stayin' high on da wave

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4 days 22 hours ago #39893 by tve
stayin' high on da wave was created by tve
A couple of months ago a friend of mine, much better surfskier than I am, as he was effortlessly cruising by told me "you need to stay higher on the wave, hang out there 'til the last moment, there's a ton of power there and you can then sling-shot to the next wave". I was paddling with full energy yet he was just zooming by with much less exertion, so there had to be something to it...

I've been practicing since. Lots of falling off the wave. Lots of getting spun around teetering at the top. But slowly I've been getting the hang of it. I'm still trying to come to grips with what 'staying high on the wave' really does and why it works. I'd love to hear how others explain it!

I'm talking about dynamic ocean conditions where there are multiple intersecting wave trains and typ some long swell in addition, not "simple" situations where one can park oneself on top of a wave and just sit there. I used to look for the deepest trough, point the nose there, catch the wave and then maximize speed, ideally going in a diagonal, hoping to link to the next big trough. But often this sent me either into the back of a wave ahead or into a wasteland without anything to catch.

What I seem to be learning is:
- the deepest trough is where the troughs of multiple wave trains line up, that's a great visual marker for what is happening, but not the place to zoom into 'cause it can only go uphill from there
- by staying back, looking at that deepest trough just ahead, one waits for the peaks of the wave trains to line up, that becomes the highest spot around, i.e. the one with the most energy, it's now downhill to any other place
- while up there it's time to look around and see whether it's best to head left or right and how far ahead
- when the wave peaks line-up is about to end is the time to depart, typ. on a diagonal and often that ride is much smoother and longer than one would expect beforehand

Of course all this needs to happen through intuition and set-of-the-pants feeling, not thinking. But one of the fascinating things about surfskiing for me is how amazingly complex the dynamics are and so I enjoy thinking about them too...

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4 days 11 hours ago #39897 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic stayin' high on da wave
I think it is so situational.

I paddle a slow ski, so if I'm to catch a wave I need to start building speed while in the trough. On smaller waves if the bow starts to bury I lose all speed and then the wave is gone. So maybe this person was talking about keeping the bow out of the trough.

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1 day 1 hour ago #39904 by LaPerouseBay

A couple of months ago a friend of mine, much better surfskier than I am, as he was effortlessly cruising by told me "you need to stay higher on the wave, hang out there 'til the last moment, there's a ton of power there and you can then sling-shot to the next wave". I was paddling with full energy yet he was just zooming by with much less exertion, so there had to be something to it...

On my south shore run, I'm blessed with big swells starting from a zero fetch. The wind direction creates the more dominant swell. It's relatively easy to see and feel on the water, not so much on video. That said, it is the ocean, so there are tides, currents and bathymetry that help confuse things and create surprises. That's a good thing... Basically, it's extremely organized and perfect for practicing tough lines. Tough as in what you describe below. That's the key to learning to downwind.

I've been practicing since. Lots of falling off the wave. Lots of getting spun around teetering at the top. But slowly I've been getting the hang of it. I'm still trying to come to grips with what 'staying high on the wave' really does and why it works. I'd love to hear how others explain it!

Keep doing that. It's the best way to learn. You will put that to good use later. Without it, you will never reach your potential. A stable boat helps, but it's not necessary if you don't mind climbing in. That's how I learned.

Try to think of the "y" axis as much as possible. That's where the long, drawn out speed is.


What I seem to be learning is:
- the deepest trough is where the troughs of multiple wave trains line up, that's a great visual marker for what is happening, but not the place to zoom into 'cause it can only go uphill from there
- by staying back, looking at that deepest trough just ahead, one waits for the peaks of the wave trains to line up, that becomes the highest spot around, i.e. the one with the most energy, it's now downhill to any other place
- while up there it's time to look around and see whether it's best to head left or right and how far ahead
- when the wave peaks line-up is about to end is the time to depart, typ. on a diagonal and often that ride is much smoother and longer than one would expect beforehand

Spot on. If you get a camera with a speedometer, you will see just how slow some of those troughs are. Sometimes you can shoot thru them, but if you had a cam, you'd see that most those pits are quicksand.

Of course all this needs to happen through intuition and set-of-the-pants feeling, not thinking. But one of the fascinating things about surfskiing for me is how amazingly complex the dynamics are and so I enjoy thinking about them too...

You might be surprised how quickly the guesswork goes away. Seat of the pants certainly helps, it's what tells us when that crossing smaller bump is right under our hips.

You can show video to your friend and he will immediately verify or discount your opinions - as you watch it together. I did it with my laptop in a parking lot with a pro many years ago and that was it. The pro said "see that little pyramid right there?" "Follow that". I started to practice it, watched the next videos. Done, speedo proved it. Deceptive on the water, but that line is plain as day on a head cam and it settled the matter for me, once and for all.

Most of us use cams on the head, because it's so easy and best for our own knowledge. Tail cams are best for helping to explain to people that don't understand much about downwinding. All that boat in the video makes it more "interesting" to other viewers. It helps give perspective to the size of the water. Best to use a head cam with your own speed readout and learn from yourself. Then show a few minutes to your friend as you both watch it. It's highly dependent on the individual paddler and the conditions. Your friend has seen you on the water, he will know what to advise.

As for staying high to fly, here's a good example. It's a video of me, 9 years ago, on the south shore. Very windy, but a zero fetch sets up steep, tight swell faces. I'd been in ski about 2 years. I was in the gen 1 V-10. No rocker, seat too far back. Steered like a pig. That's my GPS watch on my head. Better signal up there.

I would intentionally start at a challenging launching point with the wind blowing in my left ear, and force myself to go across the waves, to my left. That's good training for the north shore. Steep faces with a piece of shit boat like the old 10 is great for learning how to hold back. Going straight is not how to learn downwinding. I could not go right on those big, easy to catch swells going out to sea, I had to go left to the shore as quickly as possible.

Watch the speed graph. That high speed (as I'm not paddling, just looking around for where to go) is the boat falling slowly down the "y" axis. And the x or z axis is nudging me along, keeping me on the face. I only sprint hard to get that little crossing bump to help me go left. If I'm at the top of the "Y" axis my work is done. I catch my breath. Strong guys can do more. But that's how us old guys learn to hang at the top - using the ocean. Rest and extend the glide before sprinting. Sprint only when the effort will help you gain enough momentum to glide back up to the top of the "Y" axis. If done properly, the nose of the boat will be down the entire time. x and z axis do that part.

Boyan did a write up on the basics. To paraphrase, "Just go across the waves - using the minimal effort to extend the glide - it will become obvious where to steer" I'm sorta doing that here, but with hard sprints. I'm certainly not going down the easy glides to the right, but sometimes that's necessary. That's the beauty of downwinding. Get a speedometer and show video to your friend. He will spot tiny improvements that will shorten your learning curve.


downwind dilettante
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