Wow,,,,,,,I REALLY need to gain more balance

I went out on the lake this afternoon and a fast small rainstorm came over the ridge and was on me in about 3 minutes. I was in my new-to-me Necky Chatham 17. I found I could not keep myself upright trying to turn into the wind, No matter how I sweep-stroked on both sides I could not seem to get turned into the wind, and as I dug deeper and paddled harder I only capsized myself (3 times) The whole squall lasted only about 20 minutes and then it was gone, heading out into the parries and dissipating. But I was swimming and self-rescuing, and each time I only got knocked over again. This new kayak is going to have a learning curve for me and that’s for certain and for sure. If I had been in my Old Town Loon I would have not even been off balance and I know that because I have had that little kayak in winds about 2X worse, and waves much higher, and it was fun, on the same lake in the place.

But try as I would, I could not seem to get a handle on the Chatham in the wind. If I “dug” into the water hard enough to start to overcome the wind I pulled myself over. I expect edging it would have been useful, but my balance is not good enough to do that yet without a spray skirt (on the way to me now, but I don’t have it yet. I expect it Monday.) I was shocked at how much more of a “sail” the 17 foot kayak is then the 10.5 foot one. As a touring kayak I thought it would be even easier to handle in the wind. Boy, was I wrong about that! My little rec kayak is far easier to control and move in the wind. Is that normal?

Any advice for learning the way to stay in balance? Or do I simply keep at it until I get a feel for it? If that’s how it’s done, then that’s what I’ll do, and I will take as much time as it takes. I can get on the water 5 times a week so I can put the time in. But if there are any tips or secrets to help, I’m all ears.

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The skeg (or rudder) is there so you can deal with the wind. Learn how to make it work. You’re correct regarding the skirt. During a squall is no time to be without it. Learning to brace will help keep you upright.


A little hard to comment on the skeg part, because frankly if you had it up it should have aided your ability to turn into the wind. If you had it deployed, yes learn how to use it.

And repeat of above, edging versus leaning. Edging keeps you up, leaning capsized you.

And what you describe are inappropriate conditions to learn new skills in. But you were told pretty much the same about the Loon and are insisting on arguing that point…

I believe you had earlier said that you had located a possible coach in your area from the ACA list.

Call them.


If sweeping on one side start the stroke hard then as you approach center slow it down then finish it hard to near parallel with the hull. Your boat is made to track straight with a long hull. So if you put it on edge as you sweep bow and Stern start to lift from the water. Then it is easier to rotate. Also stroke on one side as the hull is on top of a wave. That means now and Stern are released from the water also kind of like edging does. You got back in the boat three times so that is great.

Lessons by ACA instructor are worth gold. I still hear my instructor telling me things to thus day when I critic myself she was great.

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Also if you had any gear on the foredeck to create windage would hurt.
I was once caught with fishing gear on deck in a squall and it wasn’t fun turning up.

Where you standing still when you tried to make your turn?

If so and you have space, next time this occurs try to make the turn while moving. Most kayaks weather cock, which means they want to turn into the wind when you are moving forward. The skegg on your boat (and rudder on those with rudders) are there to offset this.

To test this, find a decent breeze and start paddling crosswind (wind coming from side, with skegg up) and see if the boat tries to turn upwind. Then try putting skegg down to different levels to see how that offsets the turning.

The normal problem with wind is not being able to turn downwind. Usually moving forward with skegg fully deployed should allow you to go downwind. But should your skegg be broken or otherwise it not work, take advantage of weather cocking to turn downwind. If you paddle backward, once you get motion going the stern will now bee what is turning into the wind, pointing your bow downwind.

Some boats lee cock, but this is rare. It is the opposite - they turn downwind in wind. Yours shouldn’t do that, but if it does, you just go backward to get it to point upwind.

