MIKCo’s Fundamentals II Course Notes


Introduction and Objectives

The beginning kayaker focuses on their paddling skills and rescues. The wiser novice sea paddler understands the importance of the judgmental variables of wind & waves, tides & currents, weather systems, the effects of landforms, and the influence of these changing variables on their route selection. This is the essence of good Seamanship.

Awareness of the environment must be coupled with understanding of the limitations of our personal paddling and rescue skills, kayaks, and equipment. This enables us to make safe, effective decisions on the sea.

  • Weather summary: H and L tide, wind direction and speed, water temp, dew point.
  • Goals for the Day:  What are your individual goals for the day? Do they align with the weather, group and equipment?
  • Safety & Personal Responsibility: Be responsible, first to ourselves, then to others.
  • Risk factors: Awareness of realistic dangers, individual fears and other possible problems.
  • The Captain:  We are captains of our ship, legally, morally and effectively. The Captain of the ship balances environmental, personal and equipment factors in choosing their route.
  • If it hurts, don't do it. Warm up and stretch before activity.
First Concepts for the Beginner
  • Boat only where you can swim ashore.
  • Beginner/novice friends are false safety.
  • 4 B’s: Body, Boat, Blade, Brain.
  • Your kayak is your life raft.
  • Cautious judgment should override excitement and “really doing it” – be afraid.
 Review of Fundamentals I Course Content: The Foundation
  • Kayaks, Paddles, and Equipment.
  • Dressing for paddling.
  • Connecting with your paddle and boat.
  • Entry, wet exits, and basic safety.
  • Assisted rescue and Eskimo rescue.
  • Basic propulsion, maneuvering, and support strokes.
  • Kayak control skills.
  • Simple environmental awareness.

The selection of an appropriate course with a known result by applying good judgment and your skills, experience and knowledge to your equipment, group and conditions. Ken Fink refers to Judgment, Skill, Knowledge and Experience as the “Four Cornerstones” of good paddling.

The essence of smart, safe paddling:
  • Break trip into legs between safety spots.
  • Safety spots/areas protect from wind, swell, current, and may provide ease of landings.
  • Identify danger areas and crux points. Current constrictions, weather shores, headlands and points, no landing zones, shipping and traffic lanes, refracting and reflecting swells, shallows and breaking waves.
  • Minimize exposure to danger areas.
  • Understand your realistic speed and distance in calm, in wind, and against current.
  • Factor in group’s skill set and equipment limitations.
  • Remember that “Destination Disease” can be fatal.
Route Selection Today
  • What are the best route options today for: safety, adventure, opportunities, dangers, escapes, avoidance of unwanted conditions?
  • How might route change when we factor in: wind and waves; tides and currents; nautical traffic; desired scenery; exposures; weather changes; type of day the group desires?
 The Weather Report
  • Weather radios, TV, Internet, VHF radios.
  • Land, coastal, and offshore forecasts.
  • Distinguish the present from upcoming weather conditions.
  • Buoys and their information on wind speed and direction, wave height and period, sea temperature and dew point, anticipated changes, wind or current against swell.
Environmental analysis should consider at a minimum:

How will the following effect sea conditions? How will sea conditions affect us as paddlers?

  • Wind speed and direction and probably changes throughout the trip.
  • Times of tidal highs and lows.
  • Tidal current timing, direction, and strength.
  • Swell height and length (period).
  • Air temperature and dew point.
  • Approaching fronts and weather systems.
  • Fog and its impact on the group.
  • Lightning danger and landing areas.

The above must be overlaid on the three dimensional effects of landforms and the ocean’s bottom topography.

"The secret to not getting lost is to always know where you are.”

Piloting & Dead Reckoning (Dead reckoning is a Fundamental IV skill.)

Dead Reckoning. Planning and plotting an intended or assumed course, as a path on a chart based on compass directions, velocity, time and drift. Usually computed on land. For use in fog, low visibility or night.

Piloting. Navigation as art. Observing landscape and choosing an appropriate course, perhaps referring to a chart. Use of all available information i.e. chart, wind, tide, weather, landmarks, buoys, navigators eye to stay on an intended path or stay located.

Course, Heading, Bearing

Heading: Direction we point our kayak

Course: Path of our kayak over the ground

Bearing: Taking a compass reading to a point or place

Ferry Angle: The angle between ones course and heading to account for drift caused by current, wind, or waves.

Charts as Information
  • Charts on the sea, maps on the land.
  • True & Magnetic North.
  • Scale and distance.
  • NOAA Chart No 1: Basic chart symbols such as composition of shore material, possible rocks, features that are important to paddlers
  • Simple tidal charts.
  • Visualizing the big boat lanes. The deep water, public areas, buoys and boat traffic.
Tides & Currents

Tides are vertical movement, the height or depth of water. Tidal currents are horizontal movement, the speed and direction of water. Tides affect us as tidal streams and currents, and by amounts of shoreline exposed. These will affect our route planning and our safety on the water.

Wind, Waves & Swells

Wind waves are a function of the wind’s fetch, velocity and duration.

