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.