Fast in Following Seas???

I realize that this question has a lot of variables and fully embrace the fact that the paddler is the most important factor in the equation…but ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL, here is my question:

I know that longer boats are generally faster than shorter boats. Does this always hold true though in all conditions???

How about in following seas? Is a shorter boat perhaps faster in following seas due to its ability to accelerate faster and maybe catch more wind waves?

Here is the basis of my question: I went paddling with a group this week. I paddled my Aquanaut (18 foot) and two others had Avocets (16 foot). They are very similar boats other than the length (both are Valley boats based on the same hull design). It was an opean ocean trip on the Pacific with about 8 foot swell, 20 knott winds, and somewhat confused water due to reflective waves off the cliffs.

On the way out, paddling into the wind, I was significantly faster than the others (again all things being equal). I felt like I had an advantage with my longer boat pushing through the waves and wind.

On the way back though, I was having a hard to maintaining the same pace as the guys in the Avocets. I was keeping up with them, but they were slightly faster and were catching more wind waves than I was which I think is what was helping them to be faster than I was. It seems like maybe the shorter boats were better able to accelerate, maneuver at the right angle to catch a wave, and maybe their shorter length better helped them to fit in the troughs of the waves.

Are these correct conclusions about long vs. short boats in following seas?

Please note that I ask this question from an academic point of view. I enjoy learning more and more about the characteristics of different boats and hull designs under various conditions. In no way am I trying to find some sort of an excuse as to why I was not the fastest guy on the water that day paddling back.



Hi Matt,
I love my avocet in following seas… I never seem to have any trouble keeping up with most folks touring…

Were you on the WSK Davenport trip? I am a little jealous:)


It was on the Davenport trip…it was great! You missed a good trip.


riding bumps
I paddle alot but do not know alot about boat design. Riding wind bumps is alot of fun however it can be quite difficult. My favorite boat for this is a surfski which is 21 feet long and these tend to be the best boats are designed for doing downwind runs. They have understern rudders so that when the end of the boat is out of water the rudder is still in the water engaged also very little freeboard to catch wind. The short skis are 19 feet while most are 20-21 feet. The designers of the skis know much more than I do and that is how they design the boats.

More of factor tends to be skill in riding waves. It is not just pointing down wave and paddling, but linking runs and not running into the back of other waves. The most often sited reference for this is OScar Chalupsky in the Hawaiin surfski championships. He has some good stuff on the epic website and he talks about how winning that race is about surfing not about paddling fastest.


Partially the boat part you
Boats that carve turns like the Aquanaut and are longer like the Aquanaut are will be more affected by wave action in following seas. Remember, the bow is in concrete when moving forward, the stern on marbles, to the longer boat and the boat with big long butter knives bow and stern like the Naut will be somewhat more subject to broaching forces than the Avocet. This means more energy goes into correcting the boat and less forward energy.

That said, some technique will get you flying with them. Instead of heading straight down the wave faces, try laying off 10 degrees so you then know which way the wave will push you. Then do a CARVED turn rather than a slip turn to correct. The Naut will respond beautifully to this turn. If turning to the right edge to the right (slip turn edge to outside). This will reduce the broach and allow use of a quick low brace to correect or a forward stroke with the top edge of the paddle face pulled back a bit to add support, thus not losing any speed.

Enjoy it out there!

Good advice
Sounds like good advice. I had to read it twice to fully understand, but now I get what you are saying. Sounds like it makes sense. I will give it a try.