Now that you've gone up the waves and down the waves and sat there doing nothing while the waves went up and down, what's left? Paddling along the waves, so they hit you side-on. This is the exercise we use to begin our surf training sessions at Atlantic Kayak Tours. For many paddlers, this exercise is the first time that the low brace support stroke they learned in our regular instructional programs really becomes useful.
As you paddle parallel to the waves, they want to bash your boat sideways towards the shore like a log. To avoid the log's fate, what you want to do is edge your boat into each wave as it arrives. Look at the 3 stick figures below and think about which paddler will have the easiest time with the approaching wave.
Paddler #1 is leaning away from the wave. If it were bigger, he'd get rolled.
Paddler #2 is sitting up straight, ignoring the wave.
Paddler #3 Is edging his boat into the wave. His body and boat are in perfect position to oppose the shape and the force of the wave.
Exercise #6: As you paddle along, side-to the waves, edge your boat into each one as it arrives while you keep on paddling. The larger the wave, the more you edge the boat into it.
Edging into the wave, like Paddler #3, is key. Like keeping your weight on the downhill ski in skiing, it seems counterintuitive at first. Your instinct is to lean away from the oncoming wave. But edging into it is not only the way to avoid being rolled, it's the best way to be safe in case you do get rolled.
Since paddler #3 is so smart, let's see how he handles a bigger wave. A bigger wave is absolutely going to shove you sideways. The trick is to go with it. Look at what our paddler is doing with his paddle. He's in the low brace position. He's putting some of his weight on the paddle. Which is giving him good support as it drags on the back of the wave. In still water, he wouldn't be able to lean on the paddle like this and stay up. But because the wave is pushing him sideways, the paddle is operating like a water-ski and he can put a lot of weight on it.
When we give Paddler #3 a bigger wave, he edges more, leans into the wave and uses the low brace for support.
But what happens when the wave passes? If he stays in the same position, he'll go swimming. Tip: As the wave passes under your boat, ease off the brace, straighten up the boat, and resume paddling until the next wave comes. Surf is a dynamic environment. Smart mammals constantly adjust.
What happens if the wave is even bigger? Like over his head. If you are reading this article, you have no business in waves higher than your knees. But if you were paddler #3, you'd use an even more extreme edge into the wave, an even more extreme lean into the wave and a high-brace position.
Taking surf from the side, remember:
Edge your boat into the wave as it hits the boat
Drag your paddle on the top of the wave for support
Get used to the feeling of letting the wave push you sideways & using your low brace for support.
The bigger the wave, the more you edge