Side Surfing: Why You Need to Be Good at It

Discussion in 'Paddling Safety' started by Astoriadave, Nov 19, 2017.

  1. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    The principal problem training for surf is finding and exploiting conditions which allow you to grow and develop your ability to use the boat in wild water. Much of what you can learn off a standing wave such as the magnificent form at Skookumchuck works equally well on the traveling waves typical of surf waves. Note those two adjectives.

    Skook lets you focus on the unbroken wave and fine tune all the paddle sets and rudders, duffek moves, etc., that are usable when in clean water. Some sea kayakers devote a good bit of their paddling lives to that oeuvre. Others mainly want to do point to point travel, using the conditions at hand to move forward. Freya, for example. This means Freya has to know _well_ and be able to judge _when_ to use those gut bucket techniques which will protect her shoulders for use the next day, week, and year ... yet also get her to the beach today, right now, and instantaneously, reflexively.

    Bongo sliding, side surfing, or any of the other names for it, all refer to what will get you on the beach, safely, yourself and your gear inside the boat, so that there will be another day of paddling for you. For that reason, responsible instructors make sure everybody can side surf safely before they release them to surf zones.

    A low brace is the safe setup but may break down in big surf to form a high brace when the soup and turbulence overpower the paddler. And she/he needs to know when and how to get back to that safe zone of the low brace and get to shore. The alternative: bailing out, leaves gear and boat and paddler and paddle scattered from hell to breakfast, paddler exhausted and likely disoriented, perhaps a ways from a safe beach. Read Freya's blog accounts, and dwell on how much time she spends on picking the best bay with the best corner for minimizing her surf exposure.

    A four foot wave has about eight times the energy of a two footer because the energy scales roughly as the cube of the wave height. A six footer has twenty seven times the energy of a two footer. A two footer has eight times the energy of a one footer. A paddler who has only surfed in one foot tall waves is in no way prepared for bigger stuff. The rudder moves and braces learned in one footers will need to withstand forces much greater when the paddler moves up to two foot waves.

    After some initial training in the hands of experienced paddlers a paddler new to surf would be well to pick out small surf, in the two foot range, on a safe beach, and fine tune his/her techniques. She/he will have a hell of a lot more fun, and have more energy left at the end of the day, if he/she knows how to avoid having to bail. And, will be ready to explore wilder water, to boot!
     
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  2. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Nice summary, Dave. The only thing I would add is that at no time is shoulder safety more critical than when side surfing, so appropriate bracing technique is absolutely necessary. I find that even when low bracing into a wave, I keep my elbows down and tight, which is not the usual way that technique is taught.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
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  3. AndyM

    AndyM Paddler

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    ditto, nice summary
    -
    Broaching, Side-Surfing, or whatever name - is a very important skill
    -
    unfortunately for me, I learned by experience.
    I started out paddling the Great Lakes - much experience, learned just about everything, except...

    Then I decided to paddle the east coast of Australia.
    Started in Sydney, and until I got up to the Barrier Reef, the times I had to land in surf, most of the time I broached into shore.
    My rolling and bracing I'd learned on the Great Lakes allowed me to quickly learn the broach, I really never learned to surf well that trip.
    But broaching in worked very well (making sure to be away from people, jettys, etc).
    -
    After that trip, I relocated to Seattle, the next couple of winters, I learned the surf (Westport, Ocean Shores).
    [note, this was back in the '90s]
    btw, when I say 'learn to surf', I don't mean the fancy moves that are fun to watch on youtube. I don't really have those skills.
    I learned how to get 'beat up' by the stuff, what to do, what not to do. I learned how to get in safely.
    I kind of look at it as: Surfing in is an 'offensive' move, 'broaching' in is defensive.

    Andy,
    Jacksonville, FL
     
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  4. semdoug

    semdoug Paddler

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    Back in the 80s there was a whitewater kayaker and cartoonist named William Nealy, wish I could find the book with his kayaking cartoons. Anyway, one of his cartoons depicted proper bracing. Imagine a kayaker with elbows bent and forearms horizontal; a proper high brace is with the wrists bent up, a proper low brace is wrists bent down. The cartoon is much better but the point seems well made.
     
