Wave steepness will also increase as the waves move across shallow water.  The waves will increase in steepness and height until at about the point where the water depth is only 1.3 times deeper than the wave's height... And then they will begin to break.  Whoops, if you are in the middle of 4 foot breaking waves and you didn't plan on it. (These liquid hills pile up until they start falling down.)

As the wind's force decreases the wave length increases and height decreases.  That's the technical way of saying the waves get farther apart and smaller.

Additional Important Note: A small current, 1 to 1.5 miles per hour, will be imparted to the water after the wind has blown continuously for about 6 hours or more.  Current velocity is added or subtracted to your efforts of paddling.

Fifth, a little about the wind on your body and paddle:
You and your kayak are essentially one unit. In terms of the forces acting upon you and your kayak, you can be considered to exist at one point, your center of gravity.  The further from your center of gravity that you extend your head, shoulders, arms, or paddle the more leverage the wind can apply against you.

The above statement seems like a complicated way to describe a simple principle. I state it that way to get you thinking.  I observe too many paddlers not reacting efficiently with their bodies or paddle to the onslaught of high winds.

In Kayaking in High Winds, I will cover techniques of kayak, body and paddle that will allow you to paddle in winds, waves, and gusts of 50 or so mph.

Conclusions to High Winds and Effects on Kayak and Kayaker:

When your kayak is empty there it will be more susceptible to wind.

If your kayak is pointing into the wind that is weathercocking.

If it's pointing with the wind that is leecocking.

Weight in the kayak will provide resistance to wind. Resistance in the stern will cause your kayak to leecock or point with the wind. Resistance in the bow will cause your kayak to weathercock or point into the wind.

Water waves caused by wind are a transmission of the energy imparted by the wind and not a movement of the water itself. There are small currents down the faces of the waves. The higher and steeper the waves, the bigger those currents will be.

Bobing up and down, rolling, and pitch are the motions imparted to you and your kayak by waves. 

The wind's force, duration, and fetch and shallow water effect the height and steepness of waves.

After blowing continuously the wind will impart a small current to the surface of about 1 to 1.5 mph.

With an understanding of the effects of wind and waves; you'll have knowledge, which will give you
the confidence to be a skilled high winds paddler. 

The wave action, the currents in the waves, and the "liquid hills" are all characteristics of wind and waves that I'll show you how to use in "Kayaking in High Winds".

But remember before you go paddling in high winds:
The primary principle of paddle strokes - when you plant your blade in the water and perform a stroke, your blade doesn't move it is your kayak that moves in relation to the blade. Now you're ready for the article about kayaking in high winds.


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but you and your kayak will pitch, pointing uphill and then downhill.

Fourth, understand more about wind on water:
Wave height and wave steepness are two wave characteristics that will have an immediate and dramatic effect upon you and your kayak. (The hills get bigger and steeper.)

These characteristics are the result of the wind's speed (force), the length of time the wind has been blowing
(duration), and the distance over the water which the wind can blow (fetch).

The height of waves is a product of wind speed, duration, and fetch.  Therefore, take into consideration wind speed, duration, and fetch when putting together your paddle plan.

Here is a simple example: It is the morning, you have been camping all night on the north shore of Boulder Basin of Lake Mead and your destination is Hemenway boat ramp, 7 miles of open water (7 miles of potential fetch) to the south.  A north wind (wind blowing south) has been blowing for the last 8 hours (duration) at about 25 to 30 miles per hour (wind speed).  At a 100 yards off shore the waves are 1.5 feet high.  By the
time you are approaching Hemenway boat ramp, if the wind stays steady at 25 to 30 mph (increase duration to 10 hours and fetch to 6 plus miles), you can expect the waves to be about 4 feet high.  Great fun if you are an experienced paddler in winds and waves.  But no fun, quite scary, and even dangerous if you're not.

Wave height will also increase, up to about 1.5 times higher, as the waves move across shallower water. Four foot waves can suddenly become 6 feet. (The hills will get bigger.)

The steepness of waves is a ratio of wave height to wave length (rise over run).  At the onset of a wind the wave length is short but with high winds the height can become significant quickly, hence you can expect steep waves.  As the wind's duration increases the wave length will gradually increase, therefore decreasing steepness.  But, if the winds are variable, so will height and steepness be unpredictable.    

High Winds
Understanding the Winds and Waves
High Winds and Effects on Kayak and Kayaker by Robert Finlay of Kayak Lake Mead
Your learning curve of paddling in high winds will go way up with an understanding of what wind and water are really doing to you, your paddle, and your kayak.

This article's purpose is to provide you with an understanding of wind and waves.
Knowledge will increase confidence. Confidence will increase your skills in high winds.  My approach is to;
1) give you some understanding of the effects of wind on kayak,
2) the effects of wind on water,
3) the effects of waves on kayak,
4) some additional information on wind and water, and
5) the effects of wind on you and your paddle.

