Monday, October 06, 2014

Let's go surfin' now!

Everybody's learnin' how
Come on a safari with me 

And she and he and he!

Three cheers for Steve the Paddling Chef, who came to our surf day last weekend and then (sensible sensible man) said "Let's practice while the weather's still good!"

Great idea, and this morning Steve, Stephen and I met up at Sebago to load up our boats and go meet Margaret for some good soggy fun at Beach 59th on the Rockaway Peninsula.

It was a very very Fall sort of day, cool and quite windy, but sunny, and there were a number of activities going on at the club today (our surfing session, plus dinghy racing plus a midrange paddle out into Jamaica Bay, destination to be chosen). Steve had left lots of extra time for boat loading before the announced departure time of 10:00 am, but Stephen already had his little surf kayak on his car by the time we got there. Steve and I were loaded up and ready by 9:30, so we spent the spare half-hour sitting in the clubhouse chatting with the folks who were coming in for the other events and drinking hot beverages. Always nice to have a little time for that, although it did make me VERY sad to see John W. (commodore emeritus and a guy who does an amazing amount of the work to keep us running) installing the stovepipe on the barrel stove in the clubhouse. Noooo!

At 10 sharp, we headed out. Margaret was waiting for us at Beach 59th, which a clubmate in Parks had recommended as the best spot to launch. Turned out to be ideal, there was a little park there with clean restrooms (an unexpected but delightful surprise) and there were showers and spigots for washing the sand from your feet and gear on the boardwalk.

Bit of a hike to the water and we had a couple of interesting obstacles - there was this big pipe, which I thought might have been connected with the pipeline they're running through Floyd Bennett Field, but which turned out to be part of the equipment for the post-Sandy beach replenishments - these big pipes were run out to an offshore barge that was mixing up a pumpable slurry of sand and water to be delivered to the beach. Found this out when clubmate Jake turned up late in the surf session to say hello, and of course it made much more sense since we pretty far from the line that the gas pipeline follows. We also had to stay out of the way of archery practice and a movie shoot. Ah, paddling NYC. 

The surf forecast was the same as it had been for our surf workshop last weekend - one to two feet - but I found it much more challenging than what we'd had for that. I'm not a good enough surfer to really analyze what was going on (TQ taught the surf day for a reason - I find tides and currents fascinating and I really enjoy teaching that class, while he's done a lot more surfing and is very good at the concepts) but I would call what we had today dumping waves - instead of a nice gradual steepening of the wave face up until the wave breaks, you'd be paddling along with swells passing underneath you and then you'd get to the break zone and all of the sudden the swell behind you would turn into a vertical wall and then come crashing down, KABOOM! Really hard to gather the speed to ride that in in proper style (pointing in your direction of travel, with directional control) - more often it would just whack you sideways, surf you along broached for a split second, and then thhhhhbbbt, done.
thhhbbbt, done.

The quick loss of power after the explosive break caught me by surprise on the first one - I'd braced into the wave and all was fine for about 1 second - then there was no support and into the drink I went. I missed my first try at a roll and being in fairly shallow water I decided to bail - well, then I had a boatful of water and the slog of getting it the rest of the way in, dumping it, and then going through the whole rather tiring seal launch process again. At that point I was looking at Stephen's little sit-atop Kaos surf boat with envy - TQ and I had used the same kind of boat for a surf workshop we got to take with Hui Wa'a Kaukahi when we'd gone to O'ahu to visit my parents, and they are tons of fun - get knocked over and "no huhu", as they say out there, you just jump back on and you're off again. 
Stephen goes zoom.

Anyways, after that I got a little more determined about staying in my boat - three more knockdowns (or more like falldowns, really - I think every capsize involved misjudging a brace, especially the last one, which was right at the end of the session when I was pretty much wiped out) over the course of the day, three rolls. Nice to find out that I do still have a combat roll, it had been a while.

The wind also added some challenge, there was a small craft advisory until noon, and I also think that a few of those waves may have been closer to 3 feet - but once I got warmed up and got a little better sense of what was going on, I started getting some better rides. I had been smart enough to figure out that these were not quite the "pony waves" we'd enjoyed at Fire Island, where I could cheerfully paddle around taking pictures, and I'd stashed my camera in a zipped pocket on my lifejacket about a minute before my first knockdown - or was it a falldown? - I was glad I'd done that 'cause if I'd left it loose in the open pocket where I usually keep it, I'm sure I wouldn't be sharing pictures tonight. 
 Eventually I decided to take a break to take some pictures - the wind and the waves were carrying us to the east (that was the other thing about the waves, they weren't rolling straight in, but were very much on a diagonal to the beach) and so after a good run you'd have to paddle west into the wind for a ways to get back to where we launched, after a few circuits I was ready for a rest. That's when I took the on-water pictures here; I missed Steve because he'd decided to land for a minute as well and just as he was getting ready to re-launch, Stephen paddled up and asked me if I wanted to go for a spin in the Kaos. YES YES YES!

