It is amazing how much you can do in a sea kayak with so little skill. Well, sort of.
On Sunday, there was a paddle planned from Shoreham Beach to Flinders Pier, a nice segue from the previous paddle from Flinders to Cape Schanck. Among the 13 paddlers, there were at least two grade 3 paddlers, including the trip leader/instructor.
It all started out to plan, the metre high swell was predicted on the BoM-site, as was the gentle southerly and sunny skies. All good.
There were a number of surf breaks along the way. All I know about surf, is how to spell it. I hadn’t read a single paragraph about kayak surfing and had no idea how to deal with waves. But, never one to let lack of information get in the way of a new experience, I thought I’d give it a go. And if I’m to be totally honest, I also detected an underlying challenge.
I decided to try it after watching the experienced kayakers and seeing what they did. Trouble was, they were quite a way away and mostly concealed by the swell. During my first couple of attempts, I was able to run with the swell a little but not for long and soon the wave crest outstripped my paddling effort. After, there was a fair bit of paddling to and fro and repositioning my boat, which soon became a little tedious. Then there was an opportunity to catch a big wave. Terry yelled at me to paddle hard, lean forward and keep the bow down. Which I did. The last thing I remember before the boat crashed in the break and I ended up in a washing machine, was, hmmnn this sure feels weird, surely the nose is about to go under….
I think I learnt more in the next twenty seconds than I have in three months.
Lesson 1. Sure, paddle forward until the wave starts to break but then lean back and stern rudder your way out of disaster. In other words, get the rest of the instructions before paddling off like a maniac.
Lesson 2. Be really confident that your fellow paddlers are competent in surf rescues. They were, and I knew I was safe. However, in spite if the fact I had been ticked off for rescues in the grading system, I had no idea about a surf rescue. I Instantly forgot almost everything that I had thought I had learnt. However, I didn’t panic or feel worried. Trust and patience are important.
Lesson 3. Nothing is the same in turbulent water. You can’t see anything since it’s all white and foamy. I kneed my spray deck off and almost instantly lost grip of my boat. I swam after it and thanks to having bought a new PFD with more arm movement the day before, managed to get to my boat before it was swept away. My pump also came away from the elastics but was picked up by one of the others.
Lesson 4. It will take time for a rescuer to get into a safe position and not harpoon you with their boat. The rescuer needs to wait until there is sufficient time between breaking waves.
Lesson 5. When the time comes to get back into your boat, don’t stuff around. Get in really quickly, get the spray deck on, release the paddle leash if it has become tangled up, then paddle like mad through any breaking waves.
Lesson 6. Think about what happened, de-brief with the rescuer, read up on surf and have another go some other time after it’s all digested.
Lesson 7. Be amazed and excited about how great sea kayaking is.