I had the opportunity to lead a "Surf Zone Survival for Kayak Fisherman" class at the Oregon Coast yesterday; July 25, 2009. Upon researching the conditions on Saturday morning, we had two conflicting reports; One stated a South swell, The other North. The one thing they had in common was a swell height of 8-9ft with 15kt winds. Temperatures were in the low to mid seventies throughout the day, and the tide was flooding from 10AM to 4PM.
The river mouth where we set up our circuit was selected specifically because of the tidal action created there. You can ride the outgoing river flow along the head, turn South, and drop into the surf. Should any capsize or loss of gear occur, you and it would be swept back North along the beach and into the river mouth and calmer waters, and easily assisted.
We met the group of four clients at the boat launch in the estuary at 10AM. They had some previous experience in the ocean using kayaks to fish, but were having problems getting back in to the beach through the surf.
In the estuary, we worked on the fundamentals of driving the boat, rather than riding on it or sitting in it as we paddled toward the river mouth. Bow and stern rudders, pries, & draws, proper forward paddling technique, edging & bracing, and re-entry & rescue were all demonstrated for, and then practiced by the group.
We pulled out on the beach at the river mouth and snacked while we discussed tides & currents, moon phases & alignment of the sun, moon, and earth. We talked about the rhythm of the sea and decision making before heading out into the break.
I set up position at the end of the beach rip in order to pick up gear and assist with re-entries as the clients practiced their new skills in 3-4ft surf. My fellow coach Dave White set up on the outside of the circuit, guiding our clients in as they entered the surf zone.
The outside of the surf zone was breaking much bigger. At points we observed waves exceeding 10ft. Here is Dave heading out into an 8ft wave, trying to go vertical in his kayak:
And playing in the smaller stuff:
By the end of the class, everyone was able launch off the beach, and surf and/or guide their boat in under control and land on the beach. After a thrilling and action packed day spent playing in the surf zone on sit on tops, we paddled back to the boat launch and enjoyed a cold and tasty adult beverage before heading back to Portland.
Dave & I both had allot of fun with this class. When people are excited, active, and having fun, it's a pretty good day as an instructor. I look forward to doing it again soon.
Until next week,