Wednesday June 7th 2017
When a boat travels through the water it creates waves. Another boat can ride, or surf, these waves. It gives the riding boat a boost. There are two places to ride another boat: on the side wash and on the stern wash.
Side wash is the best ride if conditions are right. It is also safest: if you fall off the side wave you can always catch the stern and maintain contact with the lead boat.
Ideally you want your boat about 3-4 feet away from the lead boat when riding side and a about a third of the way behind. (You can think of being in a vehicle’s blind spot.) However these are very rough guidelines – you really need to see and feel the waves to ride wash effectively!
The wave will change depending on wind, water depth, the course of the other boat, etc., so don’t rely on a formula – aim to develop your understanding and feel of the waves and how they affect your boat.
If you are too far forward on the side wash, the bow wave will drive both bows away from each other. This is frustrating for both boats. If you are too far back on the wash you may find your bow getting sucked in to the lead boat, which can be difficult to fight. The key in this situation is more speed (if you have it!) to get back up to the sweet spot on the wave.
Shallows change the wave and will affect how you ride wash. ...for a future lesson!
Riding stern, try to keep the nose of your boat close to the lead boat and within the V of turbulent water created behind the lead boat’s stern. The best ride is on the first stern wave, but you can still ride the stern waves behind it; they just get weaker and weaker. Anticipate the lead boat’s direction and use small leans instead of larger correction strokes. If you have a train of boats, nobody likes playing whiplash!
To ride both stern and side wash, both paddlers need to work together. The stern paddler’s job is to put the boat generally in the right spot; the bow paddler makes fine adjustments to the boat direction and also controls how far up or back the boat is on the lead boat.