Facing the chop

By Jim on Monday, December 19, 2011

After competing in the 20 Beaches Ocean Series many paddlers were left wondering how to cope with that headland chop.  The runners (see our 'catching runners' podcast) were fantastic all the way but each headland threw up the choppy challenge. 

Competitors would be racing along then suddenly found themselves bouncing up and down on the spot just trying to stay afloat.  

What is the advice from experts? Mykayakcoach and Women's winner Kirsty Holmes, said,  "that the backwash water off headlands isn't easy for any of us and there is no easy way to articulate it either.  It is difficult water for anyone to paddle in and I'd have to say the biggest thing is to try to keep the boat running and keep your rythym.  Not easy when you have pieces of water/chop stopping you.  You will still have runners but there is also the refraction of water off the rocks and the groundswell coming into it.  Make the most of the runs that are there and try to look for the groundswells running either off the headland or into it to keep the boat moving - depending on which way your travelling.  Because of the difficult water it may mean you have to shorten your stroke to keep the rythym.  There will be sections where it will flatten out and these are the sections you should try to go hard and get on anything to propell you.  Explaining how to run an ocean is a bit like trying to tell someone how to surf.  There is really only so much advice you can give verbally.  The teaching is in getting out there and practising which I'm sure you know.  Hope this helps a little."

I believe the most under rated thing in ocean paddling is staying on your pedals. The pedals on the craft are only ever thought of at the start or finish of the race to get you in and out of the ocean.

The thing with keeping your feet on the pedals it helps you to react quickly to the chop.

When paddling next to a headland you often need to paddle back out to sea on the rebound wash then straighten up to catch the wind or ground swell. If your not using your pedals you can't steer quick enough as the swell doesn't wait for you.

We may cover this one a little more but meanwhile, if you have questions or comments, please use the feedback form below and share you wisdoms.


Twenty Beaches 2009 Surf Ski Race from Ocean Sports Media on Vimeo.