If you’re training for a race, you’ll find that tidal currents, wind, and boat waves will add more challenge to your paddles better preparing you for the unexpected conditions of a race. In a recent race in Seattle, many paddlers complained that the side wind forced them to paddle on one side for a few miles which was exhausting. Paddlers in the race that I spoke to who paddle in saltwater, found those conditions similar to what they regularly experience daily with strong tidal currents which push and pull on on a board/boat in open water.
If you do decide to paddle in saltwater, inquire among surf and kayak shops on where to go, any tips, etc. Get a local boating or paddling guidebook for more info as well. And buy a tide chart, learn to read it, and use it to plan you paddles. I love high winds so I can do downwinders, but also love super glassy days for quiet paddles and cleaner boat wakes. Low tides make our local freighter waves quite large, high tides provide a shorter carry to the water from the car. Winter means less boating traffic, quite a few calm days but fun windy days as well. Summer is obviously warmer but more caotic due to increased boating traffic. Pros and cons of each, find out what works best for you. Winter will mean more high tides in the day, while summer has low tides during the day.
Learn how to use currents to your advantage. You can travel several miles with ease letting the current carry you in some locations. But you’ll be bummed if you didn’t check the current chart and find yourself ‘bucking’ or paddling against incoming current for several miles. Even large bodies of water such as San Francisco Bay or Puget Sound have river like tendacies. For example, if there’s a land mass protuding into the bay, current will wrap around the point or bend, and create an eddy on the downstream side behind the land mass. An eddy is recirculating current that actually goes upstream and is common in rivers. If you’re paddling to the point from the down current side, going A to B isn’t the fastest way to get there. Follow the shoreline and use the eddy to push your to the point, then surf or paddle the main current downstream to your starting point. It’s possible to travel up to 30 miles a day on a kayak or SUP using strong currents and little effort. Fun stuff if you know what your doing!
Terms for Paddling in Saltwater:
– Tide Chart: Shows the vertical change in water which affects beach, dock, and boat ramp access.
– Current Chart: Shows the horizontal movement of water. This only applies to areas of high current above 3-4kts.
– Ebb – Outgoing tide or current.
– Flood – Incoming tide or current.
– Slack – Period between ebb and flood, sometimes calm, and in some location current direction may seem confused.
Online tide chart:
http://www.mobilegeographics.com:81/locations/1528.html (this one for Deception Pass, WA USA)