× Tips and techniques for getting the most out of surfskiing.

Catching bigger swells

3 weeks 4 days ago #38349 by mrcharly
Went out on Sat and encountered largest swells to date. Difficult to estimate size; while in the trough, all I could see was a steep wall coming towards me (when going upwind). I guess they were 4ft or a bit higher (I'd like to claim monster size, but . . .).

Paddling over them upwind was fun and I found it easy (if a bit wet).

Downwind was a disappointment. Images of screaming down the face of swells at warp factor 10 were replaced with the reality of struggling to get on the swell.

Part of the problem was, I suspect, lack of strength and fitness. I'm paddling a relatively slow boat, and the effort required to get it up to the speed needed for catching these swells was beyond me. 
The few times I caught a larger swell, I was struggling to avoid a broach. 

Took my first ever unintentional swim (in a ski) and was glad I'd spent time practicing remounts.

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3 weeks 4 days ago #38351 by TimT
Replied by TimT on topic Catching bigger swells
I experience this frequently on Lake Superior. Due to the rocky North Shore I can surf the waves reflected from shore and sometimes, if I am lucky and the large swell happens to be breaking, I can get a ride on the big waves. I have learned, mostly, not to spend too much energy chasing the biggest swells unless I just happen to have a lot of speed. I know the frustration of having 6-8 foot swell roll under me. I am catching a few more as I slowly improve.

Think Zen, Epic V9 on order

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3 weeks 4 days ago #38352 by M.v.E.
Replied by M.v.E. on topic Catching bigger swells
Here is a video from Boyan from the Surfskicenter in Tarifa that might be helpful. 
www.facebook.com/surfskicenter/videos/ho...ind/777208826477185/

Current Ski: Nelo 550 L
Previous Skis: Stellar SR 1. Gen. / Stellar SEI 1. Gen. / Stellar SR 2. Gen.

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3 weeks 4 days ago #38353 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Catching bigger swells
That's a terrific video, very helpful.

Useful comparison for me. 

The waves in his vid weren't as steep or big as conditions last Sat. (well, only the sets of 3 were bigger). Rollers coming in from a fetch  of a few hundred miles I guess. 

Lots of lessons there. Slide sideways to gain speed and stay on the wave. 

A previous trip, with light 10-15knot winds, let me play with picking up sequences. Smaller waves are easier to read, partly because everything is happening so much more slowly. Managed to average 14kph for 5km, which I was pleased with. 

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3 weeks 3 days ago - 3 weeks 3 days ago #38356 by Watto
Replied by Watto on topic Catching bigger swells
Chill mrcharly, there are waves and there are swells. Below pic from Mauritius Ocean Classic. This guy wasn't surfing the swell but a wave on the swell.



Same year, same place, photo below I took from the beach at Bel Ombre. Optical illusion here though, telephoto lens, that swell is breaking on fringing reef 400 metres or so from the paddler with the wave directly behind all that's left after travelling across the reef. Swell was running at 8 metres five days before the race!! Abated some by race day though.



One paddler regaled stories of Mauritius a few years prior where only pro's permitted to do "the outer" outside the reef and so severe and steep were the swells, some were pitch-pole-ing, somersaulting down steep faces! FAR OUT!

Unless big ocean swells are short or you're in a double and can power-up, wouldn't worry too much about not getting on mate.
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3 weeks 3 days ago #38357 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic Catching bigger swells
Wind waves are different than swell as you know. Swell starts hundreds or thousands of miles away and can be present on a dead calm day, or may be present on a windy day but moving in a direction different from the local wind direction. Swell generally moves fast, and any wave that is large also moves fast. Either way, there are a lot of big lumps of water out there that are moving too fast for a mere mortals to paddle themselves onto. The only way to get on them is to first build speed on the smaller winds waves that are moving slow enough for you to catch. Just try to catch the smallest wave you can; something about 1-2 feet tall is perfect. A train of waves has a constant size, but the individual waves within that train of waves have a natural cycle.  They start small at the back of the train, build as they advance forward through the train, and then shrink and disappear as they reach the front. That is why if you surf a series of motorboat waves perpendicular to the direction the motorboat is traveling, you soon find yourself in flat water ahead of the wave train with all the waves behind you. Similarly if you catch a small wind wave and just follow it wherever it takes you it will usually grow into something big. Likewise if you bust your guts and claw your way onto a big one, it is usually in the shrinking phase by the time you get on it. Catching that wave will leave you exhausted and disappointed as the wave soon fades into nothing. So quit chasing the big ones. Chase the little ones, learn to follow and ride them, and they will lead you onto the big ones. Overall all it will be faster and less work. 

