Is this surfski too unstable for my ability?

9 months 3 weeks ago #38254 by John Ski
I thought I'd just throw this out there for a general consensus.  I am able to paddle around in flat water for two hours without falling in, but on a windy day with lots of chop, when turning around in a lap, I would get broadsided and it would flip me out.  I am able  to get back in at least by the second attempt.  In an hour, I probably fell out four times.  The wind would push me and the boat around easily.  I'm relatively new to paddling, about three months experience.  Just curious if I should get a more stable surfski?

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9 months 3 weeks ago #38255 by robin.mousley
What surfski are you paddling now?!


Currently Fenn Swordfish S, Epic V10 Double.
Previously: Think Evo II, Carbonology Zest, Fenn Swordfish, Epic V10, Fenn Elite, Red7 Surf70 Pro, Epic V10 Sport, Genius Blu, Kayak Centre Zeplin, Fenn Mako6, Custom Kayaks ICON, Brian's Kayaks Molokai, Brian's Kayaks Wedge and several others...

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9 months 3 weeks ago #38257 by mrcharly
Second question; have you had any coaching?

If not, seek out some. At the least, try to get someone to film you from side on.

A common issue with forward paddle stroke  is too have too long a stroke. Once past the hip, you are essentially pulling yourself in. You can get away with that in flat water, but the merest tap from a wave and you will go in.

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9 months 3 weeks ago #38258 by MCImes
First, what boat are you paddling?

Flat water is not much of a standard by which to judge a ski, unless all you ever plan to do is paddle flat water. To me, you stability should be judged in the worst conditions you paddle, because that's where stability matters, not on flat water. (I mean, if you're falling out on flat water then your boat is definitely too skinny and you will only develop poor habits)

Falling out in waves is a good thing, but only occasionally. If you cannot handle any waves after another few sessions, then I would say your boat is too skinny. Its ok/beneficial to fall out after 15 or 30 minutes, but not much more often. when you fall out infrequently it signals a moment to learn and improve a specific scenario or reflect on a specific mistake you made.
When you're constantly falling out it becomes a fight for your life/paddle with trepidation which does nothing to improve your balance or form.

If you do not feel more comfortable in your boat in small broadside waves (like 6-12" / 15-30cm), soon - like the next 10 paddles - I'd recommend the next wider boat. Surfskis are most fun in waves (exponentially more fun that on flat water) so if you cannot paddle in waves because your boat is too skinny for your balance level, you are missing out on 90% of the reason to paddle a ski, and actually slowing down your learning curve by struggling with a skinny boat, vs learning good habits and developing confidence on a stable platform.

Currently paddling a Kai Wa'a Vega Flex in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10g1, Stellar SRg1, Fenn XTg1, Swordfish S
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"

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9 months 3 weeks ago #38261 by Ranga
This is my pet hate!

Not sure why the question re "what ski?" is even asked? It is an irrelevant question, if you are falling out it is the WRONG ski! It could be a tub that's besides the point.

The question you have to ask, "are you having fun?". I put it to you NO. Is your stroke getting better,? NO. Are you putting yourself in danger not being able to remount straight away? YES.

I see this all the time, people buying the wrong ski and then in a few months giving up as being too hard and not being any fun.

This is whats happening. All you are doing is learning to stay upright, not paddling. You will eventually succeed if you persist and once you have perfected staying upright your stroke will be based around staying upright, period. As it turns out that stroke will be woful for going forward, and trying to correct that is very hard.

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9 months 3 weeks ago #38262 by sarzelopez
Based on your description it does seem like you are in a boat a few steps over your skills level. 

However depending on your situation and boat I wouldn't necessarily advice you to change boats right away.

If you are in a 42-45cm wide boat then unless you can do 4-6 sessions per week (frequency=stability) you would be better off trying to get a more stable one. 

If your boat is let's say a V8 (54cm I think) and you have stability issues then just keep going and the stability will come. 

