Surfing the river

Learning How to Downwind. Reading the Water.

What is Downwinding?

Downwinder
Catching a glide on a wind created wave in Hood River Oregon

Waves are created by a variety of natural and unnatural sources. But the wind is one of them that is the most common. And for those of us that paddle. Is the one we love to seek out.

As the wind blows across the water and the waves begin to rise up. Paddling against them whether head on or from the side is a nightmare. But as soon as we change our direction. Place the wind at our back. Ride the waves.

This is called Downwinding. And one of the best feelings on the water.

Where to begin.

As the wind cranks up over 20 mphs and the waves start to build over knee high. The conditions look and feel very intimidating. Some of us think heading out in these conditions is insane. And that is a very solid opinion. But what if we broke down the barriers of those conditions and started when it is a bit more friendly for the mind and body?

Spending a good deal of my time on small lakes. The big ocean waves and winds pass my by. But there are still waves. And these waves. Most made by boats are one of the most friendly ways to get started.

Another option, if leaving close to the coast. Is small ocean surf. Knee high. It has the same similarities of boat wakes.

Surfing boat wakes
Surfing a boat wake on a stand up paddleboard.

Chasing Waves.

Wakesurfing a SUP
Finding the sweet spot. Surfing a boat wake takes some practice but finding the spot makes it all come together.

So now we’ve found the waves but what to do with them? Just watch. Reading the water is the biggest piece to the puzzle. And it goes for surfing too. Finding out where the waves are going. And where they came from will give us the best information to ride them.

Now once we figured out where they are going. Now we need to put ourselves in the place to catch them. In the beginning. come at them at a 90 degree angle. Meaning they will be in front of you moving away. Try and paddle to them. As you paddle keep a smooth steady rhythm. As the nose of the board gets to them it will feel like the tail of the board is lifting and the nose is going to dive into them. That means you are on a wave. This is where the magic happens. Just relax. And keep paddling nice and easily.

Work on this skill. Until you full know that you are surfing these waves. And to the place where you don’t have to paddle but your speed stays the same. It may only last for seconds but this is the feeling you are going for.

In the ocean this can be done as well. Just do it away from the shore. We don’t want the waves breaking on us. The waves in front always teach us and show us where to go. We just need to learn how to read the map.

The next blog will get more detailed on how to ride these bumps longer and link them together. But for now this is a great place to practice.

 

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