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How to catch bumps going downwind?

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I have been paddling for a couple years now and what has me more intrigued then anything is downwind surfing. I would consider myself fit, and on most races I do well, but on downwind some of these guys are otherworldly fast, as in “eh? How’d he do that?”

I know they have more experience then I do, but what is it that they know? My hunch is there is a slew of techniques one could use to build surfing abilities and speed up the learning process. I feel lost out there.
Can you offer some advice?

1 Answer

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If you are ready to take your paddling beyond flat water and into the surf, you should have most of the basic skills under your belt and have 1) a safety routine in place that includes safety gear (leash, life jacket, signal device, etc), 2) solutions to problems that you might encounter while offshore, 3) someone who knows your route in the case you do not return in time and/or a partner to join you.

We will get more into this later. But to answer your question in brief, I will ramble my thoughts on the subject of how to paddle downwind.

Paddling/surfing downwind is organic in nature, there are some aspects that you just can’t teach and must be experienced. However, there are some rules of thumb that many agree with and that you can use to help  understand what is happening out there. First, learn to identify ground swell from wind swell, ground swell will also bounce off the coast line and come back out, in some run’s you are switching from ground swell, to percussion waves to wind swell, so its almost a zig zag line as you jump from one direction and swell, to another. Take a mental note when bumps group together and how/where they do it, it will be different based on tides, reef line, wind strength etc, you will begin to see patterns that you can experiment with. With time you will learn to read the run (ie: Maliko, Hawaii Kai, The Doctor, The Gorge, Dune etc) and understand its idiosyncrasies.

Try to keep the nose of your canoe down, as in towards gravity, climbing the back of a wave will slow you down and once you crest you might not be able to drop in. Another tip, don’t always go straight (ie: perpendicular) with the wave, you will want to ride the wave as long as you can, so veer left or right and in the angle that keeps your nose down but without pearling. If you do pearl, lean back or grab some water with you paddle or hand. Fly your ama to avoid waves from moving your line or from the ama creating drag and slowing down your ride. To fly your ama lean right and brace with your paddle blade if needed, careful again to not drag and slow down your ride as you will fall off the bump and need to build momentum again to ride another wave.

Don’t paddle ahead or beyond the trough, you might be tempted to push through, but wait for the opening first, then shoot, always keeping your nose down and avoiding the backs of any swell in front of you. The bigger bumps are not the fastest ride, while they are fun to ride they might leave you having to start over to get in better position. Select your waves based on your hull speed, if you stalled do not try and catch the next big wave, instead work your way up till your hull speed makes it easier to catch bumps, avoiding the backs of any waves in front of you.

Keep your eye on the trough, this is where you want to paddle towards when the bumps are building, then back off just enough or steer once you are on a ride and begin to hunt down your next runner or bump. If you veer right/left for a long time you might end up too far offshore or too far inside of the wind line, so be sure to look for good opportunities to surf back into the best line. Surfing left is challenging for most, especially in bigger surf, ama flying is critical at this point. Keep in mind the ama does not need to be high, just clear of the water, think of it as skimming the surface. Hip control and stability should be something you work to improve -and it will with time, but the faster you can get this down the sooner you will be in more control.

Your stroke rate, technique and how hard you push; all play a role in catching a bump. If you rely solely on your strength you will burn out eventually, learning when to push and when to cruise is all part of it. To help you get started try having 4 different tempo’s and styles (I’m really just thinking out loud here) 1: Big & deep (keep you from getting sucked back, start to build momentum) 2: Strong and smooth (pushing you closer, more momentum, good technique) 3: Tap, fast (upfront and quick to drop in, who cares about technique here, do what it takes to get it in) 4: Balance, easy and with style (ama up, line is right, recover, don’t disturb the boat, look good for the ladies).

Jumping waves or catching a series of waves are big bonus points and will help you reach your goals of getting faster and annoying the guy who started the run saying he was just going 60% low heart rate (bwah). To get better at this you have to be patient as you build your skills and learn from others. The more time you spend downwind, the better and faster you will become. Stay humble and you will keep learning,  we are all students of the ocean and can only bask in its most awesome glory.

