wave action

Great paper concerning wave action. A friend sent it to me and I found it fascinating. Definitely helpful for training on the ocean.

It is a pdf file. You need Adobe to read it.



I would have thought at least someone would be interested…

oh well,


Good article.

I didn’t realize that wave faces had water flowing in opposite directions.

That definately helped me to understand what make the yaw motion so difficult to avoid.

Good stuff!

after thinking more about it …
… I actually did realize that wave faces and the area just in front of them have water moving in opposite directions. Every kid who ever played in the waves at the beach understands being pulled out toward the wave as it approaces. But, I never applied what I knew as a swimmer to what was happening to me in a canoe.

In surf kayaks it happens to a much lesser extent. I guess that is due to the more rearward seat position of the surf kayak.

I can also now better appreciate the picture that gets posted here from time to time of the guy surfing a grumman on a huge wave. He is sitting all the way in the stern and the bow is completely out of the water. Thanks again for posting the article. Eureka!

Here’s a question for the long surf ski dudes: Is the long length used to help get the bow out in front of the backward flowing water ahead of the wave face?

as I am getting ready
to work on 4 star skills, these types of articles to me are invaluable to try and understand the dynamics of wave action and to see how we as kayakers brace and control our boats to work with the forces around us.


Theoretical Knowledge
and experiential knowledge help in different ways. I think the theoretical knowledge is great when it comes to designing a craft or fins, or such. When it comes to handling the waves, up close and personal, theoretical knowledge is useless. It’s getting on a wave, riding, getting trashed, and then acquiring instinctual knowledge/responses that make the most difference. You’re not going to worry why a wave is moving, forming or breaking a certain way. You just recognize and instinctively realize what to do to deal with it.

That’s the difference between theoretical and experiential. Otherwise, the brainiest people would be the best paddlers. Sometimes they are. Often times the best athletes know little or nothing of the theory behind their success.


I wouldn’t go so far as to say that theoretical knowledge is “useless” on the water. Sure, knowing the surface velocity gradient is no help while you’re being thrashed, but it may help you understand why you’re getting thrashed every time you’re in that situation.

For me, theoretical knowledge is an important part of the learning cycle – read the book/article, try it on the water, come up with questions, read more, try it again on the water, etc…

But then again I’m a geek, and everyone learns differently.

In Physical Endeavors…

– Last Updated: Jul-30-06 8:05 AM EST –

experiential learning kicks theoretical learning 99% of the time. I stand by that. I'll admit knowing theory behind something is not useless. But without actual practice, theoretical learning is just that -- theory.

When teaching physical technique, some of the toughest students are the ones "too smart" to learn.


But that applies to anything
An apple falling on your head, for instance

book knowledge speeds experiential
… learning. At least that’s my experience.


– Last Updated: Jul-31-06 6:51 AM EST –

that it's a long way from knowing "how" something works to having your body do the right thing. Too much thinking can get in the way of actually feeling what the water's doing.


As I said, I'm a geek. A new paddle stroke makes more sense to me if I can imagine a force-vector diagram for it. It helps me understand what I'm trying to do. But I can't say that it helps my body actually do it.

Probably one reason that I was never much good at judo...;-)