Tuesday, 5 April 2022

New paddling discipline for me - learning surfkayaking

 There is not just one type of paddling - or one type of kayak. 

If you consider bicycling, there is road, track, downhill, cross-country and general mountain biking. And within these are a range of bicycles with different gears, brakes, frames, geometry, handlebars, suspension, forks, price tag...

It is the same in paddling with flatwater, whitewater, touring, racing, surfski, canoe polo, marathons, sprints, slalom and every variation imaginable within these and a range of kayaks for preference, stability and performance within each discipline.

For me, paddling began with paddling whatever was provided at events or that I could get my hands on for adventure racing. Later it was more K2 (Accord) with a dash of K1 and sometimes other models. And then it was learning whitewater on another brand of plastic kayaks, then an Epic V7 surfski and then our Vagabond Kayaks. My personal fitness/touring kayak is the Marimba model (longest and fastest in our range), I learned the basic skills in whitewater on the Usutu sit-on-top and I have my own Pungwe whitewater creek kayak. I also have a Design Kayaks sit-in touring kayak, the Endless.

I don't have a very good sea constitution so I generally avoid anything that has me bobbing on swell. Thankfully, anti-nausea tablets work well and so, a few weeks ago, I hit the surf to learn to catch waves and surf 'em on our Vagabond Dumbi surfkayak. I'd only ever paddled the prototype on a wild and awful day at the sea (it wasn't pretty).

My first session surfkayaking, at Vic Bay here in George, saw me swimming quite a bit as I struggled to find the right balance and body positioning. Sea waves are not as strong as an equivalent-sized river wave and they move slower. I see a wave coming towards me and expect to be slammed by it, but instead the nose of the Dumbi punches through easily and I maintain course. 

In catching waves to surf them, I am learning about timing and also just how hard and fast I need to paddle - not as hard or fast as I expected.

Waves that look like 'baby waves' from the beach feel a lot bigger when they're higher than your head height. Fortunately, they don't hit very hard.

Session 2, a week later, went better with less swims and better control. I needed to work on my body positioning (how much to lean back or forward at different stages of the 'surfing cycle') and paddle strokes.

Session 3, on Sunday, was the best yet. Tide was out and waves were low. I stuck to the baby waves to really get my sea legs and a good feel for this discipline. Only a few swims and lots of surfing. A sure progression. Importantly, I felt a lot more relaxed too.

Before hitting the sea on Sunday, I did a stint on the local dam to try to roll the Dumbi as I had never tried before. As luck would have it, I rolled it on my first attempt but then struggled later with only a few successful rolls out of numerous. I'll need to do some work here so that rolling becomes reliable and second-nature. Right now, I don't even think about rolling in the sea because there is so much else I'm focusing on. But with a bit of work and improvement in technique, I should nail it. I can feel my stiff intercostal muscles from this session.

Being on the up in the skills stakes feels good and I'm looking forward to the next session.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Awesome. Great pix. The conditions look perfect.