We are a sea tribe who paddle long boats in rough water conditions in the northwest of Spain.

Our playground is the chaotic frontier among the mighty Atlantic ocean and the ancient Galician coast, where it was said, in the ancient times, that the world ended and the maps showed terrifying creatures……

Rockgardens, ocean surfing, currents, cliffs, big swells, uninhabited islands, gale force storms………… Once you have been paddling between dragons, is not possible to paddle like a human again .

It is a one way trip.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


 By Fugy

In this entry, we will review one of the most fears in our community... to have to swim without the kayak.

Let there be no mistake.

You must never abandon your boat.

Swimming to shore is the very last option to take in consideration.

     IS NOT THE SAME ....

It's a long way to shore.......
Let's clarify one point; open sea swimming it is not the same thing that doing it in a swimming pool, the fact that we are capable of swimming 2 miles in the gym’s warm waters can be translated in not being able to swim 1 mile in the sea even in calm conditions. Many fatal accidents occurs when a paddler underestimates the difficulty of reaching land swimming and he abandons the kayak.


When you are in the kayak far away from the the coast, going up and down slowly following the rhythm of the swell and feeling the wind in the face, you feel marvellously, nothing more matters...... your kayak advances victoriously, you feel like a great conqueror and the ocean waters are your domains….

But with the kayak removed from the equation everything changes, now you are a small cork floating in the immensity, at the mercy of the waves and, even worse, at the mercy of the hungry beings that inhabit the darkness.

It does not sound very funny, but that is true; when only your head is out of the water and there is no boat acting as shield between you and the sea creatures, your mind can go into a terrible anxiety and panic, becaming our worst enemy.

In this situation, you must take a minute, breath deeply and calm down. The splashes are not sea monsters, they are just wavelets or a little school of fish. If something rubs your leg it is not a hungry shark, but any drifting kelp...

Do not allow your mind to work against you, focus on what you have ahead, fix your target and think only what you are going to do and how you are going to achieve it. Your mind must be kept actively occupied with positive thoughts and not with false worries.


The principal variable to take into account at the moment of swimming or not is the time that will pass before we come to hypothermia and how many distance we can swim in this time. It will depend on that our clothes is adapted for the air temperature or the water. We can be physically qualified to cross 1 mile, but not have the necessary time to gain the coast before going hypothermic, in this case the best option will be to remain with the kayak or floating in a safety position that allows us to maintain our corporal heat for as long as posible, increasing our chances for a rescue.

Furthermore, remember that the colder you are, the worst you can swim.

In this great video you can see the effects that cold water has on an accidental swimmer. 


By the time you have to swim, do not leave behind the paddle!! 

You can also intimidate anglers
With the paddle we will be able to swim, to make a more visible distress signals and it is a great method of defense in the rocky zones of the coast.


 Swimming with the paddle you will make movements that usually you do not realize, the problem with that is not to get tired, but it can stress your musculature. For long distances, the best option is to alternate swimming with the paddle and normal swimming. While you swim without it, you can tow it with a small rope, swim grabbing the paddle near de blade end and even you can put it between the PFD and your body.

The body position when swimming with the paddle is the same as normal swimming, and the paddling strokes are similar to the forward stroke; you must feel the blade anchored in the water and your body glyding through the water passing it. In the beginning your movement will slow down between strokes, with practise you will make more gentle movements to avoid this stops.


When you need a rest, just turn your body and try the backstroke, it is easier and smoother than forward stroke and you can vary your body position (from lying back to a more compact position with your knees close to your chest) without slowing you too much. 

Personally, when swimmig with paddle, I prefer a Greenland Storm Paddle (To be honest, an hibrid Aleutian/storm GP made by Berto); it allows smoother movements that an European blade, its length is less stressing than a normal GP and is easier to handle in narrow rock zones.


- When you are swimming crawl style you have a little moment to breath, if at that time a wave arrives splashing your mouth, the situation may be not very confortable. 
- Get the face into the water can affect you psychologicaly ( dark waters may be a little claustrophobic, shadows lurking everywhere...) and physically (itchy eyes, salty mouth...). 
- One of the parts of the body where we lose a great quantity of corporal heat is the head.

For the reasons given above, personally I prefer get the head out of the water and mostly I use three swimming styles:

Roberto: Crawl.            Fugy: Breaststroke.

 Crawl with the head out of the water, (most of the time because it is faster), breaststroke as alternative style every few minutes to relax the muscles and backstroke when I need to rest without ceasing the advance toward the shore.

Alberto sprinting to safety

It is important to set a pace in which we feel comfortable, taking rests to analyze our advance and to avoid getting exhausted.


At the moment of fixing a target it is necessary to take into account three different goals:

Swim to the coast.

Reach the shoreline.

Go out of the water


A note: Look for all the options, maybe the best choice is not to reach land. 

A buoy, a rock …. Our destination can be any safe place if we can wait there to be rescued.

Swimming up to the coast

In open waters our worst enemies will be the wind, the currents and the distance to the coast. We will try to swim downwind and with the currents in favor if it is possible.

First, we must see the drift that the current and the wind have on us to choose our course. Then, if we can see the coast, we will decide our destination, scouting the typology of the coast to decide the safest exit point. While we swim we will verify occasionally if this drift is kept or changes, and if in our way appears some new danger that we could not see previously. These scout, in addition to the obvious function of orientation, will take our mind away from worries.

Reaching the shoreline

If everything has gone as planned, we will get close to shore in the waters of a sheltered cove, a calm beach or a harbour.

But the most probable is that we have to pull ourselves out of the water on a rocky coast or through breakers in a beach. In this last meters we will change to a more defensive swim, because in these zones we may face to big and dangerous hydraulics.

