get skills and experience without...

So while I was stuck here I got to wondering about

“If/when you do get caught out in rough conditions, it is your skill and experience that will save your ass,” Kinda curious how to get that skills and experience without going out and practicing in rough weather? -slowcoach

I didn’t want to hijack the other thread, so I’m using slowcoach’s comment to start a new one.

I think there is no substitute for seat time. By that I mean being in a boat in rough conditions to build your skills to safely paddle in challenging conditions.

As sea kayakers, those of us who live inland (and not on the Great Lakes) can be challenged getting enough seat time to build the skills to handle big seas when we have opportunity. Some of us decide to pursue whitewater to build those skills.

What other strategies have folks employed who do not have regular access to the sea?

Natural Selection
A skilled paddler and athlete without all the safety gear is safer than the most trained non-athlete. May not seem “fair” but Nature isn’t fair. In fact “fair” is a human construct.

People have these models about safety and training blah blah… By all means make decent choices and prepare etc., but guess what? You may still get obliterated. The ones who survive have the natural talent, skill, and instinct, not stars.

All the prep in the world won’t help you if you don’t have what it takes…

I admire those who have the courage to explore the edge and push the limit…even though it may mean death. That’s the drive that results in great accomplishments.

Any of us that think we’ve mastered the ocean with our skills are meer fledglings! We can be snuffed at any time. All the text book crap in the world aint gonna help. What you were born with may. Natural Selection is a beautiful thing.

WW Training…

– Last Updated: Aug-08-07 6:15 AM EST –

mentioned that years ago here. Long boaters can stand to gain a lot from doing white water (and surf zone). Class II white water run provides more challenging conditions than many casual longboaters would face/deal with in years of "cautious" paddling in sub 15 knot conditions.

All that is required is the willingness to leave that "mystique" of the long boat (and attendant piles of gear) at home for a little bit, spend some relatively inexpensive dollars (compared to long boats) on a used river runner (playboat will give even more edge control challenge), and get on the river with someone who can give some pointers. And, then try to play and milk every feature along the way, over and over.

After doing a bit of ww, you'll end up looking some of vids of seakayakers "playing" in some tidal race and finding yourself thinking... "ho-hum..." Why, because if you run enough II and IIIs, you realize that it's really no big deal. Indeed the drops and quick turns in some of the III sections present far more challenge (and, yeah, more real danger). This realization then becomes part of the developing mindset for handling rough conditions. If you can handle going upside down through a boulderinfested run or drop, and roll up, you are going to find flipping in a 2,3,4 knot current no big deal because you just know that you have all the time in the world to roll yourself back up. Nothing to bash your head, nothing to pin you... It's a nothing but a little roll practice. Indeed, if you can routinely get through II and IIIs upright, you would be hard pressed to actually flip over in a seakayak.

Yes, there is great value in cross over training.


Salty, I have agreed and disagreed
with many of your posts, but in my estimation, you are right on on this one.

Neither my wife or myself have never taken a lesson, but both seem to have the ability to handle a kayak in rough conditions.

Naturally this wasn’t a overnight occurance, and we don’t go out in the ocean or a lake when the forcast is for high winds or thunderstands, but we have been caught off guard on four different occasions over the past ten years where our natural instincts, (plus good boats) got us back safely.

We are now at the point where we will venture into a rip and enjoy testing ourselves in some breaking waves, or confused seas.



Nothing About “Fairness…”

– Last Updated: Aug-08-07 7:07 AM EST –

most will never achieve the top level performance of trained and "naturally selected" athletes. So what? Not everyone is looking for or needing to be that. With training one can strive to be the "best" that one can be. This is the most that any of us can strive for in the many endeavors that comprise our "life."

As far as I know, no one has been "naturally selected" to live forever. In the time given, life as training is the "Do", the journey. It's what we are given and what we make of it.


