S ea Kayaking Skills and Adventures, Ltd.

Quick Class

Topic:   Waves QC-0502
Resource: Tide Tables on line
Wave Buoy Data

An ocean wave is periodic change in water height as water molecules rise and fall in a circular pattern. NOAA has placed buoys at strategic locations in the oceans to record and transmit wave data. This data can be used to predict the size of waves that may impact local shores at future times. Such data is scrutinized by surfers, surf kayaers and FEMA, but is also useful for coastal kayakers.


How are waves generated?


In the open ocean waves are generated primarily by the action of wind on the water surface and wave height is generally proportional to the velocity, duration and distance over which the wind acts. Contrary to popular belief, wave patterns are not easily predictable. Exceptionally large waves may be generated by reinforcement of wave trains, current and storm effects or even earthquakes.


How do waves effect a kayaker?


The effect depends on the size of the wave, it's direction of travel and the angle to the kayak. This determines the magnitude and direction of the force on the boat which must be compensated for. The design of the boat is also very important in determining it's stability in wave conditions. All things being equal, the comfort level of a kayaker in wave conditions is directly proportional to their level of skill.

Advanced Concepts:   You may want to get more information on the following:
  • What is "chop"? ..."surf"? ..."clapotis"?
  • How can you use a low-brace to stablize? ...a high brace?
  • How can you hold course when waves are hitting at an angle?
  • How can you control your boat in "following" waves?
  • How can you best maneuver in wave conditions?

Please respond to us with answers or feedback on this lesson.

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