We are constantly paddling in the eddies, along the edges of the waterways and right next to shore when going against the prevailing current. Unfortunately, there’s always that fear and possibility that you will go too close to shore and have your fin or rudder hit. If you’re on a SUP, you know the feeling of stopping short and having to go off the nose, maybe even sending you sailing into shallow water, which in coastal areas can mean sand at best, oyster beds or rocks at worst. If you are on an OC or a Surski, it nac bend or break your rudder depending on your speed, weight, and the hardness of the bottom.
Here’s what I do.
For SUP and for OC, I paddle on the side that’s closest to shore. Sounds simple right? Your paddle will generally hit before your fin or rudder. Instead of a constant alternating stroke, I work on keeping my canoe or SUP straight by using my paddle to steer and managing my proximity to shore. Where we are, it can be a few feet away. For surfski, it’s the same concept, but with alternating strokes, I just take a little deeper stroke on my right as I alternate. If I need to paddle to the side away from shore, I’m less aggressive with my line and give myself a little more room away from shore, but not so much that I’m into the current. Usually on the eddy edge.
If you are on a SUP and you need an additional inch or two of clearance, you can also put pressure on the inside rail, or the foot closest to shore. Tilting the board to the side closest to shore will actually have a corresponding tilting of the fin away from the angle of the bottom. It’ll give you that extra clearance. The same holds true with an OC and flying your ama to give you a few more degrees of angle on your rudder.
On a SUP, you can also move your feet and walk or shuffle toward the nose or front of the board. That will lower the nose and lift the tail of the board. The fin, in the back of the board, will naturally lift up from the bottom. Combine moving forward and the rail, with control for even more clearance. Sometimes all you need is a little room. And in general, if it’s that shallow, it might now be the best line or the fastest water. But it’s good to have options and strategies for your course.