I paddle a Mohawk Odyssey and am a relatively new solo paddler. This spring, I have been trying to aquire the ability to surf. Now the way this usually occurs is that I get in the eddy of a rock, say, and then upstream ferry/paddle upstream to the surf wave and try to get and stay in it.

Up to this point, the knack of this has escaped me. I asked fellow paddlers what I was doing wrong, and one said that I was “too tentative.” By this he meant that I was not getting enough forward momentum coming out of the eddy.

Now my reasoning was that in faster current I want to be careful not to let out too much angle when I enter the current.

However, I find that either I don’t have enough strength/technique to get back upstream to the surf wave, or I can’t get the boat to stay straight.

I have observed other solo paddlers do this with very little effort, and it amazes me.

Could anyone offer any pointers to surfing in my Odyssey?

Eddy Service For Surf Wave
The best eddy service are those from the side or slightly ahead and to the side of the wave. From these you ferry directly across onto the wave, or across and drop onto the wave.

Attaining a wave from a downstream spot is a lot of work, especially a good size wave which implies a fairly strong current over an underwater obstruction. It can be done but is the most anaerobically demanding feat on white water, for me at least, though this is easier with a longer canoe than a kayak.

Anyway, try getting on waves from a parallel or higher up eddy service. If you have problems here, then your ferrying technique may be off. Mostly likely not lifting your upstream edge enough. This results in the current catching your hull more, rather than planing under, and sending you downstream past the wave. Try this to isolate technique problems before trying to ferry and attain upstream waves which are more demanding.


Could it be…
…that you are not get far enough up in the eddy.

I find that when I do it, I’ll get almost to the point where I am going to hit the rock or obstruction that is creating the eddy, and then when I ease out into the current, I am carried to the surf wave with hardly any effort.

About a month ago I was surfing a upstream wave using my 17 foot kayak, and got over the top and it threw the nose of the yak straight ahead onto the upstream rock.

Needless to say, I came awful close to swimming with that skinny bow balanced up on the rock.

A whole lot a bracing was going on!



…thanks for the info.

Of course rocks do not always occur next to wavetrains…:slight_smile:

BTW, I’m not talking about really intense current/waves; more like class I maybe, with quick, but not violent current. Maybe you call thsi “swiftwater”?

I’ll try your suggestions, meanwhile, this will pop the thread back up to the top of the list for another try…


make sure your downstream end is weighted so that the bow rides high over the wave. Otherwise it digs in and turns the canoe.

…that could be it!

I’ve got two pelican boxes (cameras) and a drybag in the bow…always do this…


be neutral
Here’s some contradictory advice to confuse you, but hopefully enlighten you too:

JackL wrote about getting right up the eddy. I was going to suggest making sure you set your line and strokes well back in the eddy, where you have room to manouver. I agree that leaving the eddy as high as possible is important (especially for a wave that might be upstream in strong current), but lots of people have trouble if they start from where the eddy puts them, rather than where they want to be. I often find myself backpaddling and/or side sculling in an eddy to get started exactly where I want to start, and then I can paddle out of the eddy with the right momentum.

Obviously it is harder to paddle up or across a strong current to a wave. However, “dropping into” a wave often doesn’t work either. Even a little bit of downstream momemtum can carry you through the surf wave. Keep in mind the idea of being “neutral” to the current. Parallel to the surf current in terms of line (which may be different from a current you ferry to get there), and neutral (or paddling up) relative to the current in terms of speed.

jjoven wrote about unweighting the bow. You can change a lot in a surf by shifting your weight. If your bow is digging in and getting buried in the fast water, unweight the bow. But if you’re starting to slide off the back of the wave, throwing your weight forward can bring your bow back down into the surf.

For catching the gentle waves you’re talking about, build your momentum in the eddy, and glide/ferry across, fairly parallel, onto the wave beside you. Don’t be shy - aim high in the surf wave. When you’re arriving, you may need some (2) power strokes to kill any downstream momentum, but you can’t afford a lot of power if it’ll throw you off-line.

If you arrive needing too many power strokes, one, it’s very tiring, but two, you will need to use correction stokes, and anything but the tightest little pry jabs will cause you to miss the surf. Glide. Coast. Neutral. These are good mantras.

It may be helpful to keep your pry stroke on the upstream side. That way, you can open your angle with power strokes and if you reach the wave with too much angle, your pry has the best leverage to straighten you out. It’s harder to keep a surf once it starts jetting you off to your draw-side.

And, don’t be shy. Get in there and have fun! Pat.

I am not sure if i agree with the
downstream end being weighted, but perhaps that involves some discussion on trim or technique which i will leave to others. I will suggest a need for agressive paddling rather than tentative as your friend suggested and a good video by K. Ford on solo canoe playboating to be considerred.

excellent description…

I have the same boat, all I can say is that once possitioned on thr right spot, use less paddling and more rudder.

I was also told…

– Last Updated: Jun-29-04 12:54 PM EST –

...that it is easier to do stern corrections than bow corrections, since the current aids with bringing the boat back in line with itself if you correct from the stern.

I also read an article on the net...

