Saturday, July 27, 2013

It's Not Easy Being Green

sung by Kermit the Frog on the child's TV show Sesame Street.  This is what came to mind Saturday kayak surfing at Mason's inlet off Wrightsville Beach with Carolina Kayak Club Members Lee, Chris and Lyman, and with Alan on a rented surf paddle board.

While taking a break on shore, we all noticed Lee was color coordinated with his green Valley Gemini, wearing a green kayak club shirt and matching green helmet.

Then just after I took the photo above, we noticed Chris was also color coordinated, wearing a yellow and blue rash guard shirt in his yellow and blue Quest.

We were having quite a laugh about this as we noticed Alan wearing a yellow and white top matching his rented surf paddle board.

After finishing for the day while starting to pack up, Lyman and Alan both remarked on my color coordinated bathing suit and shorts with my red and black Tiderace Xplore.

All very coincidental (except for Lee we suspect :).  We told Lyman we expected him in a  black and white outfit next time to match his Epic.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cross Boating

A few of us in the Carolina Kayak Club call ourselves “cross boaters”.  We have various and different types of kayaks, from white water to ocean expedition.  Adding a white water skill set is relatively new to me right now (though a bit of a flash in my past).   I’m amazed at how comfortable and confident I am in surf conditions at the coast, yet a tight ball of nerves on the river.  I attribute most of this to my fear of rocks, fear of death, and my lack of confidence with a Euro blade in my hands (yup, I’m a stick paddler).   I’m convinced white water skills will advance my overall kayaking skills, so I’m trying to work through the fears, and gain some more experience. 

Towards that end, Saturday, I took a basic ACA River Safety and Rescue Class, offered by LarryA and assisted by NancyG, sponsored by the CKC club.  Larry and Nancy (who I paddled the GA Coast with last March) are both club paddling buddies, ACA instructors, and also cross boaters, as was fellow student and paddling friend Camille.  We’ll need to work on new CKC member Mazy, who is more a white water kayaker who was also in our class.   

The class was held on the Balcony Falls section (sounds ominous doesn’t it) of the James River above Lynchburg VA.  And we had a great time.  Three flips for me during the class, made my combat roll on the first, the 2nd and 3rd had Larry there so fast and in my face that a bow rescue was the perfect solution.   Thanks Larry, can’t tell you enough how even a bit tense, I felt completely safe with your presence.

Unfortunately no one had a camera with them while we were on the water.  The river was beautiful, and with lots of rocks.  (Photo source)

 The picture below is of Balcony Falls  (photo source).
Our area has two large kayaking clubs, the Carolina Kayak Club, flat water and coastal kayaking, and the Carolina Canoe Club all about white water.  I’m a member of both, and a few of us cross boaters are even trying to work on more cross events.

What's next?  I'm off to Tybee Island Georgia to talk to some folks about a kayak, then back to the surf this coming weekend.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Isn't that Blue Kayak a Little Short?

 I’ve always had 1 or 2 old white water kayaks in the garage.  Originally bought for winter pool rolling and used for family fun at the beach.   Before surf kayaks became popular, the older WW kayaks worked just fine.  I found some old pictures of us from 2002 when as a family we’d take the kids (aged 13 -15) out to Wrightsville Beach with a few other friends (Eric and Luanne, and John) for kayak surfing and boogie boarding.  It's so much fun looking back at these pictures of us all playing in the surf.

Thes blue kayak pictured above in my garage is my latest white water kayak, bought used this year with intentions to get on the rivers more.  I’ve got a few friends who enjoy white water kayaking and so I thought I’d just add some more variety to my kayaking.  All my real white water experience is from the early 80s when Paul introduced me to the sport, and I followed up for a few years with a few clinics and camps.  It wasn’t long before sea kayaking became my passion and white water all but forgotten.
Truth be told, I find I'm having a real love hate relationship with white water, I’m not really sure it’s going to amount to anything for me.  I just really hate the rocks, in and around the river, and I so love salt water. 

Not sure where this is going to go, but I'm signed up for a River Safety Class this weekend.  Might as well cover my bases.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Lessons Keep Coming

Seems every paddle at the coast brings some lessons learned and some skills advanced.

This weekend, Lee, Frank, and I all met up at Lee’s Swansboro house Saturday about noon.  We were quick to get on the water, and paddle out towards the inlet.  We stayed in the Sound, as shore surf was 5-7 ft.   We planned to use the Sound chop to work on rolling, rescues, and basic skills in wind and current.   The conditions were perfect, strong winds, and a contrary tide.   

