Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Launch in Shorebreak Without Getting Hammered

Adam BolonskyPhoto: Several feet if not a yard of two's ape-knuckling is not unusual when launching in steep shorebreak, as this sea kayaker (me, ten years ago) demonstrates.
Sea Kayaker Magazine's Handbook of Safety and Rescue

How to launch in shorebreak:

The safest, most effective way is to keep the kayak's bow square to the incoming waves.

Set-up is key. Straddle your kayak in water just deep enough to float it.

Use your shins - or bend over and hold the cockpit rim - to keep the kayak's bow square to the incoming waves.

Wait for an incoming wave to pass beneath the bow. Drop into the cockpit. Immediately. If you have time before the next wave arrives and breaks, secure your sprayskirt.

(Make sure the sprayskirt's loop is OUT, in case you have to wet exit in the surf.)

(If you don't have time to secure the sprayskirt, anticipate pumping the cockpit once you're outside the break zone.)

Press your feet firmly against the footpegs and create sufficient torso rotation to punch out through the surf using short and fast powerful strokes.

Once you're safely outside the shorebreak, pump out any water that may have dumped into the cockpit. Then turn your bow beachward to let your paddling companions see you're safe and secure.


- Keeping your bow square to the waves during set-up is a lot more difficult than it might seem.
A sea kayak's length creates leverage that incoming waves exploit.

Incoming waves don't need much time to sweep your kayak sideways parallel to the surf, and with you in the cockpit capsize you beachward.
If the above happens, sidle out of the cockpit and start again.

- Get out of the kayak on the seaward side if you have to start all over again. Don't get caught between the kayak and the beach - the position is a recipe for getting run down by your kayak and perhaps having your leg broken

- Once you're out of the kayak on the seaward side, grab the bow toggle, let the kayak swing square to the incoming waves once more, pump out the cockpit, and set up again.

TIP: If you're in a group, more experienced paddlers should launch first, to ensure that newbies have someone to look after them in the shorebreak.

A second equally experienced paddler should be last to launch to act as pitcher for newbies: to hold the newbies' bows square to the waves and to give each a push to boost them through the shorebreak.

Here's a related book on kayaking rough water. It's written by Alex Matthews, a fellow writer at WaveLength Magazine:

Sea Kayaking Rough Waters by Alex Matthews.

Also, if you're interested, here's a well-reviewed book on planning and paddling a trip through Alaska's famed remote Inside Passage:
Kayaking Alaska's Inside Passage

(c) 2013 Just Another Guy Named Dave


Mike J said...

good advice, Adam. I was using these techniques this week with students on Vancouver Island's west coast.

Adam Bolonsky said...

Thanks for commenting, Mike. I noticed on your blog that you were using SPOT recently to post OK messages to your blog.


Darrel Gardener just completed his three months trip up Alaska's Inside Passage. He sent SPOT OK messages daily.

By the way, if anyone is interested in testing a SPOT beacon, contact me. SPOT's pr department sent me several demo units to share with outdoors enthusiasts.

Anonymous said...


why, you're quite handsome!!

congratulations!! :-)

Adam Bolonsky said...

Thanks, anon. Hiring a stand-in for photo shoots is expensive but worth the money.

Now, if I could only find a good body double for the nude scenes....