By John Scott
Isle of Man
Skookumchuck (Coming soon)
Deception Pass (Coming soon)
For the author, tidal race kayaking represents the best the sport of kayaking has to offer. It is white water paddling, but in the fast tidal flows of the sea. It is challenging and dangerous. It should only be undertaken by experienced paddlers accompanied by other experienced paddlers. Expect to have to role, and to possibly swim. Wear gear which will protect you in the cold sea and keep you afloat e.g. dry suite, buoyancy aid. Always wear a helmet to protect your head. Carry a tow line and working, in date flares. A VHF and/or water proof mobile phone are essential, and preferably forewarn the coast guard of your intension's. Make sure that your self rescue skills are up to date and be prepared to rescue others in very challenging conditions. If you have any doubts about any of the above then don't do it. Otherwise enjoy.
There are 3 tidal races at the Calf Sound. (You can read how to reach the Calf Sound here). There is a narrow race between the Manx mainland and Kitterland, and two larger, wider tidal races between Kitterland and the Calf of Man. These 2 larger races are separated by a "pepper pot" marker. (see photo right). The tidal races can be played either on the flood or on the ebb. However, by far the best conditions for tidal race surfing are encountered at high tide (Port Erin) and for up to 60 minutes after this time. This anomaly is because the tidal flows at the Sound change direction 75 to 90 minutes before they switch at Port Erin. This is most likely due to the momentum created by the enormous amounts of sea water circumnavigating the Calf of Man. The best tidal flows are achieved at spring tides, and this tends to occur on the Isle of Man, when high tide coincides with 12 GMT at Port Erin.
If you arrive early, the two larger tidal races produce surfable waves first, before the narrow race establishes itself. In particular, the shallow water around the "pepper pot marker"generates some large and challenging waves early in the life of the race. However, after about 30 minutes the small race establishes itself with large, surfable, but often gnarly waves near the front. When there is a lot of flow, for example at spring tides, ultimately the small race provides better surfing conditions than the other two races. However, if at a reduced tidal flow the races are maintained and whipped up by a westerly wind over tide, then the large races tend to be superior.
Alternatively, try the large tidal races at low tide (Port Erin), especially if there is some residual swell from the prevailing South Westerly winds in the Isle of Man. At this time the large race tends to produce much more smooth, less gnarly conditions allowing prolonged surf runs often for the full length of the race.
Warning: Kayaking can be dangerous. Tidal races can kill and we recommend that paddlers should avoid them. KAYAK.im, or any third parties mentioned on this page cannot and will not accept liability for death or injury which may occur to those visiting the locations described on this page. Non of the information provided here should be used to plan paddles by inexperienced kayakers, and without expert help and appropriate equipment. In no way should any person assume that any information contained on this site is a recommendation of the safety of the location, facility or professionalism of the instructing personnel.
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