stayin' high on da wave

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3 months 1 week ago #39893 by tve
stayin' high on da wave was created by tve
A couple of months ago a friend of mine, much better surfskier than I am, as he was effortlessly cruising by told me "you need to stay higher on the wave, hang out there 'til the last moment, there's a ton of power there and you can then sling-shot to the next wave". I was paddling with full energy yet he was just zooming by with much less exertion, so there had to be something to it...

I've been practicing since. Lots of falling off the wave. Lots of getting spun around teetering at the top. But slowly I've been getting the hang of it. I'm still trying to come to grips with what 'staying high on the wave' really does and why it works. I'd love to hear how others explain it!

I'm talking about dynamic ocean conditions where there are multiple intersecting wave trains and typ some long swell in addition, not "simple" situations where one can park oneself on top of a wave and just sit there. I used to look for the deepest trough, point the nose there, catch the wave and then maximize speed, ideally going in a diagonal, hoping to link to the next big trough. But often this sent me either into the back of a wave ahead or into a wasteland without anything to catch.

What I seem to be learning is:
- the deepest trough is where the troughs of multiple wave trains line up, that's a great visual marker for what is happening, but not the place to zoom into 'cause it can only go uphill from there
- by staying back, looking at that deepest trough just ahead, one waits for the peaks of the wave trains to line up, that becomes the highest spot around, i.e. the one with the most energy, it's now downhill to any other place
- while up there it's time to look around and see whether it's best to head left or right and how far ahead
- when the wave peaks line-up is about to end is the time to depart, typ. on a diagonal and often that ride is much smoother and longer than one would expect beforehand

Of course all this needs to happen through intuition and set-of-the-pants feeling, not thinking. But one of the fascinating things about surfskiing for me is how amazingly complex the dynamics are and so I enjoy thinking about them too...

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3 months 1 week ago #39897 by mrcharly
Replied by mrcharly on topic stayin' high on da wave
I think it is so situational.

I paddle a slow ski, so if I'm to catch a wave I need to start building speed while in the trough. On smaller waves if the bow starts to bury I lose all speed and then the wave is gone. So maybe this person was talking about keeping the bow out of the trough.

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3 months 4 days ago #39904 by LaPerouseBay

A couple of months ago a friend of mine, much better surfskier than I am, as he was effortlessly cruising by told me "you need to stay higher on the wave, hang out there 'til the last moment, there's a ton of power there and you can then sling-shot to the next wave". I was paddling with full energy yet he was just zooming by with much less exertion, so there had to be something to it...

On my south shore run, I'm blessed with big swells starting from a zero fetch. The wind direction creates the more dominant swell. It's relatively easy to see and feel on the water, not so much on video. That said, it is the ocean, so there are tides, currents and bathymetry that help confuse things and create surprises. That's a good thing... Basically, it's extremely organized and perfect for practicing tough lines. Tough as in what you describe below. That's the key to learning to downwind.

I've been practicing since. Lots of falling off the wave. Lots of getting spun around teetering at the top. But slowly I've been getting the hang of it. I'm still trying to come to grips with what 'staying high on the wave' really does and why it works. I'd love to hear how others explain it!

Keep doing that. It's the best way to learn. You will put that to good use later. Without it, you will never reach your potential. A stable boat helps, but it's not necessary if you don't mind climbing in. That's how I learned.

Try to think of the "y" axis as much as possible. That's where the long, drawn out speed is.


What I seem to be learning is:
- the deepest trough is where the troughs of multiple wave trains line up, that's a great visual marker for what is happening, but not the place to zoom into 'cause it can only go uphill from there
- by staying back, looking at that deepest trough just ahead, one waits for the peaks of the wave trains to line up, that becomes the highest spot around, i.e. the one with the most energy, it's now downhill to any other place
- while up there it's time to look around and see whether it's best to head left or right and how far ahead
- when the wave peaks line-up is about to end is the time to depart, typ. on a diagonal and often that ride is much smoother and longer than one would expect beforehand

Spot on. If you get a camera with a speedometer, you will see just how slow some of those troughs are. Sometimes you can shoot thru them, but if you had a cam, you'd see that most those pits are quicksand.

