Lily Kelsey running a pour over. Photo by Bill Vonnegut
Lily Kelsey running a pour over. Photo by Bill Vonnegut

Intro to Rock Gardening: Running Pour-Overs

'Pour-overs provide the biggest thrill in our ocean playground.'

Above: Lily Kelsey running the famous Disney pour-over in Mendocino, California. Photo by Bill Vonnegut

By Bill Vonnegut

Pour-Overs: Pour-overs are my personal highlight of rock gardening. There is something about being in time with a wave as it covers over an ocean rock. First, I look for a perfectly formed swell and as it appears on the horizon, I choose one that will nicely flow over the rock I have picked. I will take a few strokes to match the speed of the wave and put myself on the wave's path so it takes me over the rock. If everything is timed correctly, I don't have to take many strokes as I sail across with the wave and ride over the rock.

A few things that I look for when finding a good pour-over are:

The exit. Checking to make sure it’s safe where I am going to finish my run is a must. Deep water is good; piles of rocks are not good.

The run. There are many different types of pour-overs, generally any place that waves cover rocks, but the most straight-forward runs tend to have a nice U shape where the water flows through.

The entrance. The safest and easiest entrance will be on a feature with a steep wall. The water will rise vertically up the wall and take the boat right over. Entrances with a large ledge in front of them will be more challenging and are more dangerous if timing is off. The ledges cause the receding waves to expose the rocks in front of the entrance and when the next wave rolls in the water will break right where the run starts.

Roger Smith on a pour-over. Photo by Bill Vonnegut
Roger Smith on a pour-over. Photo by Bill Vonnegut

Pour-overs provide the biggest thrill in our ocean playground. When they are working right, we can ride big waves over the rocks with a fair amount of ease. A pour-over with deep water on both sides provides an ideal spot to practice by picking the right waves and learning how to time the run. Deep, calm water at the exit provides the perfect place to stage some friends who can cheer and take photos.

–Check out MORE ROCK GARDENING SKILLS from Bill Vonnegut.

––Bill Vonnegut is a sea kayak instructor at California Canoe & Kayak and member of the Neptune's Rangers paddling posse. See more from the multi-part rock gardening series where Bill discusses the techniques, skills and gear needed to enjoy coastal whitewater.

–Want to take the next step with your rock gardening? Kayak symposiums bring in the top coaches from around the world, making them a great place to take your paddling skills to the next level. There are a couple great sea kayak symposiums coming soon to the West Coast. First, on Feb. 5,6 & 7 head to California for Paddle Golden Gate in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area.

Then sign up for Lumpy Waters, coming to the Oregon coast on Oct. 7-9, 2016.