I’m not that familiar with the Chatham kayak, but my guess is that you were a bit too stiff and hadn’t gotten used to the boat. You probably tended to over-correct when the boat tipped a bit. With enough time in the saddle under varying conditions , you should gain confidence in the boat and you will stay loose and let the boat take care of itself–so to speak.

The balance you refer to is really just a natural reaction that comes with getting used to how the boat reacts to bumpy water.

Frankly I agree with @Celia going back to your first thread on the loons and I jumped in and offered a few comments because you were a beginner and I felt pushing the envelope some early on.

This thread I found actually a bit scary as you described things and your plans on adding a spray skirt have me waiting to read of your next adventure / mishaps.

You seem very knowledgeable with firearms so I will make a firearm analogy.

Would you take a young person new to firearms and hand them an AK47 and some ammo and tell them take it out in the woods alone around midnight and teach themselves how to shoot?

For some here myself included we admire your enthusiasm, but feel there is a lot of potential for things to turn bad as your approach seems quite reckless. I don’t know the first thing about the type of boat you now have now and the conditions you like to go out in. I’m pretty sure adding the spray skirt isn’t going to solve your stability issues it is just going to add another layer of complexity and lack of safety to what you are trying to learn. Seems to me a better place to be learning this is in a shallow beach or pool with an instructor or at least someone that has these skills showing you the right way.

I’m going back to reading your posts now and not commenting as I said what I was feeling. :upside_down_face:


You have several similar threads on at least two forums going. That is great, I think it shows real enthusiasm.

That being said I think you need to remember that kayaking is supposed to be fun. Treat it like a journey. I would slow down and build skills and familiarity one step at a time. This is like reading a good book: enjoy each chapter without jumping to the end first.

I would avoid any outing that might include real weather, winds, storms, etc. You need time in the seat under calm safe conditions. Get the basics of paddling straight, turning, stopping, edging, and just floating without feeling tippy.

Part of paddling is knowing (as much as possible) what the conditions out on the water will be like before you get out there. This means using tide tables, using phone apps that will show currents, tides, wind speeds, weather predictions, etc, etc. If you are paddling alone this stuff is super important. If you need to spend time saving for items like a dry suit then I would do so before going out in any kind of strong winds or water.

I have been called out on this myself. When I was very new to all this (I still consider myself a beginner) I went out in some pretty rough water in the Salish Sea. I really shouldn’t have but I had planned the outing the day before. I spent about 30 mins of very active and nerve wracking paddling before calling it quits. All went well though. I called a friend who owns a kayak tour company to tell him of my experience. He interrupted me with “Max, you really shouldn’t have been out there alone, I cancelled all of our tours due to choppy water conditions…” It was a good lesson.

One thing I have learned: when you are high on a bank looking down on the water it can look way calmer than it really is. Once you are out in your boat at water height you will realize how real the waves and swells actually are…


Build yourself a balance trainer. Very easy and it will pay dividends on days like you described.


LOL :joy: just watched that guy tonight.


Pushing the envelope :email: is good till it rips!

Chatham 17 doesn’t leecock, at least normally. Maybe if you misuse the skeg and load it really, really badly all at the same time.

A paddler that doesn’t know how to manage a boat can report a variety of things which are between difficult and indecipherable to figure out.


I think that the primary thing here is to learn to relax. Keep your hips loose so the weather change doesn’t hit you as hard.

It is easy to tense when the world around you changes. The tough part is not letting it do that.

As you gain experience you will gain in the muscle memory that will help you relax a bit. Not heeding that means that your brain is overriding what your body wants to do.

I learned that the hard way. I bought an old school Olympic boat. It was a psychotic boat; the only boat I ever met that would turn turtle rather than float. I fell out of it in almost every river in Florida. My brain was determined to beat it and not let the boat help.

A skeg is not a dagger board or a keel. It is only to help with weather cocking.


What body of water are you paddling? My uncle is from the Wind River Valley and I spent a lot of time in Wyoming growing up. Interested to know where you are seakayaking there.

