Outlaw Paddling   Victorian Race Series

Negotiating the impact zone in the surf

Wednesday, 9 September 2009 by Jarad

There are two aspects to this: getting out, and then getting back in once you're out.

1. Prior to hopping into the water, make sure you check out where the waves are breaking the most and least. Obviously you want to paddle out in the easiest position (unless you are out for some carnage), so, conditions permitting (rocks etc.), paddle out in the calmest area. For example, at a point break, always paddle out from the middle of the beach in the area where the point waves do not break so strongly.

Once you're going, it is important to have some momentum when approaching a broken wave. If you do not, the momentum of the wave will backshoot you.

impct z

In addition, as you are about to go over the wave, lean back to allow the nose of the ski to lift up over the wave more easily, otherwise you will tend to plow straight into the wave and get pushed further backwards, or backshoot again. However, there is a limit to how much you can lean back - on small waves you can lean back as far as you want, but on larger broken waves, you can't lean back too far as the momentum of the broken wave, combined with the lifting nose, can potentially cause your ski to do a backward somersault. Not fun!

If the white water is simply too big, roll your craft upsidedown and hang onto the foot straps (and your paddle) - the wave will not push an upturned craft back as strongly as an upright one. Once the wave(s) has passed, you can jump back on and continue on with your journey. Only experience will tell you when to make this judgement to roll.

Try to recommence paddling as soon as possible once you go over the wave so that you can keep forward momentum going. This will also allow you to re-establish stability sooner.

You may not paddle a straight course out. If you have room, be open to moving sideways to avoid broken water where possible.

2. Getting back in can be tricky depending on the size of the waves. The most important rule of thumb is to always keep paddling on the wave (particularly once it has broken or is about to break) so as to keep your craft out in front of the wave. This prevents the wave from interfering with your rudder and skewing the craft off sideways.

Many paddlers often stop paddling and lean back once they catch a wave to prevent them from nose diving. Don't do this. Paddle down the front of the wave and this will get you out far enough to not nose dive. If you make a late take off and the face is very steep, by all means lean back, but don't stop paddling while you do so. If you still nose dive, you simply took off too late and were going to nose dive no matter what.

spec ski champ

In this case (and only experience will teach you how to judge this), back off and catch the next wave.  Sometimes this requires back paddling or throwing the legs over to put the breaks on. Whatever is required - it doesn't matter.

If you do go sideways, or spong, lean in to the wave and try to wrap your outside arm (to the whitewater) around the ski  so you keep your ski with you and you get taken in with the wave and ski. This is not an easy skill and will take time to learn.

If you are good at all of this and are ready to start hot dogging on waves, then you don't need my advice. Just get out there and you will learn the tricks. But never forget the golden rules above on race day, as you won't be hot dogging then!! Unless, of course, you want to entertain the crowd.

So there you go - it is really quite simple (NOT!) It does take time and practice to master the surf, but it is fun once you do.

plastic raceshot big surf...

One final tip for both getting in and out that will save you buckets of time is "never lose your ski or paddle". Do whatever you can to keep them. This might mean hooking your feet under the footstraps and being dragged by the ski for a while, or grabbing the footstraps (with paddle) and rolling and getting dragged. We all get wiped out occasionally, and swimming after your ski or paddling with hands because you lost your paddle absolutely suck. And they waste serious time!



1 comment(s) for “Negotiating the impact zone in the surf”

  1. Gravatar of Brandilyn
    Brandilyn says:
    TYVM you've soevld all my problems
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