what do 1', 2', 3', 4' waves look like?

-- Last Updated: Sep-06-14 7:29 AM EST --

Does anybody know a website that shows photos or videos of different wave sizes on open water like lakes? I get coast guard reports of waves being 1' or 2' or 3' etc, but am not really sure what that means.

Of course, I understand it technically, but what does it look like in real life? It could help me make the decision whether or not to load up the canoe and head to some of our big lakes

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Sit on the floor in your kitchen
While sitting look to you counter - that is about 3 feet. Now look at the fridge - that is about 5.5 feet.

Here ya go …

The wave shape/period matters most

– Last Updated: Sep-10-14 6:03 PM EST –

The sea state visuals in the above video are good, but the wave ranges are too wide to answer the original question. For example, in sea state 2 there were 3' waves at one point (kayakers hidden from view), but these waves were long-period "swells" in deep water that just gently lift up the kayak. The wind waves at the same scene were barely a few inches tall, less than s foot.

Here's another video with waves up to about 3' high (keep in mind my camera is mounted on top of a helmet on the head of 6'4" tall person, so as much as almost a foot higher than the "eye-level" view of that video above. The waves near shore, near a break wall were quite "pesky", breaking, clapotis, destabilizing, yet they rarely came over 2 feet. At the same time, the occasional 3' waves a few hundred yards away from shore were smooth and not much of an issue:


And here is another video, of where the wave start at pretty much flat to perhaps 3.5' towards the end.


What’s next
We’ve had a pretty windy summer with waves that has the boat half submerged most of the time and green water smacking me from the front or behind. So what’s the sea state when you’ve got 9 and 10 foot waves with 3 and 4 foot chop on top? I call it a wash machine.

good stuff, thanks for posting that

wow, spooky
Thanks for the great vids. that looks spooky being out in the open sea in a small open craft like that. How far out to sea did you go?

nice conditions
I really like paddling in these type of conditions. You can find a rhythm, get lots of stroke practice in, and the paddling remains interesting even if the wildlife fails to show up - something it sometimes does even when I post a schedule well ahead of time. Bastards!

There was a dark object, looked a bit like an awful lot like the head of a sea lion about 45 seconds in, but it didn’t seem to respond to you paddling by.


This area …

– Last Updated: Sep-08-14 1:01 PM EST –

The paddle starts near the Annapolis Naval Academy in MD, on the Chesapeake Bay, then crosses the bay to the other side. About 7-9 miles total, depending on where you start up the Severn river. The open crossing is a bit hard to qualify: if you take the bridge a few miles up, it is about 4 miles. Here it is hard to quantify, because the inlet of the river into the Bay is over a mile or two wide, so I'd say the crossing is about 5-6 miles to my destination with the shore for the first mile or two being a mile away, then for the last 3-4 miles it's just open water as much as you can get on an in-land bay.

The point I was making with the video is that the conditions seem very easy close to shore at the beginning of the paddle - it is sheltered there and there isn'e enough fetch for the wind to kick-up waves. A few miles out, and they totally change and can become challenging.

And this is pretty much a one-way trip, downwind, when the wind is over 20 mph sustained. I've paddled it asa round-trip many times but upwind only in smaller conditions. For example, with almost half the wind, only about 15-20mph, it still takes me just over an hour to cross downwind, but then it took me another almost 4 hours of hard work to cross back. And you can't stop for more than a few moments - you get pushed way back and you lose your progress if you do.

So it matters not only on the conditions but also on the direction where you need to go relative to them. Beam seas with 1-2 foot breaking waves from the side are much worse in general than large non-breaking waves from behind or the front. And if the wind is with you, it is much easier to deal with the conditions too.

lake ?
Lake paddling. I don’t paddle lakes, tides and canyons. Do we read awful stories about you guys screwing up on lakes with building wind fetch ?

If you have to ask then 2’ means go look then find a place near shore for practice. Buy air bags. 2’ and rising…it’s not the wave height , its the wind speed and direction causing wave height upsetting your navigation.

Drive out and hike if the water’s rougher than you are or buy a kayak.

Going down canyon at 6-8 mph into standing waves about 5-7 feet high…a solid gray wall THEN UP YOU GO ! …canoe and paddler climbing a stepladder…zippp at 7 mph…great view.

from Nelson’s Paddling Yellowstone and Teton include drownings from 5-6 foot waves. From wind devils ?

My casual perspective defined the Teton lakes as kinda weenie…good reason for reading the manual.

BTW, I bought a 5 gallon sprayer…

You mean this?

That’s a small float for crabbing or oysters. Not sure exactly - boats harvest something via these things. They pull the rope up and up comes some sort of cage with the daily catch in it…

I would not eat anything caught in these waters due to pollution, but I guess that does not bother others…