Lesson learned!

I have paddled an Old Town Adventure XL for three years and decided it was time to upgrade. I have not taken any lessons and my paddling has been limited to a private NJ lake. I must tell all readers that paddling has provided endless hours of stress relief and enjoyment; I only wish I had discovered this a an earlier time!

I bought a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 Pro over the weekend and got into the water on Monday for the first time. My only instruction has been watching an instructional video on sea-kayak technique.

Of course, the Tempest is a wee bit tippier than the Old Town, but apart from missing the full seat back and the comfort of my yak pad, I delighted in the speed and feel of the new boat. I paddled for two hours, and managed to get another two in yesterday.

Today, I was glad I had paid attention to the “self-rescue” portion of the video! Lake Mohawk has a champion ski team, and many skiers practice every afternoon near a small island that I like to visit. I had the skeg retracted and was cuaght between converging wakes from two ski boats when I went over. My attempt to brace resulted in catching my paddle incorrectly and over I went! I was not wearing a spray skirt and was able to wet-exit and after two tries, get back into the boat with the aid of the paddle float. First Lesson: Take real lessons!

I had wondered why folks preferred to clutter the deck with their pump and paddle float under the rigging as opposed to storing them in the hatch. I thought it more important to keep my water and cell phone close by. Second Lesson: Accessing hatches in a rescue situation invites water between the bulkheads! (could be dangerous in less sheltered situations)

I guess I am really looking for encouragement: Somebody please tell me what the typical adjustment time to a tippier boat is? How long before I feel one with the kayak? :slight_smile:

At “Oneness…“
it’ll come as you paddle more with the boat. I think with a new boat one isn’t sure of, there is a tendency to stiffen up it an unexpected situation. This actually makes capsizing easier. Learn to relax, keep the body sitting straight but allowing your body to below the waist to swivel with the boat. Practice in in shallow water, just rocking your boat side to side and keeping your upper body straight and relaxed. You knees do the rocking, pulling up on the thigh braces on one side and the other.

When you getting comfortable with that, start rocking a little bit more and adding on a low brace (elbows are held above the paddle). Some folks just slap straight down with the blade. Earlier on, I found that I sometimes have the wrong angle when using a feathered paddle and that the blade would dive. To stop this, I started to do a sort of a skimming (sculling like brace). So instead of tring to slap a blade down flat to the surface, I would add slight downward roll of the wrist (think of how you would “zoom, zoom” the handle accelerator on a motorcycle) and a slight foward pushing motion. This essentially forces the blade into to upward planing angle. Combined, slapping down while rolling the wrist and pushing forward (away from you), the blade acts like a skimming stone that hits the water and bounces right back up from the surface.

Rescue equipment. I don’t like stuff on the deck because it gets in the way of a rescue and you can lose stuff in rough conditions without realizing it. I keep the paddlefloat rolled up and behind the seat. The pump is kept under the front deck (between) the legs where I have either glassed in a pump clip, or in the case of a plastic boat, have blind riveted some nylon loops which to run bungee through. The bungee holds the pump in place. Both the paddle float can be reached and accessed after a capsize.

Taking lessons is a never a bad idea. But comfort with your boat will take butt time in the seat. I remember feeling unsteady in a 23.5” beam Capelookout. Each time, I moved to a narrower boat, there is period of adjustment. These days I use a 18” wide skin on frame for daytouring. This boat initially also felt very tippy but now feels quite steady to me. Again, the trick is lean to relax the body so lower body can work with the boat to just ride with the water movement.



Learning and living and learning
some notes perhaps helpful to you and others:

Except for a day hatch, hatches should only be opened if someone very competent has rafted up with you. Best to configure boat and gear so that only the day hatch need be opened while on hte water.

you can outfit your cockpit to store a pump and a dual-chambered inflatable paddle float securely and yet with quick access. When in heavier conditions you will appreciate a clearer front deck.

You will probably get better notes than these from better paddlers. good on ya for learning and for the desire to get real lessons.

It took me a few weeks and several near dumps from leaning hard over my paddle to acclimate to my first sea kayak. For what it is worth, I found that being in dimensional water got me in tune with the boat a lot faster than flat water. I suspect it is because it is in dimensional water where a decent sea kayak turns on its charms.

I had to modify my paddle stroke, use less muscle and more finesse, stop myself from leaning off center as part of it - to avoid inadverdently pulling myself over. I’ve been behind at least one paddler in a skinnier new boat, seen them get tense in moderate waves and pull themselves over by laying down a very deep paddle stroke then leaning out over it rather than keeping their weight centered.

And there is a bit of a zen thing here - comfort can come quickly with a new boat by paying attention to what the boat is telling you rather than your own prior habits.

Taking lessons good, practice better
Good on you for seeking lessons. Make capsizing a part of every paddle (dress for immersion, that is the water temperatures not the air temps) and learn to rolland practice it. Rolling actually makes you more stable in the kayak.

Congratulations on
your new boat. Going out two hours a day, you’ll probably be used to the new level of tippiness in about a week! Be careful not to overdo the paddling–many people get wrist and elbow problems due to overuse. (Of course, if you were already paddling that much before, no problem.)

See if you can take a lesson or hook up with some experienced paddlers and get some advice on your forward stroke, on leaning and bracing, and on linking different strokes together. Just watching skilled people can help a lot.

When I paddle a tippy boat (and you wouldn’t believe how tippy they get–some Olympic boats would go over if you taped a quarter to one side) I tell myself, “the boat can do this.” I try to trust the boat to follow the waves. Keep your hips very loose. Also, if you try at all times to keep your face vertically above the boat, regardless of what crazy angle the boat is at, you’re unlikely to capsize. The more you paddle in waves, the more you’ll get a feel for them==>and the more fun it becomes : )

Congrats on getting yourself back in with the paddle float!


At Least A Few More Outings
I’d say. One thing that I’ve found that accelerates a comfort level is to practice anything agressive before heading out. Somethings I can think of are: lots of bracing practice in shallow water, and practicing hanging upsidedown and coming back up using the edge of a dock or something you can use to pull yourself up.


good for YOU ! Gear on decks - there was a rage last season to put gear on the foreward deck , the intention being to have a clean rear deck to speed gettin back in . While this is true , it also creats some problems for the T-X rescuer , while they are pulling the swamped boat across their fore deck it will get caught on all the gear on the foreward deck . And some folks are really touchy about sracthing their gelcoats . Another possible proble may arise w/some of the rubber oval hatch covers when gettin on the aft deck , a tendency to implode when a knee or excessive pressure is applied to em . We set up this situation last night for our guide training program , and when the hatch collasped the person hit the water , had the rescuer purposly let go of the boat and the stern filled w/water , and the boat “needled” which was the intention . Then set up a H to empty the boat , secure the hatch an get the person in . When a spare paddle is covering the stern hatch this will not usually happen .Hope some of that helps .-----M

Low brace

Thanks for the low brace tips. Ironically this is one of the weakest techniques in my arsenal.

I actually have a bit better high brace. I was just slapping the water with my paddle. In practice, I did have success recently in really rolling my wrist down toward the water (your ‘zoom, zoom’ motion), and keeping my elbows directly above the supporting blade. I will have to try incorporating that skimming motion.

Safe paddling, Joe