Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The little GP

Last summer my kid was 4 years old. I sat him in the front hatch, gave him the spare paddle and we went paddling. After that I started a quest to get him a shorter, lighter paddle, with small blades so the paddling motions would be easier for him. After all he was not supposed to paddle but enjoy the ride. I could not find anything in a reasonable price so I decided to carve a Greenland paddle for him.

My crafting skills are not good but I gave it a go anyway. After a lot of cursing for getting into that kind of ‘enterprise’ I finished a nice mini storm paddle. I had decided that the paddle would be a nice tool to practice Greenland rolls, a half way between a normal paddle and the hands.
The small carved and my normal paddles besides my kid meter
The water has finally reached a temperature that I feel nice so a couple of weeks ago we went with my wife and kid to a nearby beach inside the bay. I took the kayak, the new mini GP (Greenland paddle) and the small PFD for my little one along with all the paraphernalia I normally take for paddling plus all the stuff my wife takes to go to the beach... the car was so packed that it looked we were changing residence!!! Once at the beach I practiced some rolling with the small GP. While resting from rolling my kid and I went for a spin or I hung out with both of them until it was time to do some more practice. I must say that the paddle was a success for my kid who wants to paint it with colors...

Enjoying the new paddle.
All the time using the carved paddle, I started with normal sweep roll specially to practice my offside. Then I did some balance brace, butterfly and forward finishing rolls. The short paddle with very small blades doesn’t give much support and forces you to use proper body movements. Some of the rolls I never fail with my normal paddle I failed miserably with the mini GP.

Nice decoration of the roof
As I didn’t spend more than 15 minutes in a row rolling before resting on the beach, by to the end of the afternoon I didn’t feel tired but my muscles were very relaxed and stretched. At that point I managed to do two things I hadn’t managed before: recover from the balance brace without the help of the paddle and then encouraged by that I tried the hand roll and I did it!!! Not very useful but a nice exercise and good show off J

Below are the videos that I got in order to correct technique, I have edited out all the non rolling parts and added some music to make them a bit less boring. If you watch them ( and don't fall asleep half way J) and feel that you can tell me something to improve my rolling technique please do. I know there are good rollers out there that can contribute with a little piece of advice.

 Standard Rolling: the times I fail it is either because I am not leaning back or I am lifting my body before the kayak.

Sculling Brace and Butterfly roll: the sculling on my left is horrible I can't manage to stay there comfortably but I don't know what I need to improve... Similarly with the butterfly for the same side

Storm and reverse sweep roll: I am not sure about this but I think the problem is that I am not facing "sideways" with my chest.

Chest sculling: Unknown territory for me, but a few days after this I borrowed a full length GP and I had no problem sculling...

Static brace and hand roll: I am happy with what I got and no idea how to improve it.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Wind surfers, folowing seas and whales

Half way through the ‘whales’ season this year I was complaining how unlucky I had been at spotting wild life in the last year, specially whales.
That was until I saw some dolphins during a paddle at Cook Is. Soon after, 1 week to be precise, I met a nice pair of seals ‘posing’ for me and the group I was paddling with during a trip to Batesman Bay. Then, 2 weeks later, I had the most amazing encounter with dolphins and whales within Sydney Harbour. As if all that wasn’t enough, not a week had passed, and I found more whales doing again a full show of tails and jumps.

This encounter was out while paddling and surfing exhilarating following seas on my own. Following seas we call when wind and waves come from behind you and you may surf those waves.
Surfing the following seas, a very fun activity.
That day the wind was in the low 20kn from the SE and the sea was just being developed with slow waves of up to 2 meters. Ideal for sea enthusiasts like wind surfers and kite surfers of which I found a few out there that day.
Other users, kite surfs and whale watching cruises.
Also very nice conditions to ride the waves with a sea kayak. I drove me and my family to a beach where I launched from. I paddled, they drove and we met again in a beach 20 km north a few hours later. When I met them they told me of the boring traffic and I told them of the amazing whales.
Another awesome show
The wind kept blowing water on the camera, a pity
A typical family, I think a it was a pod of 2 adults and 2 kids

Of course, those conditions didn’t make for calm and easy shooting at the whales but I got some nice filming. However that wasn’t enough so I filled the rest with me catching those waves. If you get bored of watching me, be patient, the whales are about to make their appearance J

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Klana what?