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  5. semdoug

    semdoug Paddler

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    Side surfing, everyone should be window shaded at least once!!
     
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  6. AndyM

    AndyM Paddler

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    yes - and maybe practiced.
    -
    When playing in surf, I avoid areas with beach-goers playing in the shallows or mixing with surfers.
    That being said, occasionally there will be folks in the water between me and the shore.

    In a moderate or heavier surf, if I got caught in a broach and can't get out - I will intentionally roll toward shore (window shade), and stay down until the wave goes by - to avoid mowing down all in my path. It's an intimidating move because it happens so fast, but it is usually a way of getting out of the broach.

    Andy
     
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  7. Bluenose

    Bluenose Paddler

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    Bongo sliding can be a lot of fun too, especially when you’re bouncing.

    I haven’t had the pleasure of sliding a loaded boat and am not sure I want too by choice. In three or four foot surf I back paddle as the wave approaches so I don’t wind up surfing, and paddle hard after the wave blows by. It can depend on how they’re dumping too.
     
  8. nootka

    nootka Paddler

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    still working on it

     
  9. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Al, that is actually a pretty good performance.

    Side surfing a narrow standing wave such as in the video is trickier than bongo sliding in a traveling wave such as one might ride to the beach. Why? Because in the latter any displacement of the boat/paddler combo forward or to the rear usually has little effect on stability in the slide. You just move parallel to the beach a bit, but remain in slide mode. I am worthless in a standing wave, but a reliable bongo slider in smaller surf.

    Larger surf? Well, somewhere in the transition from beachward surfing of the unbroken wave to sideways surfing of the broken wave, I have already crashed, burned, and bailed out. ;)o_O
     
  10. scott_f

    scott_f Paddler

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    Worst thing about bongo sliding is when you’re stuck in a big foam pile. Never confident if I should take a breath or not. Is it water or air? :)
     
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  11. Peter-CKM

    Peter-CKM Paddler

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    This whole side surfing conversation reminded me of the "honey badger" videos of the Hurricane Riders and friends on Skooks. Here is one (with some language that could be offensive to some in voice over) -
     
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  12. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Neither/both, really. Technically, it is an emulsion, a mixture of the two, very heavy on the air, less so on the water. Too much water to breathe. Too little water to float a boat or a swimmer.

    Even aerated water, such as you find in a breaking plunging wave, is not dense enough to float a swimmer, PFD or no PFD. The principal reason experienced surfers and body surfers eschew standard PFDs when surfing typical plunging waves. Your best escape route from a plunging breaker is to swim down, entering the relatively undisturbed water, where you can hide out momentarily until the wave travels past you. Only then should you swim for the surface.
     
  13. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Wow. That Skook honey badger video is a killer. Very impressed how those guys stay on that foamy edge. Three minutes of joy.
     
  14. Peter-CKM

    Peter-CKM Paddler

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    The "honey badger" term came from a long ride that Jame Manke had at Skooks. I think the video I posted earlier came after that.

    Finally had a chance to find the Jame Manke video. here is it:
     
  15. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    We seem to be discussing two different things here: side-surfing in through a shore break to the beach and side-surfing the foam pile of a standing wave. While it is fun to watch videos from Skookumchuck, you need to realize this bears little similarity to landing through a shore break onto a beach, especially in a fully loaded boat. Since Astoria Dave started this discussion about landing on a beach, I'll start there.

    First off, you do NOT want to try surfing your boat into the beach if the break is much over four feet. Period. Even a three foot break could break your boat, if not your paddle or your body. Instead, the best option on a real trip is to find the lowest energy beach possible. This might be the inside of a wrap-around beach behind a point of land or it might even require that you find an inlet and keep paddling inland until the swell subsides.