14 kph is a great average speed so you are obviously doing a bunch of things right!
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3 weeks 3 days ago #38358 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Catching bigger swells
Thanks for the information and encouragement.

Gosh, that swell on the Mauritius Ocean Classic is a big-un.

Reflecting on this, and looking at the pics, I wonder if part of my problem was the short, steep nature of the swells. It was swell against tide (only a knot or two, but it matters), with the wind behind the swell. 

When I was catching the swell, either I buried my nose, or was starting to go too high and drop off (with a flooded cockpit as the crest swamped me).  A very small optimal positioning, just high enough on the swell, but not too high - that's what I could only get occasionally.

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3 weeks 2 days ago #38360 by LaPerouseBay
Replied by LaPerouseBay on topic Catching bigger swells
This is an excellent course on downwinding.  They cover all your basic questions.  

www.101learn.online/product/downwind-pro-mocke-brothers/

Here is a neat primer on boat wakes.  



And the math behind the speed and behavior of open ocean wave trains.  

www.surfline.com/surf-science/how-do-we-...recaster-blog_56731/

downwind dilettante

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3 weeks 1 day ago #38362 by mickeyA
Replied by mickeyA on topic Catching bigger swells
Great videos by Boyan (free).   I also bought and watched the Mocke downwind lesson (not free).  Great video quality, too.  I really wish the Mocke one (or any other) would spend much more footage with a dot showing where to go.  That short clip was great, but I could have watched for hours (or at least one full Miller's run) using real video w/ dots, arrows, definitions for wind waves vs groundswell, thought process at critical moments, freezing the video to talk about where to go and why, what is happening in front, what was likely to happen, etc.  That only works with extremely high quality video showing contour, which the Mocke video had.  More dots, arrows, real-time thoughts would have helped me greatly.
One stark difference I noticed in Mocke video vs Boyan's is the paddling effort.  Mocke's were going all out, often looking like they were overpowering/overtaking the wave in front.  I cannot do that for long and leads to great frustration.  They are obviously fit and fast and can paddle that hard for a long time.  Sure, they rest on the wave momentarily, but not for long.  They are probably going much faster than Boyan, but Boyan is hardly paddling at all most of the time.  Oscar also seems to push for minimal strokes.  Maybe Tarifa allows for that, while Fish Hoek requires more power on bigger and faster moving swells.
So, I am very confused.  So what does it take to enjoy downwinding?  Take it easy and surf with finesse, or get fit and fast and power through--with skill of course?

KR McGregor Rhythm, V10Sport, Swordfish S, Fenn Tarpon S, Fenn XT, Twogood Chalupski, Findeisen Stinger spec. Had: V12, Stellar SE, Huki S1-X, Burton wedge2, Fenn Tarpon

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3 weeks 1 day ago #38363 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Catching bigger swells
I found Boyan's video far more instructive for the reasons you've given.

'look for the bumps' isn't very clear. Boyan shows where and what to look for.

One of the Mocke videos talks about putting effort in the trough - I must rewatch that one. Suspect there is something for me there.

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3 weeks 1 day ago #38364 by Jordan
Replied by Jordan on topic Catching bigger swells
mickeyA

Tarifa is unique. It is my understanding that the course that Boyan uses is very shallow in places and with a lot of tide movement. There is a video of the Think team paddling in similar conditions on a river in Canada I believe. Wind over tide. This creates waves that allow him to surf the way he does. Boyan is a very skilled downwind paddler for the conditions he paddles in. Technically wonderful and his understanding and reading of waves is second to none. The tips he gives in his videos can be applied in any conditions but will be far less applicable to the majority of conditions people paddle in. If you are looking to have fun, play in condtions like Boyan. If you want to go fast, the Mocke approach will be the way to go 99% of the time. Boyan approach probably works well for a lot of downwinds in the pacific? There's a good video of Dean Gardiner surfing a swell for almost a minute without taking a single stroke and just steering. 