The best paddles in kayak this year have been those where I learned something. Either by chance or design, all those paddles have been in the surf. One of these sessions happened last weekend during Klanacopia.

Klanawhat!?!!? Exclaimed my wife when I told her that I would be away again during the weekend.
Klanawhat or better known as Klanacopia is a kayaking event run by the guys at Central Coast, in the Hunter Valley region. The group is called Hunter Kayak Klan. Although not strictly where I live, it is not far by water. I participate in the discussion on their forum and in some of the paddles.
The event runs for Saturday and Sunday and for some it started Friday night. Saturday is focused on skills and Sunday on relaxing and mock around with different boats. Some call it 'testing boats day' but as I don't have the money, room in the garage or wife for another kayak, I just call it mock around.
The skills training and the boats to play with are provided by Expedition Kayaks. Rob is one of the instructors and I usually paddle in a group led by him. When this year Klanacopia was being organized I asked him what was he going to do as skill practice. As I am training to get my Sea Leader badge I wanted to know if the skill practice was going to be more beneficial for me than leading a trip I could do during the same weekend. Rob offered me to help him in the instruction and I happily accepted as I wanted to attend the Klanacopia and by "helping" Rob I would learn some tips, apart that it was going to look good in my log book.
In the end I only helped him during the morning because in the afternoon Mark took us for an "interval" training that didn't require assistance, except from the breathing machine.
The morning was good. We did some surf practice and later some rescues and self rescues. However for me, the rescues started right away when the surf practice had barely started. The plan was for Rob to manage all of us from the beach while Joel and I gave tips to catch the waves. I think in reality Rob wanted to stay dry as long as possible that morning :-) In any case I paddled out last from the beach, stopped a bit after the breaking zone and I was still settling my nose clips when I saw a double capsize. I started to paddle slowly to them. I was about to tell Joel to assist one while I was going to assist the other when Owen did a reentry and roll and paddled back to the beach.
The first rescue of the day
The other swimmer was still in the water, within a rip that was taking her slowly to the corner of the beach and the head land with its rocks. I approached her to assist with a rescue but the waves didn't give us time to complete it and I told her to let go a second before the next wave broke on us. If she hadn't, the wave would have hit her in the back and pushed her boat on top of me. After the wave passed I approached her again and I heard her breathing hard. I decided to get her out of there and worry about the kayak later. I asked her to jump on my rear deck and carried her to the beach.
Even though she is a small woman the kayak felt very different to surf. I wanted to catch a wave and surf all the way in like the life savers do in the movies but instead I had to paddle all the way, sweating every inch to the shallower water where she jumped off and walked to the beach. I turned around to check where her kayak was. It was getting closer to the rocks. I paddled to it and hooked a short towline. This time, coming back in was even less elegant that carrying her. The other kayak got carried faster than me with each wave, pulling the linking rope and pushing my boat diagonal to the beach. It got sideways and kept interfering with my paddle. When I finally managed to land I saw Owen's hand all red. A small cut was painting all his hand red, however not even 20 minutes later he was trying to catch the waves again, this time without any swimming 'rests'.
We stayed surfing for a while, catching some long, smooth runs between 'tips' given. When Rob called all to the beach, he asked me to stay catching the waves closer to the beach. He murmured something about showing something to the guys. I tried to surf with good style, leaning and turning but those waves were too small to carry the kayak and I had to push hard to stay on any of them. I don't think I was a good model except on how to do a good cardio training.
Then they all launched again. 1, 2, 3, 4 paddler out but the next one capsized still trying to break free of the surf. I was close by and assisted with the rescue, this time fast enough to avoid the next breaking wave.