If you live in a surfski hotspot and can easily exchange boats then don't even think about it and just go up a few steps stability wise

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9 months 3 weeks ago #38264 by waverider
First off dont underestimate how unstable you will be on any ski when turning side on to short duration wind chop. This is because you are relying on the primary stability and  a balancing act to stay up right so cant counter the rapid side rocking motion. Ultimately you start to learn stability by having weight on the blade in the water and allowing the boat to rock... This takes time and practice, not to mention confidence. Start off by shortening your paddle and just constantly padding and bracing across waves as a major part of your learning, rather than just an unnecessary evil you have to do to turn around. Little shore breaks are a good place. It is essential not to let the blade go behind you and scoop water, this is massively destabilising

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9 months 3 weeks ago #38265 by mrcharly
We are coming across all negative here, and I wanted to lift the tone a bit.

In K1 and surfski paddling there is a bit of a culture of machoism when it comes to surfski width. So people tend to get something skinny, as skinny as they can manage. Skinny, fast boats are expensive to buy, the manufacturers feed into this market.

The Mocke brothers have something to say about this. "A stable ski is a fast ski." 

Getting a perfect forward stroke is the work of a lifetime. 
I had two years of club racing in K1, won a few races and thought I was doing well. My forward stroke was laughably bad and I was notorious for throwing water over anyone alongside me. Worked and worked and worked at it. My stroke is semi decent now. Didn't do it by myself - input from club members, direct coaching, paying attention to Ivan Lawler vids.

You can get decent and enjoy yourself pretty rapidly with a little assistance. It will make a massive difference. 
(it took me so long to improve because I was obsessed with getting faster, and neglected being efficient)

I went from struggling to stay upright in stab 6 K1s to using a stab 1 boat. Nearly all of that was achieved by improving my stroke.

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9 months 3 weeks ago #38276 by John Ski
I appreciate all the replies. I want to thank Waverider especially for the tips. 
Even though my surfski is unstable, I still enjoy paddling it on flat or choppy and windy.  I have taken other surfskis out and downwinded in 4-6 feet swells without ever falling out.  Just not sure if I'll be able to do that with my surfski, anytime soon.

When I paddle fast and move at a fairly good clip, I don't even have to think about keeping  balance.  I concentrate on keeping an efficient stroke and that keeps my speed up, which in turn just balances on its own.  But when I'm barely moving, I start to think about balancing and things get wobbly.  It seems, when I consciously try to balance, I screw it up but when I don't think about it, it just works.  Not sure what all that's about.

Since my ability changes with more time in the boat, it will eventually be the right surfski for me.  

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9 months 3 weeks ago #38279 by Belacqua
Hi! I thought I’d chime in as someone who started surf skiing last year on a relatively tippy ski. 

First off, as stated above, it sounds like there was a period in surfski where everyone wanted the fastest boats. It seems like there is a pretty widespread backlash to this occurring right now. I have never read anything in the past year or talked to someone that didn’t suggest a stable ski or say why they are really fast in downwinds. 

I personally fought the current a bit with this because I didn’t even know if I wanted to downwind when I first got my ski. I live near flat lakes, and I wanted a really fast flat water boat that I could remount. I got the new hull (stable) version of the Nelo 560ML. Having tried a K1 once, the new 560 is an order of magnitude more stable than a K1.

It depends on what your using your boat for, how safe your conditions are, and whether you are having fun. But I can give you several tips on learning on a tippy boat if that is the direction you stay.

1) Don’t underestimate side chop while doing a tight bouy turn. IMO this is harder in a lot of ways than downwind stability. Surfskis are not stable at all when their rudder is sideways and they are being buffeted from the side. Don’t necessarily give up on a boat only because you haven't mastered side chop yet. 

2) What is your forward stroke like? I spent many years sea kayaking with a wing paddle. My stroke wasn’t perfect but I only had to change a few major issues (e.g. in surfskis  you rotate the hips and in a sea kayak you rotate the torso more).  If your forward stroke is good already, you can try to improve it and it will help your stability. If your stroke needs more work than that, it is not imo possible to learn it efficiently while also learning balance.  If that is the case, I would recommend a more stable boat, or that you learn balance before you start trying to paddle forward. 

