUTZ to try and paddle... Had it not been for the tide, rocks and logs, I would have been out there instead of taking pictures. Why do people paddle in class 5 rapids? Because they think they can!

class V rapids…
People paddle class V rapids because they CAN safely and successfully paddle class V rapids rather than “think” they can. For class V boaters, their skill levels allow them to paddle as safely on class V as most of us would on class II-III. Will all due respect to you and your friends and your respective skill levels, it seems as though you were all out of your element. I would compare that with a class III boater attempting to paddle a class V.

Just Because…
One of the stronger members of the “Pond Scum” and I tried to surf out long boats in the heart of a nor’easter. A third person also showed but never left the shore. Just as well. We never could make it past the breakzone and were getting pushed towards a boulder lined seawall. The conditions sounded similar, 30 knots plus winds, rocks, pelting snow/rain mix.

For about half and hour, it was combat roll practice. We were capsized more than I have ever experienced since. Finally, when the other guy took a straight on hit on the head and chest that knocked the wind out of him, he signaled that he was headed for shore. I didn’t protest and followed him in.

On another storm surfing outing with conditions not nearly as bad, my partner wet exited and blew out his knee. I got out to the backside for a total of twice. The surfing sucked as it was just a matter of surviving the broaches in.

Why do it? Because we wanted to figure out if we could. I don’t bother going out anymore in the heart of the storms. The surfing usually sucks and, yes, it puts one’s life on the line. There is very little margin for error. But I know where my margins are more than most folks.


Great pics…intense weather!
I don’t have any comments about the paddling scene. But…I am curious about the strip kayak on the roof of the white pickup. Is that a Redfish King?

Safe paddling…


I’m always fascinated by stuff like this… great to push your limits. I’m a newb, so pushing my limits would be paddling in 2-3’ waves with a bit of wind…

My roll is there, but not tested enough for those winds and rocks/stumps.

Which leads me to a question… why weren’t the paddlers wearing helmets? Close to shore, fine… but a stump to the head on the right angle and you’re eating your remaining meals from a straw… if you live…

Those are storm hoods sans brain buckets, yes?

well now…
not to be braggin’ or anything but…

we do this sort of paddling alot. NOT up against a rock wall with logs in the water but… In the Columbia gorge we get ‘honest’ sustained winds in the 35-45 knot range gusting 50, regularly. I have been known to go out in these conditions, regularly. To say that a GP or Euro is worthless is not true. You need to know some tricks. I have yet to be out when I couldn’t spin 360 degrees, on demand. Once I had to do it with a deployed skeg. Damn VCP wire skeg was stuck down and I HAD to turn upwind.

The Shellback site is down right now so the pics are missing. I’ll post a few on photobucket. My guess is the wind in your pictures is less than 30. no spray.


oh yeah
where are your helmets???

BIG d’uhhhhh


photo link

– Last Updated: Feb-20-06 8:23 PM EST –

all I have is some sub 35 pictures. note spray, swell size and whitecap frequency for comparison.

It's harder to snap off pics when it gets to 40!


Falcon and I did a 8 mile downwinder in Willapa bay on JAN 1 where the fishermen in Nachotta said it was blowing sustained 50 knots/ gusting 60-70. We 'observed' 40 gusting close to 50. Seas were in the 4-4.5' range. a couple probably went 5'. NOAA said 45/G 60.


Your First
second and third pictures were about as rough as I have been in, and I’d likely get dumped as has happened in like conditions again. Some of the other pictures showed stuff I would not even think about.

You stole my pump, lol. Similar install even to the use of PVC 90’s, used on the inputs and outputs. One differance I mounted mine in a piece of 1/4" plywood and then mounted the boart in the foam.


Good on you!
Seems like you guys stretched your limits in a controlled manner. Looks like you had fun too.

for the oyster shucking lesson. I love oysters.

My kinda paddlin’!
You don’t use a GP or Euro when you’re paddling in boiling soup. Next time, try a ceramic spoon.

Doesn’t look like 35-45 winds to me, but I wasn’t there. Wish I was, I would have joined you. Always a good idea to launch INTO the wind when it gets really rough.

Into the wind
Hey guys, we did not launch until the winds died a little and the tide went out a bit. I was using a very expensive $3000 digital set up and did not want to risk getting it too waterlogged. We knew the winds were going to be there as the storm was predicted, but I had no idea about the flotsom and tide that would blow up on this “jetty”. You guys make it seem like folks were in danger, but the reality is no one ever got more than 300 feet from shore and would have been blown back into the beach if nothing else happened. When I was in my 20’s, I lived for weather like this. This group was average 50 years old and I think learned how quickly, even with all of the right equipment, you can tire out. It was a great learning lesson and I did not even have to take one stroke with my paddle.

The FIRST time one paddles class V, it’s because they THINK they can. Sometimes you have to get out of your element a bit, to see if you can.

Moving to the next level always involves risk. Know the risk…know how to hedge it…go for it.

Hey Brian
Let me know when you want to hit the bay and push those limits. Maybe when the air and water warm up a bit.

thoughts of a paddler in his twenties…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as much of a storm chaser as the next guy. I’ve been known to paddle immediately after tornados to ride the wind waves that they kick up. Maybe your description was written in a way to express the drama of the moment, but for me the two things that stuck out were the logs (I’m scared to death of strainers) and the rolling problems. I could definitely understand if they hit their head on a rock and had to swim or if they got sucked out by surf, but from wind…

I’ll take your word for it that it was reasonably safe but you can’t blame us for assuming danger if you use descriptions such as “boiling soup of tree trunks crashing against car sized boulders” and “bombproof rolls were blow to bits.”