Paddling through a wake?

-- Last Updated: Aug-24-08 12:15 PM EST --

I'm a fairly new kayaker and I was wondering if any of you have some advice for paddling through the wake of a motor boat.

Try to hit it head on rather than from
the side. Learn how to brace for those time when you can’t. Have fun with wakes.

head-on, stay loose
Head-on is usually easiest when you’re new because the boat will pitch instead of roll. Once you’re comfortable with that try going diagonally. the “trick” to handling wakes – and other waves-- is to relax enough to let the boat move under you as the wave passes instead of tensing up and fighting to keep it perfectly upright. Loose hips save ships! Improving your bracing and other paddling skills make it easier to relax on the water.

When you get more comfortable, you’ll see wakes as a surfing opportunity!

And get away from
the bank. The wake can pound your boat into rocks and such. The wake also bounces off shore which makes things worse with big waves.

Head on is easiest, but a little angle can keep your bow from burying under the next wave. Most boats have enough volume that they ride up and over the wake which is unnerving with big waves the first time or two. Some boats just slice right through and hardly bob up and down at all.


It really doesn’t matter which way

– Last Updated: Aug-24-08 3:00 PM EST –

straight, angle, sideways or backwards. You need to practice all of them and then decide for yourself.

I found (for me) that taking a wave sideways was best because it eliminated the breaking wave from flowing into my cockpit.

Paddlin' on

have a look of terror on your face
as the wake hits you. capsize and stay under for about a good 10 seconds before shit hits the fan upsides. roll up and smile at the onlookers, or give them the old wink and hand pistol, before paddling off. they love that, but be on guard for the beer cans that may be directed at your back. if you’re lucky this will be a very big boat full of tourists coming from a whale watching tour so the wake will be big, and they will be truly mortified for having knocked over the local fauna, but will cheer madly and toss coins when you roll back up. you will end up on countless holiday picture albums throughout the world as that strange seal like thing they saw from the boat, that so resembled a man.

Of course, you could always get the proper gear for conditions, and wear a skirt to keep water out of your cockpit. And also gain the benefit of being able to roll in the case of a capsize. Assuming you can roll.

Get a QCC and hit it
any way you want.

They are just about impossible to tip over.

They surf wonderfully.

And they welcome them head on.

If your are talking about a breaking wake just remember to wear a skirt.

Now that I think of it any other kayak will act the same way. It is the paddler that will tip them over.



be aware
if there’s another boat behind it. If you’re so close the prop wash moves you around you might be too close. As far as general tips go,it’s a wave, if you have to go from point A to point B and there are waves in between, you paddle through them. Same here, if this seems like a special circumstance because it’s a couple waves in generally flat water then you don’t get much opportunity to paddle in waves. Basically be relaxed, sit up and let the boat rock underneath you and confine your forward stroke effort to the forward portion of the stroke and don’t dig in deep next to your boat. Let the boat do what it does and don’t bother trying to over correct in the middle of the waves or stick in a hard ruddering stroke, worry about getting back on course after they go by and the next time the opportunity presents itself experiment with directional control.

Something that’ll help with stability and not getting your blade stuck somewhere, paddling air, is let your stroke go kind of shallow with more of a bracing componenent where the power face faces down a bit more than back. If you’re uncomfortable with the boat tipping around this will put some support into your stroke.

The very last thing you should do, and pretty much guranteed to make a tippy situation worse is pull your hands in and up with the paddle above the water waiting for it to pass, you want to greet the wave by putting your blade in the water to meet it…“hi, don’t see you here much, pleased to meet you”…

Gotta be connected to the water, reach out and put that blade in it and smile,“wow, that’s one fat hull to make that wave”

you ruined it
The wink and hand pistol totally ruin it.


– Last Updated: Aug-24-08 6:30 PM EST –

It's a protected river or lake and too hot for a skirt so you use other methods to keep the boat from swamping and you are prepared to cope if you do swamp. As for capsizing. If you capsize frequently enough in such conditions that a roll is of any use, you should see a doc. about your equilibrium problems.

I train in an ICF boat on a busy river and I only put on a skirt if it is cold out or the lake is so rough that I'm getting enough water in the boat to affect my workout. Every now and then I'll get caught in a bad spot (or I'll screw up and ride wash that's too short and steep and bury in the back of the wave) on the river and get some water in the boat and have to pull ashore to dump it. Big deal. Lately though with dewpoints running at around 77F I've been stopping every 45' on long paddles to dump out the sweat when my drink bags start floating.

But yeah, a decent rollable boat and a skirt makes paddling in conditions safer and more fun. It's just a question of whether or not the conditions warrant.

My advice is
Seek out as many big boat wakes as possible. They are a blast !