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Downwind Technique


  • Keep your speed up. Speed begets speed. It will be much easier to catch waves and avoid being swamped from behind.
  • Focus on what's in front of you, scanning from 10 to 2 looking for waves to form and for holes to drop into.
  • Use smaller waves to gain speed to get on larger waves.
  • When getting up to speed or regaining speed your best chance to catch a wave is paddling perpendicular to the wave line, perfectly parallel with the wave direction.
    • There can be a moment when maximum power is applied to catch a wave when your boat may seem less stable. You have to get used to that. Incrementally increase the size of waves and conditions you practice in. Try to maximize opportunities when the water and weather are warmer when you don't mind (as much) getting wet. If you keep backing off to brace you won't be catching nearly as many waves. So you want to build confidence in being able to continue applying power until you are definitely on the wave and can then brace and/or steer a diagonal without losing the wave.
    • You can also catch a wave a little sooner if you lean forward - moving your center of gravity a little forward
  • Once you have caught a wave you may not want to continue paddling parallel with the wave direction.
    • Too much speed directly down your wave face will maximize the likelihood of diving into the back of the wave in front of you, burying your nose and losing all that speed you worked so hard to get. But there are times when the wave in front is starting to drop and you can keep speed, either crashing through the top of the wave in front or just paddling over the flat that has developed in front of you, keeping speed until you can jump all the way to the next trough in front that is catchable.
    • If the backside of the wave in front of you is too steep/large to push through or jump over then don't go straight down your wave face; surf down at an angle. You can avoid diving into the wave back in front, while keeping your speed staying on your current wave.
      • If you are paddling in a mix of waves going in 2 or more directions, if you have spotted one coming from your side, angling in that direction can help you see and time a hop onto the one crossing the one you are on.
      • One trick to paddling at angles and changing angles while surfing on waves is to not turn too far and broach.
      • the intersections of waves traveling at different angles can provide easier “gateways” for passage over waves. Look for these intersections to sometimes guide your angle on the waves you are angling across. These gateways are opportunities to switch to the other waves you are intersecting with and/or to jump ahead to the next wave in the direction you are currently following.
      • In big waves you may not want or be able to angle sideways. If you are going to hit the wave in front of you, you can lessen your dive and loss of speed by leaning back
  • Don't waste your energy paddling up the back of a wave. If you miss a wave, let it pass underneath you and jump on the next.
    • Repeatedly missing waves and sliding down their backsides is called “wallowing”.
    • You are going to miss waves but if you miss one there is always going to be the next one. If your boat filled with water or you lost too much speed it may take a number of waves before you recover enough speed to get back in sync with the waves
  • Initiate your turns by tilting your ski, like a surfer uses her board to carve. Minimize the use of your rudder.
  • You have to work a combination of the above suggestions - conservation of energy, your level of fitness, competition or fun, and specific wave and wind conditions can indicate what to work on and what to pay less attention to. But learn to look for and stay on smaller waves when there are clear options between bigger and smaller swell and wind waves and swell waves. Tarifa (Boyan Z.) Video about making choices. Recognizing and being able to work with smaller wave options will help your continuity in all kinds of conditions.

Working Up to Bigger Water

Powering Through A Columbia River Gorge Wave

Gorge SIC Race Practice 2020 Photo by: Wilson Reavley - Click to enlarge


Technique - Putting it All Together

Advance to rougher conditions and stronger downwind paddling

Phat Boats

Downwinding in a Double Surfski

Downwinding in a double is one way to get experience on bigger runs if one can team with a more experienced paddler. Learning about bigger water in this manner is not without its challenges, though. In sitting in the back of a surfski with the more experienced paddler steering in the front, one may get enough water in their seat to feel like they will imminently float off and out of the surfski. The backseat paddler often gets a fairly steady shower of water in their face from the front seat paddle strokes. And even though the more experienced paddler may have the situation well in hand, it can feel to the less experienced paddler like their surfski is frequently perilously off balance.

Gauging/Describing Conditions

Paddling Upwind


downwind.txt · Last modified: 2021/09/21 01:07 by preavley