Get ready to ride the tide. Sea kayaking can be as staid and tame as you want it to be, but if you are an adrenaline seeker, you can head to areas with large tidal rushes, or "bore tides," and ride the waves they create. Riding the tidal waves requires a bit of know-how and practice, but once gained, tidal rushes provide a thrill to seek out and enjoy.
Timing is Everything
Tidal Rushes, or "bore-tides," are caused when there is a large change in tidal rates in small, enclosed channels or bays. The resulting effect is a wave not unlike a mini-tidal wave or tsunami. The tide will come in, or go out as a solid wall of water. When riding this wave, you need to time it out much like a surfer times out his/her waves.
Set yourself up with your back quartered to the tidal rush by about 3/4s. Count out the crest of the wave as it gets to you (meaning, count the crest of the wave as it leaves the shore and begins to approach your boat,) then, as the wave begins to raise your kayak from the water, begin paddling forward at a sprint pace. If done properly your should feel the kayak begin to surf the wave. At this point, stop paddling and begin to use your paddle blades as flat sponsons to maintain balance and direction of the craft.
Dangers to Avoid
One of the biggest dangers to surfing tidal rushes is tipping the kayak. Most sea kayaks can be self-righted through a roll, if executed properly. However, many tidal rush kayakers will not have time to set-up and roll properly in the turbulence generated by the waves. Recognizing the familiar sound of the bow toggle against the kayak body is a sign that the bow is going to begin to "bury" itself in the forward water and make the kayak extremely unstable. Knowing how to throw a low brace at this point is a needed skill. Use the paddle blade as an outrigger on the opposite side of the wave and stabilize the craft.
You need to maintain situational awareness at all times. Rocks, coral and other obstacles create hazards that can damage kayaks or injure you. Be aware of the topography around the tidal rush area. Avoid shallow spots, and wear a helmet.
Setting up and Paddling In
It is possible to paddle several waves from a tidal rush or bore tide as there is a "rippling effect" with the waves. Once the primary wave has past, you can set up and paddle the smaller residual waves that follow. Point the kayak into the waves and begin a sprint-pace. Paddle until you feel confident on the run-out space. Using a quartering turn, pivot the boat so the bow is three quarters to the advancing waves. Count out the distances between the waves (this is the time between crests as they pass by a static point you choose on the shore or horizon.) As you count them, you get a feel for when the waves will sweep under your boat. When a wave comes under, begin your forward paddle and then begin your surf.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.