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Sunday, December 22, 2013

How to Paddle Out in Big Waves and Surf

It’s the morning you’ve been anticipating, the surf forecast says the surf is firing off the local  buoy at 12 feet every 15 seconds.  Time to grab your board off your surf rack and go!  

But once you get to the beach, you realize that 12 foot waves mean 12+ foot white water.  Because waves are a transfer of energy from wind; the stronger the wind, the larger the surf.  How are you suppose to paddle out through all that soup?    


The 3 most important things to ask yourself:  

  • Where are the peaks - Is there a channel?  
  • Which way is current going?
  • How much time in between sets?

These questions usually can be answered in 10 seconds and will save you serious time and energy. 

(1) Locate the Peaks and Channels

It is important to locate the peaks, because that tells you where the majority of the energy is concentrated. Peaks really look like mountain peaks.  Breaks can have one or more peaks.

You want to find the channel if there is one because this way you are not paddling out where the energy is focused.  Channels are found in two places, in between two peaks and to the extreme left or right of the break. Think of a pathway through the waves; like the yellow brick road to shreddville.  

(2) Watch the Currents

Currents also play a big roll in paddling out during big surf.  Currents running parallel to the beach can push you into or out of a channel.  Rip currents can create channels, but watch out, sometimes they’ll suck you out too far.  


Currents also can change direction.  Just because the current is moving north close to the beach does not mean it will be moving north further out.  Try and understand how the currents are moving for the whole path you plan to take.

(3) Time the Sets

You’ve got to pay attention to the time between sets.  Paddle out when the first set wave is breaking outside.  This way by the time the wave hits you the energy will be dissipated and when the lull between sets comes you will be pushing through the most difficult part of the paddle.  

Lastly, in paddling out through big surf, you need speed, strength, and determination.  Only with all three will you make it to the outside.  There is nothing like making it through the white water to the outside and realizing you battled the ocean and won.  She threw her best at you but you would not be denied.   

Tell me about your biggest wave.  Where were you and why is it memorable?  How did you paddle out to get it?