We'll practise rescues here but watch out the rocks.
We paddled a couple of km to a point where the swell created some rebound against the rocky headland. That was the set for the next part of the training. First some rolls, then some rescues for those still in the water. Then Rob said "All jump to the water and get back in your boats on your own." A few puzzled looks and someone who asked "all of us? me too?", "yes, all of you" was the answer. Some went back fast into their boats, some needed assistance. One of those needing help tried a couple of reenter and rolls but was still swimming. Then a few attempts at cowboy reenter (crawling from the back deck like a cowboy mounting a horse) also failed. Rob and I were close by and the three of us were getting close to the head land. Rob told the swimmer to link his boat and mine from the toggles using his arms so I could drag him away from the rocks but he didn't knew the manoeuvre. We made an attempt to explain it to him. We were getting close to the coast. Another failed attempt to explain what he had to do and I initiated an assisted rescue while Rob dragged us away from the wall of rocks.
We all paddled back, had lunch and were ready for the afternoon session which was not so memorable except when I miss timed a wave close to the rocks and landed on a boulder 1 meter to the side and 1 meter above from where I wanted to go through. Don't get me wrong, the afternoon session was useful but personally I didn't learn as much as during the morning.
What did I learn? Well, I did my first, and second, real rescue in the surf, so I learnt I could execute under some pressure procedures that I only knew in theory. I also got another lesson on how difficult is to communicate with someone who is in the water after not wanting to be there (capsize from surfing or failed self rescue).

I didn't make a video or took photos because my camera decided to die two weeks ago (I took it to Nikon and today I received by mail a new one). So I borrowed the photos used above, thank you Martin for let me use them.

During the evening we enjoyed some beers, pizza, videos and presentations prepared by some klanners and above all good company. There was also a presentation from 'take 3 for the ocean'. Basically, they guy first made us feel horrible about how we ALL are killing the oceans and its creatures with plastic rubbish. Then he tried to cheer us up saying that if we take 3 pieces of rubbish every time we leave the beach or waterways, we may still save the seas and the creatures living in it.
Two things struck me most from his talk: all the plastic that finish up in the ocean doesn't degrade (I knew that already), with the water motion it breaks in pieces so small that finishes up as the base of the food chain. Many animals think the little things are food instead of pieces of our rubbish. In this way plastic is contaminating and killing by poisoning many animals in and out of the sea.
The other was a photo that reminded me the 'prophet' penguin from the movie Happy Feet, the one with the plastic ring around his neck. I guess seeing it in cartoons is not the same as a real picture.

Please, visit the web page and next time take some rubbish to the bin, even if it is not your rubbish it is your community.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Wild creatures in the city

During the pre paddle briefing Rob asked if someone had any preferences to do and someone said “See some whales”. Everyone agreed between laughs. Very diplomatically Rob delegated that task to his second in command, Shaan, who said “Everything has been arranged.” All laughed again... If only we knew what a good job Shaan had done.

There was some strong wind from the north, probably around 20 knots. Crossing to North Head against it was not easy and it was a workout. It was good, because that was the only exercise we were going to do. After regrouping, resting and decided we were going to regroup again, some 2 km North, we paddled out of the heads and against the wind again. Not 10 minutes had passed and all the instructions about regrouping were out the window and instead of going North, everyone turned to look South. We gave Rob a hard time managing the group but he couldn’t compete against a whale and his calf blowing water and splashing around. We drifted a bit south with the wind but apparently the whales were very curious about these strange creatures floating on the surface and they got even closer... “Too close for comfort” some said later.
They were too curious and got close to check us out.