Of course all this needs to happen through intuition and set-of-the-pants feeling, not thinking. But one of the fascinating things about surfskiing for me is how amazingly complex the dynamics are and so I enjoy thinking about them too...

You might be surprised how quickly the guesswork goes away. Seat of the pants certainly helps, it's what tells us when that crossing smaller bump is right under our hips.

You can show video to your friend and he will immediately verify or discount your opinions - as you watch it together. I did it with my laptop in a parking lot with a pro many years ago and that was it. The pro said "see that little pyramid right there?" "Follow that". I started to practice it, watched the next videos. Done, speedo proved it. Deceptive on the water, but that line is plain as day on a head cam and it settled the matter for me, once and for all.

Most of us use cams on the head, because it's so easy and best for our own knowledge. Tail cams are best for helping to explain to people that don't understand much about downwinding. All that boat in the video makes it more "interesting" to other viewers. It helps give perspective to the size of the water. Best to use a head cam with your own speed readout and learn from yourself. Then show a few minutes to your friend as you both watch it. It's highly dependent on the individual paddler and the conditions. Your friend has seen you on the water, he will know what to advise.

As for staying high to fly, here's a good example. It's a video of me, 9 years ago, on the south shore. Very windy, but a zero fetch sets up steep, tight swell faces. I'd been in ski about 2 years. I was in the gen 1 V-10. No rocker, seat too far back. Steered like a pig. That's my GPS watch on my head. Better signal up there.

I would intentionally start at a challenging launching point with the wind blowing in my left ear, and force myself to go across the waves, to my left. That's good training for the north shore. Steep faces with a piece of shit boat like the old 10 is great for learning how to hold back. Going straight is not how to learn downwinding. I could not go right on those big, easy to catch swells going out to sea, I had to go left to the shore as quickly as possible.

Watch the speed graph. That high speed (as I'm not paddling, just looking around for where to go) is the boat falling slowly down the "y" axis. And the x or z axis is nudging me along, keeping me on the face. I only sprint hard to get that little crossing bump to help me go left. If I'm at the top of the "Y" axis my work is done. I catch my breath. Strong guys can do more. But that's how us old guys learn to hang at the top - using the ocean. Rest and extend the glide before sprinting. Sprint only when the effort will help you gain enough momentum to glide back up to the top of the "Y" axis. If done properly, the nose of the boat will be down the entire time. x and z axis do that part.

Boyan did a write up on the basics. To paraphrase, "Just go across the waves - using the minimal effort to extend the glide - it will become obvious where to steer" I'm sorta doing that here, but with hard sprints. I'm certainly not going down the easy glides to the right, but sometimes that's necessary. That's the beauty of downwinding. Get a speedometer and show video to your friend. He will spot tiny improvements that will shorten your learning curve.


downwind dilettante
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3 months 2 days ago #39913 by LaPerouseBay
Here's how those same conditions look in a "beginner" ski, the V-8P. I'm way outside again and need to get to the shore on my left. The biggest, longest lasting swells are going straight down the coast (slightly out actually, to that other island, Kahoolawe). That's another disadvantage of video, it's hard to see the peripheral. But the main swell going parallel to the coast. My focus it to get across those bombs and get to the beach.

It's hard to see on the video, but I can feel it and see it on the water when the big rights are rolling under me. That's the "y" axis going up and down. I use minimal effort to synch up with the top of that swell, then start chasing those little bumps going to my left, hoping they will feed me onto or - keep me on - the face of the big energy. I keep chasing left, taking little bites of the right.


downwind dilettante

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2 months 3 weeks ago #39929 by LaPerouseBay
Here's how I train across waves. Aim at the shore, slowly build speed on the little ones going left, then gradually drop into a big one going right. When up to speed - find a gate thru to the left - surf across the face of the swell with the nose pointed at the shore... If done properly, there will be long extended plateau on the speed graph. As the graph shows, I try twice, but never make it. The wave keeps bucking me off to my right.

