Surfing Sucks, well Suction…

Surfing hydraulics are indeed the stuff of legends. Once the waves start to top out at 8 feet or so they can do some pretty impressive things. When the waves spill the forces within are quite strong. This is an understatement of Olympian proportions.

The forecast was for 8-10 foot waves with wind at 30 knots, gusting to 35 knots out of the northwest. It was every bit the forecast for once. Rain came down in cool, but painfully side ways sheets. It was so wet it was hard to tell up from down at times. The path on the south side of the pier looked like a runway. Flat with a bit of occasional white water. The rocks that are pushed up against the pier were uncovered in the troughs of waves, meaning a serious amount of water was being displaced during each wave period. I broke out with ease for once.

The wave period appeared to be about 5 seconds. People on the west coast will laugh at this, but it is what we get. I caught some decent, (quick rides) Steep waves where I was able to carve a little before riding onto the back of the next wave. I typically saw something big coming paddled like hell and tried to grab onto green water by high brace ruddering to slow myself down to hang in the power pocket. A couple times I was unceremoniously spat out of the green water by a mountain of hissing white water. But for the most part it seemed pretty benign.

After catching some fun rides I got caught at the bottom of a big wave without any hull speed. As I tried to get up to speed I was drawn to the top and then dumped to the bottom by the wave as it curled and collapsed. Funny but I remember the sensation as I was sucked up, and then dropped down in it’s distinct pieces like I was watching someone else. Then when I rolled up I was surfing backwards, “woohoo!!!!”-I thought, but another wave broke on me, and in the ensuing dynamics I was promptly sucked completely out of the kayak, skirt and all.

I took my paddle and began to swim to my swamped kayak. I got in and paddled it for a few minutes and got it close. Then I got out and swam with my paddle all the way in until I could stand.

Luckily I hadn’t been out further than the pier. Or I could have been in for a long confused swim. Also again, I had a lifejacket, helmet, and drysuit. But my skirt did not hold very well. I’ve been using a touring deck that is neoprene from mountain surf. It’s pretty decent, but not as good as a pure white water skirt obviously. Although I’m not sure any skirt would have held me in.
It was an interesting experience that maybe I can ward off next time with a tougher rand on the skirt. But I’m not sure I’m ready for the seat belt! In my three years of small boat, or surf boat surfing this is the first time it’s happened. And it never happened while sea kayaking other than when I had a crappy nylon skirt when I first started out.

But float bags are on the list too. I’ve delayed on common sense for too long on those.

One Comment

  1. Is there any difference in the waves if you catch them outside the breakwall and ride them into the channel?
    How dangerous would this be?