Storm Riders

Pushing the limits of sea kayak performance

[This story appears in the “Mission Specific” feature from the December 2012 issue of Canoe & Kayak, available on newsstands now.]

The Team: Marty Perry, Rowan Gloag and the Hurricane Riders
The Mission: Push the limits of sea-kayak performance

Marty Perry surfing Skook. Photo by Rowan Gloag

They call themselves the Hurricane Riders, and they delight in chasing the rough waters at the edge of sea kayak performance. They charge into frigid overhead surf and seal-launch from rocky overhangs into flooding tide races. To the uninitiated their exploits may seem reckless and irresponsible, but Marty Perry and Rowan Gloag see it another way. The duo at the core of the Vancouver-based Hurricane Riders crew has put plenty of thought into innovative ways to push the limits of the long boat. Borrowing whitewater paddling techniques has helped reduce certain risks, but often Perry and Gloag must find or make gear that meets their storm-riding style. — Mike McKay


Paddle: Typical touring paddles can’t take the beating that the Hurricane Riders’ rugged rock-gardening subjects them to. “We were breaking paddle after paddle,” Perry explains. “We realized we had to borrow more durable paddles from the creekboating world.” They settled on the Werner Shogun and Saltwood Reggie, with stiff and powerful blades to withstand hard hits, and fatigue-minimizing foam cores suited for the longer flats.

Center Pillar: The riders regularly paddle in sea conditions capable of crushing a composite sea kayak. Squaring up to “dumpers”—large waves that crash over the paddler—requires a kayak you can trust to stay in one piece. The Hurricane Riders reinforce their boats with PVC center pillars.

Modified Cockpit: Perry and Gloag realized the need to be tight in the boat to avoid unwanted ejections. By using a system of outfitted hip pads, thigh braces, bulkhead foot pegs, and a durable back-band, the cockpit has the snug customized fit of a typical creekboat.

Whirlpool Bars: The boys rig their kayaks with custom “whirlpool” grab-lines fore and aft of the cockpit. The padded lines provide a potential swimmer an extra element of safety in big ocean surf.

Hull Design: The extreme sea conditions the riders seek out demand from a kayak both speed and maneuverability. The 16-foot-plus length of The Hurricane Riders’ kayaks provides the former, but the latter is hard to achieve in boats of that length. Gloag worked with Sterling’s Kayaks to develop a version of the company’s Reflection model with more bow and stern rocker, resulting in more maneuverability on a wave. Gloag explains: “While it is fun to front surf, I enjoy spending as much time back surfing. This design allows me to do that with ease.”

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Add a Comment

  • http://twitter.com/michandwalker Michèle Simpson

    Great article Marty and Rowan….maybe you’ll take me out next time I come visit..

  • vaguely perplexed

    It appears these are baby waves. Why not simply grab a surfboard, and save money on paddles and other nonsense they keep banging on about.

  • Pete

    vaguely perplexed, you have obviously never ridden a wave on a kayak, or even been on one.

  • tbone

    seems like plastic boats would be more suited for this kinda stuff, like the chatham 16 is made for surf and rock gardening, if you get the poly one you don’t have to worry about cracking glass.

  • adam

    “hurricane riders” don’t seem to be doing anything too extreme from what I have seen on video, especially when compare what they are doing to somebody like Andrew Mcauley’s fatal trip from AU to NZ or what extreme whitewater kayakers routinely do.

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