This is in a skinny boat with rocker and a DK rudder. For me, it's fast and fun going relatively straight - zigging and zagging a little bit. However, if the wind gets too strong, I'm boned. I don't have the skill to paddle a skinny boat across big swell/wind. Summer wind can be unpredictable on the south shore. Once in a blue moon I'll take the 12 for a run, but it's got to be predictable and consistent wind.

The big rollers are clear as day on the speed graph. It's quite accurate. Long flat lines are what I'm after. Everyone's speed will be different depending on the current, wind etc. Paddler weight has big effect on the path. Extend out as far as possible, stay on that big energy, surfing.

No luck in this one, but that's how I find my limits.



Wind came up good yesterday. I was in the 9. Speed graph behaves the same - easy to see the big energy going to my right. With all the spray, you can see the wind direction too. I felt safe and snug as a bug in a rug. The 9 can dive into anything and come out ok.


downwind dilettante

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2 months 3 weeks ago - 2 months 3 weeks ago #39941 by LaPerouseBay

I paddle a slow ski, so if I'm to catch a wave I need to start building speed while in the trough. On smaller waves if the bow starts to bury I lose all speed and then the wave is gone. So maybe this person was talking about keeping the bow out of the trough.
There are no 'slow boats' downwind. The surfski600 thread was very controversial because of that misconception.
When Oscar introduced the V-8, he paddled it in big races. He produced top 10 results in long downwind races, with mind boggling average speeds.
Boyan can fly in a V-5, 6, 8, or elite ski. All the pros can. Stable boats are fun downwind.
Here's a mile in a V-8P at 9.7mph average. Very fun. As the video shows, the ocean provides the high speed glides, not the paddler. I only guide the boat to the right spot and try to extend the glide.
Get a camera with the GPS in it. Gopro has the most accurate sample rate, at 18Hz. Overlay the speed, timer and distance and use this website for your average speed over any distance.
www.machinehead-software.co.uk/bike/spee...tance_time_calc.html

downwind dilettante
Last edit: 2 months 3 weeks ago by LaPerouseBay. Reason: music

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2 months 3 weeks ago #39944 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic stayin' high on da wave
LPB you are pretty cocksure to set a DW video to the Brandenburg concertos. They sent a recording of those to space on the voyager in the 1970s. Mathematical perfection and creative genius melded into one. You do really well though. Smooth calm and collected. I couldn’t pull that off nearly as well.

Current Skis: Epic v10 g3, NK 670 double, NK exrcize, Kai Wa’a Vega, Carbonology Feather, Think Jet, Knysna Sonic X
Former Skis: Epic V12 g2, Epic V12 g1, Epic v10 double, Nelo 550 g2, Fenn Elite S, Custom Kayaks Synergy

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2 months 3 weeks ago - 2 months 3 weeks ago #39945 by zachhandler
Replied by zachhandler on topic stayin' high on da wave
I actually really like it. the play between tension and release in the music actually mimics the rhythm of downwind pretty well. Sometimes it coincidentally lines up really nicely with the paddling. For instance around 1:10 you come close to stalling out just as the tension playfully rises and then it releases and soars just as you set off on the next run. I wanted your surfing to continue to the end of the movement though…

Current Skis: Epic v10 g3, NK 670 double, NK exrcize, Kai Wa’a Vega, Carbonology Feather, Think Jet, Knysna Sonic X
Former Skis: Epic V12 g2, Epic V12 g1, Epic v10 double, Nelo 550 g2, Fenn Elite S, Custom Kayaks Synergy
Last edit: 2 months 3 weeks ago by zachhandler.