Suddenly some of the guys started screaming even more. Nothing to worry about, they had just spotted a pod of big dolphins swimming nearby. Soon they were also checking us out as they came and swam underneath the kayaks, while a few hundred meters away the mother and the baby kept splashing.
Coming from the right, Dolphins have priority
After a while that felt too soon, whales and dolphins disappeared under the blue and all that remained were the wind, the waves and the comments like “Did you see how the whale...” “They came close!!!” “Those dolphins...” and others.

We started to paddle back into the heads and the screams of excitement started again. More whales coming from the bottom of the ocean surfaced between us and South Head. Wait a minute, weren’t they the same ones? The whole episode repeated along with the excitement. This time I put my goggles on and tried to spy them within their element but the water was not so clear... or they were not that close.
Second act
Too soon again we started to drift too far south and this time Rob managed the group and we started to come back. At the pull off site we practiced some rolls and played a bit. Then I had to cross the harbour again to get to my car. If time and weather allows me, I paddle across the harbour instead of driving around it to meet with the others. A few weeks ago I was too bold and a big lighting storm prevent me from paddling back, but that is a different story.

While paddling back I looked west inside the harbour and saw some white water in the distance. First I though some waves breaking but then I though “no waves get there with this weather”. Then I said aloud “More whales!! Can’t be!!” but it was. I paddled into the harbour and stayed some distance away but apparently calf whales are as curious as human babies and they came closer. They also appear to be as playful as human infants because they started to breach and splash around. They put a full show of tails, breaches and puffs. At one point I worried that the ferries would collide with them as they passed full steam really close to the whales.
After a while I had to go. This time it didn’t feel too soon. I wasn’t tired of the show but I was satisfied. I had 3 videos of 20 minutes from the time I was by myself, so I had been watching the show for over 1 hour. As I paddled away they kept playing and followed me a bit.  Will they be there next time?
Thank you Shaan, will you share your contacts to summon these amazing creatures?
Sydney CBD and its wild life

Two icons or three if you pay attention to the bottom left.

Come fellows, I start paddling back will you come?
After that day I read on the web  that sometimes ferries or sailboats collide with whales hurting them. I don't think that if a kayak collided with a whale she would be the hurt one... The problem is that we kayaks have very limited vision when up and down on the swell, specially for objects underwater. More than once I hit a log floating just under the surface because I didn't see it until I was on top of it. Regardless of the excitement, being in a kayak may be dangerous when a big mammal decides to surface and the kayaker discovers that instead of water the paddle just catch air. Sadly we don't have the propulsion or the sight to avoid a whale... not to mention a shark or a pod of dolphins. If we are lucky, as I was this day, and the whales are in the mood they will show to us otherwise we have no chance to know where they are nor the speed to get close to them before they dive again.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Calm conditions, nice coast and best people

The trip was advertised on the club calendar as car camping for 3 days. That is the kind of multiday trip I like... at least until I get a kayak that can handle more gear without giving in manoeuvrability.

It happened last weekend some 300km south of Sydney, in Batemans bay area. 17 people in total. Beautiful area. It was a pity that we all missed Saturday's paddle due to windy conditions. I had been with flu like symptoms since Tuesday but on Thursday I felt better so I decided to go. Then, Saturday night cold weather while chatting and eating outdoors and Sunday’s paddle helped the bugs get stronger and put me out of action for Monday and a good part of the week. At least by cutting short the long weekend and coming back home earlier I avoided the traffic of everyone returning to Sydney.

Sunday’s paddle was good though, I was not feeling 100% but a 15 km slow pace of hugging the coast with no swell, no wind and lots of rock passages made me forget I was sick. A mother and her cub seal posing for the cameras, the scenery and company made the almost 10 hours return driving trip worth the not even 4 hours paddle.

