Some things remain the same

Some things remain the same

I stretched forward and flipped the spraydeck over the coaming and checked the fit all-round. How many times have I done that I wonder. Thousands of times, tens of thousands of times or more; I try a quick calculation in my head and I’m immediately hit with a searing “ice cream headache”, not from the mental gymnastics but from a wave that snuck up and pounded my head.

That’s better. Making it out during a lull in waves

It’s been with me a while now, this kayaking thing. From the 1970’s when I started in river touring kayaks and graduated into just about every discipline of the sport. I have been a competitor of sorts, mainly thinking of myself as someone that “made up the numbers ” due to my lack of training time, or more likely ability.

One thing remains the same; Surf Kayaking. I loved it from the first time I took a river touring kayak out through the break and ran down a small wave. Lots changed in that time both in kayak shapes and equipment. Does anyone remember the Johnson Surf Shoe (kayak) or Valley Moccasin ? I owned both as well as an Australian designed Rosco Phase 3 Kayak and locally made Olymp 75 kayak.

Let’s take a small wave to get the feel of the kayak

Back from meandering through the past I paddled out into a freezing morning to test out my latest kayak, a Jackson Rockstar V. I jumped a dumping wave and stayed upright whilst pulling a couple of 360 spins followed by a long backsurf. The next couple of waves were not so glorious, ending in a sound dumping as I tried a forward loop. The kayak felt great and will be better with a few minor seat adjustments.

Here’s a flat spin sequence. I promise to try it on bigger waves next time !

I found another kayaker (Steve) grabbing a few icy waves as well.

I only captured the last part of his wave

Here comes another 360 spin on a small wave and then back surf.

We bounced around in the waves until my body was near frozen then grabbed that last wave to shore.

Steve heads inshore. Frozen but happy.
Heading for a strong coffee and lemon cake.

Back on shore and suitably warmed with coffee and cake I checked out a couple of archive boxes I had seen in my shed. Sure enough amongst the certificates and other stuff was an article written about our early Surf Kayaking in a magazine SA Canoeing 83.

I scanned some pages below and I remember the two people who produced it.
Phil Read who wrote the surf article
Noel McPharlin who took the surf photos using a Nikanos waterproof film camera

Yep I was there on another page as the first Secretary of Canoe Polo Committee that started a pool competition in June 1982. It seems a lifetime ago, probably because it was, and it meant that kayaks would become my recreation and occupation. Anyway, have a look at pages from that era.

Have a great day
Ian Pope

Bumper Boats

Bumper Boats, Dodgem Cars and the Ghost Train were my favourite rides as a kid. Whenever there was a show or fair in town I was there looking for excitement and spending my money on rides, hot dogs and fairy floss. As I got a little older I still rode the Bumper Boats but often got kicked off for “rough play” and my fascination with the Ghost Train drifted towards the scantily clad girls on the high trapeze.

Times change but somethings stay the same. Hot Dogs were out and Falafel Rolls are in, and the Ghost Train is no longer scary, but I still get that Bumper Boat feeling every time I hit the surf.

The wind had dropped and the offshore wave recorder showed some activity, although the glassy waves were not as large as we hoped, but still provided some Monday Bumper Boat action.

Steve (R) gives Ian a little BUMP
Waiting for the next wave set
Charles looks like he’s lining up for a BUMP
Steve (R) chases for another BUMP
Turtle takes a clean wave to stay out of trouble
Steve showing his style on a small wave
Charles looking for a victim perhaps
You can see Steve but can you spot someone else
Here comes Steve again
Ok. Who is giving way first ?
Steve capsizes and it looks like everyone heads in for a BUMP
Turtle staying out of trouble again
…and enjoying another clean wave
So we all headed shoreward to finish off a great morning paddle.

It was a beautiful morning with a nice mob of paddlers and bound to be repeated soon.

100km Solo kayak paddle (almost)

The wind seemed to have increased again or was it my imagination, or just fatigue. I could see another green wave building on my right side and sure enough it broke over my head and washed me 20 metres sideways, whilst I held a desperate support stroke. Was that the 10th or 12th time that had happened, I decided to stop counting. I was out here alone and this was supposed to be fun or at least character building.

The day had started with an ominous covering of grey cloud and the wind hovering above 15knots. I reasoned that I would have a 7km paddle across the open bay paddling parallel to the created swell. It sort of worked that way, except I way pushed in an arc by the wind and current. It took 1.5 hours to reach the next headland where I was to change direction and pick up a quartering tail wind and flooding tide. Unfortunately, the wind switched more to the East, making it from my side again and even worse a slight headwind. A couple of dolphins dropped in for a chat and stayed a while but tired of my slow pace they zapped off ahead.