    On my first trip around Cape Flattery from Neah Bay to Hobuck, a completely different swell developed that ran at an angle to the existing swell which created a criss-cross pattern. As the day wore on, the new swell got bigger and bigger and by the time we reached Hobuck, the break looked to be at least five feet high, though it is hard to judge the wave height of a break from the outside. What we could see looked big and violent so we stayed in our boats and paddled down to the Macaw Reservation where we made a smooth landing on a complete wrap-around beach. By that I mean we landed on waves heading the OPPOSITE direction of the actual swell! We bivvied there for the night (illegally, but safely) and launched early the next morning. If you are making a big exposed crossing or passing a long section exposed coast where you must remain a couple miles offshore (Flores Island, for example) make sure to study the map and identify a good bail out beach you can head to if conditions get big while you're out paddling.

    Secondly, as mentioned upthread, the best way to get through the impact zone of a shore break is by back-paddling like hell until the wave passes under you, then forward paddling like hell on the wave's back until the next trough starts to catch up to you, then back-paddling again for all you're worth. This back and forth technique is a TON of work, but it is safe and reliable and keeps you from being surfed in the big stuff. Once you're past the impact zone, you can let loose and catch a wave, surf until you broach and then side-surf your way to shore. That's the fun part. But this whole process needs to be practiced... not just side-surfing.

    Finally, although a big foam pile looks intimidating as hell, you have to remember that a foam pile is half air and it contains MUCH less energy that a huge, green wave breaking over your head. Foam piles are a hoot in whitewater boats and there is a whole niche of playboating devoted to rodeo moves in a foam pile.

    In some situations, a foam pile can hold you quite well, as was shown in the last video. In order to get released, you've got two good options: 1) flip over and let your body get grabbed by fast moving current which is flowing just under the foam pile or, 2) bury the bow or stern of your boat into the fast green water in front of the foam pile. This will pop you up and carry you out in a jiffy. Either way works, it's not magic. If you watch the video until the end, you can see that the paddler finally gets flipped over and is carried out of the foam pile almost immediately. Problem solved!

    What I did enjoy watching in these videos is how these paddlers kept their elbows in close to their bodies while bracing. I like to think of the high brace position as being akin to doing a pull up in gym class. Reach up and grab the monkey bar with your palms facing away from you and pull your body up until the bar is below your chin. With your elbows close to your body, you can hang there for a LONG time. This is a very stable, protected position for your shoulders to be in, even while they hold up your entire body weight. When you're holding your paddle in a high brace position, it should look pretty darm similar to this.
     
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  16. mick_allen

    mick_allen Paddler & Moderator

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    semdoug, I didn't realize I actually had Nealy's book 'Kayak' - as I thought it would reference 'WW kayaking' or something like that . . . just the word Kayak?
    anyway here's the drawing I think you refer to, plus part of another relevant page:
    NealyKayak-part148.jpg
    NealyKayak-part143.jpg


    love the ripped off arm . . . happened to me - like hitting a concrete wall!
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2018
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  17. Peter-CKM

    Peter-CKM Paddler

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    The images of the"low brace position" (figures 3 and 4) are not the low brace I teach. The low brace I teach uses the non-power face of the paddle to face the water, where that image shows the power face down. What they are showing seems to be a high brace but held down low.
     
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  18. mick_allen

    mick_allen Paddler & Moderator

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    good point.
    To effect the above condition and keep that wrist postition, one would have to loosen the gripping hand and rotate the loom backwards 90 deg [to keep the blade in the same position]- a complex manoeuver just when complexity is not desired. It approaches being silly.
     
  19. Pawistik

    Pawistik Paddler

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    I just gotta say I love Nealy. I have his mountain biking book - taught me everything I know. I think I need to pick up his Kayak book. Too bad he has passed on .
     
  20. Jasper

    Jasper Paddler

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    In addition to the back paddling technique jamonte describes I often find a few well timed agressive paddle plants rather than actually back paddling to be as effective in stopping myself from surfing. It also allows me to keep my elbows safely tucked in and puts me in a position from where I can smoothly transition into follow up strokes.