Friday, 27 December 2013

An exciting moment

The blog has been quiet for a while, however I have been kayaking, I have had a few adventures and I have written a couple of stories. The problem is that I wanted to share them with Salt magazine, the magazine of NSWSKC. The magazine went out last week and I received it as Christmas present (good timing editor!!).
Within the magazine there were two 'articles' I submited. One of them was about an exciting moment
The other was prompted by the editor of the magazine asking me to answer a few questions in the form of an 'article'.

Below I will reproduce the first, minus some editions and the photos that I didn't submit because I had none from that afternoon:

I arrived for this paddle that normally attracts more than 10 paddlers, sometimes a lot more. On this occasion we had 7 turn up which is a good number for some play around rocks. However my hopes for that gradually ebbed away as I looked around at the mix of boats. All composite kayaks with rudders and not a single helmet to be seen. I imagined it would be just a normal cruise along this beautiful coast. During the briefing Rob confirmed my thoughts adding the that there were good chances of seeing whales. He had seen whales almost every day in that last 3 or 4 days… And I hadn’t brought my camera!
We launched and paddled out. The front of the pack was not going far out to sea, just following the coast some 300 meters from the cliffs so I stayed where I like it, closer to the cliffs, some 0 to 5 meters from them J.
There was no wind and the swell was between 1 and 2 meters with some reaching 3.
From time to time I did a sprint from the cliffs to the group and went back close to my silent rocky friends. In that fashion we reached the corner where the ‘dragon’s cave’ is located. I was unsure if going in or not, I didn’t want to drag all the group when the stated aim of the paddle was to try and see some whales out of the coast. Luckily Mark was just ahead of me and he turned the corner to have a look. Of course nobody had to call me twice to go after him into the mayhem produced by the clapotis and the jets of water bouncing from the cliff walls. The smaller swell created the clapotis and some jets of water, the bigger swell hit the wall and created spectacular splash reaching high and far. Those bigger swells spilled the top when ‘felt’ the shallower bottom in our playground.  The foam from the spilled waves mixed with the rebounds creating bigger waves that travelled parallel to the wall. When I spotted that dynamic in the water I positioned myself to catch them and I managed one really nice ride and some not so good.
Unfortunately the rest of the group was just looking, none of them had helmets and their ruddered boats were more designed for speed than for playing. After a little while I felt guilty and I retreated from the rebounds and jets of water.
We started to return but not so close to the cliffs. However the whales were still hiding.
Reaching south head I saw the waves breaking in a nice seducing way over the rocky reef. A few months ago we were coming back from a similar paddle but with bigger surf over the reef. On that occasion I completely misread the waves and got trashed by a wave that broke over my head, that time I rolled and paddled out before the next set could get me. After that day I take more care when trying to surf the south head reef. However this time the sirens songs enchanted me and I could do anything but going onto the reef.
I should have known better when I saw the waves were smaller than what I had seen before but I was still under the spell. Then the incantation was broken and the water below me was being drained. I looked behind me I saw the wave mouth ready to eat me.

The siren spelling while the wave swallos me. My kayak is red and plastic only :-)
The cliff and most of the rocks were over my left, so I started to paddle as fast as I could towards the right. I wasn’t fast enough and finally the wave caught up with me. As the wave was already breaking and its speed was greater than mine I broached immediately.  I was holding a high brace while surfing sideways over the rocks. I had to do something because my trajectory and speed was taking me straight for the cliff wall. I tried to move my body to turn the kayak and escape the locked position I was in. My idea was to try to rotate it forward to see where I was being taken and hopefully regain the upper hand. You can do that by moving your weight back and stalling the stern of the kayak but I moved my body the other way and what stalled was the bow. I was now surfing backwards among rocks! With the momentum the wave was carrying me I could not hope to stop the boat and paddle out. Soon I was broaching again and my stern caught a rock. The kayak finished the broach and I was again trapped in the spilling wave on a high brace. This time I was already inside the rock garden. I held onto the aggressive high brace as I slid sideways closer and closer to the wall.   I could feel the bumps of some rocks against my hull. I prepared for the inevitable hit. I kept my top knee high and I hoped my hull would take the full force of the hit against the wall when it came. The wave finally squashed my boat against the cliff. The wave surge receded without me.  For an instant I was like a cartoon  character suspended  in  the air. The kayak’s bottom was flat against the wall and me protruding away from the vertical rock sitting in my kayak. Still sideways I fell onto the water. I touched the rocky bottom with my paddle and while my head was still above the surface I took a quick look to see if I had time before the next wave. I went for a roll.
The moment before I tucked in to set up for rolling I was hoping I had enough depth and that I would not hit any rock while performing the roll. I wasn’t lucky, neither unlucky. My helmet hit something and my arm brushed the seagrass on the cliff wall. I rolled up and before I could manoeuvre too far from where I was the next wave came and carried me some more meters above some more rocks to finish a perfect uncontrolled side seal landing on a rock platform.

