Tag Archive: sea kayaking

Kayaking and Wind


One of  the first considerations when you are planning your kayaking outing is wind speed. It can determine a pleasant outing or conversely a strong workout. Being familiar with the prevailing wind patterns in the area you are kayaking is of primary importance to the safety of any kayak outing. The Victoria area has prevailing winds from the SW that tend to build in the afternoon and evening. If the wind is blowing from a different direction that may mean the barometric pressure is changing and could bring a weather system through. Be sure to have accurate weather sites that can give you marine wind forecasts for the area you are paddling. We like to use bigwavedave.ca. It is primarily a surfing site but the information is quite accurate. It also gives you tidal and current information for many sites around Vancouver Island.

   Wind measurements come in different forms. It can be in knots per hour, km per hour (or miles per hour south of the border). One knot per hour is equal to 1.852 km per hour so if the wind is blowing 10 knts it would be roughly 18 km. It will be important to become familiar with the water conditions for each speed either in knts or km so you know what kind of paddling you will be doing while you are out. Boaters of all kinds refer to the Beaufort Wind Scale to help with that skill. The following chart shows the scale using knots: (Click photo to enlarge)

Beaufort Wind Scale (2)

The wind has specific implications for kayakers. Each kayak is designed to move into a “head to wind” position – bow forward. This may result in corrective paddling to keep your kayak on course. This is where a rudder is really helpful. It can prevent injury over long distance paddling trips, as it helps you keep even, cadenced paddling strokes while your feet steer for you. Having good bracing techniques, both high and low, will keep you balanced and upright in heavy wind and wave conditions. When the wind is opposing the tide the waves will be steeper. Checking tides and wind and determining all protected areas – or the “lea” side, and using the wind and tidal direction to help you paddle, is the homework all paddlers do before they ever leave the house to go kayaking.

We wish you calm seas and maybe a little wind for fun every now and then!!


Here are some tips for how to make the most of your kayak tour.

1. Dress right.

Being comfortable in your kayak can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy your tour. Avoid clothing that retains moisture – that means no cotton! Drips from the paddle will leave you with damp sleeves or a damp seat. Any type of quick dry clothing is a good choice.  Check the weather conditions to wear the right layers for cool weather or warm weather.

2. Get the gear right.

Your PFD should fit snug and hug your body. It should allow for lateral movement while you are sitting in the kayak. If  it is too long it will push on your chin for your whole paddle. Adjust the foot pedals in the kayak to be comfortable. If they are too close you can lose circulation in your feet and legs. If they are too far away you will be reaching and not have enough control over your steering.

3. Get the technique right.

Following instructions from your lesson at the beginning of the tour will ensure you will  paddle effectively and enjoy powering your own vessel with minimal sore muscles or blisters at the end of your tour.

4. Savor your surroundings.

Take time to explore the ocean as you paddle. Linger in the kelp beds to look for jellies, paddle close to rocks to touch the sea stars, drift quietly observing the seals sunning or swimming, taste the salty kelp blades, pop the ocean bubble wrap. If you are on a picnic tour take time to poke around in the tidal pools. You may see some amazing creatures if you are still enough. Check under rocks on the beach and at the waters edge for crabs, anemones or sea cucumbers. Gently bob on the water laughing at the comical antics of the oyster catchers or sea gulls. Feel scrutinized by the bald eagle eyeing you warily from the headland. Breathe in the fresh sea air and be amazed at the beautiful Olympic mountains rising in majesty into the horizon.

Sea kayaking tours in Victoria give you an amazing connection to our ocean environment. Here’s hoping you enjoy every dip of your paddle and every glide of your kayak.

Sea Kayaking is all about physics! Paddling in ocean waves applies the physics of your kayak with the physics of the paddling strokes that are used.

Principle One: A kayak is designed so that the bow of the kayak points into the wind on a windy and wavy day. You will need to “corrective” paddle to accommodate for this. This is a great time to use your rudder to save your arms from getting sore. Knowing how the kayak moves will help you know how to paddle into the waves.

Principle Two: There are three kinds of waves that you will experience kayaking. “Beam Waves” are waves that approach the side of your kayak as you travel across the water. Paddling when waves are pushing your kayak from behind is called a “following sea”. Heading straight into the waves is called “Head to wind”.

Principle Three: A kayak is the most stable in any kind of waves when it is in forward motion. Many novice paddlers want to lift their arms and let the kayak bob on the water. This is very unstable. Keeping your paddle in the water and moving forward is the most stable.

Principle Four: Paddling into the top or crest of a wave and pulling yourself through the trough of the wave can greatly reduce the bobbing effect. Your stroke will pull you over the deeper part of the trough making it a much smoother trip through the waves.

Principle Five:When paddling head to wind or in beam seas there are flat areas in between crests and troughs on an angled path. Following this path will greatly reduce the bouncing as you paddle through the waves.

Principle Six: In our last post we learned that waves travel in sets of approximately 5 to 7. In between there are pauses. These pauses are caused by the tendency of the wind to gust. When completing a landing in big waves, or a surf landing, it is best to take full advantage of the pause in between sets of waves. Taking time to study the wave patterns before paddling into shore is very important. Choose the last wave of the set to ride on the back of and once you have landed quickly remove your spray skirt and pull your kayak on shore before the next set of waves begins.

Principle Seven: When choosing a landing spot in big waves it is important to observe how the wave interacts with the shoreline. There will be smarter, flatter places to land based on this interaction. Take your time in deciding the best place to land your kayak.

