Sunday, July 25, 2021

Playing in a Race

 Today had great tidal conditions for playing. Originally, we were going to go out to the reefs off Stonington for some fun, but the forecasted afternoon thunder showers put a damper on that plan. Instead we choose a location closer to home where we could get off the water quickly in the off chance of foul weather.

The mouth of the Narrow River provides a great race and surf experience, but also quick escapes in case of thunder. It also is only a mile, or less, from put in to race along a sheltered river.

We put in at the bridge and paddled down the river around the point. We tucked into the eddy behind the big rock at the mouth of the river to organize. The wave field was not organized; H would call the conditions a washing machine.

The Tims recommended that we all take some time just paddling around and getting a feel for how the kayaks handle in chop and current. It was a good suggestion. I took my time just noodling around out in the wave field. I worked the kayak across the field a few times and generally did turning drills for a while.

The noodling was just what I needed. It gave me time to get my muscle memory and confidence back. I spent a lot of time playing with edges to see which was better for turning and support. I spent time just holding one position. I spent time bobbing near rocks. I even did some back paddling.

Once I felt good, it was time to do some surfing. The combination of the shore break and the race makes for an interesting ride. The race waves fall diagonal to the beach towards the mouth of the river, but the shore break creates waves that push you into the beach. I would paddle out to the back edge of the field, wait my turn and catch a nice race wave to fall down. If I was lucky, I could get a nice ride, with some paddling to make sure I kept transferring to the next wave in the series, before a breaker would roll up and turn the bow into the beach.

Surfing in the Aries is always fun. It catches waves like toddlers catch colds. Once on the wave it stays nimble and stable.

My biggest was accelerating enough to get onto the waves. Sticks are great at distance, but not so great at immediate power. You have to get the entire blade into the water to get the same surface area as a Euro paddle for power strokes, and that requires doing very unstick like things. Instead of the nice low canted stroke, it requires standing the paddle upright and jamming the whole thing into the water just in front of the cockpit.

I did manage to catch several nice long runs. It was an exhausting blast.

After we had our fill of surfing, the Tims thought it would be a good idea to try some rescue drills...

The first drill was contact towing. I paired off with a bigger paddler and it was not easy to get the two kayaks moving while keeping them together. Because the kayaks were rafted together, stability was not a problem. Getting a grip on the water on the far side of the other kayak was the problem. The end of the stick just couldn't grab enough water. A quick change of strategy fixed things. I used a sliding stroke where I extended the paddle out to the end when stroking across the other kayak. Once I got traction, things worked great.

Then we did some actual rescues. My turn as a rescuer was fine. I am a little out of practice, but once you get moving it all becomes muscle memory. The one thing I didn't think of was having the swimmer hang onto the side of my kayak by the day hatch. They would have gotten onto my kayak faster and would not have been bounced into the waves at my bow quite as much.

I practiced a few rolls in the current and they were surprisingly easy.

After a quick rest and snack, we paddled back up the river to our cars. The paddle up river was against the current, but I was so pooped I hardly noticed.

Despite the grey sky and the constant threat of rain, it was one of the best paddling day I have had in a long time.

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