How to Practice for Rough Sea Kayaking Conditions

© by George E. Sayour

Sea kayakers can never be too prepared.  Before ever heading out into open water, beginning sea kayakers are advised to take lessons, paddle with more experienced kayakers, practice their safety techniques often, and read books and articles to know what to look out for.  Unfortunately, while all of that is a start it is hardly enough to get a sea kayaker ready for what they will encounter in the ever changing open water conditions.   Here are some tips for practicing for open water and rough sea kayaking conditions.

1) Practice Paddling in Increasingly Adverse Conditions Including Rescues

Often sea kayakers get into trouble because the conditions changed when they were out on the water or upon leaving the the protection of an island or other barrier or entered a channel.  Unfortunately, it is too late to learn how to deal with these winds, currents, and waves when they are upon you.  So deliberately practice in these types of conditions, with competent help of course.  In George Gronseth tells readers

"look for ways to test yourself in the conditions without taking great risks.  For example, while near shore, try turning all the way around, rafting up, and going a short distance upwind, downwind, and across wind." (p 11, Sea Kayaker's More Deep Trouble)

2.) Practice Safety Rescues in Increasingly Adverse Conditions

While it sea kayakers do capsize and get into trouble in calm water conditions the most serious mishaps happen in adverse conditions.  The same features that initially flipped these paddlers make rescue and reentry all the more difficult.  So, it is one thing to be able to self rescue in a flat shallow lake and completely another in wind, waves, cold water, and current.  So, you should practice in these conditions.  The above quote continues

"If all goes well, consider practicing  some reentries and Eskimo Rolls." (p 11, Sea Kayaker's More Deep Trouble)

Notice, this follows the advice on practicing paddling in these conditions.  In other words, I wouldn't practice reentries and rolls in rough water if I first wasn't able to perform the paddling maneuvers described above in the same water.  I will reiterate, as in the above section, only do this will competent help, preferably with multiple experienced paddlers with you and in a situation where you can easily get back to shore when needed.

3.) Make Using Your Sea Kayaking Safety Gear Second Nature

A very crucial component of any safety rescue is knowing where and being able to use your safety gear.  So, in practicing the above tips be sure to be accessing and using your paddle float and bilge pump and any other safety gear you may be using.  Having your kayak full of water and trying to bilge it out while bracing on your paddle float is entirely different in rough water than it is in flat conditions.  You really need three hands to do this, one to brace, one to hold the bilge pump, and a third to actually pump.  Maybe we might need a fourth hand to hold on the spray skirt at the same time.  Unfortunately we only have two hands.  So come up with a creative way to be able to do this. Some people have modified their bilge pumps so it can be operated using one hand as it is supported against he cockpit.  The point is, practice and know how to use your own equipment.