Then, in Kayaking in High Winds, I'll talk about your responses to those effects.  So, first some knowledge and then some techniques.  The skills will come with actual practice.

Safety Note: You can learn to paddle in high winds by just going out and paddling in high winds.  Be aware there is some danger in that.  In fact, there are a lot of dangers in that.  Please get some advice on the dangers of kayaking in strong winds by an experienced paddler, or go out with an experienced paddler, or get some good lessons.  This article's scope does not include safety.

Kayaking in the Wind
Paddling in the winds, obviously, is different than paddling on a calm glassy surface.  And for all the joy there is in paddling on a lake with a mirror-like surface, a surface so mirror-like it is hard to tell where water and land begin or end, so perfect you hate to even disturb it with your paddle; there is a lot of fun to be had in paddling in the high winds.  Let's learn about winds and waves.

First, understand your boat in the wind:
When your kayak is empty and you paddle in winds, does your kayak tend to point upwind or does it tend to point downwind?  The wind effects a kayak the same way a weather vane is effected.  One end of the kayak or the other, bow or stern, will tend to point with the wind. 

Of course, when we talk of the kayak "pointing" we're talking about the bow pointing.  A tendency of the bow to point into the wind, or upwind, is called weathercocking.  A tendency of the bow to point with the wind, or downwind, is called leecocking.  Let's just use the terms "into the wind" or "with the wind".

The effects of the wind on an empty kayak will be more pronounced because more surface area is out of the water and therefore, there is more boat to be blown around.  A properly loaded kayak will be less effected by wind.  A properly loaded kayak has the loads down and center. Down, meaning towards the bottom of the boat and center, meaning towards the cockpit.  The kayak will be sitting lower in the water and therefore will be less effected by the wind.  And in all cases your kayak will be more stable when loaded down and center.

If the rear of your boat is heavier, or more loaded than the front, then the rear will have more resistance to the wind and the front will have less resistance to the wind.  Therefore, your kayak will point "with the wind", because your front end, or bow, is lighter, more out of the water, and will be the end of the boat being blown around. 

If the front of your boat is heavier, or more loaded than the rear, then the front will have more resistance to the wind and the rear will have less resistance to the wind.  Therefore, your kayak will point "into the wind", because your rear end, or stern, is lighter, more out of the water, and will be the end of the boat being blown around.

Second, understand the wind on the water:
The wind's effect on the water is to cause waves. When a medium (the water) is disturbed by an energy source (the wind) waves are the result.

Waves are a transference of energy in a medium.  The particles of that medium do not move, but the energy is transferred from particle to particle through the medium.  So, the waves that we see on the water is energy being transferred through the water but the water itself is not moving.  There is no current.  There is not one water molecule moving from "A" to "B" in this diagram. Having said that
understanding high winds and waves
understanding waves
however, there are small "local" currents moving down the faces of the waves, down the front faces, such as from "c" to "d" and down the back faces such as from "e" to "f".  Currents are effectively forces with mass and acceleration.  F=ma, force equals mass times acceleration.  Therefore, the force of the current near "d" or "f" will be greater than at "c" or "e".

Additionally, when a wave breaks against a surface, such as a beach or sea wall, the wave has stopped, but the water continues moving as a current until slowed down by friction.  Obviously, the bigger and faster the wave "was" equals how much force that broken wave's current now "has".

White caps are the tops of waves that have broken and have become currents down the waves' faces. Making the current "c-d" on the front faces even greater.

These face currents on the waves will increase in force as the wave height and steepness increase.

Note: The wave is a mass of water. For our purposes as paddlers, although it's liquid, it acts like a hill.  And in my article "Kayaking in High Winds", I'll show you how you can use this hill to your advantage.

Sidebar: The wind is a movement (a current) of the wind particles (molecules). Sound is a wave in the air caused by a disturbance to the air. It would take a pretty big sound wave to unduly effect your body (however, your ears are designed to be effected by sound waves). But, when the wind hits your kayak, your paddle, and your body; you are being hit with a force with mass. As opposed to a wave in the air or a wave in the water which is essentially a transference of energy passing by.

Third, understand your boat in the waves:
Water waves are just passing you by:
If you are that little red dot at "g-h",  (red dot is the
center of gravity of you and your boat) 

and the wave is passing
through your position,
then you will remain at "g-h",
and just "bob up and down". 
In the process of "bobing up and down", this is going to happen:

If your kayak is aligned transverse to the waves' direction of travel, just as though you were on the side of a hill,
you and your kayak are going to tilt.
(An airplane driver calls this roll.)  
If your kayak is aligned in the direction of the waves' travel (going into the waves or with them), then you will still "bob up and down",
Kayak Skills - High Winds
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