Surge Narrows is a tidal rapids that forms a surfing wave during the flood.
It is located at the junction of Quadra Island, Read Island, and Maurelle Island, just west of Beazley Passage.
It is a good place to learn kayak surfing, and a fairly safe location to upgrade a pool roll to a combat roll.
paddler and friend
& Walter Van Bruggen
contributed to this document. Thank you all.
Updated Nov 19 2017
HOW TO GET TO SURGE
PARKING LOT & RAMP
There are two parking lots, upper & lower. The lower one is often full.
The steep road down to the water now has 2 concrete strips, thus a 2 wheel drive vehicle is okay.
Do not waste time at the bottom of the ramp, others may be waiting to use it.
If the ramp is really busy, leave your vehicle in the parking lot, and carry or wheel your kayak to the ocean.
Reuben has dug out a small parking spot at the bottom of the ramp. It floods at approx 13 feet tide.
GETTING TO THE WAVE
When paddling against a flood current, you can get to the main wave by following a specific path.
It goes right of island 22, along the west side of Peck Island, crosses the Peck wave, and goes around the south & west sides of island 15.
There is a good eddy on the west side of island 15.
Red Wolf island is a common lunch spot, and is special to those who paddled with Brent Arnold
THE DIFFERENT WAVES
There are three areas of interest.
M marks the main wave, on the north side of island 15.
The main wave is composed of 3 different waves that appear at diffferent tide heights. The first wave is closest to the island, second wave is farther out, third wave is farther out still. The third wave only forms when the tide is quite low.
E marks the eddy where people line up.
P marks the Peck Wave, between island 15 and Peck Island.
It is not as well formed as the main wave.
Q marks the
Quadra wave, just off the shore of Quadra Island.
The Quadra wave is sometimes good at low tides or if the main wave is too big.
Immersion gear is a must, the water is cold even in summer.
We wear helmets because it is shallow under the wave. There is also the possibility of getting hit by a boat or paddle during a rescue.
A greenland paddle is a major handicap unless you are very experienced with it in strong current. I suggest you learn the wave with a euro paddle, then try a greenland paddle. For most people, a greenland paddle is a waste of time.
I use a short one piece euro paddle. I wrap the shaft with hockey tape for a better grip with gloves. If you have bare hands, surfboard wax is not as rough as tape.
Paddle leashes are not used because of the possibility of entanglement.
A second paddle is a good idea because the current could rip your paddle out of your grip (Or you might let go during a wet exit).
Some people put the second paddle on the front deck so it's easy to grab it.
Some people put the second paddle on the back deck to reduce turbulence on the front deck.
A short storm paddle will usually fit nicely on the front deck.
A releasable towline that you can deploy quickly is very useful for towing a swimmer & boat into the eddy.
The group should have a couple of radios. I keep mine in a padded bag in my dayhatch while surfing. If there is a chance you will be separated from your kayak, your radio should be on your person.
Waterproof radios are not rated for swift moving water! A tight pfd pocket provides some protection. You can give it extra protection by wrapping it in saran wrap.
Lunch gear might include a hot drink, tarp, seat or chair.
Rubber boots are useful at the vehicle because a stream floods the flat part of the launch area.
How well the wave forms is a function of both current speed and tide height.
Currents less than 4 knots do not form a good wave.
Currents from 4 to 6 knots are best for people new to Surge and/or surfing.
Currents from 6 to 8 knots are best for experienced people.
Currents more than 8 knots are difficult, and come with bigger whirlpools.
If the tide is too low, the subsurface features that form good waves are above water.
If the tide is too high, the wave itself is underwater.
There is a greater tidal exchange during the summer than in winter (daylight hours).
This means the wave changes rapidly during the summer.
During winter, there is a better chance of a stable long-lasting wave.
The following graph compares typical summer & winter days:
summer has greater tide height difference
the current graph using DFO harmonic constants is solid (yellow & cyan)
the current graph using xtide harmonic constants is a red line
the xtide line is always shaped like a sine wave
the DFO plot is sometimes more complex, thus the 50/90 rule is an approximation
the tide station is at the surge narrows store, and is only an approximation to the tide height at the wave
DFO = Fisheries & Oceans Canada
LS = low slack HS = high slack
MF = max flood ME = max ebb
LT = low tide HT = high tide
PST = pacific standard time PDT = pacific daylight time
harmonic constants are the numbers used to calculate the tide & current
Surge is often less windy than the marine forecast for either Johnstone Strait or Strait of Georgia north.
The main wave is well protected from SE/S/SW winds.
Strong NW winds make it hard to stay in the lineup eddy, and can make the main wave more turbulent.
an example of the observed wind & waves at alyak.ca
GETTING ON THE WAVE
There are several methods of getting on the first wave of the MAIN area.
Charge the wave from behind
Ferry onto the front of the wave from the side
Charge the Wave:
- This used to be the standard method; charge the wave from behind and let your momentum carry you through the wave.
- Most people stop paddling too soon.
- The current will try to push your boat to the left, which is why you need to have it pointing somewhat to the right as you hit the wave.
