Author Topic: catching bumps  (Read 11983 times)

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catching bumps
« on: February 25, 2007, 08:04PM »
This was posted on   Some good stuff.
Don't know the original author (named Erik)

Downwind Technique Part 1

Jeff and others, I had a great 14.3 mile downwind run yesterday in 3-5 foot waves and had a lot of time to think about other points of downwind paddling. I donít want to sound like Iím lecturing too much on this but it took me a while to Ďfigure it outí and piece together tips from better downwind paddlers. I think that the more you understand the techniques, the better you get, because some of them are counter-intuitive.

Wind waves are of two types. They are either like parallel straight lines that stretch for 50-100 yds wide or so and are uniform in size, shape, speed. These happen from boat wake and from wind waves that come around a point or through some geographic Ďfilterí. Or, they are like semicircles or fishscales when viewed from above. These second type need more open water to form.

The parallel waves (Iíll call them type 1) tend to be smaller and are easier to catch and surf downwind. They also wonít separate out the paddlers much because everyone is kind of stuck behind the long wave in front of them. These waves are easy to be good at because they donít take much skill to ride and stay with. There also is rarely a shoulder to go around to get to the next trough in front of you. Generally, you just point straight downwind and wait for the opening in front of you to open up and ďride over one or two like ball bearingsĒ.

The scallop shape or semi-circle type, roughly 10-30 yds wide, (Type 2)are where the novices are separated out from the experts. And these can be very frustrating for beginners as they give the illusion of not being regular or uniform and being confused and tough to surf. But, there is lots of predictability in them and lots of speed to find. The idea is to surf down the biggest or steepest part of the wave and veer off diagonnally while you have lots of momentum. Picture the semi-circle shape of the wave and you started in the middle. You want to get your speed there and then maneuver over to one of the shoulders so that you are going diagonnally. Here (and this is the crucial part that separates the Chalupskys from the others) you will need to choose a course that keeps and builds your speed up again. I look for the lowest trough that I can get my bow into in 2-3 seconds with the idea that the trough will deepen and a wave will rise under my butt, and Iíll find myself on a wave again and repeat the whole process. Usually, the first trough you put your bow into will only be small and wonít deepen much, but it will keep your speed and youíll change course a bit go to the next little trough and so on, until it deepens and now youíre on a good wave so you turn down the face to gain speed. Keep in mind that the shoulders of these waves run off at about 45 degrees to the direction of the faces and these are the underlying or secondary waves that are vital to keep and generate speed. You must use them.

Other points to consider: Youíll know that you are not going very well if waves come over you from behind and swamp your cockpit. Thatís called a stall and it will happen less and less when you get better. If you aim straight downwind, it will happen over and over again in these types of waves. The way to get out of a stall is to turn 45 degrees and look for the little shoulder waves to build speed. Now donít get overly anxious and waste your energy trying to outrun these, stay with them until your course reveals new troughs in front of you to use and turn downwind into them.

The bigger the type 2 waves are, the harder they are to catch, but the more speed and distance you can get from them. These big waves travel faster and have a longer top so they take a harder sprint to get over and drop into. When you do catch them, you have more opportunity to navigate over to the next promising area because your speed and momentum are high, so youíre more likely to catch another big one. The same technique still applies - 45 deg angle left or right (turn off too soon and you lose momentum, too late and youíll stall in the wave ahead of you), build some new speed or just keep momentum on the shoulder waves, and look for an opportunity to sprint and drop into the next one.

Focus on whatís in front of you, not the waves behind you. Youíre looking for troughs, not waves. Bigger waves will have deeper troughs in front of and behind them. The small 45 degree shoulder waves are the key and are always there with the type 2 waves.

Generally, the bigger the type 2 waves, the more speed that is required to catch them. The big swell in the Molokai race is almost unusable because it goes so fast (20 mph or so). The Molokai race is about catching the shoulder waves and smaller wind waves to get speed and only then, you can turn down a swell and get more speed and distance.

Hope this helps and wasnít too long winded.

Downwind Technique Part2

While Iím not an expert in the big stuff, I have learned some things from better big water paddlers that might help.

   1. Your speed is pretty much determined by the speed of the bumps, the better downwind paddlers let fewer waves pass underneath them (they miss fewer waves). The wind waves that we get in big bays (not ocean swell) march along at a regular speed and intermittently rise up and then flatten out. If you stay at the same speed of the wave, the wave will rise up again underneath you. You can paddle over a very small wave with momentum or brute force, but not a mid size wave. Understand this, and youíll save energy and learn when and when not to paddle hard.
   2. When on a wave, resist the immediate urge to accelerate to the trough in front of you as youíll just hit the backside of the wave in front of you and stall. Rather, pause until the wave in front of you starts to flatten out a little, then use your potential speed to surf your wave and go up and over the now smaller wave in front of you.
   3. When the water is relatively flat ahead of you, sprint as this is free distance that you can get.
   4. Always keep looking left and right ahead of you for a trough to start opening up. Put the nose of your ski in there and before you know it, youíll be on a rising wave.
   5. When youíre on the rising wave or a big wave, look left and right and move to the center of the wave as thatís where it will be biggest. Again, stay on the wave as long as itís good, and as long as there is no place to go in front of you. If it does go down, and there is a wave ahead of you that you canít go over, use your momentum to paddle left or right around the wave in front of you - avoid burying your bow into the wave in front of you and stalling. Now, while you attempted to go around the wave in front of you, you wonít make it, but youíll have kept your momentum and possible found another trough to stick your nose into.
   6. Speed begets more speed. In other words, the faster you are going, the easier you can navigate the waves and keep your speed.
   7. Look for a secondary wave direction and this may be tough to see, but these are usually reflected waves moving kind of in your direction. Use these when your speed drops and you donít see anything of the primary waves to surf immediately. You can make this your default turning direction and use this just to keep some momentum for a few seconds.
   8. Downwind paddling is a series of short sprints with rests. Itís all timing.
   9. Be aggressive.
  10. Donít paddle hard uphill. Keep whatever momentum you have and turn so your boat levels out and start looking for the next wave.
  11. Look for the bigger waves that are "out there" follow them as far as you can. If they get ahead of you, look for an opportunity to get in front of them again when theyíre in their "trough" or flat phase. Use more energy to catch and stay with these bigger waves and theyíll pay off.

Written by Erik

Some other links

Pacific paddler article

powering up article by jude

jude on currents

jude on surfing
« Last Edit: March 05, 2007, 09:40AM by cho »
A ship in harbor is safe - but that is not what ships are for.


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Re: catching bumps
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2007, 11:10AM »
Cho -
Can we arrange a meeting to talk about this article with all of our steersmen and women (particularly those who want to steer in Molokai, as we will encounter TYpe 2 waves throughout the race).

I think there are some really great points within this article and a great deal can be learned if we sit down and have a "pow-pow".

Your thoughts?