Enjoy the little video.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Gold coast and Cook Is

A few weeks ago I went to Gold Coast, Queensland, for work and took the opportunity to stay over the weekend. Mariano, a friend of mine from before migrating to Australia, lives in Brisbane and I stayed over with him and his family. He paddles by himself, preferring to stay away from clubs and organisations. I was the same way a couple of years ago.
I wanted to contact other paddlers from up there and through some common friends I met Eddie. Actually I had met him before when he come down to Sydney a few months ago and joined us in a big group for a Tuesday night paddle. However I had not had opportunity to chat with him then. I had thought of renting kayak and gear up there but Eddie offered to lend me the exact same kayak I have here so I took the offer.
Same model as I have in my garage but over 1000km away.
On Saturday we drove to Gold Coast for a short paddle out against the wind and swell and some surf where we had to compete with windsurfers but not board surfers, a novelty for me.

Mariano in action...
and holding on the side.

This is not fair!! In the middle of two brakes!!

I couldn't stay up and surfed upside down
I had told Eddie that I am happier playing in moving water than paddling distances and he highly recommended to go to Cook Is. Mariano was skeptical about the destination, either because he prefers going from A to B or more likely because we had to drive back even farther south than on Saturday to the frontier with NSW.
This little island is only 1 km from the coast and soon after we started it broke my bad luck with wild water animals!!!
Cook Is and its wild life
Apparently the sea bed in the area makes strange things with the swell which breaks in deep water,  creates rebounds against nothing and makes a small swell of 2 meters appear far bigger than it really was.
Trying to surf deep water waves...
...before they breake in the deep blue
Steep waves with the gold coast buildings on the horizon
The beach where we put in and out also has some strange behaviour with sets of waves coming from different directions and breaking all over the place.
Eddie in the new Tiderace xcite, surviving the multi directional braking waves
A fantastic place
Photos from Eddie, Mariano and me.
Take a look at the video below playing around Cook Is. While surfing I was so happy that I started howling at 2 minutes, went under water rolled back up and as I was still on the wave I kept howling.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The light at the end of the cave

Usually this time of the year is good to go whale watching but I have not been lucky with the wild life sighting this winter. No dolphins and only two whales in the whole season.
With the sea so flat, the wind nonexistent and my bad luck with the sea creatures I decided instead to stay close to the coast and loose some more plastic from my boat :-)  I put in from 'my beach' and went to play with some rock formations that you can never get intimate with if you want to keep your boat in one piece.

Small waves that let me play

The rest of the sea was dead flat

Surfing the small waves and maneuverings among the rocks is fun!!!
After playing for a while in the rock garden I paddled a few kilometres to visit the local sea cave. With normal seas you can't stay close to its entrance as some waves break there. In calm conditions you can get into its first half, until it bends and narrows down. However this day the sea was not even calm, it was flat. So in I went, and kept going to the end of it.

In reality the entrance to the cave is bigger than my helmet

It becomes narrow but you can see the light at the end of the tunnel
When the tide is low you can't get to the end as there are rocks. When the tide is high you may hit your head against the roof. But when tide is right you end up in a nice small pool.
Only accessible with the right tide.
I was enjoying myself in the pool marvelling at the water falling from a couple of streams, the echoes coming from inside the cave, some birds' nests on the cliffs... And then it came. A wave not as small as the others found its way through the tunnel and grew in size as it got compressed between the walls of the cave. It got to me and the tranquillity became a rush to avoid the walls and to stay upright. Nothing happened but it made me remember that I was in a tight spot where I could not completely relax. After few more minutes absorbing the uncommon environment I found my way out.

The calm was broken

While I was editing the video I realised the many different kind of strokes that you need to blend to manoeuvre in a small space and go or stay where you want and not where currents want to take you. A fun afternoon despite the calm conditions.
Below you can see the quiet visit to the cave and the rude interruption by the wave at 1.18.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A kayak surf session to get fit again

I was out of action for over a month. Not only out of action but also in bed for a week. An operation to remove polyps from my sinus was the cause. That left me out of shape more than I though.

