Seeking / Surfing Clapotis

Like Trillumlake, I too wondered how to pronounce clapotis. But until I saw that post, I hadn’t read the feature article, which I think concludes that clapotis is a hazard to be avoided. That surprised me, because clapotis is a feature that I and some of the folks I paddle with usually seek out for the fun of it. Granted, we are just run-of-the-mill Bay paddlers looking for cheap thrills. I think if we were dealing with large ocean waves, it would be a different story.

A favorite spot to ride clapotis is along the seawall that lines the Naval Academy. The waves there are mostly churned up by big yachts in combination with wind/tide waves at the mouth of the Severn River. The clapotis there more or less just pops you up and lowers you down. I don’t think they are destabilizing or dangerous. Reminds me of riding a merry-go-round, where the horses, they go up and down (apologies to Joni Mitchell).

Regular waves that come up against a wall from an angle produce the “waffle clapotis” referred to in the article. I always regarded clapotis as a stationary phenomina, but kayaker Mimi Clifton pointed out to me that the peaks at the intersection of regular waves actually move away from the point of intersection. I wonder if you can surf those moving clapotis. I haven’t seen clapotis with the regularity and angle needed to produce the moving wave, but wondered, has anybody surfed clapotis?



– Last Updated: May-14-08 2:06 PM EST –

there's a couple spots on the coast out here where you can regularly catch and ride these waves. no biggie, they're just little swells.

with a picture from Jon Walpole's collection.


If you lucky, it will surf you up right into air

This was a zipper running along cliffs, that terminated in a nice peaking addition and a dumper later:

Many times world champion
Oscar Chalupski capitalizes on surfing refracting waves / clapotis by getting right up near the rocks and catching rides others are too fearful to utilize.

Playing in the Rebounds
There is a mild spot here where we regularly get rebounding waves with a strong northwest swell and high tide. This forms clapotis and strong haystacks. They can launch you about 5 feet in the air — very fun. Not fun if you swim.

A few weeks ago Sean Morley had a surf class at TOrrey pines beach, when the tide was just right there was an outgoing wave that was about 3-5 ft high so you could surf in … and then surf out. Kind of dicey when the waves met, but very fun. Pictures are in the link about surfing helmets.

The Severn! The Academy!
Ego Alley! Fawcetts! Chick and Ruth’s! Buddy’s Crab Shack!

Dang, I miss Annapolis -

Maybe I misunderstand …
… clapotis.

I understand the phenomenon to be lively, spiky waves, caused by new incoming waves meeting nearly head-on with previous waves reflected back from a seawall or similar.

In my experience, the two opposing waves leap straight up in the air, immediately neutralizing each other and falling back into the water. How would one go about catching such a thing and surfing it anywhere?

marina entrances
just stay out of the lanes.

You surf to where they intersect …
then you get launched …

Those are really nice pics
The photographer did a great job, and mother nature did her part, too. Suffice it to say, we don’t have any seawater like that in Maryland.


Maybe it was an illusion
But usually Mimi knows what she is talking about. I haven’t talked to her for a while. I’m gonna call and ask her about this. We were standing on a beach on Lake Ponchatrain and there was an inlet wall to our right as we looked out at the waves coming in at about a 45 degree angle to the beach. The reflecting waves formed a waffle pattern with Clopotis at the intersections of the wave. It seemed like the Clopotis peakeswere moving away from us.


And the dings in the fiberglass?
The wall, or did the bottom drop out?


you can’t surf it
but for cheap clapotis thrills in the Seattle area, try the Montlake cut