Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pearling your kayak

His bow pearled while he was surfing and he ended up missing the eddy because he was upside down.

Pearling refers to the action of the bow, or stern, of your kayak diving under the water instead of floating on top. Pearling can happen for a number of reasons and is sometimes even done on purpose. If your kayak suddenly pearls and you were not expecting it or take actions to bring the bow or stern back to the surface you will most likely either get quickly flipped over or sent straight over onto your face.

Pearling on a wave sometimes happens when the wave is too short for your kayak. If you find yourself in this situation you will need to constantly be on an edge and continuously carving back and forth on the wave.

Pearling on a wave can also happen when a wave surges and pushes you down further in the trough of the wave. The easy fix for when this happens is to throw your kayak up on edge. With minimal surface area on the edge of your kayak compared to large surface of the deck of your kayak the buoyancy of your boat should bring the bow or stern right back up to the surface in no time. The trick is to be able to do this fast enough that you don’t get blown off the wave or react quick enough that the bow or stern does not get shoved too far down.

Pearling in flat water happens when you are too heavy for your boat or too much of your weight is forward. The easy fix for this is to shift your weight further onto the stern of the boat. This makes it harder to take strong powerful strokes and makes balancing a bit more of a challenge but it usually keeps your bow above water. However, if you are trying to do a trick such as the Plowing Ender then you will want to keep as much weight as possible on your bow.

Entering or exiting an eddy is also a common place to pearl. This is especially true at high volumes where there is a much more distinct line between downriver current and eddy current. In order to keep your bow from pearling when crossing in and out of an eddy you will want to make sure you do a peel out and lean in the direction of the current you are going into. Punching straight into or out of an eddy in a high volume river or creek typically is a recipe for a flip. However, if you are in a low volume playboat or a squirt boat then this line between eddy and current is a playground, just like a good hole is to a playboater.

Some kayaks are more susceptible to pearling while others are designed specifically not to pearl. With big volume and rounded bows and sterns creek boats are much harder to pearl then other kayaks as flipping in a creek is never a good thing. The opposite of this is a kayak with very thin but wide bow and stern. This shape is typically found on play boats where getting and staying vertical is essential.

Supposedly the term pearl came from surfing where one would throw the end of their surfboard into the on coming wave in order to make the board dive into the water.


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