That was a blast - with a flat bottom and a fin at the back like a surfboard, the Kaos was much easier to keep pointed in the direction you wanted to point. In fact my best ride while I was playing with it was actually totally unplanned, I'd been fiddling around with the thigh straps for a minute when I glanced forward and then found myself looking up (yes, up, that's why I think some of 'em were 3 feet) at one of those suddenly-forming walls of water. Oops, should have gone a little further outside of the break zone - I was outside for most of the waves but not the biggest ones. I grabbed the paddle and started paddling, fully expecting to be swimming a minute later (but again, on a sitatop, a swim isn't as much of a hassle, I wasn't too worried). Well, when the wave crashed down a split-second later, I didn't have enough forward momentum to punch through - but instead of getting knocked over, the wave took the boat, spun it around, and then squirted me out like a watermelon seed when you squeeze it between your fingers. I absolutely howled with delight for the rest of the ride, which was probably my longest one of the day. Fun fun fun!
Not me, that's still Stephen - right before he came in to let me have a go.
Unfortunately the one major drawback to Stephen's boat was that it was a very wet ride. I was already getting a little tired and at this point I had to admit to myself that I was also getting very cold and it was probably time for me to call it a day.

Checked in with the others and it turned out that everyone else was OK with calling it a day fairly soon too. I'd left my boat pretty far down the beach to the east so the time it took me to walk down, relaunch, and work my way back up to where we'd started was enough for everyone else. I was so tired I had one last capsize from a very small little wave, right in front of my friends - I was pooped but I managed to pull myself together for one last roll and paddled on in. 

Fun fun day. The only thing I wish is that I'd worn my drysuit or at least my paddling jacket - it had crossed my mind but I just couldn't bring myself to do is time to start thinking about that, though, I definitely would've been more comfortable with one of those today. Sigh!

Made the post-paddle meal taste all the better, though.  Stephen had an appointment in the city in the evening so decided to say goodbye at Beach 59th but Margaret and Steve and I adjourned to Thai Rock's sunny back deck (almost want to call it a lanai 'cause they've done a lovely job of giving it a sort of tropical-resort feeling with filmy white draperies wafting in the breeze and what have you) for a late lunch. Sebago had done a paddle here sometime over the summer, a ton of people went and had a great time, so I was happy to finally have a chance to check it out. Quite the place, it was pretty quiet today (in fact nobody was sitting outside until  - in addition to a very good Thai restaurant, they've also got a dock where people can rent kayaks, jetskis, and stand-up paddleboards, or try that weird "flyboarding" thing. Have you seen that? I think I will pass but people seem to enjoy it. I'm posting "Flyboard Fail" as my sample because I suspect this is how it goes for 95% of the people who try it for the first time - there are a lot more videos of people who are really good at it flipping like Flipper but if I were to try this I'm pretty sure I would end up with a similar series of jet-propelled bellyflops. Owie. 

It is nice to know about a place where you can just go rent a kayak, though - occasionally people ask me; you basically can't around Manhattan because the waterways there are just too big and too busy, but Jamaica Bay is a little quieter. I used to refer people to a place in Broad Channel but they never reopened after Sandy. Has to be quite the scene here in the warmer months, I'll have to try to get in on that paddle if there's a repeat next summer. 

Also fun finding Dragonfly's Banquet here - I did a post about this art raft, which actually belongs to a clubmate's sister and brother-in-law, back in July 2010, click here to read my post from back then with much nicer pictures. 

Older dragon head from Dragonfly's Banquet

Thai Rock Dock is in a Halloween mood

Enough poking around on the dock, my scallop pad thai is here! 

Next day note - ha, I have been looking in on the Peconic Puffin figuring it was a good windsurfer weekend - looks like it was! 


Joe said...

Goat boat!!!!! ;)

clairesgarden said...

beautiful beach. you had a load of fun there.. spills and all.. great stuff!!