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Kayaking: currents and tides to know

Kayak enthusiasts, you know it: the ocean is nothing like a long quiet river. Winds and currents sometimes test your mettle.

Kayaking current tide

Kayak enthusiasts, you know it: the ocean is nothing like a long quiet river. Winds and currents sometimes test your mettle at sea. Thus, it is important to know, like the “back of your paddle,” the different traps that lie under the moving water. Itiwit helps you read sea and river flows.    

#1 Keep abreast of water movements and Identify them from your kayak

In kayaking, there’s an important rule to keep in mind: if river currents always carry you in the same direction, sea currents change according to the tides. And each of them has a specific effect on your practice: 
– Crosscurrents can make you stray from your path,
– Bow currents slow you down, and so you risk becoming exhausted.

And if current and wind are moving in opposite directions, be extra cautious!

As you navigate, pay attention to clues that help you gauge the forces at play. To gauge the direction and strength of the current, look at the movement of fishing floats and buoys.  

To check wind direction, take a look at flags that may be around.

kayaking tides
kayak tide

#2 Prepare for a kayak outing in a challenging spot

If it is your first outing in a spot which presents a higher level of kayaking difficulty, make sure you’re prepared, even conduct a true underwater research. 

Thus, it is advisable to study the nautical charts and talk to the locals. If the spot you have in mind is a frequent paddlers’ destination, consider going out with a local kayaker, at least the first time.  

Water flows are also valuable allies! Once you’ve reached a certain level of expertise, you learn how to use the eddies and straight currents to direct you.  

For example, you can move upstream using the counter-current generated by an obstacle, such as a dam or a cliff. Or you can take advantage of a current uptake to pivot your kayak! ~ 

#3 Distinguish the movements of water in sea and river kayaking

Here's a short recap of the main movements of water.

Drifting
When paddling along shores, you may be pulled away by the joint action of wind and current: you drift. To stay on course, go into an opposite arc. Some kayaks are equipped with a fixed or adjustable skeg, which facilitates the positioning of the craft by countering the effects of wind and current.

Breakers
These waves are characterized by ridges that fall towards the upstream or the beach. Do not set your side or lean towards them: you risk capsizing!

Broach
Under the pressure of the current, your kayak may sometimes be jammed against an obstacle. A "double broach" happens when your craft is blocked at both ends. To avoid this, anticipate the obstacle.   Too late? Lean towards the broach to avoid capsizing.

Sharp turn
It is a sharp turn of the river. The current carriecarrys your kayak away from the shore and towards an obstacle (cliff, branches, etc.). Anticipate it by going inside the bend. A "hollow" is when the effect of erosion carves a depression in the rocky bank at the end of the bend.

Whirlpool
The water disappears under an outcropping of rocks or an island: anything that is sucked in by this current may get stuck in it. Keep your eyes open and, again, anticipate it!

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