Manage a Kayak In Rough Weather
Prep for paddling into big seas, stay stable, and know how to self-rescue.
>> Plan for rough seas
Select a wide (more stable) boat and always bring a paddle float, a self-rescue device that turns your paddle into an outrigger. (Store safety gear in an easy-access spot in the cockpit.) Before venturing into surf, hone your paddling technique in calm water: Power your stroke from your core and flex your hips to maneuver the boat. Also, learn how to wet exit (lean forward, grip your paddle under your arm, loosen your spray skirt, and somersault completely out of the kayak before surfacing). Practice your self-rescue (see below).
>> Face waves head-on
Don’t venture into frothy seas unless you’ve mastered kayaking essentials, including an Eskimo roll. Hit big rollers perpendicular to their crests and maintain your speed to power over them (instead of slipping backward down the wave’s face). Be alert to avoid colliding with other boaters, and use a low brace to avoid flipping: With a pushup-like arm position, turn the paddle blade parallel with the water. Slap the water’s surface to steady the kayak as you snap your hips and pull up with your lowest knee.
>> If you capsize, self-rescue
Hold on to your boat and paddle, and position yourself on the boat’s downwind side. Use your paddle float it to selfrescue: Retrieve your float and inflate it around a blade of your paddle. Flip your kayak (turn the cockpit toward you so it scoops less water), secure the shaft to the deck rigging behind the seat, and use your floating paddle as an outrigger (A). Climb into the cockpit, one leg at a time, facing backward (B). Weight the float so the boat doesn’t flip toward the unsupported side. Continue weighting the paddle while you adjust and turn into the seat (C). Remove the paddle, restow your float securely, and use a bilge pump to empty the boat before continuing. Pretrip, practice other self- and assisted-rescue techniques like the reentry roll and T-rescue.