Re class 2
Thanks Sing - it is encouraging to hear that time and confidence in even class 2 will produce useful cross-over skills and comfort. We’ve both had a real roll in class 2 and should achieve a decent level of confidence there before cold weather and fall commitments trash our schedule, but given timing and a cautious approach I don’t see full out class 3 on the radar until into next season. So I had been wondering if class 2 was enough to give us some cross-over benefits. (In the meantime it’s a lot of fun anyway.)

motorboat heavy

Whiel kayakers usually like to avoid heavy motorboat traffic, paddling Lake George this week with mega motorboats was quite the skill developer. With little wind, there were nevertheless 4 foot waves off Sagamore Island that I practiced in. Of course, closer to shore to stay out of the traffic.

my $0.02

– Last Updated: Aug-08-07 10:40 AM EST –

Agree and disagree with salty's post. Not everyone is born with the intuition to kayak in rough water. But like anything physical, there are some natural attributes that can help one become better at it.

Otherwise, learning your braces and strokes and when to use which is good. Being comfortable but willing to stretch your comfort zone is another. Once you have that it's just a matter of getting out into it, and the more you do so the more comfortable it gets. When you get to the point where you just enjoy it you're there, then you're going to want to get out in rough conditions more and more. When I do go to the great lakes I try to take time to just play in the rough stuff without a destination.

I'm lucky enough to be relatively close to great lakes, but not that close. I often went to a larger lake (St. Clair - the "sixth great lake") to play in boat chop, which helps, because for me it wasn't really the big swells that were challenging, it was the clapotis and large chop.

Also took a whitewater trip and the others here are dead-on regarding whitewater seat time.

roughwater ocean course?
It seems like going on a 4 or 5 day ocean-skills, rough water or kayak surfing course would be helpful. If anyone knows of one, let me know!

One being offered
Off of RI, Labor Day wknd. See post with similar name on the discussion board. I’d also add one more - the Downeast Symposium in Bar Harbor the following wknd which includes days working in tidal races and rock ledges.

Getting to the ocean is definately a good way to go, which we do for total over a month each year between regular vacation, trips and symposium(s). But at a 4-5 hour drive from the ocean, it’s not much of an option for a Saturday day paddle.

Class 2 benefits
It’s what you make of it. If you find a friendly hole or wave with eddy service you can keep going back in and trying new things, knowing full well that sometimes you’re going to end up inverted. After the 20th time it’s not so scary any more.

I’ve started playing with pivot turns:

I’m just starting to try doing them in current so the stern grab is more pronounced. There’s no direct correlation to a sea kayak maneuver, but it does get you used to unusual attitudes. If you get to the point where a stern squirt makes you think think “yeehaw!” instead of “oh s___!”, you’ll be much more relaxed when ocaen waves start getting frisky.

You can also have quiet fun with edge control. I love finding spots where I can ferry back and forth with no paddle strokes.

and fun!

boat chop on lakes

– Last Updated: Aug-08-07 10:35 AM EST –


Agreed. The last few Summers, Springs and Autumns, we would spend one day of almost every weekend (we were not on the coast) paddling Lake George or Champlain. The clapitos on the south end of Greene Island is good skiils practice if there are a lot of moterboats leaving wakes and/or there is a good wind out of the South. Being 35 miles north to south with islands, rocks and points, Lake George can offer some very good conditions for building skills.

However, we are at a point where the conditions in Class II - II+ whitewater are more challenging and fresh.

right on. WW is the fast track.
Class II is definitely a great (safe) way to learn how to paddle in a dynamic environment. The instant feedback of catching an edge and flipping really forces the issue of learning boat control. WW river difficulty progression also is also an easy way to gauge your comfort in more diverse situations.