Only another 15km or so of this I thought and it probably won’t get worse; but of course it did. The 14km run along the coast was bordered by 7km of remote sandy beach and 7km of rocky cliffs. The beach section was bad enough, with steep cresting waves but the cliffs sent rebounding clapatis waves back towards me, so the kayak was constantly in motion, up, down and sometimes forward as I executed about 2 gazillion support strokes. Absolutely no chance of photos today.

Rounding a small headland I spotted Lipson Island from the crest of a wave and gauged it to be 3 km away. Knowing sanctuary awaited I increased my stroke rate, concentrated on technique and forward power. With the tide in full flood I could slip through the channel between the beach and island where Robyn was meeting me and with a little lucky maneuvering I missed all of the reef and landed on white sand.

Paddling solo was something I hadn’t done for many years as there had always been lots of fellow paddlers. However, this time they had other commitments or maybe better judgement. It certainly sharpens the senses and gives you time to think about what the hell you’re doing out here while everyone else is enjoying coffee and conversation in a café.

The paddle had started well, leaving Port Lincoln on Spencer Gulf, with a modest tail wind and a 12km crossing past Boston Island. A bit of a sloppy ride but a nice day “on the paddle” passing the shipping channel used by large grain carriers and skirting the fish farms anchored in the bay. The 24km was only interrupted by a pod of dolphins showing me their surfing and acrobatic skills.

Louth Island passed and soon I was cruising into the shelter of Louth Bay which was protected by the resident Osprey whom I named “Scuffy”. Again, Robyn was there on the cliff to direct me to the best landing spot.

Scruffy the guardian of Louth Bay who had been watching me from the cliff top

I had various species of gulls soar past me when off shore and when coming ashore I was always greeted by a gaggle of cormorants who took off in all directions, including straight at me.

At night the wind abated and I sat on the beach having a Skype call with friends Matt and Katrin in Germany, whilst enjoying a well-earned beer. I watched the moon rise reflected on the now calm water and hoped for calm winds in the morning. I promised them a photo of the moonrise so here they are.

Moonrise over the channel entrance

The next morning my prayers were answered with a slight tail wind and smooth-ish seas so the kayak sail was deployed for a lovely 3 hour paddle into Tumby Bay township.

A great kayak sailing day

Whilst I was on the water Robyn was investigating the coastal walking trails and photo opportunities. She captured some of the rock formations along the coast.

Pied Cormorants resting on the rocky outcrops
There are few places to land on this section of coastline

She had also become a regular at the Tumby Bay bakery. Robyn and her friend Ann were delighted to enjoy a coffee with holidaying celebrity Mr Billy Connelly and even had their photo taken to prove it.

Everyone visits the Tumby Bay Bakery

I had a great experience, although the increasing wind meant that I didn’t reach my 100km solo paddling goal, but I came across some new paddlers. I met Peter in Tumby Bay who is starting his experimentation with a Greenland style paddle and Dave who is about to join the sea kayaking fraternity, so hopefully next time they can come along with Dennis the veteran paddler of the region.

Paddling Solo. A great experience that sharpens the senses. The feeling of being alone is daunting when you are in a challenging environment but the joy of knowing that you were the only person to chat with that dolphin, watch that bird soaring above or yell at the bloody wind is sort of special.

Solo also means careful preparation. Check, recheck and check again all your gear and navigation. Have confidence in your own ability and above all remember it’s fun, even when it isn’t .

Ian and Robyn.

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.

It was almost Silent as we left the growl of the metropolis behind. The wind was a calming whisper as we glided into the darkness. The sound of water gently slapping the kayak and the occasional splash of the paddle were all the sounds we wanted to hear.

Leaving the rest behind

It was Calm. The wind stilled and the ocean surface took on a mirrored finish.

All behind us was Bright. We had left behind the lights of population soon after launching. It was paddling into the darkness with no moon in sight.

Occasionally the wind would surprise us with a cooling gust, making us increase our paddling tempo, then drop away just as fast as it came.

With those eyes he makes a great Vampire

Time and distance fade away as you focus on other things; the rhythm of the paddle, the rocking of the kayak, the joy of being away from the heat and noise of “the others”.

All good things must come to and end and we returned to reality heading inshore, where we greeted the last night walkers on the jetty, saw the Xmas lights still glowing and heard the muted sounds of the late night party goers.

We glided along, not knowing that we were on top of reefs and rocky sections until the camera flash showed us the shallows. Luckily no waves across the headlands tonight.

