Paddles of choice: Vertical Element Explorer
South Devon, Lizard, North Wales
What is it?
Playing in a sea kayak is getting more popular now. A sea kayak can accelerate onto a wave early and can be paddled quickly to escape from tricky situations, or can be paddled quickly into tricky situations depending on what you’re into. Some folk prefer to use plastic kayaks so they can take more hits and that’s fine. I prefer to avoid boat abuse, I look for slightly higher volume rock gaps and paddle my composite Romany. I carry an extensive repair kit so I can fix the boat or others boats if I need to. For those that have paddled with me you’ll know that repairs do happen quite often, its kinda part of it.
Surfing: Hanging out in Surf zones in a sixteen foot craft can make other water users feel a little vulnerable and I wouldn’t want a sixteen foot craft hurtling towards me. Its important to find breaks which are quieter or more suitable for a long boat.
Surfing a sea kayak in waves above four feet can be really challenging, in surf of that size, rips and other strong currents are present. Around the south west of the UK, swells are common and areas can quickly go from mellow to hectic, just with a tide change or a change in the wind direction. It’s a great experience to surf a long boat well. There are lots of sea kayaks being developed to be good at playing, however, surfing a classic shape/length, is where the skills are.
Rock Gardens: These are areas of the coast which have rocks and gullies, usually under cliffs of near to islands. This is a technical undertaking and I’d Definitely recommend checking out the ISKGA courses and incident management modules to fully understand this environment.
Tides: Tideraces and overfalls are a place which our sea kayaks excel, the longer wave length and the speed which the water moves is great for long boats.
Sea kayaks are fast and can accelerate onto the green/top waves of a tiderace. A tiderace is where tides increase in speed due to the restricted and compressed flow. This usually happens off of headlands or between islands. Sometimes in these places, its clear to see the water flowing down hill and the sea works like a river. Eddylines, standing waves and other river features are present in these locations.
An overfall is a tiderace that works in conjunction with an underwater feature such as rock, reef, sandbar or man-made structure. Its amazing and one of the best examples is the Bitches tiderace in Pembrokeshire.
One of the best waves I have surfed is the Grey Dogs tide-race near Oban, West Scotland. It’s loud, just like a river and its also very remote. Surfing the wave felt amazing as part of an expedition which I did a couple of years ago to explore that area.