I got out of the kayak and I signalled Rob I was ok. Then I dragged the kayak to the other end of the rock platform to relaunch on the calm side of the bay. The rest as they say is history J

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Another down wind run

The weather forecast has not worked well lately. Last weekend they predicted winds and storms and the run with the wind and swell I wanted had to be changed for a surf session on an overpopulated beach with a relentless sun and warm temperatures. A couple of friends said lets go to Umina, a beach that has usually good surf and is not so full of surfers as the beaches in Sydney. I said with this forecast lets organize a car shuffle and ride the conditions. The went anyway and had a good time, while Rhys and me stayed in Sydney. We had to change the downwind paddle for a paddle around the crowded beaches and a bit of surf.
This weekend the forecast was the same so when Rhys said lets go to Umina I said yes despite the bad forecast. Once there the sky was covered by clouds but the wind was not so bad and the storm didn’t show up. We also had the beach for ourselves and we surfed until we were tired... In reality I surfed until my stern got impaled in the sand while back surfing and I hit my back hard against the cockpit rim when the backwards motion was stopped suddenly by the crash. With my back in pain and the body tired after almost 3 hours of playing I called it a day. Rhys kept going a bit longer practicing his re-entry and roll in the surf. Later in the car park he put his head down and a river of salt water came running from his nose, that is perseverance!
Paddling in the storm on Sunday
The storm finally came during the night and it was a big one with lots of rain and wind that lasted all the Sunday too. Finally!! I thought when I woke up and organized a downwind paddle with Barnabas. The sea developed during the night storm was perfect with fresh but big enough wind waves to push you forward and catch enough speed to ride some of the faster swell. The wind gusts coming from behind gave us a good push too and more than a few breaking tops were spilled over our decks. To top up the day we had two close encounters with the local fauna. Soon after we started paddling I saw between sets a fin flapping against the water, I thought it was a seal but after getting close we saw a beautiful 'baby' shark. I think it was not a healthy specimen because it swam a bit on its side and a bit as you expect a shark to swim, with fin erected out of the water. That side swim was what I saw that confused me with the flapping of a fin that many seals do. We passed it really close and it was the first time I managed to see a shark’s body on the wild. In the past I have seen a few shark fins but never the body that come attached to the fins. Luckily I didn’t manage to see the teeth that come with the body.
The wind blew the water lifted by the paddle
I was a bit worried of the big dark clouds above us, I have paddled inside an electric storm in the past and I am very keen not to repeat that experience. Luckily no flashes of light came down from those clouds, only heavy rain that washed the salt from my face, diminished the vision to a few hundred meters and tingled over my helmet incessantly.
Many white horses riding with us.
Then half way through our route I got really scared. I was very focused on the waves around us, trying to catch them while keeping an eye on Barnabas who was a few meters behind. Suddenly in front of me, no more than 10 meters away, something jumped out of the water. The first thing I noticed was a big fin on top of a torpedo like body. The second was its size, as fat as my kayak and probably 2 or 3 meters long. Being primed with the shark before I thought it was another shark... but jumping out of the water? and landing on the water like a dolphin? Immediately after that though I recognized it was a dolphin. A pod of at least 5 fat dolphins come to check me up. Another one jumped at my side and I saw clearly another 2 swimming past under my hull. Barnabas came up on a crest just in time to see the farewell jump before they disappeared swimming in their up and down swing behind the next wave.
I want more of this kind of weekends. Even the rain that kept falling helped me to wash the kayak and the car :-)

