Sunday, September 02, 2018

Rocks and Surf

Who doesn’t like a chance to bang around some rocks and do a bit of surfing? It had been a long, long time since I had the chance to use push the Aries and my abilities, so I grabbed the chance when a rockapalooza paddle was posted.
It was mostly geared as an intermediate introduction to rock and surf play, but that is where I am at these days....
The weather was perfect: sunny, but not too warm. The sea state was good for a low key day, but less than what I was hoping for....
The group made its way out of the harbor and towards our first formation: the lighthouse. Mostly, we worked on feeling comfortable getting in close to the rocks and holding our positions. It was pretty basic stuff, but it was fun and a nice reminder of the good old days when I could get out and do that stuff every weekend.
As the morning progressed, we moved from rock formation to rock formation. Each time things got progressively more interesting. The sea state was calm enough that chances of mayhem were low. We all got to makes some fun and challenging passes over ledges and spend time hanging out in washing machines.
Cam managed to find the one rouge swell while trying to pass over a rock ledge. He did an admirable job trying to stay in the kayak, but it proved impossible. Fortunately, Gary was on station to execute a near perfect rescue. The situation, and the execution, would have made a good instructional video.
After lunch we played in what little surf we could find. Tim made sure to point out the rocky area we should avoid while surfing. Of course, it was also the area with the most predictable and fun waves....
Catching waves was a little frustrating, but most people caught some nice rides.
I was a having a hard time, because I forget how sensitive the Aries is to body position. I would catch a wave and out of shear muscle memory immediately turn my body to put in a stern rudder. In the Q-boat, that was just what you needed to do to have any hope of riding the wave straight. In the Aries, as soon as I turned my body to put the rudder in, the boat turned on the wave. I’d go from riding the wave face, to getting pushed sideways, to eventually spinning off the wave.
I did catch one good ride, over in the rocks that we were told to avoid.... When I went to turn off the wave, however, I mistimed releasing the brace and flipped. I considered rolling up, but I could feel the bottom - too shallow. I popped out and planned to push the kayak out of the rocks and surf, then assess the best way to get back in the boat. When I came up another paddler asked me if I wanted to do the rescue right there. I should have waved them off and followed my plan. The waves were pretty consistent and the rocks were close... Instead, I waffled. The other paddler tried to line up to do the rescue but ended up point bow first at my head as a wave started to crest. I duck dived to avoid a mashed mellon. When I came back up for air, things got more confusing....
Another paddler showed up and thought I was going to just swim the kayak into the nearby beach. They even offered me a ride. Another wave came in and I lost my grip on their kayak. Next thing I know, my kayak is getting towed out to sea, so I grab onto the bow toggle.
Eventually, all the communication issues got squared away, and I got back into my kayak. Fortunately for all involved it was a pretty mellow day, so the danger was minimal. It was a good lesson in why communication in rescues is important, how different paddlers can assess conditions very differently, and why it is important for a swimmer to be an active participant in their rescue.
Back in the harbor, I practiced a few rolls just to keep them from going away. At coffee, we all debriefed on the rescue. Debriefing is important and also another window into how different paddlers can assess things differently.