Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Rock Garden Buffer Zones

Buffer - to lessen or moderate the impact of something.

When kayaking among ocean rock gardens, it is helpful to know where safe zones are.  Knowing and using these safe zones will allow one to paddle in close to the rocks and to access more areas and play spots.
Cate Hawthorne sea kayak rock gardening on the Mendocino Coast of California. Photo by Jeff Laxier
Deep water (where waves aren't breaking) are obvious safe zones.  There are also areas in rock gardens where we can find safety from breaking waves.  We can hide behind a rock when the wave comes and let the rock take the impact of the wave and lessen or buffer it's energy.

Have you ever gone out into the driveway when your significant other is washing the car?  Perhaps, they are feeling a bit ornery and try to spray you with the hose.  By ducking behind the car, you can avoid the full blast of the hose.  This is the same with using rocks as buffers in the ocean.  We refer to these areas as buffer zones.
Jean sitting in a buffer zone behind a rock during a Liquid Fusion Kayaking Rock Garden Class.  Photo by Jeff Laxier.

To use a buffer zone -
1. Determine the direction of the waves.
2. Look for a sizable rock that will block the incoming wave (watching a couple of sets roll through the area will give you an idea if the rock is large enough)
3. Hold position as close behind the rock as possible when the wave hits.
4. Stay loose in the hips and potentially ready to brace as the water may surge under or around you.

When the set has passed, journey to the next buffer zone.  Whitewater river runners can compare this concept to eddying out and eddy hopping.

Not all buffer zones are created equal just as all waves are not the same size and direction.  It takes time to develop the water reading skills to recognize buffer zones and how to use them.  On your next rock garden journey, start looking for buffer zones and find small friendly ones to play with.


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