You will not have that type of wave in a bay setting or paddling out and back off the beach. You will need to adopt a different approach. The fundamentals are the same, rest when you can, use your 45 degree window and only work hard when you need to. Nothing wrong with letting a wave roll underneath you. But overall you will be resting a lot less and working a lot harder like the Mocke's in most downwind conditions. 

As someone who does out and backs most sessions in a bay, with refraction and rebound off cliffs at high tide. The Boyan approach is just not possible. I never get those conditions to rest that long and surf, unless it's very windy with long period swells. Most of my downwind runs will be a series of 10 stroke sprints interspersed with periods of rest ranging from 1-5 seconds, depending on what conditions present themselves. The conditions we get on a proper downwind run in the Atlantic are similar to a messy Miller's run I would say. 

Hope that helps. 

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3 weeks 1 day ago #38365 by M.v.E.
Replied by M.v.E. on topic Catching bigger swells
In the last ten years I attended several downwind courses with Boyan in Tarifa. He´s a great teacher and I learned a lot there.  He has a very relaxed attitude towards Downwind paddling and tries to use the energy of the waves as much as possible. He´s not that much into racing as far as I know. Whereas the Mocke Brothers are wellknown Elite Racers.
They are used to go hard all the time. For a guy like me who isn´t that young and fit anymore Boyans style of Downwind paddling seems more appealing.

Current Ski: Nelo 550 L
Previous Skis: Stellar SR 1. Gen. / Stellar SEI 1. Gen. / Stellar SR 2. Gen.
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3 weeks 1 day ago #38366 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Catching bigger swells
I get both conditions. In the Lochs and at the mouth of the lochs, refracted swells around little islands, chop from wind, rebound. 

Right out of the lochs (for northerly, easterly or southerly winds), long driven swell. The shortest fetch is 40 miles.

Mostly deep water, but there are reefs that create overfalls.

I'd like to develop a Boyan/Oscar approach and skill level. I'm too old to go all out all the time. What I'm finding is that sea paddling is much tougher in demands than flat water. The surges and grab of waves combined with boat movement creates sudden loadings. 

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3 weeks 1 day ago #38367 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic Catching bigger swells
I have been to Tarifa once. There is an area called Bajeta with shallow water that creates standing type waves when the current is strong. It is just one small special section of one of the runs he paddles. It looks awesome. But in the week I was there, though we had good wind every day, never were the tides right at the time we paddled for the bajeta section to be in full effect. At any rate I dont think it’s accurate to say that the great surfing in Boyan’s videos is a result of the currents and shallows. The wind blows both directions there so sometimes wind is with the current and sometimes against. I think his talents would translate just fine to
downwind conditions anywhere. 

I think the bigger difference between Boyan’s approach and what you see in the Mocke Videos is that they have different goals. The Mocke’s are trying to get from start to finish as fast as possible. Boyan is trying to play and have as much fun as possible. He is also typically in a v8 which is not going to be as conducive to sprinting forward over waves as an elite ski would be. 

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3 weeks 1 day ago #38368 by M.v.E.
Replied by M.v.E. on topic Catching bigger swells
Yeah Zach Bajeta near Tarifa is nice! It´s basically a Tiderace. We went there several times when there was no wind.
It looks surreal when you approach it from the distance. The ocean is totally calm and then suddenly you see these standing waves  out out of nowhere. It can get pretty big though.
Jordan: I would agree with you that the conditions in Tarifa are quite special. The currents can get really strong there and if you have a strong tide against the wind the waves can get really steep and messy in some places.
My nearest Downwind destination (Baltic Sea) is unfortunately a few hours away. The waves there tend to be shorter and there is no current to speak of.   

Current Ski: Nelo 550 L
Previous Skis: Stellar SR 1. Gen. / Stellar SEI 1. Gen. / Stellar SR 2. Gen.

