A lot of kayakers will feel out of place on big volume at first. It looks scarier, everything is bigger, it’s harder to spot where you’re going and the water is more powerful than you have ever experienced before. Don’t let any of that put you off! Here are my top three tips for big water paddling:

1 Relax

Cruising down huge wave trains and dodging chunky holes is some of the most exhilarating fun you can have with your pants on … or off.  Everything is amplified in big volume, you get more air off the back of waves, You go faster and you go way deeper when you plug through holes. It is quite simply awesome. So step one – relax and enjoy the ride.

Relax, and enjoy the ride! – photo Wally’s Photography


2 Feel it

Every river surges and pulses but often they are so small that you don’t notice. In true big volume you will almost certainly notice. The most common surging feature that big volume throws up are boils, these are mushrooms of water piling on top of each other and rising quickly to the surface, giving the impression of boiling water. Boils are pesky little blighters that often guard the direction you want to be travelling in. Best to hit them with speed but if you don’t have speed, don’t waste your energy fighting them. Be patient, keep close to the boil and feel its surges, it should only take a couple of seconds to find a weak point in its surge and take advantage of it.

The same goes for rolling in big volume, if you are out of sync with a wave train it will be really difficult to roll up and stay up. It is often best to take advantage of the lack of rocks, stay upside down, feel the rhythm of the wave train and try to time your roll to be coming up off the back of a wave.

When you can’t see, learn to feel – photo Wally’s Photography


3 Change your angles

The easiest direction to flip in big volume is on the Y axis (directly backwards), by getting back looped by a crashing wave or hole. To counteract this, angle your kayak a little bit off centre, eleven-o’clock or one-o’clock normally works pretty well for me and as you are about to hit the wave or hole lean really aggressively into it and try and crunch forwards a little to lower your centre of gravity and put you into a more defensive position. Often these actions will allow you to plug straight through a crashing wave or hole, or at the very least give you more of a chance of staying upright, there are no guarantees but I feel this technique works best for me.

When you are ferry gliding on lower volume rivers you will normally point upstream of your target destination. On big volume the water is flowing so quickly and the rivers are so wide, that it’s often better to point almost directly at your target. There is no possible way you can make any ground upstream, so don’t waste your energy. The exception to this is if you’re trying to surf the waves in the wave train across the river, when almost directly upstream is a good place to point.

A slight angle often helps to punch a hole …


Bonus tips

  • If there is a lot going into it, there is a lot coming out.
  • Skirt implosions are far more likely on big volume rivers and they are often not the ideal place to be out of your kayak. For this reason pick a spraydeck you can trust. My deck of choice is the Palm Orbit.

Happy big volume boating!