Kayaking in waves can be exhilarating! Having excellent bracing techniques is essential if you are surfing in a kayak. Having rolling skills will make it a great challenge.

Above all ….Enjoy the Ride!!

Knowing the basics of how ocean tides work from reading our last post we can explore how the ocean tides will affect your sea kayak outing. There are ways to use the movement of the ocean to make your paddling trip easier and safer.

 Flood Tide or Ebbing Tide – A flooding tide is when the ocean water is moving
towards the coastline and an ebbing tide is when the water is receding outwards from the coastline. Knowing how the water is moving in the particular area that you are paddling can make the difference between slogging against the tide or planning your outing to take advantage of how the water is moving. There are many online sites that will give you the tide charts for the area you are paddling. You can print off a multi-day chart that shows high and low tide times for the dates you will be paddling. I usually keep this information right inside my waterproof  marine chart case for easy access. Planning your outing to “ride the tide” can work for your entire trip or part of the trip depending on the time you are paddling. Understanding how the water moves around islands and headlands is important. Current tables for the area you are paddling in can help with this information. There will be occasions when the timing of your paddle just doesn’t work out to your benefit.

Water-Line Height – You may be amazed at how the height of the water will dramatically change the shoreline at different tide heights. Any land marks that you use to navigate should be above the high tide line or they may effect your navigating accuracy.  At lower tide heights you will see more ocean life exposed. At high tide heights you may be able to pass through areas that are exposed at lower tides. Depths marked on the marine chart will let you know when a channel is passable.

Beaches – Landing your kayak on a beach at low tide can be a very different experience than it will be at high tide.
More of a beach is exposed at low tide which makes carrying your gear and your kayak up above the high tide line quite a chore. Landing at high tide is much easier.
If you are on the beach while the tide is flooding you will need to move your kayaks to keep them from floating away. Being on the beach while the tide is ebbing means you will have to carry your kayak down to the waterline to launch. You can be a little more relaxed about your kayak on the beach during an ebb tide as the water is moving away from your beached kayak at that time. Knowing when the tide changes will be important. Awareness is the key.

Submerged Rocks – Different features in the ocean will be exposed at different tide heights. One of the most important is submerged rocks. These can be treacherous if you paddle across them when they are just below the surface and you get high centered or damage your kayak. Reading the surface of the water is an important technique to develop. Your marine chart will show submerged rocks with a star symbol. There may be a number beside it which shows at what tide height it will be exposed. It is an essential practice to scan your chart before your outing to find potential hazards  on your trip route.

We hope this post can be a helpful tool on your next sea kayak outing.

May the tide be with you!!



Why is ocean kayaking such a unique experience? 

Could it be that the way you are seated in the kayak makes you feel like you are part of the ocean?

Could it be that you move so quietly through the water you hardly disturb the ocean life around you?

Maybe it’s the fresh sea air and the endorphins released from powering your own vessel?

The chance of seeing wildlife up close and personal creates excitement and a sense of adventure – for sure!

There are guidelines for approaching wildlife. It is recommended that you give wildlife a100m distance when passing by or observing them from a kayak. 200m is advised for killer whales. There are times when they decide to come to you to see just what you are! I have had many very enchanting encounters with marine wildlife that have approached me in my kayak. They are the special memories of my kayaking adventures.

Channel crossing in the Broken Group Islands can be long and arduous at times. This particular day we were slogging our way across the channel after visiting the sea arch. We heard a very odd sound – kind of a pffft pffft sound. We decided to raft up and just listen. We stopped and paddled our boats together when all of a sudden we were surrounded by five Harbour Porpoises! One of them was a little baby – he had more of pssst sound. We sat entranced for the next ten minutes while these amazingly curious creatures surfaced and dived all around our kayaks. They were very curious to investigate these strange floating objects that were in their yard. It was a very magical moment!

Last summer on a guided tour to Seal Island we were passing by a headland when a very young, adventurous seal swam out to our group to play with us. We named him Charlie…. it seemed to suit him. He swam all around our kayaks, even upside down. He had no fear whatsoever. He would swim under the boats and come up and look at us as if to say “okay, now its your turn to do a trick”!  Not long after his mother saw where he was and what he was doing, she sent him a strong warning with a huge slap of her front flipper on the water. He must have gotten a talking to because he never ventured close to our kayaks after that. It was very special for the clients on that tour.

I had a “Mellow Yellow” moment a few years ago with a grey whale. Do you know the commercial I am referring to? Surfers, kayakers and boaters are all drinking Mellow Yellow when a BIG whale swallows them all. They all end up floating around in the whale’s stomach still drinking their Mellow Yellow. I had visions of meeting them all in there when I was paddling in Clayoquot Sound. I turned to say something to my paddling partner and only one boat length away a grey whale was swimming parallel to us!! It was surfacing and diving very gently along with us. I had the sense that he or she knew we were right there and that they were being extra courteous of these small creatures. I think I stammered”paddle faster” like that would make a difference – duh! We did make it safely to our next campsite with a wonderful story and adventure to share. All that evening the baby greys were playing and rubbing in the sand in the bay right in front of our camp kitchen. What a special kayaking day that was!

Ocean kayaking is so unique and definitely worth trying. There can be some fear but the exhilaration of overcoming that fear is so worth it!!

Share your ocean kayaking stories with us. We would love to hear about your adventures!