Bryan Kirk: The Super Ferry

Practice surfing to perfect your ferrying skills

Bryan Kirk on the New River Dries

Bryan Kirk on the New River Dries

The Super Ferry

By Bryan Kirk

My favorite aspect of freestyle is surfing waves, and luckily this skill can come in handy for putting your creek boat where you want it on Class V runs. The ability to work with the river and all its features will make you a more efficient paddler and will guarantee better lines.

As you're heading downstream, every wave, big or small, should be viewed as a possible tool to help you move across the river quickly and easily. Establishing a surf, even a partial surf, will allow you to perform a sort of 'super ferry.' This is when gravity slows your downstream speed due to the wave, then the force of the moving water is able to propel you across the river as quickly as possible while minimizing downstream movement. Note that a full surf need not be established; all it takes for the wave to help you shoot across the river is a slight decrease in downstream speed.

The first step is to spot a wave, and when you're about 5 seconds upstream of it, spin your bow upstream with a sweep until it is facing around 30 degrees towards the river bank you'd like to approach. As you're dropping into the trough of the wave, give a few quick forward strokes to establish a surf. Once you begin to surf, you can increase your boat angle in the desired direction to accelerate your boat laterally across the river. When you've traveled almost as far as needed laterally, turn your surfing rudder stroke into an open bow draw to turn fully downstream. Transfer your draw stroke into a forward stroke to fully transfer your lateral speed into downstream momentum. Be sure to experiment with holes, breaking waves, and curlers to open up even more options for getting right or left in a hurry.

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