Wednesday 30 January 2008

Surf Training

On Saturday, January 26, I led an instruction trip to Wanda Beach in Sydney, to get a few of our NSWSKC club members a bit of experience in the surf.
Conditions were perfect, with a light offshore breeze, 1-2m swell from the east on an 8 second period, & a rising tide. The group was John Friedman, Terry Walsh, Bruce McNaughton, Roger Boardman & Peter Levy.

We paddled out through the lineup at about 9am after a briefing on safety, in particular a refresher on the importance of shoulder safety & correct high bracing technique. Landing through a good spilling 6 foot surf the guys all tasted a bit of salt water, with Bruce & Terry managing to roll after being upended. Roger Boardman took on everything thrown at him, & braced into some terrific waves, often riding 100m into the beach.

Everyone fell victim to the '5 yard rule' - relaxing when on the landing & being dumped upside down by the shorebreak. That said with everyone mindful of the need to tuck up, there were no more serious injuries than a few bruised egos. John & Peter hadn't previously been in moving water to this degree & both improved as they grew more confident.
We relocated to a nice little break that formed about 100m offshore on the rising tide & all caught some really good waves, before calling it a day after a solid 3 hours.
When it really mattered, paddling back in to a crowded beach at Wanda, everyone landed without incident, bracing beautifully into the shore break. Just goes to show what a crowd can do for your concentration.
After the session, Roger & I took out a couple of surf kayaks for a blast, but the high tide & crowded line-up made it a pretty futile exercise. At least Roger got a small taste of this awesome evolving sport!
All up, a good day out & enough adrenaline expended to ensure nobody needed any rocking on Saturday night.
Surf is pretty uncomplicated, besides the fact that it is so difficult to control (if that makes sense). You need to master your boat control using proper edges to turn (ruddders are pretty useless), pick a good take-off, & either get off the wave while it's still green or engage the white-water with absloute committment & good technique. This means a solid high or low brace, no over-extension of your shoulder joint. Then, if you do manage to get capsized, you have to have the grace under fire to be able to hold your tuck position, then roll up once the fury on the surface of the water has subsided. A good progression to remember is to move from your forward paddle to catch the wave, a good stern rudder with edges to hold your position & direct the boat left or right, a gradual low brace evolving from your stern rudder, with the high brace to finish when the wave impacts on your now-broached deck. Remember, the beach-side of your boat is a no-go zone, once you're moving. A brace on the beach side will pop your shoulder like a cork, while exiting on the beach side will get you a nice set of bruised shins, at best.
On a persoanl note, my Currituck performed with distinction in the surf. It really is the best moving water sea kayak you could hope to paddle, & that's not just because I'm selling them! The fit of the boat allows you to initiate a turn with a clench of your bum-cheek, & good blending of strokes with this great under-deck fit makes for a good carving ride - especially on the great waves we were able to find on the weekend!
Happy paddling!

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