I cycled in to work yesterday through driving snow and building wind. My bike pushed me about 2 feet side ways with one solid gust on a downhil portion of the ride to downtown Kalamazoo. The forecast predicted a wersterly 30 knot gale force wind that would die over the course of the day into evening. After work I drove to the beach with the sea kayak and the surf boat on the Volvo. The sea kayak kept trying to take flight off the car from the gusts heading straight under the nose.
I arrived on the beach with the sand blasting the side of the car. I put on my drysuit with my new neck gasket, many thanks to: “Amigo Drysuit Repair”:http://www.drysuit-repair.com/ . I attached my fins to the boogie with numb fingers. Walking down into the wind was a challenge to get to the water, I felt my body fighting the urge to leave the ground like a kite.
I found a spot on the beach to launch and managed to get the skirt on with little trouble even while wearing gloves. _More on gloves later._
I paddled like mad to reach the outer break as the sun was setting fast. Every muscle ached as I dug like mad to break out. The wind had not died below 30 knots. I braced a few times and felt the paddle go squidgy in my grip, just like it did last year when I tried surfing in the dark on the day of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I didn’t like that feeling at all, as this meant I would have to trust that my indexing on the paddle was correct if I had to roll. I managed to get out past two or three sets, but was catapulted nose over tail by the fourth. I swept the paddle out calmly and tried to roll. The paddle sliced and I came up three-quarters and went back into the icy water. A wave caught me while I was upside down, so I waited until I felt calm at the surface. Once there was calm I tried again. The blade sliced again and I did not come up, I did manage to get a breath. I set up for a third time with the hail mary, the extended pawlata grip, a wave caught and pushed me again, and I lost my grip on the paddle. However I managed to get another breath. I thought, you know what, I bet I could handroll this thing up. I swept my body out to the surface, and pulled out that “angry thoughts hipsnap” ala Alex Pak, and I slapped like a beaver with both hands. I came up on my first try. Unfortunately, my paddle was loose in the water. Another set came in and nuked me over hard. Life was suddenly a lot more complicated. I set up again, and tried to roll up, no luck. I realized that this was going to be my first swim in 3 years.
No one could say I didn’t try everything I could think of, or that I was weak, I just had a FUBAR situation. I sighed, (sort of anyway while underwater). I yanked the skirt and was out. A drysuit and a lifejacket are both excellent things I realized. I found my paddle pretty quickly and started trying to swim for shore. A steady current of rip tide was heading in my exact direction straight out from shore. It felt like it was at least 4 knots, but I was no judge at the time. My boat was 30-40 yards ahead of me and still floating. This was my first wet exit out of the boogie so I was impressed that it was still floating, did I mention that I had no float bags in it?… I swam side ways and found a wave to push me in. I caught up to my boat and dragged it up to shore.
# 30 Knots of wind is always stronger than me.
# Gloves will screw up my indexing on my surf paddle.
# Being able to handroll up my surfboat in conditions is sexy, but useless.
I looked out, it was dark, I was alone, and I had swum. Hmmm, that handroll was a lot of use wasn’t it? I smell a Darwin award coming.