As soon as the doctor said I could paddle but not get into the water I organized to go out with a couple of mates. It was shameful to keep them waiting for me. At the end of the 16km I was totally worn out. After returning home I took a good 3 hours nap and went back to sleep early that night. In my favour I can say that later in the week I was with a cold so that may explain it :-)

After that I went paddling by myself a few times in the protected waters of the bay to gain back some fitness and last week, after the doctor said I could go into the water again, I went for an 'interval training' in the surf.

Eating some foam in from the braking wave.
I also finally managed to get a new camera. After testing many (Olympus TG810, Pentax WG2, GoPro HD 2, Sony TX10, Nikon AW100) I decided that for what I mainly use it the best all round was the same I model I have lost, the Nikon AW100. So that paddle was with my new camera, the video below is the fun I managed to have (some of it is a bit out of focus because I forgot to change the autofocus but I liked the undesired effect). I have been playing with zooming and slow motion effects in the editing so there is some of that too.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Reverse sweep roll

I enjoy rolling. I like the feeling when you are underwater, I enjoy wearing the goggles and scuba-kayak and being a proficient roller also gives me confidence when out by myself.
Peace under water
I managed a point where my base “combat” sweep roll was under control on both sides. But the problem of the sweep roll is that you are never in the set up position when you go down. The first few seconds under water are spent on moving the body to the set up. It also finishes with your body in a sort of laying back position which is not the best to keep paddling or face the next breaking wave.

Going up or going down?
I then found out about Greenland rolling and I wanted to incorporate some rolling techniques that would improve on what I see as the problems of my sweep roll. I first worked on the “storm” roll. This roll finishes with your body “laying” forward, a better position to duck into an incoming dumping wave. I still have to refine my technique and drill it into my automatic roll but it is coming along.

Finishing forward.

Then there is the back sweep roll. I had been trying to get my head around this one for months with no much success. Some weeks ago, during a demo day, I borrowed a Greenland T from Expeditions Kayaks. The Greenland T is a kayak easier to roll than most. I dressed for the cold of that day and got my head under water. After being disoriented for a while I finally started to grasp the movement I needed to perform. At the end I had managed a few back sweeps on my good side and was very happy.
A few days later I took my kayak and went to “my beach” for a paddle. “my beach” is in a little bay protected by a rocky reef at the entrance where most waves spend their force. However when I got there I found it was windier than I expected and the waves were coming with a lot of force, enough to keep the inside of the bay with reflected, intersecting and breaking waves where it usually is flat. I was trashed really bad on the reef last year trying to get out and since then I treat those long period waves with a lot of respect. I tested the waters but the inside of the bay was fun enough for that day for what I wanted: try the back sweep in my own kayak.
"my beach" in bad mood.
Thanks to a friend of mine who lent me his camera Sony TX10 to test I was able to record part of that session. If you ask me the Sony is a nice small camera but not really tough and the touch screen was very painful to use for me while on the water... but nice image quality and no fog in the lens. You can see my back weeps and some wave-rides in the video below:

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The secret file see the light

It has been a boring time lately in my blog. First was my deceased camera that took the blame, no more photos or videos for free, then it was a cold that lasted a month and now I am recovering from an operation to remove polyps from my sinuses.
Actually I was so bored today that I started to clean old files and decided to finally compile a video from a few months back when we had big rains in Sydney. There was so much water falling that the biggest dam in the area was spilling and its doors were opened to release some of the pressure.
With Barnabas we talked of going to paddle the river just after the dam and we did. I took my sea kayak and he with a friend of his and his daughter in a big barge sit on top for 3.
The beginning was not easy. Going down and up 3 times to carry all the gear from the car park to the river through a rough steep track. Was I that much stronger when I did white water in my youth or the white water slalom kayak I used to use was lighter? I think a combination of both made the track a long and hard work:
Of course we made it to the water in the end and the start was just after a series of rapids that made the water a bit noisy.
The triple sit on top
The old camera used to get a lot of fog.
After the noisy start it was a cruise down river. I had expected the current to be more helpful and add a bit of fun but the river is a bit too wide for the speed of the water to be felt.
The spider was actually very syncronized
We planned to finish after another series of rapids between Penrith and Winsdor but we lost too much time hauling boats down to the river and we had to abort when we reached Penrith well into the night. I must admit we also started a bit too late.