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2 months 3 weeks ago #39946 by tve
Replied by tve on topic stayin' high on da wave

Here's how I train across waves. Aim at the shore, slowly build speed on the little ones going left, then gradually drop into a big one going right. When up to speed - find a gate thru to the left - surf across the face of the swell with the nose pointed at the shore... If done properly, there will be long extended plateau on the speed graph. As the graph shows, I try twice, but never make it. The wave keeps bucking me off to my right.

I'm not sure I see that in the video. The vid starts out with the ski pointed to the shore, but you have no speed. That's not gonna work, right? I have most success picking upi speed straight down the wave and then turning and trying to keep the speed up. But I don't get that amount of wind an such steep wind waves. The main trick seems to be to find the right place on the forward front of the wave. When going diagonal I end up much further down the wave than if I were going straight 'cause that reduces broaching. If I get to the top, e.g. 'cause the wave is overtaking me, the best I can do is a big paddle stroke to turn the ski straight down and try to rescue the situation, or relax and try to steer down the back and focus on the next one... But I suspect it depends a lot on conditions...

There are no 'slow boats' downwind. The surfski600 thread was very controversial because of that misconception.


Yes & no. I hated my intermediate ski. It has a fat ass for stability and the result is that on the one side it really wants to race down the wave and on the other it bucks and fights me tooth and nail if I want to pop over a wave. I call it a stop&go ski. Switching to a V10 was a revelation, it's all about momentum. I found it took more effort to get going but then.. what a bliss!

I'm sure that now, 2 years later, I would figure out how to make that first ski work, but for someone that was trying to learn all that surfing, linking, etc it was a bad ski. It looks like the V8/V9 keep momentum nicely, so it's really about the hull design and not about stable vs tippy.

I think that for most advancing surfskiers there's a phase where being perched at the top of the wave feels really unstable and that's just the moment where you want to be fully in control so you can evaluate the waves, make a decision, and execute. It seems there are two options: one is to switch to a more stable ski so you can learn to surf&link, the other is to stick to the ski to keep improving the balance. In the end both are really needed to advance, IMHO.

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2 months 3 weeks ago #39949 by LaPerouseBay

They sent a recording of those to space on the voyager in the 1970s. Mathematical perfection and creative genius melded into one.

Copy/Pasted from youtube:

caroline 1 year ago

For those who don't know about the story behind Bach's Brandenburg concertos. In 1721, Bach composed six “concertos for various instruments”. He dedicated them to a German nobleman and sent the manuscript as a gift, hoping to land a job as the court composer in Brandenburg. The nobleman never replied. Bach eventually took another job in Leipzig, where he lived for the rest of his life. The 6 concertos were lost for 130 years. They were never performed. The manuscript was eventually sold for about $20 and shelved in a library. The Brandenburg Concertos sat there until 1849, when they were discovered and published for the first time. Thank god.

I wanted your surfing to continue to the end of the movement though…

Poor editing. It will be fixed.

downwind dilettante

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2 months 3 weeks ago #39950 by LaPerouseBay

I'm not sure I see that in the video. The vid starts out with the ski pointed to the shore, but you have no speed. That's not gonna work, right?
That's correct, it's not going to 'work'. It's a drill. We all started out by chasing straight down everything in sight. The point of the 'drill' is to go to the other extreme and then dial it back.

I like to do it because it reminds me of how much I have to learn about going sideways across the big swells.

Here's a good article about downwinding. I remember reading it when I was just beginning and having no clue what he was talking about. I get it now.

www.kamanucomposites.com/2012/the-de-mys...n-of-surfing-an-oc-1

downwind dilettante

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2 months 3 weeks ago #39955 by tve
Replied by tve on topic stayin' high on da wave

Here's a good article about downwinding. I remember reading it when I was just beginning and having no clue what he was talking about. I get it now.
www.kamanucomposites.com/2012/the-de-mys...n-of-surfing-an-oc-1

That's indeed a good article, thanks for the pointer! I don't get the karate hand stuff at all (although I know well what he's trying to get to), but the other passages are so true!