3) Practice balance by itself. Don’t go out for a paddle, go out for a I am going to learn my brace strokes and get to know my hull. Practice sculling on both sides (but the most important stroke for surfski is the low brace, so emphasize that portion). Once you are confident, turn the boat sideways to the chop and practice bracing on both sides while just floating still. 

Once you master that, it is time to learn balance without the paddle. Sit in your hull and try to feel the bottom. My boat has a sharp keel chine and some secondary buoyancy above the water. So I practiced tipping the hull back and forth slightly to feel the chine and practice tipping it all the way to the side till I could feel the buoyancy; I found out my boat is most stable when listing 35 degrees haha!   

Once this is comfortable, do the same in side chop. If you can master all those things, you should be able to learn the forward stroke without bad habits. 

My favorite forward stroke drill I’ve learned (credit Jon Sanborn) is paddling only on one side and recovering with a brace stroke. The focus is to make sure your leg drives your paddle.  Rotate your hips as far as you can, submerge the blade, lock your torso and arms then drive the leg. Rotate the paddle to a low brace position, then slide it back forward by pushing on the other leg, rotating the hips. Beyond this as stated above, Ivan Lawler has super detailed videos. 

If you go for a more stable boat I would recommend all of these things as well! 
The following user(s) said Thank You: waverider

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9 months 1 week ago #38304 by John Ski
After a few more session, I was able to get the boat up to 23km/h, then proceeded to fall out, from leaving my dominant paddle past my waist. Another time I was going about 16km/h with same problem, and same result.  I am guessing that I should have been bracing rather than trying to paddle, and that's what's pulling me out of the boat.  At the time, I didn't realize I was going that fast, only after the checking gps data did I see this.  I find this puzzling because I expected more stability at higher speeds yet now I find this new wrinkle.  Any advice?  Thanks in advance!

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9 months 1 week ago #38305 by CrabStick
Only advice from me is check the calibration on your GPS and if it is correct you should check in with the national sprint kayak coach about your stability issues.

CrabStick, Perth Western Australia

Current Boats: Epic V9 ultra, Fenn Swordfish S, Fenn Spark S
Previous: Think Eze, Stellar SR, Carbonology Boost LV, Fenn BlueFin S

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9 months 1 week ago #38306 by mrcharly
16kph is pretty fast - 23kph is something extraordinary.

I'm suspicious of peak speeds shown on GPS. Mine has shown me hitting over 15kph when out K1 training - I wasn't doing flat out sprints and know (from time between landmarks) that I was actually doing about 12kph. 

If you were surfing down big waves, sure, those speeds aren't unexpected. Quick, but not unexpected.

I think you have already identified the cause - too long a stroke and pulling yourself in. 

If paddling on flat water, you can 'get away' with a stroke where you are pulling past the hips. On rough water, however, that isn't true. A slight change in the wave and you will be yanked in by your own paddle.

Some people, including the Mocke brothers (who know a thing or two), recommend continuing paddling while surfing a wave. The paddling should be like 'freewheeling' a bike; little effort, but still good technique. I'd suggest that making the strokes even shorter and cadence quicker is a good idea.

The 'more stable when moving' is really as much about the paddle stroke giving you stability as the boat improving stability under motion. 

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9 months 1 week ago #38308 by Belacqua
In terms of pulling past the hips on flat water, even Liam Heath starts taking the paddle out before it reaches the hips.

You may also be over-rotating with the torso. The next stroke is just way more powerful than anything you can get past the hips. Then again, I think your top speed is about a half mile per hour faster than his, so ymmv. I do know that the lack of stability pulling you in is definitely robbing power, whether that’s due to your torso rotation and position (it should stay centered) , paddle position or paddle angle. 

Make sure all of these forces are directed down and back and out not up or in. Paddling faster should make you more stable because you can put more weight down on the paddle. Make sure the paddle face never tilts upwards, this pulls your boat down. You can either use your wrist/forearm to control this, or better just pull out before things get hairy.

