Lake Michigan Surf Kayaking July 13th, 2008
Waves were reported at 3-5 feet on the buoy. A sudden summer squall was ripping across Lake Michigan that would die off towards evening. Steady breakers were showing on the web cams. So the family packed it into the van and headed down to Dog Beach in South Haven. We brought Indiana, and the kids at around noon and stayed until five.
After not having really surfed since February, I was literally chomping at the bit to get out there. Now that I am healed from surgery, it was fun to get out and try to catch some waves.
The waves were as reported, the five footers quickly spilled their energy though as the wind was out of the due west. I found myself quickly racing down short faces and trying to stay ahead of the foam. I had a few bad takeoffs that ended in me getting trashed. I am using a new Werner Sidekick straight shaft paddle. Straight shafts are something new for me.
I like crank shafts because they have indexing when you are disoriented. This is perhaps a handicap, or high expectation from having used a traditional paddle for so long. The traditional paddle has far simpler indexing. If you are disoriented, allowing the paddle to float to the surface will automatically orient the paddle to the surface. With a straight shaft modern blade you must use an active blade to sense the correct indexing of the blade while underwater. I think if you are used to a crankshaft this is a bit tedious. But I am getting used to it. I don’t think I would ever, ever, ever use a straight shaft with gloves on. I would certainly not use one in winter.
I launched and paddled out to pure azure skies, 25 knot winds gusted across the tops of the somewhat squat waves being pushed from due west. I surfed on the north side of the man made break wall near Deer Lick creek. I was able to catch several good, but very short rides. My take offs were off on a few due to bad foam foot outfitting. When a surf kayak is not flat on takeoff you often end up upside down on your bottom turn. I need to add a bit more foam to the feet, and therefore push myself into the back band.
It was bliss to be able to ride waves again. I am getting comfortable in the smaller waves to the point where I can actually turn off my brain and just be looking for greenwater when I am riding, rather than hold on for dear life. Of course fall storm season is something different…
Dotty Kasunic and a friend from Kalamazoo showed up around the time I was forgoing kayak surfing for body surfing with my wife Laura and the Kids. They were playing in the waves with sea kayaks with mixed results. I rescued Dotty once and sent her out with a boat full of water. She ended up going in to dump it out. She somehow didn’t look to happy with the rescue!
I ended up with a bit of sunburn on my nose and under the eyes from sunscreen washing off over the five hours I was on the water.