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2 months 2 weeks ago - 2 months 2 weeks ago #39963 by LaPerouseBay

I don't get the karate hand stuff at all (although I know well what he's trying to get to)
Yes, the karate hand stuff is what I was hung up on too. You are well aware of the point he is trying to make. I can see it in your video over in the video thread.
For anyone else unsure of the karate hand analogy, here's what he's talking about. He starts the paragraph here:
Now comes the most important part. Every time you catch a wave you need to put all of your effort (mental and physical) into connecting into another wave. It doesn't happen by chance, it happens by scouting your opening and getting to it. The mogul analogy is particularly relevant here, because at this point you're literally going around the moguls. But, to take it one step further, you're using one mogul to propel your canoe to another.
The paragraph and the hand analogy are about one subject: "using one mogul to propel your canoe to another."
As the contact point of your fingers move, he's only describing one wave pushing across another. That's all. It's why he doesn't describe any direction to go or which hand is the larger wave. He's trying to keep it simple.
That's what my drilling across a wave is all about. I'm forcing myself to stay on the direction almost perpendicular to the main power of the wave. He calls it the 'face' of the wave. There are little bumps on the face of that bigger wave, I'm scouting those little diagonals, looking for one going my direction. I point my boat at the shore and keep it pointed at the shore.
I'll stay on that direction with or without the little wave pushing me, resisting the urge to turn down the face. When paddlers begin to realize that the little bumps that are aimed - in my case - at the shore - have a speed of their own, then it's time to start thinking about how those little waves are behaving.
It's the key to learning how to truly understand where the best energy is and how to let it 'catch you'. If you really watch the little ones, you will get better and better a gauging your efforts to time them. They seem to fade and accelerate across the 'wave face'. They are not changing speed, you are.
As the main energy lifts and drops on the "y" axis it affects the apparent speed of the little bump you are watching.
The key is to think of matching your speed to the little ones. The best way to learn to spot them is to focus ONLY on them and let the big faces go under. As Boyan says, "it will be obvious" when to turn down the big wave. You can't see it in my videos but I guarantee you that little bump is right under my hip when my graph goes flat. That's what we are after. Timing that push. That's how to "keep the nose down"
Flat graph lines are ONLY achieved by harnessing the stronger wave. NEVER by racing down the face of it burying the nose in the back of the next swell. The video has a narrow field of view so it's tough to see, particularly if you have not taken video of yourself. It's a big leap visually.
The best way to see the true shape of the water is to go sideways. Most novices do not understand this. That's why the karate chop analogy falls flat, they are overthinking it. I did. It's not hard. Novices and journeymen alike will all benefit from slowing down. Our best coach did it in his outrigger for 2 months. That's why nobody is as fast as Dave.

There is never a set rule of where to go in downwinding. But there are percentages to be exploited. Those high percentage catches exist across the big wave, not plunging down it. Plunging down should happen only as a last resort. You will probably be ending a 'run' and out of options. That's a potential to keep going, but usually low odds. Some of those trenches are quicksand and need to be avoided. My speed graph taught me that.
In all the videos I've included in this thread, I'm trying to surf left, across bigger waves going to my right. You can see the shoreline up ahead, that's where I need to go, and the main energy is not going that direction. It's going to that other island, to my right.
I go offshore on purpose, to make my south shore run more difficult. It's extremely groomed and user friendly, that's why the videos looks so crisp and clean. I'm no expert. That's as easy as downwind conditions get. I start on a beach, zero fetch, 1 inch swells. If it's windy, the swells build and start to outrun me about mile 3 or so. I learn from that by going across at the toughest angles I can manage.
Those tough angles are where the speed is. That's what stable boats are for. I encourage anyone learning to downwind to learn those angles before getting in a tippy boat. There is much to be learned exploiting the hard angles in a stable boat.
Wobbling across the tough sections in a tippy boat will delay that progress. That's why I included the video of me in the 12, failing to do a left hand turn to shore. Then the windy video of the same spot in the water, with 50mph gusts, easily turning left in the stable boat. Snug as a bug in a rug. Safety is a big deal in a windy ocean. I prefer a huge margin for error. I've done the big swim and been rescued twice. It's not much fun.
Here's a cool video of a true expert negotiating the same energy idea. Big swell rolling under to her right, she wants to stay left, so she goes across the big energy, surfing left. My videos all have the same thing, but much, much easier conditions. See how she extends the glides? No wasted effort. She has a long road on that journey, all the way around Australia. Chapeau Bonnie. See the big energy forming behind her? She does NOT go that direction, she surfs across efficiently. That's how smart paddlers downwind.