Wow this is great. LOTS of comments which is what I want. That’s a way to learn from “others mistakes” because I am too old not to make them all myself. So I guess I should reply in order.

I was using the skeg until I wanted to turn. I then retracted it all the way, yet I still could not get turned. I’d get about 45 degrees and that’s all I could do with the force I was applying. When I stepped it up as I do when I am in my little Loon kayak I found I am NOT skilled enough in my balance and I just turned myself over. I am, pretty sure it was just a lack on skills. I see videos of others doing ti and keeping their balance, but when I put the power to the paddle I tipped enough to flip my boat over. I was about 20 feet from a set of cliffs which may have been acting as a wind-tunnel, but those that do “rock gardening” seem to do OK. I am just to green to know how things are supposed to act and feel. I spent the whole day out there today but today the water was a mirror from the time I got on it to about 20 minutes ago. It was beautiful seeing the reflections of the mountains, clouds and trees in the water all day, and I had no problems with my Chatham at all, but my abilities on flat water do not challenge my skill level. Wind and choppy water sure does however.


Yes I was using it, but I am new enough with it I can’t say in any honesty that I really know “how to use it”. I just have to do it and see how it acts in different winds and water conditions. I did know it was supposed to resist turning. So as I said to Rex, I had it all the way up when I tried to turn, but I doubt I can blame any equipment or tools. I am just learning, and I can’t do that any other way then trying. As far as getting coaching you said “I believe you had earlier said that you had located a possible coach in your area from the ACA list. Call them!”

Well ---- there is no “them”.

There is only 1 lady, Helen Wilson (who I am REALLY hoping to get time with) but so far she has not have any time to meet with me. From her website I come to believe she could teach me more in 4 hours then I could teach myself in 2 years. But she doesn’t have any time for me as of now. My next closest instructor is also booked, and can’t do anything ,and if he could he is and a 6 hour drive away, (which would do, if he had any time for me) and the 3rd closest seem to be 12-13 hours away. So I would agree with you on principal, but in practice, (so far,) I am on my own.

Helen Wilson is the ONLY other kayaker I have found inside a radius of about 200 miles of me as of this moment. That’s not to say there are not any others, but I have yet to meet even one. I was on the water all 3 days of the 4th of July weekend and I did see quite a few sit on top kayakers over that holiday, (all like the boats you get at Wal-mart as far as I could see) but I didn’t find even one sit insider kayak on the water in 3 days, and all the folks that were paddling were staying inside about 100 yards of their camps and were not doing even as well as I was. 4 of them stopped me and asked me advice. You talk about the blind leading the blind!

So I can’t say you are wrong, but you don’t understand how isolated I am in this sport, and in this location.

Now that’s excellent info. I will be trying that stroke tomorrow. Al, day today I was out there and had a great deal of fun, but with a dead flat surface I could easily keep centered. I was edging all day, but with no chop I simply place some additions pressure on one cheek and a bit of upwards pressure with the opposite knee. It is easy…on flat water.
I expect my spray skirt Monday of Tuesday and I will then try edging to the cockpit and if I turn over I guess I’ll be trying to roll. That’s high priority for me at this point, but I have yet to try it with the Chatham. Maybe I should do it without the spray skirt 1st. What do you think?

It takes a lot of training time every I swamp because I have to dump or pump it all out and try again, but if I can learn to roll with no skirt, I’d bet with one would be a LOT easier.
I have a place I can practice in about 5 feet of water, so it’s not dangerous to do it by myself. It can be frustrating however, because I have to fail, and then come to the computer and tell everyone about my failure, and get tips of find videos addressing the problem. Still…that better then having no video’s or people to write to.
So it a matter of just trying, and refusing to give up. And getting back in is something I have been getting a lot of practice in…not always (well…not usually) intentionally either.

