If you don’t want to get out of your boat and hike or don’t own a jet ski, there’s an easy, affordable and relatively effortless way to surf the wave of your dreams. A rope tow is very similar to water skiing or wakeboarding except the rope is permanently fixed to a rock or tree. On the opposite end is a small handle, just wide enough for a single hand. Traditionally, attached to or near the handle is a second length of rope that is used to pull the rope back to shore.
After a four day learning curve, I finally mastered the technique of crossing the turbulent eddy line and carving over to surf the massive wave of the White Nile- Nile Special. At high flows, it is possible to surf onto the wave, but as levels drop the aid of a rope is necessary.
Practice is the number one key to success, but here are a few tips to get you started. First, get a good grip on the handle. Use that hand to give yourself a powerful shove towards the eddy line, but be sure not to push yourself backwards, causing the rope to tighten and pull you back up stream. Here is where most problems arise; either your bow gets caught under the approaching current or, most commonly, your bow is caught by the current and you are spun around backwards. If you do get spun around, be sure to let go or you could seriously injure your shoulder. The trick to not letting yourself get spun around is a big sweep stroke with the paddle blade that is farthest away from the rope. The goal of the sweep stoke is to keep your bow pointing upstream until you have successfully crossed the eddy line. Hold onto your paddle as you regularly would with your free hand, and lightly grasp the other side of your paddle, keeping a tight grip on the rope handle. With a few hours of practice, this technique is fairly easy to master and you’ll be catching the wave every ride.
The other half of the equation is the person manning the rope-
Basically, the person on shore holds the tail end of the rope and keeps enough tension so that the rope is not sagging in the water, but loose enough that you’re not pulling the paddler back into the eddy.
As soon as the kayaker successfully makes it onto the wave and lets go of the rope, quickly pull it back onto shore to be sure that no one gets tangled. It’s also a good idea to have a knife at the ready in case the rope gets caught on boat or boater.