All the photos starring Barnabas were taken by me with his camera.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Playing with the zipper

I am not talking the trousers' one, but the one that closes when the waves coming from opposing sides of the reef (or beach or whatever is shallowish) crash against each other. If you manage to time it and position yourself right in the spot of the colision you are sort of launched into the air. That is a hard trick to pull though. It is not only timing but also the precise point in space you need to 'estimaguess' in advance. Regardless, it is a very fun and chanllenging area. You have to be very awake because you may be watching one wave coming from behind to surf it and another coming from the front brakes on top of you. Then, when you think the wave is gone another rebound comes from somewhere else. In one of those zippers I know a good kayakers who broke a paddle and another one who capzised and wet exited to discover the water was just above his hips. He just walked out instead of swimming. The most fun for me is to surf a wave and use the one coming from the other side as a launching ramp, with the speed of the surf and the ramp you may get a short airtrip.
Another wave in the zipper, white in front and white behind.
The other day I launched with the idea of surfing but after spending 1 hour trying to catch a runner and only succeding in getting smashed by dumpers I decided to quit the spot. No wonder the beach was all for me with no surfers around. It was good though, because I kept paddling to a spot near by where a short reef coming from the cliffs forms a small rocky outcrop, almost like a tiny island of rocks that is covered at high tide. The part linking the coast and the island is filled with lots of rocks submerged, forming a shallower sea floor. With the right swell and tide it gets interesting to play on it. If the swell outside is big enough it gets around the island and comes onto the shallower floor from both sides forming a zipper. The catch is that the floor making the waves to break is hard if you go down.

With that and the fresh trashing in the dumper at the surf beach in mind I went in and after I got used to the rithm it was a really fun session. At one point trying to stay straight on a wave another one came from the front. However I was not straight on the ride, almost about to broach when the other one hited me. I thought I was going over (1.25 in the video) and was half way down thinking 'oh no, I will definitly scratch the helmet here'.

It is funny, during the last few outings I capsized 3 times that I remember when I didn't go straight down. I put a brace to avoid having my head upside down in the water. When the brace is not enough I go over but slowly and half way through I realize I am about to capzise. When that happens I used to just give up and set up to roll up. However, after the fact I realized I could have done something to prevent the capzise, like a sculling or turn the body like during a balance brace. That is what happened at that point the other day. I realized I was about to go over and because of the previous experiences and the rocks at the bottom I did a sculling that kept me up for another microsecond. When I was about to start to reverse the sculling another wave came from that side and gave me the small extra support and push to come back from the no return point.
Later, while waiting for another wave to come I saw a bird dive in front of me and fly away with a fish half its size. I got it in camera but unless I tell you the black thing at the feet of the bird is a fish you wouldn't recognize what it is. It was an awsome afternoon that I only abandoned because I discovered one of the attachements of my spare paddle was broken.

Enjoy the video and leave some feedback to know what others think.

Saturday, 19 October 2013


The weather observations read wind close to 20kn with gusts in the high 20s. However that was in the coast. My intention was to go for a paddle just inside the bay so the wind should be a lot weaker than that... except the wind was blowing from the land. Anyway, I have been in high winds before, ritht?.... but not in a K1!

I have known that Cahomin had a K1 and I have been asking him when I can go for a paddle, to see if I remember anything from last time I paddled those thin boats over 20 years ago. Finally a few weeks ago I had the opportunity and we went for a gentle paddle in the lake. He in his TK1 and me in his K1. It all went well and no rescues or swims were needed.

Since I have moved, I have been wondering if I would use a K1 during the week for training paddles in the bay near my new home... if I had one that is. The Saturday I met with Cahomin, after the test paddle and after reasuring him I would not sink his K1 nor take it near the rocks I took his boat home while he doesn't use it. The Tuesday after that, I was working from home and at 5pm I put the kayak on my shoulder and walked the 500 meters to the water. It is a small pebble beach in the bay but the wind was creating small waves. I sat in the kayak and started to paddle towards the protected side of the bay. I kept going pushing against the wind until I reached the end and then I turned to follow the coast with the wind from the side now. It wasnt easy and more times I can remember I did an emergency brace to stay on top of the kayak. When it was time to turn with the wind behind it was releif. I was going faster than the waves near the coast. As I was feeling ok with the kayak I went out of the protection of the coast and there the wind waves were a bit bigger and I started to ride them... and brace like crazy to stay up right. I landed ok in the end and very pleased that I had not have to swim.