Do all of this, invest in some buoys, and we could be looking at the first sub 33 second 200m! Then you won’t even need the Olympic kayak coach :)

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9 months 1 week ago #38309 by daisylui
                    I've paddled an Evo for four years in various conditions- perhaps I had no more than two swims all that time. Have I had fun?- Yes, but not at the beginning. Fun starts after what you learned with less fun, is skillfully put in practice.

Now, I decided I am not going to retire in a glass ski and just got an Uno, last week. Is that an unstable boat? Yes, compared with the Evo, but so far is not the paddling that is challenging- I got a hint of the fun I'd probably have once I master the remount [at 10.5kg boat weight, acceleration is amazing and can definitely see why this is an elite boat compared with the 15 kg Evo]. Practicing remounting in a 8 degrees water for an hour is no fun. But the way to fun is through no fun [the discipline of the learning curve]. Fun will come when confidence is built and the experience of bracing and forward stroke from the Evo is transferred onto the Uno. And I am not tempted to jump back onto the Evo [which I've kept for the non flat water, for now] only because of the fun. I think I enjoy the no fun challenge more than the fun no challenge at this time.    

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9 months 1 week ago #38312 by waverider
When you are flying and your paddling starts to feel like freewheeling as you are pushed along you are not putting much force on the catch so it is not adding much bracing/stability affect.  Its one reason you can feel more stable paddling into a head wind compared to downwind as you are putting more weight on the blade. So that late exit destabilizes you without the following catch doing much to correct it.

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9 months 1 week ago #38320 by John Ski
I don't want to mislead anyone, I'm not averaging those speeds on the flats.  Those are peaks that last a few minutes and are when the swells are pushing me along.   I am noticing that its the bigger swells from behind that are the ones sending me swimming.  

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9 months 1 week ago #38321 by tve

I am noticing that its the bigger swells from behind that are the ones sending me swimming.  

That's normal, initially. You need to keep good rudder pressure so you don't spin out / broach and so the boat doesn't surprise you with unexpected turns. Try to keep the nose pointed straight down and immediately correct if the wave want to turn the ski. Then keep ticking over with the paddle (pull out early!) and be ready to brace if you need to. It's an unstable moment that is overcome with more time in the bucket... Then you can do fun stuff like going diagonal, etc.

NB: If you're falling in slow motion it's probably the wave that pushed your ski around and you didn't balance it out, if you fall in in a blink you probably pulled yourself in with too long a rudder stroke.

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9 months 1 week ago #38322 by Epicpaddler
Funny thing  for me  is NOT getting tossed out from the big swells but a little sneaky wave I didn't see. I got dumped the other day and it wasn't the 4-5' boat wakes but a tiny 1' refractory wave bouncing off the bulkhead at the mouth of the river that caught me. 

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9 months 1 week ago - 9 months 1 week ago #38344 by Charivari
One main point to get stability is fitness and sometimes to lose some weight.

Heather Robertson has a great 12 week workout.

Very helpful is to understand the theory, so all the coordination and balance is for the brain a big effort.

Drills help to speed up the paddling technique.
(3 moth season club = 100 $ Seasonal Membership - One Time Payment)

If you have a calm bay, you can build up stability in the calm water and then went more out in the windy zones.

Some action cam helps to compare you with your paddling model.

To eat some fish will accelerate your nerves and motor control.

Rowing will build up your endurance.

Be proud about yourself and enjoy every minute of your training.

So I hope soon you will see some nice progress.

Sailing since 1985, Laser, Cat.
Round the world trip by bike, 1990.
Sea-kayak from Vancouver to Alaska, 1990.
A-Cat, Bimare, 1990.
Coastal Rowing, Virus, 1992.
Fyling A-Cat, DNA F1, 2018.
New Coastal Rowing Boat, Volans, 2019.
First Surfski experience, material rent, 2020.
First Surfski, NK61, 2021

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