Trying to put into words what sea kayak surfing does for me. Dunno if this will make sense to anyone, cos I'm so close to the subject matter. Meh, let me know if you get it or don't
The sets are mostly coming in threes, twenty seconds apart with the odd monster superset maybe one time in a dozen or so. Period is about five or six seconds. There's a point break on the headland to the south with the river driving the rip out to it. The rest of the swell is hitting the far end of the beach and breaking to the right, flowing along the shore to meet up with the river and forming a little crossbreak. Surf is hitting about the six or seven foot mark which, when you're sitting down is a double overhead but it's a nice gentle face and spilling, not dumping, except for the curl inside of the pointbreak. Couple of hours here and you'll be warmed up and ready to get stuck into what's waiting for you right around the corner.
Launch at the north end of the beach (get a couple of runs in before you take a look at the point) and paddle out through the foam. Seven or eight seconds and you feel the broken remains of the first set of the day, hissing past you. You dig in a bit deeper and punt out through the soup, trying not to lose too much ground as it feebly tries to drag you back to the beach.
When you meet the third wave in the set, you're thirty yards further out. Wave has still got a bit of meat in it. The spray hits you in the face and you taste salt as you punch through. Your bow rises up and thumps down the other side. Keep paddling. You can see the leader of the next set now, rising up ahead. It replaces the horizon with a jagged white line of foam that races across from left to right.
Then it hits you. In the chest this time, with a thump. You lean forward as far as you can and reach over the back, digging in deep and hauling your boat up and over. Paddle like hell into the second wave. It hits you harder. Third wave bears down on you, you reach forward, dig your blade in deep, and then just stop, right on the crest and hold on tight, with a huge, shit eating grin on your face.
She pushes you back as you hang on for grim death at the front. You're back surfing. 'Fakie' sea kayak style. The stern of your kayak gets pushed underwater. Another couple of seconds til the wave loses a bit of power and it's time to push forward. Hard! Nine feet of buoyancy behind you fires you up out of the water like a rocket. You lean as far forward as you can and get ready to brace as you land the other side with a splash and a "whoop!". Houston we have - 'Fuck yeah!'.
Now you're past the break. Where the boardies hang out in a line either side of you, waiting on the next set. The one your eyes are fixed on, out on the horizon. It starts to rise up but it aint going to break for another twenty seconds til it gets back here. You keep paddling, pumping your arms and legs and torso. Warming up. This is the domain of the longboat surfer and, for the time being at least, You have it all to yourself. Life is sweet. Paddle on.
Halfway to where you're headed you meet the next set on it's way in. You bounce over. Say hello. These ones are your friends. They want to play. You paddle out until you feel it. The next set. Just a gentle swell in the water. They've come a long way like that. They're born miles out at sea as messy, junky, explosions and turmoil kicked up by a couple of days of stormy shit. They head outward at all different speeds, angles and sizes. As they travel along some catch up with the ones in front. These waves get bigger, some fall over, all sorts of stuff happens but the upshot is, the longer they go on they get more uniform - longer, slower but a lot more powerful. These babies, by the time they hit the shore, are packing a strong, smooth punch. Windbreak will hit you but groundswell will plough into you and keep on coming, like a fucking freight train.
You turn round and watch one as it makes it's way to the beach. First it piles up on the headland to your left. The shoulder comes up, thick, muscular. Light and green, pulsing veins of white rising up to the crest. The inside slams into the cliff face and explodes as the outside curls out toward you before fading out. Now, out in front the water darkens in a line, along from the right. A couple of the boardies are paddling in front of it, matching speed before dropping into the face. A couple of seconds later you see one of the them pop out over the back, just as his mate gets wiped out and dragged into the foam. Just as the last wave of the set reaches the boardies you feel that playful little tap at the back of your boat a split second before the surge picks you up.
You dig in a couple of hard strokes. Slide into place on the top of the ramp and sit there as you pick up speed. Four seconds, you're going about fifteen or twenty miles per hour, torso rotated fully sideways with your paddle dug in deep behind you. just at the point the wave starts sliding out from in front of you as it piles up you grab the lip with your paddle and pull hard. You dive straight down, keel buried in the trough but the face is still just gentle enough to keep your nose out of the water.
You slide down fast and carve in left as the foam crest comes racing along the wave behind you. You should pop out right now, just before it catches you but, truth be told, you want caught. Getting caught is the best bit. And down it comes. Baring it's teeth six feet above your head and exploding down toward you. You're fully broached - side on to an avalanche. There's nothing else to do. You raise your paddle and fall over into it. And you hang on for dear life. It's a hundred yards to the beach and you're racing there sideways, on a magic carpet of exploding water. Just before you run up against the sand you straighten up and power back out. Round two...
It was fun while it lasted but, on that last run, just as you braced into the foam, you saw a monster break on the point. Cut the crap. You aint going to miss another one of those, are you? you head down the beach, along the soup, where the engery from the break disspiates against the shore, turning the water to thick white mush. You're heading for the rip, all the water that's crashing in, running straight back out to sea, in a current like a river. It's your equivalent of a ski-lift. You're headed for the top of the mountain.
You bounce over a couple of foamers and suddenly you're looking at the inside of a rip-curl, six, maybe seven feet. It's still far enough away that you don't have to worry too much about anything more than dealing with it's aftermath but the next one is going to be a different kettle of fish. You take a breath, muscles wound up, ready to punch out through the wall of incoming foam. And then you're through it and you're paddling like hell as the next one bears it's teeth. Paddling your guts out, you get the front of your boat a foot into bottom of the surge just as it leaps up. You have a split second to make up your mind. Fuck it, you're getting lifted into the pipe way too fucking fast, capsize!
You roll up on the other side and glance over your shoulder at the whoosh of air and spray that comes out when the pipe collapses. If you hadn't rolled you'd have been dragged, cartwheeling, end over end, right across the rocks next to the headland and that would have fucking sucked. And hurt. It aint over yet. You charge on and jump the last one, just as it starts to rear up. Now you're safe. Relatively speaking. You catch your breath and look out. Watch the next set roll in. You sit where you are and let it pass under you, panting like a labrador in a heatwave.
And the next set rolls in, then the next, and the next after that. You bide your time. Monsters come to those who wait. And the next set rolls in. And then you see it, way out on the horizon. It's so big you can see it over the set in front of it. The set that just wiped out the horizon. It's time to surf! You have to backpaddle to get behind the first of the set. That's your target. You watch it evolve in front of you as you let the next one pick you up. You're flying, shooting up ten feet in the air as you punch out five or six strokes with every muscle in your body.
You heave into the trough, just as you hear the screaming, hissing, roar behind you, you sprint down the steep face, digging you blade hard into the rising water and leaning in like your life depends on it. Maybe it does. fucking up right here could lead to broken bones, lots of them, but you aint going to fuck up here, this is only the start of the ride.
There's a perfect moment of clarity, as you hurtle along the tunnel, a green canopy of water above, trying to close in and catch you, you're completely immersed in the moment. It's eternal. Everything else, the past forgotten, the future irrelevant, this, right now is where you are and, for a couple of seconds, it feels like where you've always been. Nothing else exists. It's just you and the ocean, the deafening roar that almost but not quite drowns out the thumping of your heart.
And you lick your lips and taste the salt on them and life has meaning.