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3 weeks 15 hours ago - 3 weeks 15 hours ago #38375 by manta
Replied by manta on topic Catching bigger swells
The easy answer is you can do both types of downwinding.

I live 10 minutes from the start of the Miller's run so do quite a few. I am not an elite paddler and I have some physical issues that preclude me from paddling like an elite paddler. What I have found is regardless how much wind or how intense the swells, reading water is key. We have paddlers here that are nowhere near elite but read water very well, they do incredible times on the Miller's run not because of their paddling prowess but because of their ability to read water.

If there is one skill more than any other that is key, reading water is that skill. I have been trying to develop mine and going slower on purpose. It is possible to power onto waves, down faces and hop over into the next one but it is very tiring. By slowing down and reading water it becomes possible to link waves and swells in a seamless, organic fashion. What makes Oscar so good is that he has elite paddler stroke and ability and reads water like a savant. That combination is what makes him one of the fastest DW paddlers at 60 and recovering from cancer. 

So the takeaway for me is, learn to read water by slowing down. Once you have the skill you can speed it up and see how the reading ability translates to all out power paddling ala the Mockes.
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2 weeks 6 days ago #38378 by mickeyA
Replied by mickeyA on topic Catching bigger swells
Very enlightening. Yes, Mocke and Boyan have different goals.  Since I will never win a major DW race (56 yrs old, mid packer, 12 yrs in ski, SF S), I am way more interested in the Boyan approach.  I would like nothing more than spending minimal effort, maximum surfing, even if I finish a DW race in bottom half.  But I also now understand that conditions/part of the world dictate whether you can finesse your way down, or have to power your way down.  **I wonder what a Boyan video would look like on Millers run, relaxed or humping it??  In my home waters when conditions are good (rare), I paddle ~2miles out diagonally into the swells and back in.  Going DW tires me out way more than up.  I work like a madman to catch anything. The waves just move too fast and are never clean.  I do occasionally catch waves and have 5 seconds of bliss, so not all frustration, but starting to wonder it is worth it.  Incredibly frustrating most of the time.  I’ve been to last 3 Gorge races, gotten lessons from pros, gotten a little better, but man, am I worn out after pulling so hard. Going forward, what I will do differently: I will focus on catching the small ones, surfing diagonally once on, resist going 110%.  What I really need is a video lesson that focuses solely on reading the water.  Give me more dots, freeze frames, thinking at critical junctures, lines, arrows, successful choices and mistakes.  Do it for the whole run, include the bad.  All I have seen of Boyan are the 3 Facebook (I do not have, not sure how I was able to view) clips from this thread.  Are there more?  Longer ones with instructions on where to go?  Thank you all so much for this info.  Very helpful.

KR McGregor Rhythm, V10Sport, Swordfish S, Fenn Tarpon S, Fenn XT, Twogood Chalupski, Findeisen Stinger spec. Had: V12, Stellar SE, Huki S1-X, Burton wedge2, Fenn Tarpon

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2 weeks 6 days ago #38379 by TimT
Replied by TimT on topic Catching bigger swells
mickeyA, here is a full length, unedited video of Boyan’s. It doesn’t specifically show where to go but it is great in showing how he matches his effort to the conditions, going from mellow, to seemingly quite hard in a few bursts where it is big, and then back to mellow at the end.   I have watched it a number of times while erg training. 

https://youtu.be/dBvcfYR4YHQ

Think Zen, Epic V9 on order
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1 week 2 days ago #38470 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic Catching bigger swells
On Monday (holiday here), I went out for a brief paddle. 
Blowing a hoolie (hey, I have a new paddler's measure of wind - if you hang on to your paddle leash and the paddle is spinning in the wind in front of you like a propeller, it is probably blowing 30knots or more).
I had a great time. Didn't venture out to sea, just stayed in the loch. Absolute slog upwind for a couple of Km, turn in the lee of an islet - then a blast downwind for about 5km.

I've watch the Boyan videos closely, particularly how he veers this way and that, chasing the bumps like a sheepdog working a recalcitrant flock. 

It was great. Learnt more in that brief 'downhill' ride than all previous attempts combined. 

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