Sunday, August 01, 2010

Pushing It

Some paddles are made for pushing the envelope. The venue offers opportunity, the weather offers conditions, and the group offers safety. I knew that TM's Kings beach paddle usually offers opportunity, but the forecast didn't look like their would be conditions. Fortunately forecasts are frequently wrong.
From the beach, conditions looked benign. Once we paddle beyond the cove, we discovered that some good sized swells were rolling in from the Atlantic. Instead of zero foot seas we had pushy two foot seas. Perfect for playing in the rocks with a comfortable amount of risk.
The fun got started early. Ten minutes into the paddle TM was doing a rescue. One of the paddlers got surprised by a wave and took a swim. While that rescue was going down, another paddler nearly surfed into a second paddler. Fortunately, the surfer had the forethought to flip himself over before impact. The surfer recovered with an impressive combat roll.
I was feeling pretty good (it could have been a lack of sleep delusion) and wanted to play, so I donned my melon protector. With my skull covered, I got up close and personal with the rocks. It was a blast dodging rocks and trying to time the swells just right.
Before lunch, I had my first encounter with a mistimed swell. I lined up on what the paddlers before me made look easy. As I commenced my run a bigger swell wrapped around rock. It pushed me in close to rock. Before I could maneuver my bow into position and get out of the slot a second swell wrapped around and pushed me against the rock. I was trapped. The stick didn't provide enough grab to over power the swells holding me against the rocks. My only option was to use a combination of braces and reverse strokes to back my way out of the slot. I kept my cool and slipped out of the slot. Then I lined up the run again and shot through.
On the way to lunch, another paddler got tossed by a surprise set of swells. A group of us paddled through and area with barely submerged rocks and caught some nice rides on the breaking waves. As the last paddler of the group passed through the area, a big set of swells ran through the area. The paddler was surprised and got tossed. He also managed a sweet combat roll and rejoined the group.
After lunch, we returned along the same route but found more chances to get into trouble. A group of us ran a nice slot along the shore. I was the last of group to run the slot, and once again mistimed the swells. As I reached the mouth of the slot a big set of swells wrapped around the offshore rock. The first swell pushed me into the rocky shore. The second swell trapped me against the rocks. The third swell flipped me over.
I tried to set up for a roll, but there was no room. So, I bailed. Once out of the kayak, I grabbed the stern toggle, dragged the kayak off the rocks and swam into the calmer water behind the rocks.
BH was quick to respond. He assessed the situation and decided to get me into the kayak as quickly as possible. We were still fairly close to the rocks and the swells were pretty big, so he decided to forgo emptying the cockpit. He checked to make sure I could paddle a swamped kayak before executing the plan, and then had me climb into my kayak. We then parted ways before being pushed into the rocks. I paddled off shore where the swells were smaller, rafted up with CC, and pumped out my kayak.
It was a well executed rescue. The rescuer assessed the situation quickly, and decided on a course of action that got the swimmer out of the water as quickly as possible. If the swimmer couldn't manage a a loaded kayak, an anchor tow could have been used to keep the rafted kayaks off the rocks while the doing the emptying.
The paddle was one of the top paddlers of the year. It was exciting and challenging.

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