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Catchin’ a wave; tips on how to ride waves or wind chop

Again, as with the last issue, the following is a personal description of what I do to catch a ride. No data, no computer models, no spreadsheets... If any of you out there would like to share "hard data" with us, I urge you to let Hull Speed know! This issue will be about what I am thinking when out there on bumpy water. Gotta LOVE those bumps! No,… more to the point, Gotta WANT those bumps. Sometimes they can be elusive!

Maybe we should talk about exactly what it is we are trying to catch. Many people refer to "riding the swell"…I think that's a bit misleading. Maybe that's the case in other parts of the world, or maybe it's just a generalized term, referring to catching that free ride offered by Mother Nature. I'm not sure. I can say, that what we ride out here in Northern California, is primarily Wind Waves. Wind Waves are typically steeper and closer together than the huge Ground Swell. The Swell "period" is usually too long to catch consistently. You need to focus on catching whatever you can. If it all hits just right, you may be riding on both Wind Wave and Ocean Swell…now that's sweet!

So, I focus on catching the Wind Wave. Unfortunately, I just don't have a clear answer to Chris's question. So I am going to ask YOU, the Readers of Hull Speed, to send some feedback. Should we "Coast, Rest, and Relax" when the paddling gets " much harder" in the trough between those waves, or, should we "push through the resistance" in order to carry speed to catch the next ride?

Now, while you are all busy sending you comments to, I'll let you know my thoughts about "catching the elusive ride":

This topic comes at an excellent point in time, as I just finished a race in Santa Cruz yesterday. (For those of you in Northern California, check out these folks are doing an excellent job in establishing a Winter Racing Series out here.) Yesterday, As I was on the water with a heart-rate of somewhere between 158 and 171, these answers found their way into my head. For better or worse…here goes!

* For me, it's about "Having AIR Under The Nose of My Boat"…(weird huh? More on this below)
* It's about judging how hard, "HARD" really is, as well as, asking myself what price am I paying to catch the rides I am getting?
* It's about knowing when to "coast and prepare" in order to catch the next ride that is "worth the work to catch"
* It's about ALWAYS maintaining focus on EXACTLY where you want to end up.

Man, this is a tough subject to dissect, but lets look at a little more detail:

* What the hell does "Having Air Under the Nose of my Boat" mean? Hey, maybe it's just one of those hypoxic thoughts one has 3/4 through a hard race,… but you asked, so here goes! When I am in a typical condition of mixed Wind Wave and Small to Medium Swell, there are points in time where the bow of my boat is "dangling" in the air. It's that place where you seem to be "teetering" as the crest of the wave is running under your seat. At that point in time, I'll usually "hammer" a couple of hard strokes, just to see if I can get the bow dropped downward. This puts the hull in full contact with the wave-face, which in turn puts me on "Mother Nature's Ride". When I find the conditions out there causing this "dangling over the edge" condition happening, I'll always try to "scoot" my boat forward enough on the wave to get the nose to "drop over the edge". Even if it's a small wind wave, this will enhance your natural speed. Maybe this thought comes from having a Whitewater background. When a Whitewater paddler is trying to catch a wave on the river, there's a point where you find your nose teetering on the crest of the wave. The rule-of-thumb in "catching the ride", is to paddle hard enough upstream, to just barely "get your toes over the crest". If you can do that, usually the boat will nose downward…and "wha-lla" you are on the wave! I carry this same thinking over to Ocean-racing.
* This leads to the next concept, do you really have it in yourself to "hammer" every single time you have the opportunity to "drop the bow over the edge"? That's a personal question that must be asked of yourself. We need to constantly monitor our perceived level of exertion. Maybe you will need to let a few smaller rides go by in an effort to catch your breath in order to catch a Big One that will provide more bang for your buck. The "BIG" rides happen when the Universe puts you in exactly the right space in time. When a Wind Wave and a Swell both attack your boat, and jack up enough to provide a nice steep wave-face…in my area, these are "few and far between". (These are the two or three rides you remember as you are walking back to the car with your boat on your shoulder, and a smile on your face!)
* Of course, then you get into the next dilemma of, "yeah, but if I coast to catch my breath, will my boat speed be great enough to catch that next big one"? My answer to that is, who cares? If you don't have the strength to finish the race, you are going to be in trouble at the end anyway. Right? Pacing is important. No doubt that the men and women who excel in these events are in excellent condition. They are able to "hammer" and catch more rides than the rest of us. However, we all need to be monitoring how we are feeling out there and make adjustments according.
* Ideally, you are able to squeeze that little bit of increased physical and mental effort in a section of the course where there are waves to catch. To "dig deep" outside, where there are real rides to be had, will gain you more advantage than digging deep in a part of the race course that does NOT have a ride to catch. In the words of this Wisconsin farm-boy…"Make Hay When The Sun Shines"! (or in this case "Where the Sun Shines".)
* Remember this: Ride Wind Waves to increase your hull-speed in order to catch the Big Swell. If you decide to back-off on catching the "little ones", the chance of "catching the Big Guy" will become less too.
* Lastly, CAUTION: "Trying to catch a ride can become a major distraction! (Ain't that the truth!)". How many times have we been out there just "a hoot'n and a holler'n" flying down wave after wave, only to look up after a while to find that we are not headed anywhere close to the direction we intended to go? Whoops! Oh well, FUN is the primary objective anyway! Remember to use Ranging and/or a Compass, and always be aware of:
* Where you want to go.
* Which way the Swell / Waves want you to go.
* Constantly make directional adjustments as necessary.


Sorry I did not answer your question exactly as asked. The answer about whether or not to push through the "hard place" between waves is a tough one. I find myself wondering the same thing from time-to-time. I have to wonder though, if that question is a result of a particular "condition", more than an every-time occurrence? I only say that, because at yesterday's race, the condition was such, that I had no doubt about what I needed to do. It was clear to me that I needed to "hold off" (rest) in the trough, but be ready to "hammer" when I got on the crest of the wave. I don't think there is a "Black and White" answer to this one. I guess I weigh my decision on whether to "hammer or back-off", based on sort of a "cost / benefit analysis". What's the benefit of expending that energy / How I am feeling at that point in the race? I hope this helps. I really do URGE all of The Readers out there to send Hull Speed their comments on this one as well!

Brent Reitz

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