Hmm…that is shallow
The last night walkers
Xmas lights still burning

We had heard splashes on the water but saw nothing. Probably just sea birds settling for the night. We hoped to hear the puffing of the local dolphin pod but they were elsewhere. We did not want to see or hear (of feel) Mr Chompy who had been seen patrolling the reef during the day. ( Mr Chompy was a guest blogger here some time ago- follow the link to see his blog).

I suspect some of you have noted that I missed out the Holy. That’s because I had originally planned to paddle Xmas eve, however, the wind played havoc with those plans.

Happy New Year. Let’s put 2021 behind us.

It’s almost Summer

The Witches Wind has been blowing relentlessly for weeks. The Witches reside in the East and blow across the Peninsula reeking havoc on the sea swell. At the bottom of the Peninsula they sweep across the swell making it choppy and confused and further up the Gulf they blow strong from the land, flattening any waves.

The Witches are not good for sea kayakers, causing a confused, often angry sea and certainly no good for surf kayakers chasing a wave.

The weather forecast came in. East winds below 10 knots and a small clean surf on the local beach. ACTION STATIONS. Load up my new Jackson Kayak Rockstar playboat and get there. Steve (King of England) was also on it. The swell was small but the water was crystal clear and warm enough to entice a number of rolls and other frivolity.

There were a few small peelers to be had.

Mr King having fun

I saw a flash of white break the surface nearby but luckily it was just a swimmer out for the first sunny day. No tan and lots of white flesh. Steve had a lunch appointment so he called it a day.

Then to prove it was “Almost Summer” I heard the “wump wump wump” of a helicopter overhead and the wail of a siren. Yep, you guessed it Shark Alert.

Public #SharkReport: SA – NEAR OCHRE POINT AT MOANA BEACH . 10:30, 28 Nov 21, 4m, White Shark, Aerial Survelliance → Report to Shark Watch. Helicopter pilot has seen a large 4 – 5m White Shark very close to shore (between 10 – 20m offshore) while flying over Moana Beach near Ochre Point. The Shark was seen close to surfers and it’s movement could not be established.

Oh well it made for a nice finish to the session, sitting on the beach, drinking coffee and watching everyone called to action stations. It’s almost Summer.

Happy Paddling and stay safe.

Lightning Conductors

Q: Can a carbon fibre kayak paddle conduct lightning ?

A:  Yes, very, very well. Not as well as Aluminum, but the lightning has already bothered to jump across over a mile of air, the difference in connectivity of the last few feet will make little difference.

The weather forecast read : …..The chance of a thunderstorm from late this morning. 

Blue skies and sunshine greeted us on the beach. We negotiated the small shore break into crystal clear water and set off along the coast. We could see a ribbon of dark clouds on the horizon and some higher altitude cumulus was showing some height progression, but all was well.

Steve breaks out through a small wave
Interesting cloud formations
Checking out what’s coming

We picked our way along the reefy shoreline finding the calmer swell allowed us to get into places that were not normally accessible. Crystal clear water meant we could observe the reefy bottom with its’ jagged rocks and abundant sea life. This was an area we often visited for a session of Ocean Freestyle Playboating paddling, riding large waves and often making an inspection of the seabed. It was just a little concerning to get a really good look at the jagged barnacle covered rocks and reef that make those waves break.

The water is still chilly at this time in Spring, however, we were not the only ocean dwellers. We came across two snorkelers exploring the underwater coastline.

Snorkeling some distance offshore

There was a distant rumble of thunder and I saw a flash of lightning on the horizon. There were some darker clouds moving in quickly. We guessed it would be some time before it got to us so we headed to a reef that had small breaking waves. Sea Kayaks are not the most agile craft on a wave but the fun of riding a peeling wave shoreward with the reef whizzing by underneath is certainly exhilarating.

The dark clouds were closing and we discussed the possibility of a lightning strike seeing as we were the highest objects on the water and carrying a carbon paddle lightning conductor.

Q: Can a carbon fibre kayak paddle conduct lightning ?

A:  Yes, very, very well. Not as well as Aluminum, but the lightning has already bothered to jump across over a mile of air, the difference in connectivity of the last few feet will make little difference.

Dark clouds approaching

Probably much more chance of catching COVID or being hit by a run away bus, but still we decided on a return to shore.

We headed towards our launch point still catching a few small waves as we passed breaking reefs. I must have been a little complacent when I jumped on a wave with Steve and quickly found myself being dragged along upside down. A quick roll back up when the white water let me go resulted in clean sinus passages.

A great paddle in ideal conditions.