On a calm hot day.
That was the first of many more I did. Since the day light saving kicked in I ride my push bike back home from work and by 6.30 I am on the water paddling, not everyday but once a week or so. It is not the most exciting paddle when it is not that windy but it keeps me wet and as some very wise paddler once told me: "a day in the water is better than a day out of the water"... or something along those lines.
With the light, in this photo it looks as if I had big dorsals muscles

A thing about the k1, it shows every defect in the tecniche.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Paddling to Nikon

How many times can you expect a big company to honour the warranty? 1, 2, 3 it has been 4 times already!!! I have a new camera every 2 or 3 months and this time I got the newer model!
The only problem is that the warranty lapses after 1 year... or they renewed it with each new camera they sent me? Because every time my Nikon AW100 leaked I had a brand new Nikon AW100 sent to me free of charge within 2 weeks.

Before I moved I was collecting all the boxes from all the AW100 I got. 4 boxes, the first I lost, the others were replaced. However I threw all but one away when we changed house. I have started the collection again now, only this time one box is for the old AW100 and the other for the brand new AW110.

The funny thing is that I know of other paddlers having the same old AW100 with no leaks for a long time... Is it bad luck or bad user? In my defence I can say that I use it in the surf on the kayak's deck 2 or 3 times a week and they don't... well that average has dropped a lot lately with the winter and my 'could be better health'.

I have been taking the camera to Nikon's office my self and then they used to send me a new one. Last week I took the drowned camera to them. A longish drive and when I got there the office was closed and a sign said they had moved to a new address closer to my home. The new office is 200 meters from the Parramata river. My place is 400 meters from the same river.
When the other day I got an email saying the replacement was ready to pick up I decided to paddle over the 7km instead of driving around 12km each way. Not my cup of tea for a paddle on flat water but still 'a day in the water is better than a day not in the water'. It was a placid paddle with very nice 'winter' temperature of around 23 degrees and sunny :-) Now I am thinking of getting a K1 to take advantage of those kind of paddles more often with less hassle (lighter kayak than a sea kayak, more core exercise and less gear to carry). I just need to find a cheap one to convince my wife to let me get it. Do you know of one in Sydney?

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Swim launch

I have had Gordon Brown's DVD for a while but I couldn't watch it until last week. In the second volume of the DVD he shows a landing and then launching from a rocky shore where there was no real room to land the kayak. So he swims in with a rope attached to the kayak. Once on land he pulls the kayak in. To launch again he pushes the kayak away with the rope attached and he swims out after it. He re-enters his boat and paddles away. Then he appears again on camera saying he finished the exercise very tired and that he would not want to do it again... or something of the sort.