"The Art of Open Canoe Surfing"
By Douglas Wipper

...Google for it,I don't have the link...

He had this to say about surfing solo...

"If you paddle left, start off by choosing waves on river right—they will be easier to attain from a river right eddy. A pry is a stronger stroke than a draw and can be used as you enter a wave from river right. The pry should bring the bow angle back upstream parallel to the current, which will help prevent you from being blown off the wave toward the center of the river. The converse is true if you paddle right. Choose a wave close to an eddy on river left and again use a pry to bring the bow upstream. Two other considerations are boat angle and boat speed. Make sure your canoe doesn't have too much angle when you enter the main current. Your bow should be facing almost directly upstream when you enter the main current; then adjust your angle enough to carry your craft to the sweet spot. Lack of speed will also impede surfing and often results in your canoe flushing downstream. Watch the wave trough carefully and monitor your position. If you see the hull of your canoe moving back off the wave, apply some forward momentum with your on-side power stroke and rudder. When carving back and forth, use your on-side power stroke and rudder to initiate changes in direction."

Note his comments about "lack of speed"...more food for thought....


Here’s the link…

Something to check
Is your paddle sized right for you. Personally I was using a paddle with an undersized blade. I moved up to a large blade paddle. In quick water, it makes a huge difference. Some paddles just can not deliver the power needed in a strong current.

Good surfing
All good points…

I have to agree with the point about building your momentum in the eddy. This is a critical point to catching waves. You need to start in the eddy just about where the boat is ready to fall out of the end of the eddy. I often find that catching the eddy low from upstream, then paddling hard through the eddy crossing the eddy line and putting in as few strokes as possible while crossing the eddy line and any current and sliding onto the wave works best. This usually requires getting close to the rock creating the eddy. Once you are on the wave… turn off the power. Most folks paddle too hard on the wave. You should be able to surf the wave just using hull adjustments and the occasional stern correction. Bow corrections are usually useless when surfing, this is because many boats have their bow burried in the wave above, or in the blue water of the pourover creating the waves and the hole. With the bow burried you better be super human to have the strength to break your bow wake. This situation is exemplified in a longish boat like the Odyssey.

So as a recap… power is applied in the eddy, and as you approach the wave. Then turn it off. Don’t over paddle the wave. Use the hull to carve on the wave, and to keep the surf going. Each wave will require a diferent technique… sone surf left to right easy, and are much harder to surf back to the left, and some are the other way. Smiley holes from above are prefered as you can wash out of the ends, but some of the best surfs I’ve ever had were on Frowny holes. They are a pain to get out of and I don’t recommend you surf them yet, but once you are surfing well on standing waves and smiley holes… they are a wild ride, and a great thing to experience… because it’s easy enough to get into one and it’s nice to know how to get out.

Best of luck,


Well said …

– Last Updated: Jun-29-04 7:16 PM EST –

pknoerr just about covered it as far as I'm concerned. I won't elaborate on what has been stated. I will say that surfing is a paddling skill, and like all other paddling skills, you must practice to become proficient. You must also continue to practice to maintain proficiency.
Consider learning, and practicing low and high braces in the very near future. Sometimes you end up side surfing unintentionally, and those are "nice to know" skills on those occasions. Can you say, "whoa baby"????


Forget “whoa baby!” I scream! LOL
The hubby and friends were surprised that I wanted to try surfing at all. My first turn went well and the video was rolling, we thought. I slid onto the wave and got into the sweet spot. Went back to the eddy and we discovered that the camera wasn’t working. So they wanted to get a still shot. Second time was even better. Got pictures and then I wanted to see if I could play around sideways. Dipped a gunwale and thought I was going for a swim. SCREAM! Then remembered to shift weight and paddle, paddle, paddle. No swim. Everybody said I was screaming and laughing at the same time. FUN!

Hey Bob,
Bob, Enjoy that Mist. Ron and I paddle together once and a bit. Hope you enjoy the old girl…and we’ll have to hook up down in your neck sometime. Snuck out on the Buff a month back… Nice river!!! The Current is in the future…


I have “learned” both types of braces, but I find that they don’t come automagically yet.

How would you suggest practicing braces?

Hey PK …

– Last Updated: Jun-30-04 12:31 AM EST –

I look forward to my first test run in the "new to me" Autumn Mist. Will be picking it up saturday; a Pnet paddling buddy is bringing it down from Indiana. Pretty sure I can find a suitable location to test it. I live close to a lake that has about 2,000 miles of shoreline.
Give me some advance warning before you "drop in" for a Current River run; I'd be happy to act as your "free of charge" guide. You might consider our Ozark River Rendezvous that is going to be on the Current River in early October. I think maybe NT is considering it. It's always a fun get together with a great group of paddlers.


P.S. I love the Buffalo; especially the upper sections when the water is up.

“free of charge”?
from thebob?

What? No “one dollah” … Bob “dollah” that is.

Put a real dent in the new Guide. Was following a buddy through a chute with a root wad on the right. He got turned sideways in the chute and I tried to back paddle to avoid T-boning him; but I was too close and the stern swung out pinning the boat to the root wad. Now I am looking at borrowing a heat gun and doing some major surgery.