Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A seasoned kayaker is bested

I would usually be shooting this from the kayak but in this case, if I was brave or stupid enough to have tried, it would have probably wound up on the bottom of the ocean, so an image of the surf will have to suffice.
Ok, I’ve been on many bodies of water, some rougher than others. I have been in swells on Lake Texoma that made us all question our judgement but I have never met quite an adversary as I did on vacation: the surf is a pretty merciless opponent.

I didn’t have that much apprehension on the first excursion. It was sunset, the waves were less than optimal and we were packed like. Seemed like it was going to be just fine, first lesson don’t try to climb a kayak in deep water, even though the waves at their worst closer to shore it’s still easier to climb on than trying in deeper water. I did several 360 rolls before learning this very important aspect of surf kayaking.

A wonderful time on the sunset surf, it was a bit rough and a bit windy but the lighting, the shadows and spray were everything a kayaker would love. We caught some very large ladyfish, I mean even larger than I have ever seen. They are related to the tarpon and having them on the line with a moderate drag I understood why. It was a couple of great fights on lighter tackle.

I have many sketches ready to go and we all enjoyed the sunset even with the threat of incoming storms. Here comes lesson two- pay better attention to where you made your first insertion into the surf. Learning that many of the paths look the same from the surf meant a ridiculous half mile walk on sand dragging kayaks along the way, you’re already a bit beat from a few hours of kayaking.

I am working to get with the group, they are closer to shore and farther down the beach than I am, lesson three-pay attention to your own position and not the others.
By the time I realized I was in the rough surf zone and I was following parallel to the shore to keep up with the group, it was too late to change course.

Just as I realized the waves were beginning to have  a great effect on me and my paddling, I am parallel to violent waves. I was rolled sideways, all of my gear washed away and the wave turned me as if without any trouble at all. You realize just how strong the ocean is and how insignificant you are when a wave just rolls you. I almost lost a brand new rod, lesson four-as my son insists, always tether everything to your kayak.

The next day, early morning, I learned how to get into my kayak and I was quite excited and proud of my mastering of the surf. It was an amazing time on four to five foot waves. You would rise up on one and fall down on the other, it was an incredible if not unnerving experience. I learned not to turn your back on the waves, it’s bigger and stronger than you are and you should never underestimate its power.

I wasn’t nervous about coming in, the waves weren’t too ridiculous and after mastering getting out I wasn’t really worried coming back in. I did everything right, I’m perpendicular to the waves and the beach, I’m riding the waves okay. Unfortunately the intention of the waves is to turn you, I know they don’t have a mind of their own but I’m certain I could hear them laughing, maybe it was a gull.
Quicker than I could correct, I am turned and twisted under the wave. My rod is gone and everything in my kayak is strewn across the beach. This time I wasn’t as lucky with the rod,  I lost the brand new $60.00 rod and my sons’ reel, which I will never hear the end of, my son who professes to be able to put the kayak where ever he wants comment? It’s not that hard you know!

The final day I spent my time watching the waves just in time to  change my mind. My son got out there first,  my nephew quickly following and my brother soon after him. My brother and nephew were quickly rushed back to shore but my son got to get too close to a couple of dolphins that were a bit too close for comfort. I’m not sure which was more frightening for him,, the ten foot bull shark the day before, just 100 foot away or the dolphins that seemed to take interest in him while he was alone in the surf, he quickly came in and we decided to do the sound instead. I did get to see one of the dolphins do a complete breach, a first for me.

I learned a lot about the surf and all I can say is I respect it even more. Maybe I have overcome some of the fear of being turned over in a kayak but it’s still not what I would consider an enjoyable experience. I will do better next time, I’m sure, if the waves are willing.

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