Wednesday June 15th 2016
Wash riding is an essential part of canoe racing. Getting on the wash of a slightly faster boat is the best scenario in a race. You can ride wash with other boats for hours on end, taking turns leading. It makes your boat go faster while allowing you to rest somewhat.
There are two ways to ride wash: on the side of another boat, and behind another boat. The ride is best closest to the lead boat, and diminishes the farther away you get.
This is the safest place to ride as you can always slip into the stern wash if you drop off the wave. A wave comes off the lead boat at an angle – Bob Vincent likens this to a V of geese flying. To ride this wave you want to be close to the lead boat and a little behind. The bow paddler works to keep his/her body positioned between the lead boat’s bow paddler and centre thwart (however in shallow water this position changes). The stern and bow paddler work together to keep the boat parallel to the lead boat.
If you push too far ahead, the lead boat’s bow wave will push your bow out. If you fall too far behind, you may find the stern getting pushed out (feels like the bow is getting “sucked in” to the lead boat). There is a sweet spot: find it and work to stay there.
If there is a headwind, or for some reason side wash isn’t working for you (or you fell off), ride the stern wash. There are 3 to 4 good waves behind a boat that you can ride. Ride close to the boat in front for the best ride. Bow and stern paddlers again work together to keep the nose of the boat in the turbulent water behind the lead boat’s stern. If you are loose enough in the boat it will naturally want to follow the lead boat.
Wherever you ride, if you lose control and are going to hit the lead boat, call “contact!” so they can anticipate this, but try not to let this happen! The more you affect the lead boat the less they will want you riding them and they will try to dump you.