Travels with Paddles

a sea kayaking journal

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

Monday, September 10, 2018

More Surfing

After a week of almost continuous rain and strong winds JF, Justine, Matt and I went surfing at Florencia Bay.

I got looped twice, probably because of bad wave selection. The waves in this part of the bay were mostly managable size and I noticed more and more checking for the best shoulder to run with the occasional 'error'.

The walk-in to this beach is kinda steep. I started the day with a head-ache. After surfing and the haul-up I had more energy than at the start of the surf session.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Bad Lure Day

Another nice afternoon fishing off Little Beach. I caught a very nice Lingcod, but not before losing three lures.

Back at the house I learned about filleting. And guess what Justine made us for dinner? Delicious!

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Strong Water

Ever since seeing Bryan Smith's epic bongo slide in the Skookumchuck tidal rapid, as featured in This is the Sea 2, I hoped that one day I would paddle at 'Skooks' AND have the skills for it.

For quite a few years Shawna & Leon of Body Boat Blade invited me over for a long weekend end of August at Skooks. Everytime obligations prevented me from going. Not so this year.

So on September 1st I had my first tries to get on the standing wave. Getting my angle and speed right to cross the sharp and super fast eddyline took some failed attempts and subsequent waiting in the queue in the eddy. Being swept off the wave either left or right before actually surfing is very frustrating. I got very good at looping the pocket eddy by sticking either my bow or stern in the opposing current to get lined-up again for my next turn.

Finally I am on it. The rest is just a 'formality' of carving/edging with stern rudders. The kayak I am in is apparently designed for exactly this wave in mind. Justine gives me tips to look more over my shoulder to the direction I want to go. Added benefit is seeing the wave behind me and the speed I am surfing off of it; thrilling.

In the peak hour I could not get onto the wave anymore. I had to roll once, re-enter another time, so that potential anxiety is out of the way. With three more days to go, what a great first day; gorgeously sunny as well.

The second day the tide table said 9.1 knots. More experience led to longer runs with the occasional graceful controlled exit off the wave. And duo surfing the wave when it is green and with now improved directional control.

What is beyond the wave? Justine points out 'Gertruth'. A particular violent patch that you have to deal with when not quick enough to reach the pocket eddy. Leon tells me of violent sucking-down whirpools further downstream. I experienced all of that multiple times today. Also at least six rolls today. The stronger the current, the more boils and the longer it takes to get back into the shore eddy in a 'straight' line. And more tiring...

The third day (9.7 knots) I go for it care-free whatever the wave allows me to do or forces me to do; bracing the foam pile. My muscles start to protest. My left rib cage hurts and my right upper arm loses stern-rudder and brace-holding strength. One more day; recuperating tonight.

Seven sea kayakers stay for another day. Today it peaks at 10.5 knots. It quickly builds strength with only a very short timeframe to 'warm-up'. Well before peak it starts to foam-out. My last run before peak is a forever memorable one.

I get on the green bit of the wave, I surf, I carve, I am hit by the foam pile on the right, I brace, I bongo, I reverse surf the foam pile, holding onto my 'bow brace' in a 'death grip', feeling my balance. I am in unexplored territory.

Finally the wave allows me to pull free off of it. My brace failing, my off-side roll failing. The violent aftermath prevents re-orientation. I swim. For a fraction of a second I lose the grip on my kayak. In a blink of the eye it is 10 metres away from me. Paddle swimming does not get me closer. Matt and Seth are already on the job. My 100% bomb-proof re-entry & roll is reduced to zero percent without my kayak. Along this big tour up Skookumchuck narrows I more than once let go of Matt's kayak who tries to get me to Seth that has my kayak. I feel like a total amateur; an idiot. But have I ever experienced swimming in 10 knot currents, boils and vortexes before? Humbly learning in strong water.

Finally back on shore the wave is now completely white and the realm of playboaters for the next 90 minutes at least.

When the green wave returns with the odd foam surge the sea kayaks go on the water again. After just one good run (after a couple of failed ones) I know it is time to call it a day. My left chest and right arm are not supporting me anymore to the point where I reckon it has become a safety issue. I cannot do effective stern rudders, bracing and power strokes anymore. Getting back to the shore eddy takes ages. Satisfied and grateful with what my body allowed me to do in these four days.

Celebrating Leon's birthday with friends and awesome skilled paddlers. Showing what is possible with experience and practice. Jayme getting a double sea kayak on the wave, Leon, Shawna and Matt on a SUP, Seth crossing the eddyline and surfing the wave all in reverse. Justine getting me out there. Fearless or ignorance, or both? Or just daring and forever learning; getting out there. A big thank you to all my 'teachers'.