It sounds crazy but I have a good friend who has in the course of a single year, learned to roll, started running class IV and V rapids, and became a certified whitewater instructor. He has never sat in a sea kayak before but I’d be more comfortable taking him out on Lake Superior on a big day than many sea kayakers who have paddled for years. Even when I’m paddling in the fall/winter on the great lakes and things get hairy, I’m fairly relaxed as I tell myself that it’s barely a class II or maybe class III conditions. :slight_smile:

As for sea kayaks on tidal races, no it’s not exciting to see but it does look fairly difficult. A front surf in a long boat in general will always seem pretty weak after seeing someone throw a helix in a playboat on that exact same feature.

Bloom where you are planted.
This won’t be popular but if you don’t have big water to paddle on you are not going to develop the skills to handle dangerous conditions.

Whitewater is good cross training but it has a different set of skills.

If I live in Tucson I am not going to aspire to be a world class back country skier.

If I like in Nebraska I’m not going to become a world class slick rock mountain biker. (Unless I have a job where I travel every week somewhere else.)

The newspapers are full of stories of people who paddle lakes and rivers and come to the ocean and get in Deep Trouble.

The same applies to rich Texans who come to the Cascades and think they are going to climb Mt. Hood in the middle of winter.

I grew up Utah and Colorado and could not believe the number of people who came form very different environments to challenge the mountains without a real clue of what they were getting into. The Mountains, snow and avalanches always won. There is no substitute for years of experience in varieties of conditions.

Be realistic in your goals, if you want to paddle real conditions on the open ocean and coasts then you are going to need to spend a lot of time in those conditions.

all the stars and text book crap
I totaly agree that we are not born equal and the genetic lottery counts for a lot.

However I wanted wanted to clarify are you really saying that all the information learned from text books or personal observation and the skills gained from training courses or just going out and doing it “…aint gonna help.”? That seemed to be what you wrote but maybe I miss read it.

I’ve seen sea kayak instructors say that there is no such thing as a bombproof roll, while the ww boaters debate over which roll to use in which condition.

In sea kayaking, you may never be forced to use your roll so it may never get fully developed. In white water, its just another stroke in your skills tool bag.

Time away

– Last Updated: Aug-08-07 3:52 PM EST –

We should be set for 4 star training in a few weeks and would hope to pass sometime next season. I'd be OK with 4 star award competency, which is entirely achievable in the time in big water we can make. Just maybe a little longer than those who live on the ocean itself. And the time thing should improve as retirement options loom. Restricting ourselves to (calm, not Great) lake paddling as a goal seems pretty silly given what we can do, and while the WW thing is being a lot of fun I am too old to be interested in the bodily risks of class 4 and up.

As to the applicability of WW work, we are hearing from a number of people with experience in both that it greatly helps comfort in conditions, including most coaches.

You have to make some trips to big water to get the exposure. Nothing will substitute for that. If you’re far inland, supplement that with some ww seat time.

To say that you have to “bloom where planted” is to ignore a large population of sea kayakers.

I’ll take Athlete over Thinker any day
I asked Nigel Dennis how a mutual friend did on a 5 star training. Said I had heard the guy did well. Nigel responded, “he thinks too much, and he thinks too slow for as much as he thinks. He’d be a liability on an expedition.”

Agree that natural athleticism is of huge importance. No doubt about. It will take you to a certain level. Book smarts will take that same person even further.

I was one of those guys paddling class v my first year. The first time I got caught in a recirculating hole, the natural genetics (or ?) let me keep a cool head while the book smarts gave me a mental checklist of dos and don’ts to quickly refer to. Quickly went down the lists of tasks in my head until one of them worked. They said I was getting pummeled in the hole for about 45 seconds. Felt like I was reading an entire chapter of white water rescue in one hand while going a full round with Mike Tyson with the other hand, all in one nasty session. When I finally got out of the whole and made it to shore, it was the first time in my life that I was literally “week kneed”. If I hadn’t had the knowledge from somebody else’s experience, it would have been worse.

Then theres luck.

Whats the saying: Good judgement comes from experince, experience comes from bad judgement…something like that.