What would you do in this situation (broaching kayak coming at you)


The ‘victim’ was quite lucky in this instance - the bow dove a little as the approaching wave comes on, allowing it to go underneath the oncoming kayak.

(collision at at 8 seconds in)

Of course, the real answer is - prior to launch - observing if the coast is clear for going out.
In the video, the kayaker has already launched, at first sight of the other kayak (at 0:03 in vid), I would immediately start backpaddling (being fairly close to shore, not too far to go).

I would have launched from the side…out of the way of incoming riders.

For those with a “combat roll” (better with bilateral rolling ability), not too much of a big deal. Look at the 25 second point of this video.

I had to do that once in a similar situation. Nobody caught me on video. So, you just have to take my word for it. :slight_smile:



Yes, excellent!

  • how aware he was of the situation
  • how quickly he made the decision & executed the roll
    in other words, he knew what to do, didn’t have to ‘think about it’

(as I’m sure was the case in your experience, if you have time to ‘think about it’, you probably have time to get out ot the way)

The usual advice is for the lesser controlled kayak to capsize, or in the case of a broaching situation like this the kayak that has the greatest chance of avoiding a dangerous accident by capsizing. Once a kayak has been capsized it reduces its momentum etc. Even if capsizing means the paddler is going to take a swim because they don’t have a solid roll in that situation, it opens up options.

In the above video, it is unclear how much water the kayaks have under them. But probably enough.

Sometimes you just can’t see where people are coming from. I came over a wave once to see the coach at a session in the Narrows heading at me, we had both topped it at the same time. No contest that he had the better avoidance skills so I capsized. Unfortunately I ended up swimming because I kept trying to come up on my right - never did master a surf roll - which meant I kept getting knocked down again. If I had the presence of mind to go the other way I would have been up easily.

Actually, I did have to roll away from an ongoing longboard with my waveski in 2:30 point of this video. While the boardie jumped off, I had no choice but to lean/roll away from the impact, given that I was strapped in with the seatbelt.

Waveskis and surfboards are much more dangerous in those collision situations because the fins act as carving knives. You can’t afford to have the fins run over you at any cost. That means sacraficing your ride to damage if need be.


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What would you do? Hmmm easy to armchair quarterback from the comfort of my desk but this is what I thought.

  1. Don’t surf with kayak kooks.
  2. Pay 100% attention to what is going on in the water especially in the incoming waves. Paddler paddling out was not paying attention, and did not react well. Bongo slider looked clueless.
  3. Bongo slider is side surfing to the right. The rules of the surfing say go left. I’d do a powerful sweep stroke on the right side and paddle like hell at an angle to the left. That should be enough to miss bongo slider.
  4. If it looks like there is going to be a collision, don’t aim the bow at the paddler, aim as close to the left end of the stern as you can and turn turtle, body on front deck, protect your head and neck. Glancing blow on the hull with the rounded surfaces shouldn’t damage the kayaks at all. even if you can’t roll, it would be a simple wet exit and wade to dump the boat out.

If you surf in beach locations where other surfers are present this is a really common situation. Especially since covid times have generated large crowds of novice surfers who don’t have the skills to turn their boards, SUPs, kayaks etc. If you can’t react to a situation like this, you should be surfing far away from others.

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I am not familiar with this. @SeaDart - can you clarify?

I probably should have worded that differently. Oncoming surfer “riding” on a wave has the right of way over those paddling out or standing still. . Oncoming kayak is surfing left to right from our perspective, surf etiquette says you go behind the direction of the riding surfer, so you paddle left, to avoid getting in the surfers path of travel, and so he will know what you are trying to do.


I should note that what I wrote above was focused on the moment of realizing that paddling out of a collision is not going to succeed.

Getting out of the way before that occurs is preferable. But like in the case where I opted to capsize, my very quick assessment was that the time was not there to be sure. Too close and too fast.

FWIW, I was told I did the right thing afterwards by all of the coaches. Granted they could simply have been glad not to be nearly speared by yet another frozen novice at surf. I suspect they had all experienced a few close calls.

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I don’t think I would back paddle in this situation. The bongo slider does not seem to have much control and is focused on the paddler in the boat in front of him. A strange fact of body mechanics in surfing is “where you look is where you are going to go”, so instead of focusing on letting the boat slip down the wave in a more forward surf, or taking four or five power strokes to move his boat out of the collision path, he has the “deer in the headlights look” and is aiming his Zero right for the bridge . So if the paddler that is paddling out just goes backward, they are still going to collide, but as his kayak goes backward it will run aground and become impossible to maneuver, and likely broach for a nasty collision in shallow water where paddles, boat, heads and shoulders can all get damaged.