I paddled along some cliffs last weekend. The swell was low so it allowed us to get close and play with the features at the base of the rocky walls. Then I saw this section which looked challenging to land but not impossible.
It was a shallow platform at the end of a narrowing gully. Just before the platform there was an overfall and further out the walls of the gully opening to the sea (by 'overfall' I mean where the water rushing out with the wave falls from the platform to the lower surface of the sea and creates some turbulence and a bit of a hole on the water surface, not sure if 'overfall' is the correct term though, if you know it let me know).
On a different day, a different 'overfall'
Nearby there were a few rock fishermen, so if the situation went pear shaped I could walk out, if they came down there must be a way out too. I paddled backwards to be able to look at the waves coming and slowly, timing the peak of the waves I was washed over the platform. I removed the skirt and jumped into waist deep water on an uneven rocky floor. The place was no more than 1 meter wide. Quickly I dragged the boat up the side and out of the waves way.
I was planning to drag the kayak to the front of the gully and seal launch from the low walls but after a quick inspection I saw the rock was full of barnacles and from past experience I've learnt you can't seal launch from there. The kayak doesn't slide on the shells. My options were seal launch through the overfall or swim launch. With the memory from the DVD fresh in my mind and the prospect of trying a new technique I opted to practise the swim launch.
I tucked the paddle under the bungees and deck lines. Then I clipped the deck lines to my tow rope paying attention to clip it from below and clipped the quick release of the tow rope to my PFD. I waited for a wave to come and when it was going out I pushed the kayak out to go with it. I made sure the kayak was out of the overfall and I jumped into the water.
A previous experience where the kayak didn't slide.
And here the things stopped going according to the text-book. When the kayak went out through the overfall it had capsized, came right again and back with the top down. I started to swim. The kayak, now upside down, was pushed again over the overfall and onto the platform very close to where I was. I decided to ignore it and swim out as fast as I could. I didn't want to be floating in that white water with the kayak bouncing close by. When I was a good distance away I started to pull the tow rope but it didn't come.
It reminded me of times when I had climbed a 'needle'. After reaching the top you rappel down, then you start pulling the rope. It usually slides but sometimes it gets stuck. You start a fight to recover the rope, they are not cheap and you don't want to solo climb to recover it... anyway I am being side tracked.
My tow rope was stuck. I could see the boat upside down in the middle of the white water and the rope that went under water close to its bow. What now? Gordon Browns DVD didn't say anything about the rope being stuck. I gave the rope a few more hard pulls and it started to come. But the relief was short as I realized the rope was coming with no boat! The carabiner was still attached to the rope so it was not rope failure. I can only think that with all the bouncing around and banging against rocks the carbiner came undone. I was floating, with 15 meters of rope around me and a boat stuck in the overfall. I started to coil the rope back into its bag but it was very difficult in the water so I asked Caoimhin, who had been watching from his kayak, to coil it for me. I was planning to swim toward the walls of the gully, climb out, fish the kayak out and repeat the swim launch hopefully with better results. However before Caoimhin could finish coiling the rope the kayak was released and came floating toward us. The rest was an easy re-entry and paddle away. I didn't want to temp my luck again.
Again, another day of good fun around the rocks.
My camera on this day was off so I added some colour with photos from my archive taken by Rob, Josh and Matt in some previous paddles.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Landing with the sun

A combination of factors conspired to keep me out of the water for a few weeks. Some of them external like the colder weather that makes it harder for me to get out of bed. But most internal: a flu, some ear infection and a neck problem that comes back from time to time. Sometimes I feel I take a 2 slow steps forward and 2 quick steps back regarding my fitness. What takes me a couple of months to gain I lose in matter of 2 or 3 weeks of 'forced resting'. Well, it may be the natural process of life... or a defective engine.

 I have discovered that play pladdling (surfing, rock gardens, playing rebounds, etc) is the best for me to gain back some fitness as I think of the environment I am in, instead of the aching muscles and sore bum. So with a forecast of wind blowing that way, tide and fat swell coming from the other I was back in the water. I went to the spot where the current would be the strongest (only 2kn in our part of the world) and the water the shallowest to paddle.

My idea was to play the conditions for an hour or two. We got there and the tide was working, the swel not too high but very fat and the wind was blowing... somewhere else, probably in the middle of the ocean. With us there was barely a breeze. Instead of playing the flat water (what is to play there I wonder?) we went for a social paddle where we chatted while paddling all the way. In the end it was a longer way that I intended and I was lot more tired that I would have liked to admit. I came back with the last of sun.
Sun setting
I had to land through the surf and the waves were dumping. Being tired as I was I put all the attention in avoiding the brakes which I mostly managed except for the last one that threw me on the sand.
Bracing onto the sand
Below is the video of that landing, not much action but my face expresions are funny, especially when I look over my shoulder and see a big dump coming my way. It doesnt look big on the video, it never does...

