Mainly kayaking photographs taken on the Isle of Man and beyond.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Calf Sound Rocks (A Tale of a Tidal Race Virgin)

By Jessica Egelnick.
My first adventure in a tidal race struck me initially as one notch less frightening than the ridiculous surf at Fenella Beach last Saturday. John was right - the paddle out through the race was just rough, but all in all nothing new. My first ride back through in the other direction went smoothly; I stuck to the Kitterland side, the waves were small, and I started to get a sense of how my beloved soon-to-be battered Romany would behave. Second stint, I also opted to paddle right through and come back, rather than turning at all in the race itself. I had my first ever moment of truly surfing a sea kayak, as I caught a really great wave, planted a stern rudder and zoomed along with a grin to swallow the world. I had a vision of the surfing scenes in the This Is The Sea videos, and I knew that if I had a camera on my deck, I'd be seeing the same wide-eyed delight that Justine Curgenven expresses so well.
My third pass out through the race, I was now feeling confident and was looking to move towards the bigger side of the race, where the guys had been playing, and where I could more easily catch a big wave to get that surfing high. All went smoothly, I caught a small wave that took me into the heart of the race, and as a new wave swelled behind me I was in place and moving at a speed to catch it. It was clean and perfect, and I planted my stern rudder, leaned back, and felt the grin growing. "I'm really doing this!" passed through my mind. I leaned back further as I saw my bow driving down deeper, and as I picked up speed. Suddenly I was leaning impossibly far back, feeling as though I was actually standing on my footpegs, the wave rearing up underneath and behind me. I knew my boat was going to submerge and I thought to myself "If I can just hang on, I can pull out of it, come up, and it'll all be fine.. I can do this!", when suddenly I felt the most
surprising sensation: a thunking sound and a jarring jolt as my now-vertically plunging bow hit the bottom. "How do you hit the bottom?!?!" actually went through my head as I flipped ass over tea kettle (as my mother would say) and found myself upside down in the churning white froth. My paddle had been ripped backwards from my hands as I went over (leaving a bruise to prove I did not simply let go!), and as I waited in vain for the wave to pass, I reeled it in, indescribably thankful that I had a paddle leash. Yet the wave seemed not to pass and, as I had one hand on my deck release strap and one hand on my paddle, I figured I had probably enough air to either attempt one roll, or to work at wrenching my ridiculously tight deck off. Since I struggle with the deck at the best of times, I opted for the wet exit, thankful that I had dressed for the swim.
After some creative towing, John and Steve helped get me to a calmer section and back into my boat and I paddled off to the bay on Kitterland to sit and laugh drunkenly as I admired the three-inch chunk missing from the bow of my boat and realized I was in a functional state of shock. Never one to be beaten, I determined to get my spray deck back on (the first time I've managed it myself!) and headed back out - two tours around Kitterland and the lighthouse showed us the better tidal race had been on the other side all along. I was pleased to find that my confidence had not been shaken and that I now felt for my Romany that kind of trust you see between soldiers in war movies. The only down side to the best morning in conscious memory? I now join the ranks of those who have lost their favourite hat in the sea.

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