- This method is tiring and it is especially difficult once the current gets higher.
Ferry onto the front of the wave from the side:
- This approach goes around the wave instead of over top of it.
- Start at the right side of the wave, either beside it or close behind it.
- Ferry left onto the wave, keeping your torso just ahead of the crest of the wave.
- It is helpful to keep the bow out of the water.
- Align the kayak with the current before letting the bow drop down.
- This approach is used if a hole prevents the ferry method.
- It is also used by those who charge the wave when they cannot overcome the current.
- Start behind and to the side of the wave.
- Paddle onto the top of the wave and quickly pivot the kayak to align with the current.
- Let the bow drop down.
- Rarely used, this method is a means of getting some surfing time if you cannot get on the wave.
- Portage your kayak above the wave (preferably with assistance).
- Float down to the wave, staying somewhat close to the island.
- Paddle hard as you drop down into the trough.
The second wave:
- Getting on the second wave is tricky. You have to move sideways through changing flows.
- If your kayak pivots well, you may be able to recover if you are turned sideways.
- Otherwise you should attempt to keep the bow pointed more or less towards the oncoming current.
SURFING THE WAVE
When the current is below 4 knots, the wave is too small to hold you in position well.
Stay away from the right-side current that will push you into the rocks.
Early in the day, the water is shallow on the right side of the first wave. It is easy to damage paddles or kayaks.
You steer the boat by making subtle corrections, and you make them early, before your bow is pushed too far to the side.
Most people steer with stern rudders.
Place a stern rudder paddle on the side you wish the bow to turn towards.
Rotate your torso to face the paddle.
Stern rudders are even more effective if the bow is out of water.
Edging your kayak to steer it works very well at Surge.
The current hits the front rocker and pushes the bow sideways.
Excessive drag from the paddle can pull you off the back of the wave.
Foam and entrained air can reduce steering ability.
Moving the paddle blade deep increases the paddle's purchase.
ETIQUETTE & SAFETY
etiquette is important if the wave is busy
etiquette is less important if all paddlers are friends
whoever is at the front of the lineup goes next
the lineup must account for different start locations
be ready to go as soon as the surfer leaves the wave
if you don't get on the wave first try, give up
if you are spat out by the wave on your first try but are well-aligned for a second attempt, the group usually allows it
however, if you are clearly out of position for an immediate re-attempt, abandon your turn, otherwise too much time will be wasted while you attempt to get lined up again
if during your entry attempt you get stuck in the hole on the right by the rocks do not bother trying to ferry left. It does not work.
You can attempt to paddle backwards a couple of boat lengths and have another go immediately, but if you spin out, go to the back of the line
some people prefer that the surfer's exit path not impede the next surfer's approach
if you do come off the wave on the right, you should quickly exit the approach area
go to the end of the lineup unless invited to cut in
if you are skipping your turn, make it obvious
experienced surfers should sit out while the wave is small
beginners should be given extra chances to get on the wave, when the wave is small
one surfer at a time unless the surfer invites the second
rides should be kept to a couple of minutes if the lineup is big
powerboats and approaching logs should be signalled by a whistle blast
all surfers should be watched until the end of their turn especially when they are back in the whirlpools behind the line-up; this is particularly true for paddlers new to Surge
when someone is surfing, someone else should be in a kayak, ready to rescue
all participants must have competent (self and assist) rescue skills and be willing to rescue anyone that swims
however, any group that shows up together should be responsible for that group's safety
if you can't roll reliably, you should inform the group
if you are swimming repeatedly, it might be time for a lunch break
it never hurts to discuss rescue etiquette, especially among separate groups
don't stand in front of the camera(s)
leave no trace on island 15, or on Peck Island
orcas have right of way ;-)
a good roll is not essential, but it will make your visit more enjoyable
A pool roll is NOT a combat roll.
If you don't have a combat roll, it should be a high priority.
Oncoming current is likely to be on your right at the moment of capsize; an immediate roll would be on your left, which is most people's offside.
Rolling with the paddle on the upstream side of the boat is difficult.
Rolling with the paddle on the downstream side of the boat is relatively easy.
If you pause before rolling, the current will push your torso downstream.
A pause may also align your kayak with the current, which makes rolling easier.
Practise rolling on both sides if you can - a good roll on both sides increases your chances of not swimming.
Try learning to switch sides underwater (easier with a short paddle).
If you normally paddle with a greenland paddle, and have switched to a euro for it's superior purchase, you should practice rolling with the euro.
You should be able to grab your spare paddle while upside down.
If your roll is unreliable, you might be intimidated and not make a serious attempt to get on the wave. Roll practice will help.
Practice rolls are always a good idea.
the best rescue is a roll
next best is a re-enter & roll
the best assisted rescue is whatever quickly gets the swimmer & kayak into the eddy,
this may require two rescuers and a tow
a slow or solo rescue after a wet exit usually means you are far downstream and will have to repeat the approach,
this becomes more difficult as the flood speed increases
on island 15 there is a weak cell phone signal from the Telus tower at Orange Pt, Campbell River
TEXTing may be more reliable than a phone call