Monday, 5 August 2013

Nautilus lifeline vs PLB

It is getting cold around here and for the next couple of months the water is only going to get colder. I am skinny and get cold easily, specially if in contact with cold water. For that reason in winter I use thin neoprene gloves. They don't last long. Paddling 2 or 3 times a week, before the cold water is replaced by the warmer ocean currents, my gloves start to disintegrate.
I went to a scuba shop to get a new pair. While talking with the saleswoman in the shop I asked her if the scuba divers use PLBs and she showed me the Nautilus Lifeline. She said it is better than a PLB because you can talk with it like a VHF on steroids (she said a range of 20km), it has a small screen showing you the GPS position, it can go far deeper than most PLBs and it has a distress signal that transmits the GPS position. I asked her if that distress is through satelites like a PLB or a line of site like a VHF and she claimed the first.
I was very impressed and when I got home I googled it. It is really a good device but not what she claimed. The range for talking is not 20 km but more like 5 according to some reviews I read and the important bit about the distress signal is not through satelites but line of site. So if you are in problems under the cliffs and no boats within the range (for the distress signal the range claimed is 12 miles) you are on your own. Another thing is that whoever receives the distress digital signal has to have a 'new' radio capable of understanding it.
Bottom line the lady was confused and the Nautilus is a good VHF radio with GPS capabilities not a replacement for a PLB.

While researching about the nautilus I came accross the rescueME PLB. A new device that is 30% smaller than the PLBs I have seen before plus 7 years of battery and warranty (instead of the 3 or 4 usually offered). It also has a new system for deploying the antena that appears innovative. Of course all that comes at price and it is a bit more expensive that the other PLBs.

Disclaimer: I don't own neither of the devices mentioned, except the new gloves that keep my hands warm and wet all day long :-)

Friday, 5 July 2013

Warm images from a cold night

We usually paddle south or north and this day we started south. Then form some reason we veered east and out towards the immensity of the ocean. We kept paddling for a few kilometres until the coast lost its usual form and we had a bird view of it. The sun was setting down, the swell was nice and the wind was playing somewhere else. A peaceful paddle shared with akin souls.


Monday, 1 July 2013

Surfing sea kayaks

Surfing sea kayaks... or I should rather say broaching and capsizing sea kayaks. No, let’s leave 'surfing sea kayaks', it attracts more hits in the search engines :-)
Lots of broaching
and some more
It happened during the sequel of “’You'llbe fine.’ Rock gardening with composite boats.” Apparently the people from the club didn’t learn in the first round to avoid this ‘trip’ and more came. Again Josh organized the paddle and I came to give him a hand. This time however the swell was bigger, around 2 meters, and carried enough water with periods of 10 seconds to prevent us from getting too close to some of the rocks. Also the group was different with more paddlers in the early stages of the learning curve and one that I think was going to be the first time doing a surf landing. For the others I think was also the first time with waves this size.
Some good sized faces
We launched from a small river mouth and went out through a moderate surf with no problems. We had surfed that place before but this time we didn’t because the water quality was no good. It had been raining nonstop for almost 2 weeks and when that happens the waterways are not very nice.
So we then paddled a few kilometres to a beach that before the storms of late was very nice to surf. We soon discovered that many sand banks had formed under water and the waves were not as tidy as we had hoped for. They were bouncing against the sandbanks, getting very steep and not braking, or breaking in places you would think they should not. Then there was a good rip that flattened out the brakes but also made it very hard to pick up speed to surf the waves. Or worst, the current took you to the sand banks at the sides of the rip where the waves were dumping heavily. At least all that added to keep it challenging, interesting and gave me good footage that I captured from the beach J

Interesting images
After the guys rested a while in the beach and I kept trying to time my goes with the dumps (with no much success as you can see in the video) we headed to a famous blow hole nearby. With the swell of the day we could not get into the cave too far but getting close was enough to see the huge splash on the back, where the water is blown out through the roof of the cave and hear the explosion of the water colliding the walls of the cave.

We also manged to practice some unwanted rescues

On the way back we also had a situation with serious cramps that made the paddler incapacitated to go on. There was some deliberation as what to do. One option was leave the paddler on a cafe in an easy landing spot and pick him up later. Another was to tow him with the whole group back to the cars (probably a bit over 1 hour of paddling away). And a third option that nobody voiced was to feed him to the sharks :-). The first option was chosen. We got him to shore where he changed into warm clothes and stayed in the cafe. There he spent a good time sipping hot coffee and chatting with a young pretty waitress while we kept paddling in the cold with the rain hitting out helmets. Some paddlers don't get where the real fun is.

