Launching A Kayak Through Surf Query

Discussion in 'General Paddling Discussions' started by ztar, Aug 20, 2006.

  1. ztar

    ztar Paddler

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    Ok, Ok, "surf" may be a bit of an exaggeration! How about "Launching A Kayak Through Waves"?

    About a week ago, I launched at the Charlaine Boat Ramp at Hammond Bay (across from Shack Island). Consistent with the 3 or 4 other times I've launched there, it was anything but "still" water. As reported in the the trip report in "Easy Kayaker", wind and waves are often to be found in this area, middays, in the summer. So it was with my launch; but this time, wind and waves were stronger than usual.

    I may not have noted the size of the waves had I not been embarassed -- not once, not twice, but thrice -- by them. Each time I picked myself out of the water just a wee bit wetter (to the point of 100% immersion). It was a warm, sunny day, and the water was great. Nonetheless, my ego was bruised and I hoped nobody but the couple in their Boston Whaler, who were having their own problems with wind and waves, noticed.

    Events like these have kept me seeking out placid places to launch. While on the east coast of VI, I gravitate to the Gulf Island basin and avoid anything north of Nanaimo. Surely, however, there most be a technique that will get me into the water, over the "surf", before I'm sent for a swim.

    By way of further information: I'm solo in a tandem Necky Amaruk. I sometimes wonder if the size and weight of my Amaruk just adds a degree of difficulty I might not experience with a single.

    Anyway, any tips on launching in surf or even moderate waves would be appreciated.
     
  2. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Are you talking chop or honest breakers? If the latter, first, get a smaller boat. A double paddled solo is way too much boat in the surf zone.
     
  3. andreas

    andreas Paddler

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    i think so too, your boat is too big to be handled in surf by your self. you can't turn quick enough if you have to. you also can't sprint with your tank. and as far i understand you need powerfull strokes in the surf zone.

    i just got caught by HUGE breaking waves (3-5' 8O :lol: ) --for me that's big-- on my last 200meters to portland isl. i found that it was critical to turn my boat really quick befor i got the full force of the next wave from the site. i paddled first against the wind and waves (felt like i'm paddling a submarine...) and then tried to surf with the waves to the beach---almost got carried into the rocks..... man that was close :roll: :oops:
     
  4. ztar

    ztar Paddler

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    I guess it's all relative, but no, not breakers.

    Coming in at the shoreline, I'd say 1.5 feet. Anything bigger, and I don't think I'd even bother with my boat.

    Right now, I'd like to find an elegant way to make it off the shore in something like those 1.5 foot waves. I'm currently at the stage of "I could get lucky... or maybe not." Are there techniques or tips (other than into the chuck) I could utilize to get underway quicker and with greater stability?
     
  5. ztar

    ztar Paddler

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    I've not worried too much about breaking waves in the 3' range. As a matter of fact, I used the time after my launch dunking in Hammond Bay to play about in what may easily have been 3'+ waves (and a very brisk breeze) as they passed by Neck Point and the point at the end of Shack Island. Once out on the water, I'm comfortable; it's the getting off shore that's problematic.
     
  6. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    A foot and a half breaker/shoreslap/wave (take your pick) is enough to push around any paddlecraft. Your best bet is to wade out and board in deeper water. A wave that small will crest and break in about 2 feet of water.

    In a single, I would just put the boat into shallow water, at right angles to the breakers, hop in and paddle out, sans skirt, because if I am quick enough, I will not get caught by one breaking.

    OTOH, if these are crashing right on the shore, you can't do that, and wading is mandatory.

    It is a wet sport, I guess. :wink:
     
  7. ztar

    ztar Paddler

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    Good tip. When you say "wade out and board in deeper water", are we still talking about being able to straddle the hull?

    I'm sort of a stubby guy, with particularly stubby legs; my ability to straddle stops at about my knees (I've not measured my legs, but I'm sure that's no 2 feet to my knees -- OK, maybe... but barely).

    You say:
    I'm trying to visualize this "hop in" bit. Are you starting with both legs on one side and then does the "hop" entail swinging your legs in? Or are you astride the kayak where your "hop" entails both legs coming in, more or less together?

    My entry tends to be a laborious one-leg-in-after-the-other from a position astride the vessel kind of entry (paddle held behind me for balance). I think I'll have to do plenty of practicing (and perhaps lose 20 pounds) before it looks anything at all like a "hop".

    [/b]
     
  8. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Okay, that "hop" business is probably poorly described. See below.

    I'm also a "stubby" guy (5-10, 230 lbs), and the first season or so I had a lot of pratfalls while entering my boat. Good entertainment for onlookers, but kinda annoying for me. :lol:

    Two techniques to consider:

    1. Bow away from shore; boat floating: My "hop" goes like this: Get boat floating in water deep enough so that when my bigbutt is in it, it barely floats. This usually amounts to something like a foot to 2 feet deep, when the boat is perpendicular to the beach and I am standing at the cockpit. Step across the boat just ahead of the cockpit to briefly straddle it, and smoothly plant bigbutt into kayak seat, leaving legs dangling ove the sides of the boat. Stroke forward as needed to get to smoother water (past cresting waves), and drag in your legs, one at a time. This may not be possible if the cockpit opening is not large enough.

