In this article we are looking at getting on or off the conveyor belt of moving water, efficiently and without capsizing...

Strong tidal currents, over falls and tide races similar to rivers, different strengths of flow’s edddies and eddy lines. There are however a few major differences.

The scale is different, while the likelihood of entrapment is less, the psychological effect of being in a big environment can be challenging. The eddies are generally bigger, giving you time to gather your wits and accommodate the longer sea boats. The weather can also play a bigger effect on the conditions you are playing in, particularly "Wind v’s Tide" and the strength of the current will change as you use a site this will mean the shape and characteristics of tide race will also change.

Eddy lines in particular can change in shape and size, I prefer to call it an "Eddy area" rather than line. Often it’s not a clear line between still water and moving, it can be wider than a a defined line and the current moves at different speeds rather than just stop and go. Also the eddy area can surge and sometimes current is moving against as well as parallel to you.

We need to have the skills to break into and out of this moving water.

Breaking Out/Off the Conveyor belt
Normally before we break into moving water, we have had to break out, if we are running down a tide race local knowledge will help us, know where the break outs are (I can think of the first break out at North Stack, this is quite easy to miss if you don’t know where it is) otherwise we will have to scout as we go. Large swell or big water with a fast tide will normally make this a quick decision but the rough, quicker water often doesn’t start till the edge of the race, which should give you time to "set up".

The water may well be moving quickly, so don’t let yourself get swept down the race and miss the eddy.

Paddles aggressively towards a fixed point, preferably at the top part of the eddy, this will give you forward speed to punch through the often concealed eddy area. Remember the edge of lean should be appropriate as nose crosses into the eddy to avoid tipping over in the eddy (capsizing). The most important thing is to punch the nose through into the eddy, everything else is "icing on the cake". Dont forget as well that some eddies are very confused and you may need a few extra strokes, be it draws or sweeps, to get you in still water.

Breaking In
Once you are in an eddy, it will give you a chance to look at the water on the race. Try to identify what’s happening where the moving water starts, how big the eddy line is are there boils or which direction the water is being pushed to. Think about a launch pad this is the point you set your angle edge before you go into the current. I normally have two launch pads the first before I enter the moving water and another when I am in the race to adjust my speed angle edge to achieve my goal.

Slow Break Out
This means you may wish to go further out into the current before you turn it may be to miss an obstacle or get a better look.

You set your angle and speed to ferry glide out, if you make use of the surf, use the water as much as you can, keep and eye on your surroundings to check your drift and decide when you want to start the turn.  Reverse and forward sweep will give you the most support.

Fast Break Out
Once again choose your launch pad. Check as you bring the reverse stroke forward, the lean is slowly taken off as the paddle moves forward and the support decreases.

Lean v’s Edge
When we edge the boat we are forcing one bum cheek down on the side we wish to edge (the lifting of the opposite knee is icing on the cake), the aim is to try to keep a consistent edge one you can hold that is suitable for the task. You are trying to keep your head within the confines of the width of the boat – to avoid capsizing.

When we lean, our head goes outside this area and a combination of different paddle strokes gives us the support to prevent a capsize. Obviously unless you have disco hips the lean is more effective at getting the boat on its side.


This is a series of articles on Rough Water Handling based on the New DVD coming out in Mid Feb at Canoe expo. The DVD features and Top paddlers and coaches including, Aled Williams, Nick Cunnliffe, Trys Burke and Nigel Dennis.

Olly Sanders is Sponsered by Palm and Lendal and check out www.rockandseaproductions for more info.