Swells are longer, faster, higher energy, more mature waves.

Period is the time between successive wave or swell crests.

Breaking waves could be spilling or dumping.

Basic Rules of the Nautical Road 

You are Captain of your vessel, subject to same rules as big boats, and required to study, know and apply the rules as appropriate.

As a set of general guidelines:

  • Kayakers are the pedestrians of the sea and should be careful when crossing the road. Kayaks lose by the tonnage rule, and seldom have any right of way.
  • The nautical road or shipping channel is between the red and green aids to navigation.
  • Crossing the shipping channel is the same as crossing the freeway: look both ways, cross at the shortest distance, and don’t stop in the middle.
  • Kayaks are safe in the shallows where larger boats cannot go.
  • For kayakers, red right return is wrong; stay out of the big boat lanes.
  • If you cannot avoid being in the road, drive on the right side of the channel.
  • Be polite, signal your intentions, and stay out of the way.
  • To signal as a kayaker, turn well off course and stop your paddle movement.
Group management on the water
  • Stay within easy voice contact.
  • It is easier to stay together than to relocate someone.
  • Everyone is responsible for themselves, their partner, and everyone else in group
  • Tight groups are easier for other water users to see, to move around, and cause less obstruction on navigation roads.
  • Large groups are hard to manage, create more on-water disruption, and cause more environmental impact.
Introduction to Marine Medicine
  • Dangers of cold water paddling.
  • Hypothermia and Cold Shock.
  • Hyperthermia.
  • Cuts and wounds.
  • Dislocations and breaks.
Intro to Towing

Contact Tow: Pushing or pulling another paddler using your boat. Keep boats parallel.

Swimmer Tow: Moving a victim to a safety spot or out of harm’s way.

Waist Tows: Lines and water are dangerous. Know how to use your system.


The following strokes are introduced in Fundamentals I & II. See Fundamentals III, Surf & Rescue, and Rocks & Ledges for development of these and other strokes.

Forward & Reverse Paddling.

Stopping & Backing.

Turning and Steering on the Move

Low Brace Recovery and Sculling.

Low brace on the Move.

Low Brace Turns.

Stationery Draw with In-Water Return & Draw on the Move.

Propulsion Strokes

Recover. Winding up the body to help get paddle into position for the catch. Rotate torso above hips to ‘catch’ as far forward as possible.

Catch. Paddle dropped or driven into the water to initiate the stroke, just before power is applied. We want to avoid air paddling: pulling on paddle while it’s still in the air, before it is fully engaged with the sea.

Pull. Sixty to seventy percent of your power comes from the pull. Use unwinding between the hips and ribs to pull the paddle through the water. Keep power side arm straight (not locked) and shoulders neutral. More upper hand push for acceleration and hard conditions, lower hand pull for efficient cruising in easier conditions.

Exit. Slice out, don’t lift water. Use forearms and elbows, not wrists.


In all cases a horizontal blade is for support, a vertical one for movement.

In vertical plane, add climbing blade angle to forward or sweep strokes to increase stability in rough water.

In horizontal plane, when sculling or bracing, the leading (attack) edge must be slightly raised. Paddle will then tend to climb to the surface, like spreading butter on bread.

Maneuvering Strokes

Rough water sweep strokes. Add a bit of climbing blade angle for support. Compromise between turning and support. Develop a Keyhole stroke, used to add turning element to forward stroke for course correction or initiating other turning strokes. Forward power through “catch and pull” phase, keep paddle in the water and slide out to the side and finish with second half of sweep stroke.

Low brace turns. Requires boat to be moving forward. Opposite sweep to initiate turn. Edge boat to inside of turn. Use moving low brace to maximize edging. Encourage stern of boat to skid round by keeping weight forward and transferring weight to paddle. Paddle to provide support not slowing or turning of boat.

Recovery and Support Strokes

Low brace sculling for support. Long smooth motion. Elbows high. Wide sweep. Shaft horizontal. Climbing not turning blade angle. Commitment to paddle.

Low brace recovery. Slap, Snap, Retrieve. Push up movement (elbows high) to provide initiation for hip flick. Timing and fluidity. Climbing blade angle when performed on the move.

Intro to Edging & Leaning

Edging is using hips and knees to tilt the hull. Leaning is using whole body to tilt the hull.

Edging is used to reduce the kayak’s tendency to turn into the wind (weather cocking) or to assist turning or staying on course.

  • Water out/person in – you choose the order.
  • Assess risk to you and victim. Don’t become another victim.
  • Take control of the situation. Be calm, decisive and positive.
  • Use victim’s boat to stabilize yourself while rescuing.
  • Use your weight and boat to avoid strain or injury.
  • If in waves or wind keep tight hold of victim’s boat to avoid loosing it or being hit by it.
  • Fast and efficient, not rushed and sloppy.
  • Scoop rescue for tired or injured victim.
  • Eskimo rescues with bow and paddle presentation.

Practice, practice…practice. Practice in the conditions you paddle in and with the people you paddle with.

How many rescues are too many to practice, 300?