Kayaking A Whirlpool: A Fear Shared By All Kayakers

Kayaking A Whirlpool - Fringe Elements

Abigail ScottByAbigail Scott
Updated on 8/13/2022

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It is not simple to kayak a whirlpool, but it is not impossible; practice and experience are necessary to develop fringe skills. We were kayaking a Whirlpool. According to Paul Kuthe, a renowned kayaker and guide, the most frightening aspect for any swimmer is a very turbulent and deep whirlpool. They have a propensity to keep you submerged for an extended period.

For adventurous kayakers like Kuthe, whirlpools are at the top of the list of why swimming through a surging tidal race might be dangerous. Swimming is the kayaking term for getting out of a boat and moving through the water. When Kuthe and his friends applied the skills they learned from whitewater kayaking to sea kayaking, they had to accept the possibility that erroneous paddle strokes could result in them having to swim through some of the most tumultuous parts of the ocean.

As Kuthe puts it, "One should avoid swimming at all costs; despite this, a saying goes around in the boating world: all of us are merely sitting in between swims right now." It doesn't matter how skilled you are; the only way you'll ever stop being able to swim is if you decide to give up the sport altogether. Kuthe went for an unplanned swim near the Reversing Falls of the St. Johns River in New Brunswick while filming Fringe Elements.

When Kuthe thinks back on it, he says, "A quarter mile downstream was the greatest whirlpool I'd ever seen." "When I stepped out of my boat, that is the only thing I could think about. When I have been caught in whirlpools in the past, it has only been for a brief period before either my flotation device (PFD) or the boat's buoyancy pushed me to the surface. I had no intention of getting into that whirlpool. "


When tidal races are at the height of their strength, Kuthe searches for them, only a few times each year do sites like the Skookumchuck Narrows in British Columbia and the Shubenacadie River in Nova Scotia produce large waves to be considered house-size. According to Kuthe, "These tidal phenomena are at their very finest when there is a very steep transition from intense water to very shallow water." "In some locations, it may be as deep as 1,000 or 2,000 feet, and then all of a sudden, it runs into water that may be as deep as 100 feet or even as shallow as 30 feet."


According to Kuthe, "there is not a large window of opportunity because the spring tides have the greatest tidal exchanges." In most cases, it is ideal to do it while the high tide transitions into the low tide, which also has to take place throughout the hours of daylight.

The final line is that Kuthe can only push the boundaries of this burgeoning market for sea kayaking on a select few days out of the year.

This article about kayaking a whirlpool was something that we were taking in. Have fun with it, and be sure to check out our website for more information about kayaking.