I didn’t think of that. YES I DID, a 24" X 6" line float. I tied a rope to each end so I can slip it over a leg and get on top of it, sinking it beneath me so I am riding it like a very small horse. It lifts me higher in the water so I can push up on the bow to help empty the water out when I flip it over. But now that you mention it, that is a pretty large surface and I kept it bungied to the bow at the very front, where I go to it when I need to use it.
Thanks. I don’t know if that was the problem but now, in hind sight, I am Sure it was not helping me in my turn.

No… I was moving. Not the way I wanted to, but I was moving.

I paddle in some wind every time expect today. Today was the 1st time since I started kayaking that we had a dead calm day. here in the middle of Wyoming, the wind blows an average of 315- 320 days a year, so a clam day is very rare.
That’s a good top about paddling backwards. I never thought of that.
Can you tell me what Lee cock: means. That’s a term I have not heard.


That’s been my guess as well. This is like learning to ride a horse or maybe a unicycle. (or a horse drawn unicycle?) It’s just something that I have to learn the feel of. So far it’s been a challenge for me. In my Old Town Loon I have flipped in very heavy wind and waves, but most times I can ride it out and control the loon fine. So I didn’t think that would be that much difference in gong to along skinny boat . WRONG! It’s about 4X harder for me to get the “feel” in, but only time on waves is going to teach me, so I go and put it in the water and just “get hours.”

I love good tips because I can practice things that help me instead of just figuring them all out myself I seriously doubt I could figure them out myself. There is a man names Paulo who is into Greenland paddling and he did a video on edging and turning. I tried that a few days ago and what a cool trick that was. It’s pretty easy but NOT OBVIOUS. I don’t think I would ever have figured that out by myself. Today on flat water I found that by edging the Chatham I never needed a single corrective stoke all day. I’d just lean to to left and let the kayak veer to the right and keep my paddling cadence the same. I’d love to shake that man’s hand.

Your analogy is good, but not in parallel with what I am dong.
I am not like a new gun owner who I take out and abandon after giving him a gun. I have some experience in paddling under VERY hard and harsh condition way back when I was a young man. Not kayaks, but I understand what I am getting into and I set up my drills so I can’t get in too bad. With the wind shears we get here off the mountains I ALWAY start by going directly into the wind knowing when I fail (which I know I will by pushing myself to the point of incompetency) the wind drive be back to my truck. The cool thing about Boysen is that you can drive to any point on the lake within about 600 yards so I can ALWAYS set of the drill to push me to the place I want to be, and not to palace that I am going to get into worse problems.
In the Marines that’s how to get them most out of your troops. Push them to the point they can preform and then a bit more so they fail. In doing training that way you never accept your performance as "good enough and always get better and better.
And as with Celia, I do agree with you and I do work in shallow water to a large extent, but instructors do not exist here in any numbers that I can take advantage of, In 1 hour I could be with Helen Wilson, but she is too busy. In 6 hours there is another instructor, but he’s 100% booked up too. The next closest one is far out of state.

So I am pretty much on my own.

That leaves me 2 options
1 Stop and give up.
2 Keep pushing and accept the risks but do what I can to be sure the risks are mostly sever embarrassment, not injury or death.

In the short time I have been kayaking I have gained a lot of skills as compared to how I was on my 1st day, but I will not be happy until I am so good at this that I could be an instructor myself. Is that likely to happen? I doubt it.
But I never stop trying to get better at things I love. That’s what keeps me with a young-mans heart. I think most men my age quit and grow old. I believe most grow old more because they quit and think “I can’t”.
I have become very very good at some of my areas of expertise not because of higher degrees of talent, but because of a higher degree of “no quit”.
It was what made me good as a US Marine.
It was what made me a requested instructor for the DOD teaching Marines and SEALs as well as allied foreign troops.
It’s what made me good as a shooter and combat/shooting instructor.
It’s what made me good as a hand to hand and improvised weapons/combatives instructor for NATO.
It’s what made me good at gun making, carving and engraving.
It’s NOT talent. It’s a lack of quit.
Most people are too afraid to fail. But if you never fail you are not pushing yourself.