downwind dilettante
Last edit: 2 months 2 weeks ago by LaPerouseBay.
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2 months 2 weeks ago #39967 by tve
Replied by tve on topic stayin' high on da wave
I was looking at the videos I took trying to understand some of the wave superimpositions, specifically, fast shallow swell over slow and more obvious wind waves. I want to follow the faster swell, but it's not really possible, so I usually fail. The wind waves are no good either, I can paddle faster in flatwater... However, it's possible to leverage the energy of the faster swell by going diagonal, I'm just really learning how to do that.

I found one video clip where things don't work out and I stall. As I was playing with it, I ran it backwards in the video editor and suddenly, bingo! the light went on. Running forward I could not see the swells, my eye is too focused at what's right ahead of me. Running backwards, the swells become obvious. Then I found a clip in the same conditions where I start out the same way, but then go diagonal and it's soo much better. No stalling, easy to see the swells, easy possible to weave through them to leverage the energy and avoid stalling.

So I put together the clips and added some annotations. Dunno whether it works or not. LMK.


What's interesting and intriguing to me is that what I'm seeing is really exactly the same as LPB described in the previous post but the conditions look very, very different.

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2 months 2 weeks ago #39978 by LaPerouseBay

Dunno whether it works or not. LMK.

What's interesting and intriguing to me is that what I'm seeing is really exactly the same as LPB described in the previous post but the conditions look very, very different.

Agreed, the conditions look different, yet you are doing exactly what I was talking about. Angles are the way to go in the ocean. That's what your friend was advising you. Wait, then maybe sprint to hop over or find a gate or whatever. But get to the top of the big wave for sure.

The best thing to focus on is how to get in synch with the rhythm of the ocean, so that you can flow up to the top of that 'y' axis. The little ones are what you need. They are all over the face of the wave you want. Focus on the little ones and the big ones will take care of themselves. You just have to be patient.

Often times, the best way to learn is by extending, extending extending. That opens your vision up to things most people miss. But you have to go slower overall to learn where those magic pushes are. They are not subtle either, some are very strong. If you watch Sharon Armstrong's videos when she's in big wind, you will see the occasional violent sideways shove. She's just sitting there, patiently surfing. No effort. She's flowed into the perfect spot to get shoved. That's when very good things are happening. You can see her get bashed to the side like a car getting T-boned.

Here's what to look for when you get in synch, up to speed and want to extend. It's like a little mountain range curving across the face of the wave. Watch how focused Daz is - from about 7:30 on for several minutes, on that little left mountain range curving across the face of the wave. He's up to speed and draws a bead on how to extend the big ones rolling thru. He lets the rights go, surfs left. Just like my runs and what Bonnie was doing. Big energy going under to his right, he surfs left.

I drew a red line on the ridge. That's what you want to watch for. The light blue line is the crest of the big one, going to his right. He only zooms down to his right to get some speed, then looks again for that left curving ridge, on the face of the bigger wave.. That ridge will carry the longest and has the highest probability of getting him back up to the top of the "y'.

Not quite as much 'hopping' over stuff, mainly holding back and surfing. If you stop the video at 12:37, that ridge is literally in line with his paddle, shooting straight out his left blade, like a fire hose. That's what you follow when you are up to speed. Little mountain ranges across the face of the big wave. See how he drags the left blade, just like I was in the first video. He's wrenching the nose to the left to prevent zooming to the right.


downwind dilettante
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2 months 2 weeks ago #39980 by LaPerouseBay
Here's Sharon Armstrong surfing left. See the little mountain ridgeline swerving to her left down the face of the larger swell? She's timing her efforts to stick with that flow. The big energy is going to her right, more parallel to the coast. She wants to get back to shore, so she surfs left as quickly as possible, which means synching up with the glide energy across the big faces, not down the big faces.