Working in, with, and against the wind has provided me with some great practice rolling, both onside and offside, and using layback and sculling rolls.  I’ve been rolling kayaks for many years now, but, as I work more and more in the surf and rougher water, it is this practice that keeps my combat roll ready and working.  In fact, this skill work Lee and I've been doing in the Sound has likely done more for my skill building than some of the time surfing.

While we were out there a quick moving rain storm passed over which gave us some great gusts.

My biggest rescue nemesis right now is my cowgirl (or cowboy rescue as it’s usually called).  I’d always thought of this as more a pool trick.  My go to self rescue if out of the boat is a quick reentry and roll.  However, it seems the cowboy is being discussed and used more and more in rescue classes, so I’ve been working on it.  With a lot of energy and hard work I can get up on deck, but right now it’s just to slow getting up and back into the cockpit to use this as a viable rescue, something I’ll just keep working on.

Paddling back after our day on the water, we continued having fun, then Lee and then Frank played Stand-Up-Kayaks.   I can’t do that (standing up) either.

Sunday morning, we drove over to Emerald Isle to launch the kayaks, planning to paddle down the coast and return through the Inlet and back to Lee’s house which is nicely situated on a small creek right off the ICW.   We had lighter winds 10-15 mph with a shore surf break at 2-4 ft, this after a night of  continued 5-7 ft surf and still with a big swell out there.

When we arrived about 9 am, we were looking at 3-4 ft.  It looked quite doable for paddling, though bigger than what I’d want to stay around and surf play in.  We had an incoming tide, and a forecast for lighter 2-3 ft in the afternoon.   What I hadn’t thought about was the wave period.  It was the tightest I’ve launched in.   Up until now I’d not really paid much attention to the reported ‘dominant period’ reported.   I now understand it.  

Timing my launch within the sets had me getting through the first 3 waves without incident, only to be faced with the larger waves of the next set right on top of me.  The waves were stacked so tightly, you barely recovered your balancing before the next one.  I hesitated on one of the larger waves hoping it would break up a bit, but then found I’d lost power to get through it.  It started surfing me back and then flipping me over.  Upside down it took me a second to realize my positioning and then to get my paddle moved to set up.  I got up on first try, and was beyond excited.  This was truly my first “real” complicated combat roll, all my practice was paying off. 

I had to paddle quite a ways out to get beyond the wave train of breakers to join Lee.  He was as exhilarated as I, as he had also completed a great combat roll after paddling up a steep wave that had him doing a stern pirouette before slamming him down, upside down.

Looking onto shore for Frank we realized some mistakes and started learning some new lessons.  We both suspected Frank might have a harder time getting out on his long 18 ft  sit on top, and we could see Frank back on shore after a failed attempt.   We thought we saw him dragging his boat to shore for another attempt, only to see him back on shore a minute later, clearly giving up future attempts.

Neither of us was very excited about having to come in now, feeling good about just having gotten out there safely.   It was looking like a repeat of ‘Monster Day’, with a much more scary and dangerous landing.   We now wished we had planned some communication prior to launching.  We should have had a short pre-launch talk about what to do "if….” .  Also, although I had a VHF on me, Lee's was in his hatch, and Frank hadn't brought his for this short day of play.  But we now realized if we’d all geared up properly, and discussed communications, we’d be talking to Frank right now, putting plan B or C (discussed on the beach) into action.

Lee and I had no choice but to come on in.  Lee landed first and without incident.   I was working my back paddling hard to avoid surfing these large waves when one broke right on me.  Another great combat roll after being thrashed about a bit.  Lee and Frank witnessed this one from the beach, and later told me how surprised they both were to see me roll on up.  Lee said he was counting the seconds I was under and figured I was working on bailing with little to no time to try and setup for a roll.  Practice sure makes a difference.  Landing safely on shore was exhilarating.

It was clear our paddling day was over.  Frank had made numerous attempts to launch, and completely broke off his rudder during his last attempt.   We opted for a long walk down the beach, comparing notes and discussing experiences and lessons.

Our last discussion about lessons learned was order of launching, and something we’ll likely continue to discuss, as the three of us are often organizers/leaders of trips within our club.  Among our regular paddling partners, Lee is always the most organized and the first one ready to launch and on the water.  However, he is also the more skilled in surf.   We now believe a better plan would have been to have Frank launch (or fail) first.  Had we done that, Lee and I would never have attempted the launch nor needed the eventual landing.  If Frank had gotten out, or got out and needed help, Lee or I could have quickly launched next, and would have had us getting out there for any needed help. 

Seems as I continue this journey of skill-ing up in rougher water, the learning curve becomes steeper.  The experiences and discussions that arise after the fact, have been invaluable for my continued skill and safety.

Last lesson learned.  It’s time for me to focus on some backwards surfing and maneuvering while moving backwards.  I’ll start with practicing reverse figure eights in the flats J