Below is the video I managed from that paddle, not too exciting as others but worth to break the silence in the blog :-)

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The accident that wasn't

We were ten with Rob as the leader. The wind was ESE 10kn with gusts of 15kn. The swell was 2-3m with peaks of 4m. The period of the swell was 13 seconds. As we travelled south along the cliffs the rebound was keeping the water interesting. There were waves intersecting each other, waves nullifying each other and waves adding their heights onto each other. Even though we travelled mainly against the swell there were rebounds a couple of hundred meters off the cliffs that gave you a little ride.

After approximately 1 hour going south and with daylight almost gone we turned and started the way back with the following seas. Probably half way back, while I was paddling on the sea side of the group riding a nice wave, about 15 meters from me I saw a kayak capsize by the coast and the paddler wet exit. I started a wide turn to approach Neil and help him into his kayak from the coast side, as to have the wind in front of me. When I had almost completed the turn my boat was impacted by another kayak that went a ¼ of his boat over my back deck. While trying to free Bob’s boat from the top of mine he also went down and did a wet exit.

Suddenly with the dark looming, some 200 meters from the cliffs with swell and wind pushing us toward the coast, we had 2 swimmers and their boats very close to each other, no more than 1 meter apart, going up and down as the waves passed. My first thought when I saw both of them so close was to try and separate them to prevent injuries in the moving water. I called Neil to grab my bow but he was not answering. I called a few times and was starting to think he was somehow impaired when he grabbed my bow’s toggle. Later I discovered that because of the noise, the cold water and probably my accent he didn’t understand what I was telling him. Anyway, once he grabbed my bow I told him to grab his kayak with his other hand and I towed him away from Bob and his kayak. The problem now was that we were 25 meters closer to the cliffs, 10 meters from the tow and another 15 from drifting and the cliff wall looked dark and high. I was going to empty the water from his kayak but seeing that his electric pump was already doing its job I concentrated in helping him into the boat. Once he got inside I pulled from his paddle leash to reach his paddle and the leash broke and the paddle drifted away.

In the meantime Rob had instructed those in the  group that were not directly engaged in the rescues to paddle further offshore. The idea was to provide more margin for drift and minimize the effects of the rebound on them. While Bob was helped by Megan, somehow they were drifting faster than we were, as we were in the inside they collided against us but with no consequence other than pushing us closer to the rocky coast.

I called for someone to get the paddle that was drifting away from us when I realized that Mark had attached his tow line to Neil’s kayak and was holding our position with respect to the cliffs. As Neil’s paddle was far from us now, David rafted up (“docking” side by side) with us and gave Neil his spare paddle, but the angle of this paddle was very different to Neil’s usual paddle. Once Neil had his skirt in place and the spare paddle in his hands we separated.

After Rob had ensured that Mark had safely hooked up the tow on Neil's boat, he paddled over to help Megan move Bob out to sea using a contact tow (a quick short distance towing technique). He tried to reach Bob’s kayak for that but a wave separated the kayaks away and when Rob extended his hand the other kayak wasn’t there anymore. He capsized. He tried to roll up but his shoulder got stuck under Bob’s boat. Somehow he managed to complete the roll. It was good it wasn’t his head that bumped against the other kayak hull!

During the rescue my paddle’s blades had twisted so I stayed behind to set it correctly and at this moment Neil fell in again. This time however he managed to roll up but now he was cold, worn out and demoralized by the last capsize so Rae and Shaan rafted up with him to set a long distance tow. Shaan had recovered Neil’s paddle before and while she was in the raft preparing the tow with this extra paddle in her posession, her own paddle was taken  adrift by the water. Rob was a few boats lenght behind the raft. He had just recoverd from the roll when he saw a fluorescent thing floating by his side. That fluorescent thing was a mark on Shaan's paddle and he managed to fish it out while still involved with Megan on Bob's rescue.