PS. As the cramped paddler is married I have to clarify that the part of the cafe and the waitress is only my invention. Any similarity with real events is purely a coincidence.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Changing times

It has been quiet... at least in my blog.
I have moved house and I no longer have 'my beach' 5 minutes from home. Now I need to drive at least 30 minutes to get open water. There is flat water 5 minutes from home now but I get bored in flat water so I rather drive.
"My beach", which is not mine anymore, in a rough day

After we finished the change of address winter hit our part of the world. As usually happens at this time of the year my kid brought a bug from school. Soon the bug discovered my body to make its house for a couple of weeks...with the side effects for me... ugly weeks.

My attention was also focused in a different kind of paddling lately. I have been leading trips for novices into open water, paddling far from rocks or surf. This kind of paddle gives me a different kind of rewards. Watching transform a face from consternation and almost fear at the beginning to all smiles at the end of the paddle.
Raft up, a good practice for not forward strokes and confidence to rest in moving waters.

I will do more of those but I will not abandon the other kind of fun I have on the water.
White foam and rocks near by, yeah baby!!
Last time I managed that kind of paddling, the nos so gentle one, was like 1 or 2 months ago. A day with lowish swell that allowed us to play in a part of the coast I have not played before. We managed to practice some seal landing and launches, some dodging rocks and payed some rebounds. The funny thing is that part of the coast is where I used to paddle when just started going out to sea, Of course, during those early paddles I never went too close to the rocks and when I had the confidence to play harder I had never went back to paddle that area.
Below is the video that Josh took and compiled from that day:

Thursday, 30 May 2013

"You'll be fine." Rock gardening with composite boats.

I have made this short, action packed video from the day with material from Dragomir, Josh and my camera. Thank you Josh and Dragomir for letting me use your footage.

We met early in the morning at the river mouth. The location remains confidential not to scare new 'victims' of this club paddle.
We were six, with 2 experienced in rock gardens and surf and 4 skilled paddlers eager to get more of this kind of fun. 3 plastic boats and 3 composite ones.
The day started with rolls from everyone in the flat water. The idea was to know where each one was with this skill in case it was needed in a rock garden. We then paddled out into a very calm sea and turned the corner to find some amazing rock towers coming out of the water with enough depth among them as to be able to paddle comfortable. The perfect environment to get used to being close to rocks in moving water.
Perfect: some moving water, towers of rock and enough depth.
A brief intro, a couple of runs following the 'local' and some 'free' time to explore and get a taste of what was to come.

- "Guys, lets move on so we have time before the southerly,  forecasted for later today, hit us".

So we moved on to another feature, then to another and yet another one. Each a bit more challenging than the previous one. A long narrow bay with some rocks at the end. Some paddling really close to the low cliffs where you see how you go up and down beside the rocky wall. Another narrower 'bay' with more rebound...
Dragomir in one of the narrow 'bays'.
At some point we got to this crevice with just enough water to go through in a lull period. It would be sitting on the rocks if you time the trough of the wave or a wild ride if you timed the peak. The advise given was "All you need to do is to inch your nose into the crevice here, wait for the swell to be right and go with it. You'll be fine."
I landed behind the crevice to keep an eye and to be able to throw a rope from terra firma if needed, but also to have some practise on something I don't do that often: seal landing on rocks with moving water.
The crevice on the right and beautiful passages all around.
Everyone went fine, some went through more times than they should have... Of course, when you get many tickets the chances of getting the winner increase and we got some minor mishaps.
And the winner is....
We then moved on to a beach nearby where we hoped to find some surf. Not much on this day but we had some fun with what we were given.

Some rolling practise doesn't hurt
We landed, had something to eat and drink and were quickly back in the boats to paddle back without stopping for any rocks or surf. We started to feel the wind picking up on our backs. By the time we got back to the river white cups could be seen everywhere and some menacing clouds had started to arrive. It was a perfect timing to finish the day and we were all fine... Well a couple of the composite kayaks were lighter when it was time to lift them onto the roof racks.

