Sunday, 24 August 2014

A few new experiences during a down wind run

I went paddling the other day. A big low system hovering around our local area meant tough conditions. It was very windy, the forecast had me expecting 25-35kn. The swell was big too, the forecast said 3m. All from the south. After I come back from the water the observations were: wind 15-20kn gusting to 30kn and the swell was on 4-5 meters with peaks of 8m.
Not the actual day but a good image anyway :-)
I have been in similar conditions before but on those ocations I was with paddlers that were as bad as I was, usually not as bad as me :-). This time I felt I was the most experienced on the small group, maybe I wasn't but I felt that way. While paddling, more than once I caught myself thinking 'I don't really want any windier or bigger than this'. I wasn't doubting myself but I felt I was 'responsible' for the others more than in other occasions and if something went wrong I was with more 'tools' to save the day than most.
'Similar conditions' is not as 'same conditions' and there were three things that I have not experienced before:
 -  When paddling out from the harbour where we launched from, we had the wind from the side. At one moment my boat was moved laterally so suddenly that my body remained where it was while the kayak 'landed' a good way at the side. That meant that my balance was totally out of line and if I hadn't braced I would have been upside down.
 - There were many white cups out there. In previous occasions the white water of the wind spilled waves had reached my cockpit or my belly. More than once during this paddle I found myself overrun by a swell where the white water was up to my chest, having to brace like in the surf zone while the wash passed me.
 - There was a capsize and it is the first time I had to perform an assisted rescue in these kind of conditions.

I have seen a video from a champion surf ski paddler not long ago. In the video, he was holding a head cam and was talking and showing how he was linking the waves, catching one after another. While I was paddling I was imagining I was that guy and was catching one wave after another after another until... I had to stop either because I was running our of breath or the others were falling too far behind.
It was hard work, first I had to ride a 'small' wind wave, then another of those and probably another one until I had enough speed to fall down the face of one of the big swells. When you start going down hill you feel the acceleration, the exhilaration and then you either sink your bow in the through in front or turn to keep your speed and jump on the next wave you see around.
It was a fantastic paddle, although a bit slow. It took us 3 hours to cover the 20km when I had expected to finish in 2hours, that late arrival worried our land contact but a phone call from the water just on time. It saved the tax payers some money on mobilizing the marine rescue.
We also experienced some problems of communication. Talking on VHF with the wind noise is not that effective. That resulted in a group spread too big for my peace of mind but I enjoyed the paddle a lot.

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