PS: We are working on getting some real champ guys to put an article together on this subject, but here is my experience for you, I hope it helps. Also, check out Keizo’s game on http://www.ocpaddler.com/game

Your Answer

Category: Tags: asked September 27, 2012

1 Answer

0

If you are ready to take your paddling beyond flat water and into the surf, you should have most of the basic skills under your belt and have 1) a safety routine in place that includes safety gear (leash, life jacket, signal device, etc), 2) solutions to problems that you might encounter while offshore, 3) someone who knows your route in the case you do not return in time and/or a partner to join you.

We will get more into this later. But to answer your question in brief, I will ramble my thoughts on the subject of how to paddle downwind.

Paddling/surfing downwind is organic in nature, there are some aspects that you just can’t teach and must be experienced. However, there are some rules of thumb that many agree with and that you can use to help  understand what is happening out there. First, learn to identify ground swell from wind swell, ground swell will also bounce off the coast line and come back out, in some run’s you are switching from ground swell, to percussion waves to wind swell, so its almost a zig zag line as you jump from one direction and swell, to another. Take a mental note when bumps group together and how/where they do it, it will be different based on tides, reef line, wind strength etc, you will begin to see patterns that you can experiment with. With time you will learn to read the run (ie: Maliko, Hawaii Kai, The Doctor, The Gorge, Dune etc) and understand its idiosyncrasies.

Try to keep the nose of your canoe down, as in towards gravity, climbing the back of a wave will slow you down and once you crest you might not be able to drop in. Another tip, don’t always go straight (ie: perpendicular) with the wave, you will want to ride the wave as long as you can, so veer left or right and in the angle that keeps your nose down but without pearling. If you do pearl, lean back or grab some water with you paddle or hand. Fly your ama to avoid waves from moving your line or from the ama creating drag and slowing down your ride. To fly your ama lean right and brace with your paddle blade if needed, careful again to not drag and slow down your ride as you will fall off the bump and need to build momentum again to ride another wave.

Don’t paddle ahead or beyond the trough, you might be tempted to push through, but wait for the opening first, then shoot, always keeping your nose down and avoiding the backs of any swell in front of you. The bigger bumps are not the fastest ride, while they are fun to ride they might leave you having to start over to get in better position. Select your waves based on your hull speed, if you stalled do not try and catch the next big wave, instead work your way up till your hull speed makes it easier to catch bumps, avoiding the backs of any waves in front of you.

Keep your eye on the trough, this is where you want to paddle towards when the bumps are building, then back off just enough or steer once you are on a ride and begin to hunt down your next runner or bump. If you veer right/left for a long time you might end up too far offshore or too far inside of the wind line, so be sure to look for good opportunities to surf back into the best line. Surfing left is challenging for most, especially in bigger surf, ama flying is critical at this point. Keep in mind the ama does not need to be high, just clear of the water, think of it as skimming the surface. Hip control and stability should be something you work to improve -and it will with time, but the faster you can get this down the sooner you will be in more control.

Your stroke rate, technique and how hard you push; all play a role in catching a bump. If you rely solely on your strength you will burn out eventually, learning when to push and when to cruise is all part of it. To help you get started try having 4 different tempo’s and styles (I’m really just thinking out loud here) 1: Big & deep (keep you from getting sucked back, start to build momentum) 2: Strong and smooth (pushing you closer, more momentum, good technique) 3: Tap, fast (upfront and quick to drop in, who cares about technique here, do what it takes to get it in) 4: Balance, easy and with style (ama up, line is right, recover, don’t disturb the boat, look good for the ladies).

Jumping waves or catching a series of waves are big bonus points and will help you reach your goals of getting faster and annoying the guy who started the run saying he was just going 60% low heart rate (bwah). To get better at this you have to be patient as you build your skills and learn from others. The more time you spend downwind, the better and faster you will become. Stay humble and you will keep learning,  we are all students of the ocean and can only bask in its most awesome glory.

PS: We are working on getting some real champ guys to put an article together on this subject, but here is my experience for you, I hope it helps. Also, check out Keizo’s game on http://www.ocpaddler.com/game