Evil Forces at Work-Surf Kayaking Lake Michigan

Evil Forces at Work

You know those days when you wake up to an overflowing coffee maker, broken glass on the floor, or a flat tire on your car? And you know the rest of your day is not going to go well. I had that feeling all day yesterday about surfing. I somehow knew it wasn’t going to go my way. I knew that it was going to be more pain that pleasure, and more fight than love. Not sure why I knew this.

For the record, my Pentax has completely crapped out on me. Hence no photos of the event. The camera claims my battery is depleted despite a full charge. That is once contributing factor to the evil forces at work yesterday. Not sure if I will be as trusting as Derrick about buying a new Pentax.

I drove out to the lake with that bad feeling in my gut. I knew that the lake might well be beyond my strength when I arrived and was ready for surrender in that event. When I did arrive, the wind had turned north-northwest around the pier in South Haven. The conditions looked manageable. I suited up replete with pogies. I had a heck of a time with cold hands getting my bomber IR skirt on. But it eventually bent to my will and around the coaming. Once out I paddled to the outside break. They were spilling in and breaking at around 7-10 feet. The wind was every bit of 30 knots. The pier was acting as a windbreak for the most part on the way out. I paddled hard to catch a few rides but seemed to be lacking either enough propulsion or hull speed from the Maverick to make the takeoff on the 7-8 footers. I caught a few short rides I worked hard to catch.I waited a bit and watched the waves.

Here’s a tip for Great Lakes Surfers. The sand bars around the pier tend to shift with wind and waves over time. Where good waves were breaking last time may have moved the next time. It’s a good idea to sit and watch the waves from a sheltered spot, if you can find one. Watch to see where the majority of them are forming steep crests that spill, (not dump). Once you see that paddle in a little further on the outside and try to spot a good set and paddle hard into it with some hull speed for a good ride.

I saw a good section further south, but more exposed to the wind. I paddled over knowing it might not be a good idea. I got in position. I saw a good steep wave coming and paddled hard. Once I started to plane out near the crest, that 30 knots of wind caught me and an edge flipped me a bit, thus ruining my takeoff. The wave started to dump and I plunged nose first from the crest and was then grabbed by the hydraulics. My paddle was directly in front of me when I capsized- a definite bad move. The wave pulled on the paddle before I could swing it alongside the kayak. I felt both of my shoulders scream in agony as the wave dumped me from crest to trough. It took me three tries but I rolled up. I was frantic for breath when I finally came up and was succinctly knocked in again. I rolled up again after I was released from the wave. As I looked around hail began pelt me. I began thinking is the day out to get me or what?

I tried to relax and surf some of the inside break. I caught a few small short rides. I then went back to the outside break. I tried to pick some of the smaller 7 footers coming off the pier. All I got was short mushy rides that closed out quickly. Every time I got on the crest of a wave for takeoff the 30-35 knot winds would start pushing me southerly. My non-engaged blade would catch the wind and throw off my stroke too. I was on a good steep wave carving towards the pier and the wind actually held me in place and then started to push me the other way. Somehow this was not my day. I had to accept it and pack it in. The lights from the pier twinkled on. This was not the magical moment of fall surf I had been dreaming of for weeks. It was ignoble defeat at the hand of the wind and waves.

I felt less than competent as a kayak surfer, and that I really needed to spend more time in my surf boat on smaller waves again to regain some of my skills. I felt at the top of my game last year and just ran into bad luck, this year I feel out of it and off balance now that the big sets are rolling through. We’ll have to see what the future holds and if I can get out again on a smaller day to get my timing and strokes down. It could be that I just had an off day. My body today is aching and I feel lucky to have survived the evil forces of the lake. Perhaps it just didn’t want me to surf yesterday.


  1. Shame about the Pentax!!

  2. We’re glad you got some waves and even more glad you came away uninjured! Looking forward to paddling with you this weekend in conditions that aren’t quite as punishing.

  3. The video options on the Olympus leave a lot to be desired. I may be in the same boat as you buying another Olyympus.

  4. I’m not trusting either! LOL! But I did get a good price, and I was desperate at the moment. . . If you can test an Olympus let me know. I’ve heard mixed things about that ones survival as well.