Looking for advice on improving rough water comfort

1 week 1 day ago #38759 by jsapan
Hi -- first off, I've really appreciated all the incredibly informative posts on this forum.  I'm looking for tips/wisdom on how I can get more comfortable in wakes, crossing/reflected waves and the like.  I'm sure the no. 1 tip is to get more experience but in southern AZ that's a little trickier than in other places, so I'm hoping people might have suggestions about how to think about things or techniques that might not be obvious.

The "tippiest" boats I'm used to are the Epic 18X and the V8, which I used to paddle when the rental 18x I was used to wasn't available.  At this point, both those boats feel effortlessly stable on flat water for me.  I've been paddling an Epic 16X exclusively for the past few years and I'm increasingly paddling knees up as I'm working on my wing stroke.

I'm pretty familiar with keeping my hips loose.  Unsurprisingly, I do just fine taking a wave head on... but I get pretty nervous when that's not possible without going way off course.  When I'm in confused water (ex: boat wakes reflecting off a large floating dock + wind waves), I feel like the boat is getting pushed around.  I try to keep paddling and have my blade in the water as much as possible. With one exception, I've never been tossed, but I'd like to improve my competence and comfort level.


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1 week 17 hours ago #38761 by tve
Dunno how you get there in the super-stable boats you're paddling... To me balance comes from my body and my paddle, the boat is largely irrelevant. In a V10, which I find very stable, I have to be careful: if I sit back the boat "owns me" and I have to react to it. That's how I fall in 'cause I'm already in a lazy position... If I sit up and lean a bit forward I'm in charge and am active maintaining balance at every paddle stroke. In a V12 the ergonomics are better 'cause the seat is higher, so sitting up is easier, and just slumping back ends up in a swim anyway :-).
So perhaps start padding up your bucket so you sit higher WRT feet and attack those waves! Paddle strong so you can leverage the paddle to balance, keep the cadence up so you have more opportunities, pivot in your hips to let the boat do its thing. Most important of all: don't be afraid to take a swim: if you fall in you went for it and were in a state of learning. If you never fall in you're probably never leaving your comfort zone, i.e., you're not learning anything new... (Of course you need to be confident you can remount.)
If all you have are boat wakes then use them. If you can stay on the side wake of a cruiser, i.e. one ski length behind and one ski length  to the side then you're doing really well! Those waves tend to be too short and steep to get comfortable, so you can barely stay on there and the ski wants to turn in every which direction. At least that's the way it happens to me.
I hope you have fun!

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1 week 14 hours ago #38765 by MCImes
1. practice remounts
1.5 Practice braces (both Stroke-braces and Slap braces)
2. find rough water (boat wakes, docks, break walls, etc)
3. paddle in rough water
4. fall over
5. remount
6. repeat 2-5

I say that somewhat jokingly, but also am serious.  The best way to train is to expose yourself to progressively worse and more challenging conditions.

Stability comes from the blade. Learn to stroke brace. That is powering up, powering down, twisting, pushing, pulling, or lifting on the blade in such a way that it provides a short and powerful righting moment what you can use to snap your hips or re-center your COG. THe stroke brace is the #1 way you stay in a tippy boat or any boat in rough water.

2nd, get comfortable remounting. Not at the beach, not in conditions you're 100% comfortable in... KNOW that you can remount anytime anywhere and you can do some pretty ballsy stuff safely. Build up. Start trying to remount in boat wakes that pass (as if you fail you can just wait a moment and try again). Once you master that find a patch of rebound waves and remount in that. Then do it bigger. And bigger. Once you know you can get back in you wont fear falling out.

Seat pads / raising the seat will quickly decrease stability. Even 1/4" is noticeable. 1/2" is very noticeable. You can easily decrease stability by stacking pads. I think epic sells a stacking set for this exact purpose you may want to look into.

Keep loose hips too. Let the boat do what it does. Your waist-up should be completely dosconnected from whats happening below.

You can do it. Just build up, master remounts in all conditions, and master the subconscious stroke brace and slap brace.

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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1 week 6 hours ago - 1 week 6 hours ago #38766 by Arcturus
As a fellow paddler crossing over from sea kayaks, I found a few things helped me:

1.  First, I agree with tve’s comment that a bit more seat height allows a better position to apply power and keep control. This was something I felt when first trying a bare ski, and with added padding now it is even more comfortable. I added it to prevent another season of ischial bursitis, but it turned out to be good for more than that. The pad is 1/4” thick and did not make the ski feel less stable. Both your ski and mine (Nelo 520 S) are rated as stable, so experiment with padding.

Related to the above, if it feels like you are sitting up straight, you might do better leaning forward a little. In this respect, it’s like putting pedal to the metal on a bicycle; sitting bolt upright doesn’t let your muscles work as well.

2.  To me, the lack of thigh braces felt like being naked, with a major way of controlling boat tilt removed. BUT you are not devoid of some control using your lower body. Get used to slightly dropping a butt cheek down to briefly weight one side to correct the tilt. It should become an automatic response, and it has to be done instantly. If you have to think about it, it ‘s probably too late. The ski is less forgiving of side slop than my sea kayak was, so I, too, need more practice in the sideways hits. So far, I’ve been able to correct fast enough to avoid getting tossed over, but one of these days...

3.  My geographic location (SW CO) also leaves a lot to be desired, paddlingwise. However, both of us have plenty of opportunity to be sloshed and slopped by wake boats towing, jet skis circling, water ski boats, etc. The more the merrier, ha ha. I hate the slop because it is unpredictable when many of them are churning up the water, dangerous due to driver inattention (or lack of a spotter for their towee), noisy as hell, stinky, and slows down our forward movement. But it is one way to practice in small crap. These boats don’t create the mongo wakes of barges, cruise ships, container ships, or even state ferries, but you use what you have around. BTW, if a whole bunch of boats is going steadily in the same direction, sometimes they create something like a small swell that is fun to run with.

You are not far from SoCal’s beaches. In addition to all of the above, maybe take some lessons there. I am 1000% glad that I had an instructor introduce me to surf skis. No doubt that lessened the learning curve, and I continue to check technique on every outing. And I am having fun, even though I wish we had more to play with.

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6 days 23 hours ago #38767 by Epicpaddler
All good info.
I was in the same situation as I transitioned from a v8Pro to a v10g3. It was almost like starting from scratch when I got into the big stuff. Time in the bucket is the most important, but not "freezing up" or hesitating is just as important. Your stroke is also your support so work on powering through the bumps. Nick Cryder on the board here gave me one piece of advice that really helped. He said "find your feet", meaning don't forget to press down on the foot pedals and use your leg drive. It helped me to consciously say it out loud until muscle memory took over. 

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6 days 19 hours ago #38769 by waverider
Your balance is the weight you put on the paddle and faith in allowing the boat to rock and be comfortable with its limits. rely less on the primary stability of the boat. When trying to learn crossing waves the boat starts to rock and you start to hesitate with your stroke, not committing to each one and end up lilly dipping. This in turn reduces your source of stability, and late exits will cane you.  Fighting to keep the boat horizontal is fruitless and distracting. So commit to strong reach catches with early exits. Shortening the paddle can also help with this.

And yes practice deliberately. Too often we head out and avoid this, we paddle into the wind then turn around and come back. So each session only amounts to a few mins side on as we turn around. i try to do whole sessions just paddling across the choppy little shore breaks on shallow beaches in shallow water where you dont get inconvenienced too much if you do get dumped

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