Beginner's Guide to Coastal Worlds, Tip #5

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Tip #5: Race Conditions

I love big waves. For me, the rougher the water is, the better. So when last year’s coastal world championship took place on Lake Geneva in a dead flat calm, I quickly discovered that I sure could use some more straight-up boat speed! I think that experience sums up the conditions challenge of coastal racing: if you excel in only one type of condition, you will not excel in coastal racing.

Conditions can range from mirror smooth to fairly choppy. If you are an Olympic champion on flat water, that is no guarantee that you will excel in coastal racing! If you can tackle epic breakers, that also is no guarantee you will excel in coastal racing!

This year it is fair to say that you will not need the ability to run giant breakers or ocean swells, as the race is within a network of islands. However, given the famous British Columbia currents, there is a good chance that we will be met with those short, steep, standing waves that result from wind moving against current. Those are notoriously tricky, can be slappy on your oars, and can give you a sensation of rowing across boiling water. Pretty fun, actually. 

If you are new to coastal, make sure to read our blogs on coastal catches (click here) and coastal drives (click here) for some technical advice on adjusting your stroke. You should also learn how to surf your boat on even the smallest of waves--the speed you can pick up is astonishing. (We’ll get a blog out on surfing tips soon too.)

Also, be aware of boat wakes. Because these are coastal races, officials do not really have much concern over the wake their powerboats throw onto the course. There are also press boats cruising around, in addition to local traffic that may be diverted around the course, but definitely not stopped. All those boats can create a criss-cross pattern of speed-bump-type boat wakes. Powerboat wakes have very different, and often more challenging, rhythm and spacing than natural waves, so it would behoove you to get some practice keeping speed up through boat wakes. If you get that skill honed, you will probably find you can pick up a lot of ground on other, less prepared boats through these wake zones. 

So make sure to practice in all conditions, from flat water to various chop sizes. Find a friend, and ask them to cruise around you in a stinky outboard boat in the most malicious patterns they can imagine. Coastal racing is a technical sport that rewards adaptability. The rewards are great, as this ability to merge with and embrace your ever-changing environment is one of the most beautiful experiences of coastal rowing.