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.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Short and long kayaks surf session

Here is the video related to last post:

Thanks Mark for letting me use the footage.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

First try

During the weekend I had my first opportunity to surf a short boat. Not a great day for surfing as the waves were short and dumped quickly after forming but I had fun.
Punching out through the dumping waves.
It was during a weekend aimed at developing the skills of the trip leaders within the club. There was going to be a session of surfing and one of the instructors suggested to bring short boats for the occasion.

The mob gathers out of the break zone

I have no short boat but some of the guys who brought one didn't want to use it and I jumped at the opportunity to borrow the one that Dave brought. Most of the other leaders in the water were with their sea kayaks doing exercises on landing and traversing the soup.
Punching the waves.
Playing the soup.

If you put a brave face the waves are nicer.
However being in the short boat I just wanted to ride the waves. It was not a proper surf boat, more like a white water kayak. However at a bit short of 3 meters long it is a lot more manoeuvrable than my 5.3 sea kayak. It also has a flatter hull that makes it easier to carve on the face of the waves.

I was in the water taking the waves for around 1 hour and at the end of that I was starting to get the feeling for this type of kayak. Definitely I need to do this again.

Mark stayed on the beach and was filming and photographing the session. Thanks Mark for letting me use his fantastic images.

I was with a GoPro attached to my helmet but soon after it touched the water it fogged up and no good images came out of the memory card.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

RIP my old friend the camera

Last entry didn't have images from that day. Apparently my head is stronger (with the helmet) and better sealed than my camera. A few weeks ago it died, my camera not my head nor the helmet, while being trashed against the sand and rocks in a surf session. One moment it was working and the next, after a couple of rolls where I ate some sand, it wasn't. Later I discovered water inside the lens and sand in the battery compartment. I sent it to Nikon and I was told a new one is being sent on the mail.
Here is what I could recover from that memory card.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

What an afternoon

Yesterday I came back from paddling with a nice feeling. Not that feeling nice is uncommon after a paddle but yesterday was special for the low expectations I had at the beginning of it.

I had a good long paddle on Saturday and I only had a couple of hours to be in the water yesterday, so long was not in the plans. Being a holiday I knew the surfers would be all around the beaches so surfing my long boat was also out. The swell was between 1 and 2 meters and being alone didn't encourage to go among the rocks.

I put in and started to paddle out from the beach. The swell was not big nor powerful so I went to some rock formations to practice a bit of timing surfing over them. It was a good warm up but I wanted more!!!

I paddled around the small head to see how the rock garden on the other side was. It was out of the question. Big rollers were washing the rocks and the gaps were not visible :-(

I kept paddling along the long beach, trying to find a spot with few surfers. The holiday and the warm water lured them all out and everywhere with decent breaks was overcrowded. I kept going.

I spotted a solo SUP trying to surf around a sand bank. I joined him for a little while until we discovered the few and very spaced sets of bigger waves. Those waves dumped on the sand bar and the one I took dragged me broaching, after a couple of rolls, all the way in. At the end it threw me on the beach when the last bit of force dumped on dry sand. I launched again and kept going.

While paddling I saw two big fish, approx. 1 meter long it seemed to me, swimming past me. I had never seen before from my kayak so big fish swimming by.

After rounding another headland I was at the beginning of a 2 km long beach. I thought 'I must find some spot for me here'. It was also around 4.30pm and the surfers were starting to go away. Soon I found a deep sand bar way out of the beach. It was perfect. No surfers, some 50 meters wide with the bigger sets spilling in the centre and pockets moving to both sides. It was fantastic! As the swell rolled straight onto the sand bar, the waves stood to what I estimate 2 or 3 meters faces. I was riding them probably 1 meter ahead of the white and my bow was not hitting the bottom of the wave. They got very steep, and of course, the faces didn't last long and broke. However I had 2 means of escape: the one I used more often was paddling faster, some 45 degrees of the wave direction, in that way I went out of the sand bar just as water exploded. The other, plan B, was used when I didn't manage enough speed to escape to the side. It was to brace and let the white water carry me some 50 meters until it reformed in a deeper 'pool' of the sandy floor before continuing on to the beach.

While riding those waves I saw a big shade floating nearby. It didn't appear to be moving and I approached slowly with the hope it was a turtle. I didn't want to startle it. I took my time and when I finally got close enough to see clearly I discovered it was a huge plastic barrel. It had been drifting around long enough to have grown a little colony of barnacles. I tried to push it to the beach but got interrupted by a wave, when I rolled up my 'turtle' had 'swam away', I didn't see it again. At least in other areas I recovered 2 fishing buoys, 2 plastic bags, a piece of foam and many pieces of plastic wrappers.

Plan B, the unexpected brace and wait, was used twice only. The second time, when the soap released me I discovered my spare paddle bag, which is carried on my back deck, was loose from one end. I though it dangerous to keep surfing with that loose end. It could hit me in the back or I could lose the spare paddle completely if the other anchor point failed.

It was about 5.30 already, I had been surfing for 1 hour and the sun was setting down on the land. I started to cover the 4 km to my car. I was feeling good and did the distance in an almost sprint. Almost 30 minutes later, with tongue hanging out, I was in front of the rocks I had played at the start. With the tide a bit lower the gaps to go over were more exposed but I was in tune with the swell of the day already. That over the rocks followed by a ride of a wave to the beach was the perfect end for a fantastic afternoon.