After that it was an uneventful return with a tow.

As Rob said in the wrap up after we all landed and changed it was good that in the group we had the skills that we regularly practice to cope with the situation. Another point was how quickly the leeway between us and the cliffs evaporated with the swell and wind pushing us in that direction and how quickly the resources of the group can be tied up. The GPS showed that we dirfted 60 meters in 5 minutes that lasted the whole episode.

Personally, I should have been more attentive to kayaks coming from behind when I turned but the truth is that eventhough I knew they were bahind me, I saw Bob no more than a second before he seal landed on my boat. I also should have double checked that Neil was ok to paddle by himself before letting him go, but again, my mind was more worried about the closing distance to the cliffs than the fact that he was in a kayak stilll pumping out water, a sea condition that had knocked him over once and now with a paddle that was strange to him. Another point is that I was not carrying my tow line nor a spare paddle as I had taken them off last time I used the kayak in a surf session, but I should have. I was trusting the group when I should have been prepared regardless.

All in all an interesting night of mishaps that thankfully didn’t evolve into accidents.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A surf session from the other side

Saturday started very cold for our latitudes, while driving to the meeting point the thermometer in the car read 7 degrees and the sun was already shining! Worst was that the day was going to be spent in the water, 'at least the water is still not as cold as it will be in another month' I thought.

After the surf session with Adrian and Ken during the 'grade 3' weekend I saw in the calendar that Adrian was going to run a "gentle introduction to surfing in kayaks" and I asked him if I could help with something.

The class' aim would be to make the paddlers feel a bit more at ease in the surf zone by teaching them what to expect and how to react when the kayak has to launch from or land on a beach with waves breaking on it. So on Saturday morning we had 6 eager paddlers ready to get wet under the guide of Adrian as instructor and Mark and me helping him.
After introducing to each other and Adrian described what we were going to cover during the day I launched my kayak in the small surf we had in the protected corner of the beach. Then I came back showing how the kayak was broached (put on the side by the wave) and how to perform a low brace. All that while Adrian explained to the group what I was doing.

Getting ready. The waves were perfect to learn.

After that we split the group in 3 with Adrian taking the only double in the group and Mark and me 2 paddlers in single each. We did some exercises to avoid the waves like timing the exit and reverse paddle when the wave is catching up on the coming in. Later we did some low brace practice in the soup zone (the area where the waves are already broken).

Brian helps Wendy to get ready while I tell her... something I don't remember :-)
Kerry and Ian practice in their double under the directions from Adrian

Wendy comes in front of the wave.

We made a break to eat and started the afternoon with a 'train', one after the other, parallel to the beach to practice the low brace in the soup. The problem was that we came out of the protection of the corner and the waves were not so small anymore. Pretty soon we lost a few in the group with capsizes and wet exits. We moved back to the protected corner and we practiced high braces but paying special attention to technique as to prevent injuries to the shoulders.

Lisa practicing a high brace.
To finish the day only those who wanted did another 'train' venturing further out of the protection until a big spilling wave took half of the group to the beach, some in the kayak others swimming and me doing a 'submarine'. To make a 'submarine' you need to survive the wave without capsizing but you need to make it break on your skirt so the skirt collapses and the whole wave finds its way into the kayak. After a couple of seconds the boat will stop being thrown up and down by the white water and your boat will be floating just below the surface. Relax and enjoy a very stable and slow kayak where the waves just roll over its deck.

It was a good day where I hope I helped others to find the surf zone is a fun place to paddle.
Hopefully I can help in this kind of events more often. Thanks Adrian for the opportunity and the confidence in me.

The photos were taken with Adrian's camera but almost everyone had a shot with it so I don't know who took what picture.