I will not likely live long enough to be as good as Helen Wilson, but I will stop trying when I am dead. What I can say for sure is that next month I’ll be better then I am now, and the following month Ill be better still. If I can’t do that I would be bored with the activity.

THANK YOU!!! That’s the kind of thing I am eating up these days.

I’d agree with you but I also try to go out in the famous Wyoming gales. I just only go out about 200 yards most times when the wind is howling. and I go when it’s pushing me back to the truck, never away from it very far.
Just to clarify, here is a map of the lake I go on most times

If you look at the map you’ll see the northern end of the lake is shored by steep high mountains. The center section is not but the mountains are very close and the southern section is shored by prairie grounds and some farm lands. If wind comes from due west, south or east we can get some advanced waring. But if it comes from the north-west there is no warning. The peaks are only a few miles away from you, and the horizon is steeply up-hill and close. So wind shears drop over the summits and fall into the lake like a big lead ball, gaining speed as they drop for about 9000 - 10,000 feet to lake level (about 4,900 feet)
But no matter which way the wind drives you, you can beach somewhere you can drive a 4WD truck to within about 800 yards.
So I set up my training so I can be blown TOWARDS safety, never away from it.
And yes that’s happened to me a few time now. Getting blown to shore trying to practice in white caps and high winds.
The very best way to work this out is when the wind drops out of the north or north east. That means you see it coming and have time to be sure you are in shallow water, up wind from camp. I really enjoy that wave hopping and big swells, but the times I could not control it I’d get “blown home”. 2 time I got blown home holding onto an upside down kayak, but still I was able to stand up when I was only about 15 yards form shore.

High Desert and Davethekayaker, THANKS SO MUCH. That’s good info.

What I know about the skeg is that I should drop it to the point it makes the kayak go straight enough to control. But that’s all I know. What I don’t know is where to go to get more information. I have Hutchinson book, but it’s not a “kindergarteners book” Mot of a “high school kayakers” book written for people who already know a lot and have a good amount of experience.
Are they any books that are starting out with the foundational principals?

You are telling me what I thought was true. I just need “water time” in my new Chatham. It’s ME, not my boat. I need to learn and not concentrate on anything but learning the skills.

One thing I want to learn to do soon and very well is how to roll. Once I can do that, the idea of flipping it will not matter much and give me all the confidence I need to push myself. If I capsize, so what?!? I’ll just right it and keep training.
Many say it’s hard to learn but Helen and a few other very experienced paddlers tell me that’s not true, if you are not afraid to be underwater. I am not, (as long as I don’t have to be there for very long.) 30-40 seconds is a long time for me but Helen says to learn to do rolls well, should take about 5-6 seconds. So that’s now becoming one of my highest priorities.

I am going out on Boysen most times. I think it’s the largest body of water in Fermont County and with the mountains dumping right into the lake on the north side, the winds can become fierce enough to break branches off some trees. Most days we can expect 8-12 MPH but today we had a FLAT surface. That’s the ONLY time I have ever seen Boysen reflectively flat. It was fun, but very rare, so I can’t expect that very often. We had about 4MPH for about 1 hour at around 2:00, but even that died to nothing about 3:00 and it was starting to get dim when Anna and I left the water, which was still reflecting the mountains.

If you could run fast in the Marines with your :hiking_boot: laces tied together you could probably roll with out a skirt easily.

Your biggest challenge is knowing what you can do safely. Two shot glasses of water in your lungs can drown you. Then the challenge is over.

Very true.
But as with all outdoor sports there is going to be some degree of risk. KNOWING what you can do with total safety is an illusion.
We stack the odds to our favor as much as we can, but the fact is even staying home in your living room will still kill you---- someday. And always sooner than we’d like.
No one gets out of this life alive. Fear is not helping us to live a life worth living. The trick is to balance caution against fear. But accepting the fact that we are all going to die anyway makes you live a better life in the days you are given.

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