    2. Bow on shore, stern floating, paddler facing shore with back to the water (preferred method, most of the time; counterintuitive until you have done it a bunch of times): Float boat's stern as far out as you can get it while still leaving some weight on the bow, on the shore; boat perpendicular to shore. Straddle boat, standing just forward of cockpit, with your tush over the front lip of the coaming. (Now comes the fun part.) Thrust backwards with both legs, simultaneously planting bigbutt into the seat, leaving both feet dangling in the water, just forward of the cockpit. This will push the boat, stern first, through small shorebreak, and will usually get you to smooth water without any water in the cockpit, with the odd backstroke to assist. Drag your legs, one at a time, into the cockpit, as above.

    If you can't drag your legs into the cockpit with your bigbutt planted in the seat, then the only alternative is to sit on the deck aft of the coaming a bit, and insert legs into the cockpit after you have (feebly) pushed off, sliding tush over rear coaming into the cockpit. This takes very good balance, a beamy boat and/or a bit of luck! This works for me in my double, so it might work in that monster you are paddling.

    Let us know how this goes for you.
     
  9. rider

    rider Paddler

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    I've always stuck to the "leg in,butt in, pull body up up with arms as sliding other leg in" pulling body up wouldn't be nessesary if my legs were shorter. always worked for me except when i tried launching in 3-4 ft breaking waves last year,that got embarassing :oops: . Time the waves the best you can and get into the cockpit the fast and agressive. By the way, you do have a cockpit cover over the front cockpit of your double,right? you can try to start off with the stern just sitting on the ground, hop in fast,throw the skirt on and push up and lift the boat up as you push it forward with your hands(paddle beside you on a leash)
    . works great if the ground doesn't slope down fast.
     
  10. Komatiq

    Komatiq Paddler

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    Hi ztar,
    when I was guiding at the Rocks on the Bay of Fundy we used all Amaruk's for clients and often launched in waves the size you mentioned. We didn't have the poblem with the boat getting sideways likely because the extra weight helped keep things straight.

    You could always try adding some weight to the forward cockpit to help keep the bow down a little which should help. That design has a bit of rocker to the bow and flares out at the deck so getting into the rear cockpit is quite likely lifting the bow. If a wave isn't catching it straight on it will tend to throw you sideways.

    I like to use my paddle as an outrigger of sorts by placing a paddle across the deck just behind the cockpit rim (tucked under if possible) then grip it with my left hand so I anchor the paddle to the cockpit. Then you grip the paddle shaft with the right hand as far out to the blade as I can reach (think "paddle float rescue"). You obviously need to be standing ahead of the paddle and are reaching back a little to grip. By tipping the boat a little the outboard blade should anchor to the sea bottom and result in a fairly stable stance that also helps keep the boat straight.

    Once you get that far you slide your left leg in followed by your right while maintaining contact with the bottom. Slide the rest of the way in and when things feel right get the paddle back into paddle mode and kick in some adrenaline......... :wink:

    Hope that helps....
     
  11. dvfrggr

    dvfrggr Paddler

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    add a sculling brace to these two techniques as your legs enter or exit the boat and you will alway's look good launching and landing!
     
  12. Mark_Schilling

    Mark_Schilling Paddler

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    Every time I've launched thru surf I simply present the bow into the waves, and start far enough up the beach that I can climb in and secure the spray deck while the boat is still firmly on the beach. Then it's a case of 'crawling' towards the waves, pushing the boat and yourself with your hands and shoving off gradually until you're far enough afloat to be able to use the paddle. Some paddlers seem to like using one hand and the other with a vertical paddle shaft (blade into the beach) - I'm too concerned about damaging my paddle to try this so I usually tuck it under deck lines in such a way that it can be retreived VERY quickly! As soon as the boat is clear of the beach (or even slightly before), grab the paddle and punch thru the waves (since the spray deck is already secure) until you're out of the surf zone. When punching thru surf you want to carry as much speed as you can and try to hit the waves at 90 degrees to minimize the chance of having the wave or wind broach you and side-surf you back to the beach.

    Soon afterwards, I try to remember to check the skeg and make sure it hasn't clogged with rocks from the beach launch. If it has, I have to evaluate whether it's worth going back for another shot or just paddle with no skeg until a calmer landing spot can be reached.

    If you're paddling with others, you can do the same thing with the boat farther in the water, with one paddler straddling your boat until you're in it to stabilize and stop it from being washed around in surf until you're ready. Obviously you want to consider the size of waves for this method, as the last thing you want is an out-of-control boat in the surf zone next to someone standing in the water! The helper can then assist you in launching into the waves so you don't have to do the 'beach crawl'. Of course, the last one on the beach is left to fend for themselves.
     
  13. ztar

    ztar Paddler

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    OK, I feel your pain: my second season and I too am providing chuckles for onlookers. I took a bath at Deep Cove while landing yesterday -- I put it down to five hours of paddling, but right now I'll take any excuse I can conjure up. Anyway, I'm not sure how many kayak rental customers cancelled their rental agreements right then an there.

    As to stubby: 5-8 & 220.

    I like this and I think I've tried it in placid waters.

    My doctor has given me at least a half dozen reasons to lose weight, but this, Dave, is the most compelling reason yet. As I recall, my attempt ended in a comical "V" with butt squeezed firmly into place while legs, arms and torso remained outside of the cockpit. Eventually I got the legs in, but there were moments of serious doubt.

    I've not done empirical comparisons, but since the Amaruk would never be confused with a svelte vessel in any manner whatsoever, I have to think the cockpit is also in the range of "ample". If I can't get my legs into this cockpit I'm guessing it's time I went for the svelte look myself (my doctor will be pleased!).


    Dave, thanks for this: excellent description! Next time out -- providing no onlookers -- I'll try it!