Ocean Module: Bumpy Water (Swell)


Longer period swell has less of an influence on our paddling than wind chop while paddling out to sea. It has a major impact on is if we are trying to get out through the surf but hopefully you have a protected deep water location to get out during these larger swells, if you don't we will cover strategies to get out in the Surf Zone Step next.

Paddling out to sea with longer period swell is very different to paddling in wind chop. Swells travel much faster and are much harder to catch than shorter period wind chop. This doesn't mean we can't use them at all. There are certain situations where they can be used to our advantage.

1) When out to sea and there is just swell and no wind you can use the swells to gain a small advantage. If you are paddling with the swells try to accelerate onto them the same as you would chase a wind chop. While you are unlikely to catch the swell you will get a small bit of assistance from it as it moves under you.

2) If you are paddling across the swells, so they are coming from your side (left or right), you can use them to accelerate down the back side of them. I think about them as ramps so you ease up and over and then sprint and push down the other side. Again you are only getting a small benefit from this but it keeps you in rhythm with the ocean.

3) Paddling with swell and wind chop in a similar direction can be hugely beneficial. Always use the shorter period wind chops to get started but once you are up to speed you can look at using the swell to go even faster. This can really increase your speed downwind.

4) Paddling with the wind chop and the swell coming from either side can also be beneficial. Again start off with the wind chop but as a swell moves across you it will create an A Frame or Wedge. You can use this to propel yourself forward faster. The trick to this is use the wind chop to get further out to sea and use the swell and chop combination to head back in towards the shore.

5) Swell moving against you is not beneficial at all really. You can try and accelerate down the down ramp into the trough but generally the up and over balances itself out. This is the same with or without wind helping you out.