It's what downwind ski is all about, and the main thing anyone going into the ocean or a big lake needs to learn - Safety first. When things get ugly, that skill is what will get you home - Surfing sideways when you don't want to, but have to. The icing on the cake is that it will allow you to go faster, that's where all the real speed is. Across the big one, not down the face of it.

The best way to learn it is to practice it in all conditions. Then gradually start to hone it to match what your ability and water will allow. That process takes longer in a skinny boat. Experts can dodge almost any bullet in a skinny boat, but not normal people.

She's avoiding the moguls, keeping the nose down. She's following a train of moguls. Her moguls are traveling left. If she sees them out front like that, she knows they are behind. That's what is going to push her the direction she wants to go. She times all her efforts to stay at that speed, not the speed of the big wave. They are linked, but her main focus is on the smaller, slower train of energy. The big train is way too fast. But she will catch parts of it with the little pushes. Once on, she stays in there. That is being in rhythm with the ocean. It's the same thing in small conditions, but easier to see on video when it's big like that.


downwind dilettante

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2 months 2 weeks ago #39981 by tve
Replied by tve on topic stayin' high on da wave
Thanks for pointing out those videos! Daz' is easier to see what's going on, but Sharon's is more dynamic and the weaving between main and secondary waves is more obvious.

I had another great DW yesterday. Started out repeating my mistakes twice in a raw. Had to shout "go diagonal!" at myself. Then it went a lot better :-). Something amazing is also the perspective: you end up perched up there for most of the time and can really see where to go.

I'll have to practice what you mention about following the small one across. I know what you mean, but it exceeds my processing power... So far I've mostly been focused on matching my speed to what I'm on or want to line up behind. I can follow little stuff through big waves when going 6-7mph, but not 10...

BTW, how many outings have done in your V12? It took me 300-400 to be really comfortable in mine, but now I may miss 2-3 strokes in the entire DW and I'm not sure I wouldn't miss as many in a V9. Have to see whether I can borrow a V9 one of these days to see what I'm missing :-). Maybe the difference is that we don't get 50mph cross-wind... But in the end it's really about which boat makes you feel more comfortable, I love the V12 'cause it has completely reshaped my paddling and gotten me to a new level. So maybe it's also about which boat got you to where you are...

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2 months 1 week ago #39982 by LaPerouseBay

I'll have to practice what you mention about following the small one across. I know what you mean, but it exceeds my processing power... So far I've mostly been focused on matching my speed to what I'm on or want to line up behind. I can follow little stuff through big waves when going 6-7mph, but not 10...

One of the problems with practicing or drilling in downwind conditions is the distraction of other paddlers. I'm lucky to have foilers as my only companions. I'm basically out there by myself, without any distraction. My GPS speeds across the ground may be completely different than yours, so try not to get too concerned about any numbers.

The key is to look at your own graphs and limit those deep troughs of low speed. Don't worry about the highs they will disappear quickly when you start to extend better. A medium average is what you are after. It's not easy. But it's what all the fast guys do. They have to paddle smart to save energy for sprinting when it really matters. They don't just hammer all the time. Nobody wins that way. Zsolt has a good podcast over on the TC Surfski site. He talks about coming to Oahu from San Fran or wherever, before he learned to downwind anywhere. He was a world class K-1 guy and talks about struggling and getting dropped by everyone. That's how it is in the ocean. He got crazy fast very quickly, because he's got mad skills, but he had to learn like everyone else.

BTW, how many outings have done in your V12?