Nothing serious that some gel coat can't fix.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Sea kayaking into the 'BIG CAVE'

Last summer was dotted with low pressure systems close-by keeping storms, strong winds and heavy seas in the area where I usually paddle. This autumn was quite the opposite with many high pressure systems and very flat seas.
Looking out from one of the big caves

With seas below 1 meter and virtually no wind in the forecast, Josh and I planned to visit “the big cave in Central Coast”. We knew there may be smaller caves in the area as well but I had not imagined what we were going to find.
Magnificent mazes trapped between rock and water
The plan for the weekend was simple: let’s get into every cave, gauntlet and crevice we see while paddling. Once we had the program we put the call out within the club and we were joined by Roger the whole weekend and Marty and Shawn on Sunday.
Shawn 'looking like a saint in one of the narrow passages.
Some of the caves were dark and we needed torches to look inside.
We started with loaded kayaks and soon I was reminded of how much my kayak changes its behaviour when it carries a few kilograms of water, food and shelter in its once dry hatches. Anyway, I am sure that by the end of the weekend it was lighter, not only from the supplies consumed but from the strips of plastic left on the different rock surfaces of the area until I got used to the longer time it took me to turn and stop in small spaces.

We landed in this small beach flanked by walls of rock for the fun of it, and it was fun! Look at the video below

Is he talking to someone from heaven? I felt in heaven this day.
With the water so calm we got into a lot of cave systems that were almost like a maze. I tried my luck and skills going through really narrow and difficult places. I pushed it so much that I got to see some rocks underwater really close.
Yep, the water was shallow here.
I managed to do a lot of things during the weekend but specially something I had been wanting to do for a while: jump off the kayak, climb up a couple of meters the steep rock and jump back in.

Thanks to Shawn for sharing the pictures and to Roger for the videos he recorded with my camera.

You can see some more of the amazing places in the first video below

Or more action like my capsize or Josh almost being dragged by a wave in the second one. 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Caves, blow hole and rocks while sea kayaking

A few weeks ago, with a very calm forecast, we went visiting some caves, the famous blow hole at Kiama and why not, play around rocks.
Here is my edited video of that day from Josh's helmet cam.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

20 seconds

There was a time when I used to swim a 'lot'. At the end, before stretching, I tried to do a few laps underwater. My maximum was a bit over 50 meters. Starting on the shallow end, swim with my belly against the bottom of the pool the 25 meters to the deep end, turn there, coming back to the shallow and turn with the last bit of air. I have no idea how long it used to take me but the sensation at the end was like a vacuum inside my belly. Last weekend I got that sensation again, only this time was while kayaking.
It has been a long time since my last paddle in rapids, 17 years or so, but that stretch stopped last Saturday when I joined 3 other sea kayak paddlers on a visit to the Olympic white water stadium in Penrith.
Mark lent me his white water kayak and I met my fellow paddlers on Saturday morning. I was very confident, although it was my first time in the kayak and it was not 100% adjusted for me (I still need to add some extra foam at the footrests), however I was totally fired up to be there. We did some practise at the bottom pool of the circuit, jumping to the current and coming back into the eddies (the parts where there is no current or it runs upstream). We did some rolls in the current and we jumped onto the conveyor that took us to the beginning of the circuit.

At the top. Beginning of the circuit
I went through the first rapid and the second, stopping after each to play the waves behind the rapid. On the third one I didn't go through and I got trapped in the 'hole' created behind the fall of water. I tried and rolled a few times but got thrown under water again before I could take any air. I waited as long as I could to be released but I could not hold any longer and I pulled the loop of my skirt and swam. Not a good start of the day...
Another one. Josh and David waiting on the eddy and Wade just finished this one.
I caught up with my flooded kayak at the bottom pool and went again for the next run. I was still feeling bold and confident. This second run was not good either. I got stuck in the first rapid and capsized, when I got up I was surfing the wave. I started to enjoy the surf when I found my self again under water. I tried but could not roll up. I was again trapped in a hole. This time, while still under water, I was released from the trap and when I tried again to roll again I succeeded. However I was totally exhausted and out of air, feeling that vacuum in my stomach. Take a look at the video at the bottom, it was only 20 seconds!!! Believe me, it felt a LOT LONGER than 20 seconds!!!
Looking up before the big apnea.
After that my boldness and confidence were gone and I started to paddle the circuit in a more humbled way. There were still lots of capsizes and rolls but none was long nor were more swims.