I have heard the outcry before, “Don’t take the surf out of surfski”. By the looks of some of the paddlers and the condition of some of the boats being loaded onto cars after the race, I am not so sure if many of the paddlers that took part, will agree with that.
We are still missing the elusive, “open ocean conditions”, that everybody is waiting for. We only missed it by about two hours, because not long after the completion of the race, a fresh South Westerly wind came blasting through, which would have forced a change in course to a “down wind race”. Surf we did have though, and a lot of the newer paddlers to the series, felt for the first time the raw power of our South coast surf. Winklespruit and Warner Beach, 3km to the North are shrouded with rocks and the race course brought these into play. I was a victim right at the start, and clipped my rudder on a rock in the shore break. I saw the semi submerged rock near to where I started in the line up, but underestimated how strong the side wash was, and got dragged on to the rocks before I got any forward momentum through the shore break.
Schoolboy error!. Never under estimate the power of the surf.
I was relegated to watching the rest of the race, which was a bit uninspiring with mixed fortunes in the surf having a bearing on most of the placing’s, with the exception of the front three of Hank McGregor, Mathew Bouman and visiting Sean Rice fromCape Town. Inshore the surf took its toll, but once out the conditions were flat and the race was a bit of a procession. The performance of our Custom Kayaks Team “BULLET” was in tatters, withBarry Lewinnot taking part, (shoulder injury), Luke Nesbit recovering from Flu and together with Mark Mulder getting a hammering in the surf, and yours truly not getting very far. There will always be a next time and being the good competitors that they are, they are now frustrated and hungry as well. Roll on next week.
My development paddlers paddled bravely and it was a great learning experience for them.
After packing the trailer and loading up after the race, I felt cheated at not having a paddle at all, and that in itself is a disaster for me, knowing that I will have to wait a whole week before I can get in a long paddling session. My ears pricked up when I saw the wind come blasting through. Winklespruit is a tantalizing 36km from my home base at Marine SLC inDurban. I quickly straightened my bent rudder partially, (It still worked ok!), taped over the few holes in the boat from the rocks. Armed with the safety equip, (leash, Pfd, cellphone in a dry pouch and some fluid), had to check myself and restrain the enthusiasm for a long time in the surf, which had now really picked up, before sneaking out and having the most amazing paddle back to Durban.
Every now and again, the south coast delivers like this. Down wind, down swell and down current. I do not recall being off a run at all until I hit the South Breakwater inDurbanand turned into the wind into the Bay for the last 3km to the finish. I did not push it hard at all and my GPS drifted between 15 – 19km per hour the whole way.
It is a long way on your own, but the shear adrenalin of the pace and concentration of moving from one run to the other makes the time and the miles fly by. . There was plenty of sea life out there and the odd curious small hammerhead shark coming close and buzzing the ski, before shooting away. I said to myself a few times, “Wow, this is why we paddle!”.
Roll on next week for Race 6 which is the Pirates – Umhlanga – Pirates out and back race. This is usually a test of fitness and if you have to paddle back into the wind it becomes a test of the mind.
See you on the water.