I got mine in '17. It was the first production gen 2 available here on Maui. Epic ships a container of various models for the Molokai/Oahu. They sell whatever anyone on Maui wants for a 10% discount. I got the one Greg Barton used, it's a very, very nice boat. As a matter of fact, Zsolt was the dealer on Oahu at the time and told me to take that one. Ha ha. Zsolt is back on the mainland now, doing the sprint kayak coaching somewhere. I think one of his students got a gold medal at the last Olympics. He's such a cool guy.

I was astonished with how well the 12 surfed compared to my previous 10's. It's the first ski I owned with rocker. Total game changer. Sadly, within a few months, I ran into my limit surfing across waves. I know where to go, but I can't commit and sprint when it's do or die. Remounting that hellhole of a bucket has it's drawbacks. I can't be too tired or I'll never get back in. Smaller, groomed conditions are ok, but no more north shore for me in that boat.

I got a second hand 8P a few years later. Easier to go upwind/downwind after work, zero anxiety about any wind conditions.

DK rudders helped the turning on the 8P and the stability of the 12.

All downwinding begins and ends with learning to surf without paddling. Doesn't matter if it's on SUP, outrigger, ski or foil. If you want to raise your average speed, you must learn to extend the glides. That's only done by going across the best swells. There will be severe challenges to your balance at times, right when you need to sprint. If you find yourself pausing because it's too challenging, it's time for a more stable boat.

Nothing is more fun than whacking away full bore, thru the scariest gates. And anyone thinking they will grow into a boat in challenging wind is taking the long way to learn. The fast way to learning is to stay within your ability with a good safety margin. You might also learn to rotate better, which is kinda important too.

If the 12 is fun in your water, stick with it. Have fun. Surf across as much as possible and watch your average speeds change. They will.

For anyone reading this thread and on the fence about a stable boat, watch this video. He's not kidding, even in smaller conditions, it's faster and more fun to learn downwinding in a stable boat. You young guys don't know how lucky you are to have a choice.


downwind dilettante

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2 months 1 week ago #40012 by Dratz
Replied by Dratz on topic stayin' high on da wave
One of the most illuminating threads in a long time. Thanks guys!

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2 months 5 days ago #40020 by tve
Replied by tve on topic stayin' high on da wave
Thanks Dratz!

I did a DW today with a friend, who has been paddling quite a bit less than I have and thus is earlier on the learning curve. Zooming by him with much less energy expenditure wasn't even funny. He's in the mode I was stuck in for the longest time: catch the wave, then paddle hard to maximize speed! Of course the next thing is to paddle even harder to hop over the wave in front and then comes the stall on the wave after...

We don't have easy conditions with nicely lined up steep waves where one can practice parking oneself on top of the wave, shaka to the camera and yell wohooo! So I ended up never doing that... Until that day where the other friend mentioned to me I had to stay higher on the wave and I had this blank stare of "huh? sounds good but I have no clue how to actually do that!!"

The best advice I could give to my friend today is to play. Pick a small wave you can get, then be lazy and don't paddle hard: do your best to fail catching it! In the last second when you feel you're loosing it put in a small number of strong strokes to get back onto it. Rinse and repeat and be sure to fail catching the wave more than once! It's not as easy as it sounds 'cause that position at the top of the wave is very unstable. Applying full power can easily spin the surfski around. Great when you want to turn, not so if that's not what you expected...

Once this is under control paddling downwind, at least in our conditions, becomes a game of exploring that top-of-the-wave, looking left & right for the next wave to hop onto, and then using the wave energy to sling-shot there. Mix in unexpected sideways shoves while at the top in bumpy/confused conditions and there's a lot of fun to be had!

I wish someone had explained this to me a year ago... (Maybe I didn't listen...)


Hmm, upon further reflection, I'm not sure this is actually the same thing as what I see in many videos of paddlers on the front of the wave sitting there with a brace stroke to slow down and avoid racing to the bottom. I believe it's better to stay higher up where there's more control, more visibility, and more power to sling-shot when desired. Maybe it depends on wave size/steepness/speed or something. Sounds like more to experiment with and learn...

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