Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Wind Meets Current and Surfing Ensues

This weekend was one of the big current weekends, so BH was chomping at the bit to play in any tidal races that appeared. Saturday had the added bonus of high winds that would run counter to the currents at least once. Strong wind vs. strong current = standing waves!!
BH really wanted to play at the Charlestown breech way. The wind and current profiles looked perfect for some mayhem. The ocean forecast called for some good sized swells multiply the mayhem. In order to play at the mouth of the breech way safely he wanted at least four paddlers. The mouth of the breech way is narrow and flanked by shallow rocks. The current would wash a swimmer into deeper water, but the wind would push them into the rocks.
As of Friday night, nobody had committed to the breech way plan. I was waiting to see what TM would do since he is the most familiar with the area (and in many ways is may paddling safety blanket). I was also a little concerned that conditions at the breech way would be more than our group was prepared to handle. TM was not planning on paddling since he had spent the last week in Georgia at Sea Kayak Georgia and wanted to spend some quality time with his family.
Since nobody wanted to commit to the breech way, BH proposed plan B: Stone Bridge.
Stone Bridge would be running out in the morning. With the wind pushing against the current, it promised to offer a nicely formed tidal race. Since Stone Bridge offers easy access, plenty of clear water for rescues, and quick exits from the water, we could play hard.
The only downside was the timing. Things were forecast to be at their best between 9am and 11am. That meant getting to Tiverton by 8:30am. That meant leaving Waltham at 7am. That meant getting the kayak on the egg Friday night before it started to rain.
We had a small, but well formed group Saturday morning. We started off with 5 paddlers: BH, PB, JS, CR, and myself.
We took our time getting on the water. At 8:30 things looked pretty calm. By 9am the race was starting to rock and we had all the kayaks in the water.
At first people rushed for the top of the race near the buoys. It looked like a good spot, but JS and I found ourselves at the end of the race. The waves at the tail of the race were pretty good as well. In fact, I think they were more regular. I caught plenty of good rides as I moved up the race.
A piece of advice from the death paddle in Fisher Island Sound came in very handy. One of the British coaches talked about timing waves by waiting for the wave in front of your kayak to start lifting the bow. Once the bow starts lifting, you hit it and catch the wave behind you.
It works amazingly well. I was able to catch most of the waves I wanted to surf using this advice.
I also learned another valuable lesson on the death paddle: use the stick. Despite this being a surf session, I used the mighty stick. I can brace, rudder, and roll just as well with the stick as I can with a lollipop. The only advantage of the lollipop is the bit of initial oomf. The familiarity and comfort of using the stick far outweighs the oomf. I'll continue to switch off and use a lollipop every now and then because I think it helps me be a well rounded paddler, but I'm a stick monkey.
We spent a couple of hours riding the race. I caught a ton of good rides. The most fun were the rides the ones where I nearly stalled out on the back of a wave, but just as the hull started to flounder I pushed the bow over the crest. With a quick transition the bow dropped down and the hull rushed forward.
We did take a short break to help a feckless sailor get his boat out of the water. He tried to take out at the public beach flanking Stone Bridge. The wet sand and lapping waves conspired to trap his boat and his truck. We all helped heave the sailboat onto the trailer where it had a chance of draining. Then, our good deed done, we went back to playing.
Sadly, CR tweaked her back and was forced to call it a day early. Hopefully, she recovers quickly.
The conditions made the early wake up call worth it. It is a rare and wonderful thing when the weather and tides conspire to make a playground for crazy kayakers.

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