Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

Axel Schoevers (Photo: A. de Krook) Name:
Axel Schoevers
Rijswijk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands

Saturday, August 25, 2007

1st Lower Columbia River Kayak Roundup

Where to start? Ginni and David, with the help of a lot of volunteers and the Skamokawa kayak guides made it happen! The very first ever annual Lower Columbia River Kayak Roundup was highly successful.

A whole range of BCU trainings and assessments in the week before and a whole variety of skills classes in the weekend. Excellent close-by paddling venues. Lots of highlights.

On the coaching side I was impressed with the rescue scenario's of the Skamokawa kayak guides. They actually enjoy doing rescues and have many ways of getting and talking people back in their kayaks. Something that must have come from experience. I actually learned some new stuff from the guides during their BCU Canoe Safety Test.

As for wildlife: a beaver swam right under my kayak, a bald eagle, a swimming snake...

On a BCU 4* sea training I was (again) impressed with the effect of Pacific Swell on (otherwise) benign 4* paddling conditions. On neaps, paddling near Jetty A in the Columbia River entrance (near Ilwaco) can already be potentially hazardous. Definitively a real tide-race running there on the ebb, but now with irregular high swell running into it; not a 4* star environment.

Next day I had my adrenaline rush from scouting a possible landing spot. Waikiki Beach had no surf whatsoever. But off Point Disappointment lighthouse (west side of Jetty A) had (on paper) promising conditions. That's what I thought. But when I scouted the beach landing a huge set came in and I felt the wind drop and I had to paddle hard back out to sea without being 'trashed'. Punching over the steep, still green, waves I was glad to feel the wind again. After three waves I was clear and I felt my hart beat in my throat. Definitively no landing zone within 4* remit.

Both 4* days my judgment on conditions was seriously tested. How to get consistent (and safe) 4* surf conditions in an area that is 5% of the time even beyond 5* remit? Paddlers on these coasts definitively have an extra 'hurdle' to take.
© Photo by David Noel

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