My side of the story from the back of the double.
By now, many of you will have seen the Utube clip of Barry and I surfing on the mound off Durban during cyclone IRINA. This area, (the mound) breaks only once or twice a year if that, usually on a very big swell being pushed into the bay by a strong southerly wind. The wave, sometimes about 500 meters across and about 2km out to sea gives you a very big face to work down and as long as you do not get caught on the inside you can have some great rides for up 1 -2km long. Speeds in general that you can reach on these swells can get up to 35-40km per hour in a double ski. It is quite difficult to get enough speed to catch the big sets in a single ski.
I was probably one of the first to arrive at the club on Sunday morning, and when I saw the effect of the cyclone pushing into the bay, I put on my lifejacket right away. This was going to be a special day. At my age, one I was not going to miss. The size of the inshore surf was going to be the first challenge, so I have specially for days like this a “nose Cone” that I fit on to the front of the double ski, to help get us out through the surf, through the consistent sets of monster white water pounding the beach front. I was waiting for somebody else to arrive to put in the back of the double ski, when our boat crew members started to arrive with helpers to drive cameramen in rubber ducks to film this phenomena. Barry, my son arrived and he got hooked up for some time mounting Gopro camera’s on the surf boat and then on our ski and on my head. This was all making me irritable, because it was taking too long to get out there.
Getting out through the surf was something else altogether.
Waiting for the gap!
Punching massive walls!
Eventually sneaking out!
The effect of the cyclone pushing the waves into the bay on the back of a strengthening wind had an effect that required every bit of experience we could muster. I have ridden bigger waves on a surfski, but the speed that the swell was coming through was staggering. The difference in being on the right line on to the wave or getting caught in massive walls of water was critical. That’s why from the film clip you can see that we did not have to paddle too hard to get on to the wave. We had to be in exactly the right place though. Again, in hindsight, I would not have elected to be out there in the back of a double ski with many other paddlers that can read that kind of stuff like Barry can.
The speed down the face of the wave was blinding. At that speed a wrap around motor cycling visor would have been handy to assist with visibility. You had to keep your paddle clear of the water most of the time, because if you did crab your paddle, it would rip you out of the boat for sure. It is not easy to see from the film clip but it was incredibly choppy. The craft was bouncing and almost airborne some of the time. When Barry took a few strokes, I made the mistake of trying to paddle and keep in time. There was no point. It was only making us unstable and run the risk of us crashing out and maybe never seeing the ski again.
We rode a good 7-8 long waves all 1-2km long. Hard to tell at that speed. The first big wave was where we hit 68.8km per hour. The second one in the clip was memorable, because Barry was out on the face of the wave, but I was in the pocket under the lip getting the wax sucked out of my left ear. We were running away from a massive wall of water inside us. Some of the other waves were bigger but not as fast. The weather got really atrocious so we paddled the one or two Km back to the Limestone reef off our lifesaving club, and rode that for a long way before having to negotiate the massive surf break at marine. We treated a huge group of watchers to a spectacular wipeout coming in. “Neptune just showing us who’s boss and getting one late goal back at us”.
Great to do this on a ski that I have designed and built. There is satisfaction in that alone. The APEX 2 double surfski is tailor made for that kind of experience. Stable enough, fast enough and its down wind surfability is unbelievable. I believe it is the most under rated surfski in the market.
The ocean has served up some very special moments for me out there. Most of them unrecorded and they will remain in my memory. How I wish today’s technology could have been around then for more of them to have been recorded. The fact that this one was recorded does make it special indeed, but being able to experience it in the back of a double ski with my son, is a blessing for which I will be eternally grateful.