I slip the spraydeck over the kayak coaming as a small wave washes under the kayak. Grabbing my paddle I feel the surge lift the hull and I’m free of the land. I take a few strokes into the blackness and feel the bow rise again this time a flood of water pours over the kayak followed soon after by another wave that sends water pouring over my head.
Well that’s a nice introduction to night paddling. Luckily it’s not mid winter when the cold water drenching would have really questioned my sanity.
When the sun goes down the familiar seascape fades and takes you to the twilight zone, where the familiar horizon disappears and a small distance ahead becomes your whole world.
Distances seem difficult to calculate, even when paddling along a coastline lit up by the city lights. Familiar cliffs and beaches along the regular route seem to be somehow different and the small line of white water crashing onto the beach seems louder than ever.
Sometimes you are lucky and the wind drops to give you amazing glassy conditions. You can glide along while taking in the beauty of coastal silhouettes. Photography takes on a new dimension.
Paddling with others can be both challenging and fun. Experienced night paddlers seem able to anticipate each others actions and reactions allowing a certain amount of freedom without compromising safety.
Getting happy snaps of your fellow paddlers in the dark becomes challenging but often rewarding.Sometimes it’s a wrestle with the camera to get a focus point and then you get a lot of flare from the reflective material on kayaking gear. I have gone from a Canon point and shoot style camera to a Nikon DSLR and sometimes the increased complexity pays dividends and sometimes it doesn’t. Practice with the Nikon will eventually pay off !
A calm night with no moon made for an great paddle with Mike, Michael, Steve and Mark along our local coast and I even got a few reasonable shots. The stars were visible as the clouds cleared making for a lovely night on the water.
The man made structures take on a different look as you glide past, with their lights reflected in the water.
The coastline of the city seems deserted when you can’t make out any human movement along the normally busy boardwalks.
As you meander further offshore the city becomes a ribbon of light on the horizon.
Very occasionally my paddle will “double dip”, showing both sunset and moon rise, which is amazing. Often I begin just before sunset allowing me time to organise my gear without torch light and this presents other photo opportunities.
Over the years there have been memorable “night landings”. Miscalculating the landing spot and capsizing in a stinking bed of rotting seaweed (much to others amusement) ranks high among the experiences on offer as does landing on a “deserted beach” that was soon deserted by a couple of lovers.
The other challenge is finding all your gear in the darkness. Hmmm….where did I put those car keys ? I had them in my hand a few minutes ago. Hey everyone; anyone seen my car keys ?
It’s fun to be a little out of your comfort zone and night paddling can easily do that.