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I think the surf zone is a great place for longboaters to develop all sorts of rough water skills (how I got hooked into surf paddling in the first place), especially when you start off in small mellow surf.

Once the waves get bigger (a relative adjective), every surf paddler should essentially consider him/herself as being on his/her own. Got to assess your skills and physical stamina relative to the conditions. This is amply illustrated at the 1 minute mark of this video:

I actually thought the “rescuer” put himself and his equipment at risk. Should not have approach the swimmer until she had let go of her boat. I don’t see anyway an assisted re-entry could have been accomplished in a breakzone with waves that size (I guess at least 5’).


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Youch. God bless them both for trying, but there is a point where you need to take advantage of people being on the beach to handle the yard sale aspect.
Also scratching my head about not letting the swimmer swim/surf in. I always figured that if I was going to need help getting to the beach in the water, I shouldn’t be in that slop to start with. And I found it hugely safer feeling in the dry suit and pfd and helmet than I had in my younger days of body surfing in wearing a two piece bathing suit. If I didn’t pull out before the wave crash I just had to tuck up and hope I didn’t get too scraped up by the broken shells.

One kayak (mine) near me in the surf is all and perhaps a bit more than I want around.

Both those video situations allowed the in control paddler plenty of time to roll so the bongo sliding kayak should pass over the upturned hull.

A couple years ago while surfing with some friends in 4 - 6 ft waves, a good paddler friend “crossed the T” too close to me to seaward as a wave pushed him & picked up his kayak & dumped him raking across my kayak. Both kayaks had some gel coat damage but because I saw the bad situation developing, in a split second I rolled. Luckily, I was spared injury. My friend had an injured shoulder which made for a very interesting recovery and challenging tow through the surf zone. There is a reason we practice situations in rough conditions! Sometimes while having fun … --it Happens.

The “rule” that I have always heard and makes the most sense to me in sea kayak surfing is the person riding the wave always, always has the right of way.
In this scenario, the person side-surfing in is the victim of the collision. The person lining themselves up to perfectly spear into them on the way in is in the wrong.
If I saw that sidesurfer coming towards me, I would understand that I screwed up. I would have turned left and paddled as hard as I could, and probably been out of their way. If I needed to present the bottom of my boat for the collision, that’s what I would have done.
Presenting the bow of the boat at the side-surfing kayak was the most dangerous thing to do. It was the most likely way to seriously damage the boat or injure the paddler.

Here’s a scenario. You’re paddling out in a group through heavy surf. A wave causes someone to backsurf into you. They are the victim of your following too close in a heavy surf situation. If boats get damaged, you should pay for it. You are the one who needs to take assertive evasive action. You are the one responsible for injury as a result. It won’t appear that way on film or to casual observers, or even to most kayakers. But they put themselves and those in front of them in harm’s way in the event of an unintentional backsurfing scenario. The person being backsurfed likely won’t even see the collision coming.
It is never assumed that the sea kayaker can change direction out of a side surf at will. Side-surfing in and of itself is a demonstration of at least a momentary lack of control. In long high volume kayaks, it’s often more than momentary. It renders a rule of responsibility for changing direction at will for the person side-surfing useless. If it cannot be relied upon, there is little sense counting it as a rule.
The rule I’ve most often heard for beginning a ride in in a sea kayak is that you extend your left arm 45 degrees out from your bow, extend your right arm 45 degrees out from the bow, and if everything in between is and will remain clear, you are good to go. If your ride is long at all, that becomes a considerably large section of water very quickly. In other words, you assume minimal control of where you’ll end up coming in.

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Seems sensible.
Rather like following at a safe distance in a car.

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Here in the finger lakes, people seem to think that’s their merge lane

Considering my skill level, which isn’t much, had I been I the red kayak I would have leaned to my left and absolutely planted the paddle vertically on that side. If I still had time I’d paddle forward after that.
In the green kayak my response would be to lean slightly left and skim the paddle on the surface.

Don’t know if it’s the camera angle, or that I have just become a nervous nelly because I often surf alone. (My wife observes that I have become a “white knuckle” driver in the city, largely because I bike and am no longer used to city driving.) Anyway, in the first minute or so of watching this video, I find/feel my gastric juices pumping, as in anticipation of a flight/fight response. I think these folks were too bunched together in that ugly, nasty bumpy stuff.

What do you think?


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