Saturday, May 15, 2010

Time to Get a Little Crazy

There are weekends where the club has a nice, but easy, paddle planned when the more adventurous (crazy) paddlers are looking for some action. This weekend happened to be one of those weekends. The club paddle was a level two paddle in the upper Bay. It is a pleasant area and it offered a chance to just zone out. That just was not what I needed in a weekend paddle.
I wanted something with a little more distance and a lot more challenge, so I contacted TM to try and organize a trip to fit my needs. He was more than accommodating. We settled on doing some rough water practice along the rocks between Narragansett and Whale Rock. It would be a good warm up for the symposium in June. We also roped in BH, PB,and RB. Five is a better number than two when planning to bounce around near rocks.
We launched under the Rt. 1a bridge and paddled out to the Bay. The put-in provides easy access to the surf off of the beach and the rocks. Since the plan was to practice in rough water, we didn't need a lot of additional distance.
The day started off inauspiciously. The air temp was in the 70s and I was encased in "breathable" nylon and a hard plastic melon case. The sweat was pouring off me before we even started moving. By the time we got to the beach my eyes were full of sweat and sunblock. I tried to just ride it out and let my eyes flush themselves. That is never a good idea. I was bobbing in surf, small surf, essentially blind. It didn't take long before I gave up the ghost and landed so I could flush my eyes with fresh water.
Once I could see again, we started doing rescue practice. TM wanted to practice doing rescues near the rocks. His scenario was one swimmer, one rescuer, and one tower. The rescuer gets the swimmer back into their kayak while the tower keeps them from washing into the rocks. It is effective when the rescuer and tower can perform their roles without endangering themselves or the swimmer.
We ran through the drill nine or ten times. We each did a rescue and a tow. I don't think we did it perfectly once. Most of the time we ran through the drill everything went smoothly, but not text book. For example, the rescuer is supposed to manage the swimmer's kayak by its bow. I managed it by the stern because maneuvering to get the bow would have wasted time. There were a few times where the tower hooked into the rescuer's bow instead of their stern. None of these things stop the rescue from working, they just make it a little less efficient. In the moment, the most efficient rescue is the one that gets the swimmer in their kayak and away from the hazard.
After the rescues, we played in the rocks. The conditions were tame. The swells were small with a long period. It was fine for me. I'm not in good enough shape to battle big swells with any fine grained control. The little swells gave me a chance to break in the old muscles.
Before heading into the river for the slog back to bridge, we played in the wee surf at the beach. While doing low braces outside the surf zone, I missed one and then missed my roll. Mortified, I decided to do some more rolls to get my mojo back. It wasn't the best idea.
I did manage one ugly roll. Then I blew another roll. I gave it the old college try and reset before bailing. The second attempt didn't go much better. TM was close by and saved me from having to wet exit. I grabbed his bow and did an Eskimo rescue.
The paddle up river was a world class slog. There was a steady head wind and the current was pouring out of the river. I'm not a fan of paddling into head winds or currents. My aching, out of shape muscles were finished after the short slog.
I was thrilled to get out on the water and do some challenging paddling. I was not thrilled at how much my conditioning slid this winter. I'm going to need to do a lot more paddling to get in shape for the symposium next month. Four weeks is a lot of paddling.

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