On a number of occasions lately – mails, phone calls, launching reports, discussion fora – the problems with pitching kayaks have popped up. Those ponderings appear frequently and the answers are the same. Yes kayaks, as all other ships and boats, do pitch in a short head sea – more or less so depending on hull form, speed, volume and weight distribution – but all pitch in conditions not suited their configuration.
The pitching becomes worse with increased weight and/or volume in the stems, flat bottom, high speed, short steep sea and an inflexible paddler.
In contrast to most other crafts pitching kayaks can be tamed. A dose of body motion, diligently applied, makes all the difference between slowing, slamming and splashing, and silently smoothing over the waves with maintained speed and no apparent effort.
First let us see what happens when a novice tries to fight his or her way against waves...
The kayak accelerates downslope and dives deep into the next wave, where the floatation in the stem throws it high in the air. After a short jump the stem slams hard into the next wavefront. The kayaks slows down and the paddler have to fight not to lose all speed. And then it starts all over again.
With an experienced paddler there may be an altogether different scenario…
The paddler helps the stem over the wave by quickly bending forward on the wavefront. On the wave top s/he quickly leans back to press the stem down on the back of the wave. The result is that the kayak is guided over the wave without losing contact with the surface, without splashing, without losing speed – pure smooth efficiency.
Swedish downhill skiing champion Ingemar Stenmark was in some articles credited with having developed a more efficient way to deal with bumps in the downhill slope. Instead of a forced flight after the bump, losing speed and control he jumped ahead of the bump, keeping the skies in contact with the snow and pressing the skies against the downside of the bump and thereby increasing speed.
Something lika that is what we try to achieve…