Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Waveski: 5 Tips for Picking Your Wave

I've written about surfing my waveski in a few previous posts, and today I'd like to talk about wave selection - both in the sense of picking which wave to paddle onto, and also in the sense of what surf breaks to try. 

When folks on the beach approach me about my waveski - mostly out of curiosity (having never seen such an apparatus), and sometimes out of interest in how to do it, I occasionally get comments alluding to how easy it looks. Because I'm in a seated position, people tend to think anyone can do it. The truth is: almost anyone can. Almost anyone. It took me a solid year or two to get confident enough with my 'ski to get on any sizable waves (read my post Waveski: Back to the Surf!), and a few more years before I could start playing with bottom turns and other maneuvers (OK, I'm a slow learner, give me a break 😏). It also took a few years to get really good at reading waves. In particular, to get good at reading waves that I could surf well with my craft. Look, top waveski surfers can surf the same waves as most board surfers, but I wouldn't include myself in that category. So, I carefully choose when and where I surf, and that has greatly increased my success and my enjoyment. If you are a beginner waveski or surf kayak surfer, then these tips might help you get better faster - and have more fun doing it.

This one looks like a bit of a shore break 

1. Look for waves that are going somewhere. Well, what does that mean exactly? What it means is look for waves that are breaking from left to right or right to left - not everywhere all at once. The longer it takes the wave break to work its way down the course of the wave, the more forgiving it is, the longer the ride that's available, and the more time you have to pull off the unbroken shoulder and get behind the wave before it closes out. It's just easier to work with. Advanced surfers and waveski surfers can stay on the face of a less forgiving wave, but I can't most times. If you're out to have some relaxed fun, find a wave that breaks to one side or the other over a long stretch.

2. Look for waves that break off a point or bottom feature. One way to find waves that break from one spot to another in the same direction is to look for features that slow part of the wave down and pitch it up relative to the rest of the wave. Rocky points, sandbars - places like that cause a wave to break off them in a reliable direction. That way, you can paddle out, set yourself in position, and patiently wait for the really good one that you know will be coming eventually. 

3. Look for waves that are "clean". A clean wave is a wave that has a uniform shape, and isn't all chopped up by the wind or other factors. The cleanest waves are called "glassy" because they have a surface so smooth you can almost see a reflection in them. A clean wave will be easier to pick up, smoother to ride, and is indicative of good surf in general. Even small waves that are clean can be a lot of fun.

4. Be aware of the wave energy. This one's a little hard to eyeball, but if you go to the same spots often, you'll eventually get the hang of gauging the wave energy by how they look and sound. Smaller waves with a lot of energy behind them can be a real kick - they can rocket you right along. Large waves with a little less energy than usual can be more forgiving, and can allow you to stretch your limits a bit. Check out wave forecast site like this one  that show a wave energy forecast. Match that to how the waves feel when you go, then use the forecast in the future to help select your target location.

5. Be flexible. OK, so all of your research told you location X was going to be perfect on a given day, but when you got there, the surf was too small to work with, or bigger than your abilities. Don't be afraid to bag it, and call it a day - especially if you're new. Maybe try a different location, maybe try another day. Don't worry about it - another day will come. And remember: this is supposed to be about having fun, anyway.

Waveski surfing has been a blast for me over the past several years. I still get the odd looks for surfing something not typical in the lineup - but mostly, I have great interactions with all kinds of surfers. I've even been invited to share a few waves by a "boardie". We had a great afternoon, and he couldn't have been friendlier. Assess your abilities accurately. Develop your skills diligently. Respect surf etiquette. Then, take your place in the lineup (because you belong there), and pick your wave.

TB on the Water       



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