In a beach the great dangers are the breakers and Rip currents.

Before going through the waves, first of all we must stop before the breaking zone to examine the sets. Letting the big waves pass and swimming to the sand with the little ones. 

We will keep an eye in the incoming waves to avoid being caught low of air if one of them breaks over our head. 

 When the period of the waves is very short they will break over us constantly, so be prepared to spend more time with your mouth under the water than over it, maintain yourself calm and let the waves make most of your way to the soup zone. 

If the waves are breaking just in the shoreline, special care must be taken to avoid get smashed in the sand. 

In adition, if the wave breaks and do not wash the sand, it can hide a dangerous hydraulic with a great body of water returning to the ocean in the botton and the waves arriving to the beach in the surface.

Last but not less dangerous, the Rip currents; Basically, when a wave arrives to the beach, all the water that came with it must go back to the sea, but there are more waves coming, so with the waves pushing forward and the gravity pushing back, the only exit is going to the sides creating a flow paralel to the shore; this flow is increasing as it advances until it gets more power than the waves and can return back to the sea, creaing a channel of relatively calm waters. We must avoid them at any cost, and in case of being in one, never try to swim against the current; it is a lost battle, we must go out swimming paralely to the shore to get out.

If our way out is in a rocky zone, we must be specially conservative and prudent, to advance we must change constantly from aggressive swimming to defensive positions. 

Follow the dark brick road......

If possible you must swim in zones of dark water; as general rule the water zones more oxygenated indicates that the water is flowing from one place to another and is being beaten in the rocks, but dark water indicates that in that zone the water moves up and down with the waves but is not creating flows, and maintain our position will be easier.

The flows created in the rock zone are powerfull hydraulics and we will have to use all the skills and tricks to avoid to be dragged by them.

We must adopt defensive positions to protect the torso and the head. If we swim in favour of a flow between rocks, we will do it feet first with the knees bent, on a similar position to the one used in white water, so we will be able to let the flow push us and to use our legs in the obstacles avoiding to hit them. 

Grab firmly to resist the push

Step by step we will gain meters towards the shore, but remember, the water that pushes us has to come back to the sea, so be prepared  to grab wherever you can to avoid returning from where we came.

 Certainly, a good couple of gloves is a great complement in our equipment!!!!

In white waters our paddle may be our best friend to stand in a safe place
In these moments that we are changing constantly our swimming strategy, going on from one calm zone to another crossing dangerous places, to have the paddle with us will be of great utility, not only to swim but to protect us. If you have to use it as a bumper, do not put it between the rock and your chest, it may cause serios injuries, always use it under yor arm like a medieval spear. In narrow channels sculling with the paddle is very effective to move in any direction or to maintain us in a safety position when we are in choppy waters.

Going out of the Water

If we come to land in a beach, once we are in the soap or when our feet touch the sand, we will have practically the situation solved, but even we are not out of danger. Depending on the typology of the beach, dumping waves can reach us, so until we have been completely out of the water, we will be very careful to the incoming waves. 

only one more hard fight....

On the other hand, to walk on waters one meter high can be very exhausting, the water constant flows up to the beach and down to the sea. When the water returns to the ocean it is a good idea not to try to advance, it is better to keep our position and wait for another incoming wave that will push us to our goal.

If we are in a rocky shore, remember that our goal is to get out of the water. If waves are breaking in the rocks and there is no a safe way to exit, simply do not go to the shore. Look for a rock from which you would be able to make signals and to wait for a rescue team.

Don't try to go out there......
...look for safer options

 To get out in a rock, go around it to climb on its inland side.

We must look carefully the shore, safe and easy places to our landing may be hidden near hard and dangerous spots.

In 2-feet waves, this would be a bad idea

If we can get to shore going through shallow waters, we will do it keeping a defensive position, don’t try to walk over the bottom stones, with the incoming waves your feet can become trapped and it can result in serious knees and ankles injuries, and possibly we would end up by falling head first in the stones. 


We will maintain the defensive position until we reach our exit point, taking advantage of an oncoming wave to rise us up to the rock, we have to grab the rock firmly as wave recedes or we will be back on the water again. 


And remember that we will be not in a safe zone until we are out of the scope of the biggest waves. Do not stop to rest if you are not totally sure of having reached a dry and sure zone.




Never leave the kayak, to reach the shore swimming is not impossible, but it is not easy.

Get a try to swim on open sea, is a totally different way of re-discovering the ocean.

Dress for the temperature of the water, hypothermia is ours greatest enemy.

Always have a positive mind, if you believe that you are not going to achieve it already you have lost the battle.

Take a VHF with you, if you see a ship it is difficult for them to see you, but they would  listen a MAYDAY's call.
Practice in group and in controlled scenarios, do not wait to be in a real situation to have your first contact.
My good friend Pablo taking his first Rock&Swim contact.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

THOD FLYING CIRCUS: funny pics + serious thoughts

The great challenges that a kayaker faces are these first times in which one gets involved in a difficult situation for first time: The first capsize in open waters, the first unsuccessful roll, to lose contact with the kayak, etc.

 Once you work out victorious of the situation, your peace of mind on the boat increases, and consequently, you will enjoy much more the following trips when you know that in similar scenarios you can trust in your skills and backups.

 These fears are really a ballast in your oceanic karma, preventing you from enjoying all the places to which we might accede with our kayaks.


The best way of being prepared for these situations is to carry out team practices in situations out of your confort limit in a controlled environment.

Reentries, rescues and practices with and without the kayak are an important part of THOD’s safety routine in every kayaking day.

In relation to that safety routines, the next days we will publish in the blog an article about swimming if we lose contact with the kayak ….