Solstice kayak surf session

Glistening frost,  a black twinkling sky,  a drysuit frozen stiff.   6am on the morning after solstice and I'm driving carefully to the beach.   I call my friend Bryon,  "The swell isn't great,  it's still a little crossed and the open beach breaks are going to be a solid ass-beating.   Let's cruise down to Short Sands,  it'll be mellow and fun."   I eat breakfast and drive down to the parking lot,  pulling on my gear and hiking down the always beautiful trail,  flanked by some of the only coastal old-growth forest left on our coast.   Paddling out in my tiny kevlar surf kayak I nearly get smashed by some less than mellow sets wrapping into the south end.    I catch one wildly bouncing ride down the choppy face,  and decide to head North where things are looking a little cleaner.

I pick up a couple of nice rides while waiting for the tide to drop.   Bryon and Jeffrey emerge from the mist.

Both guys are sporting nice,  new carbon-kevlar Valley Rush Mark II's and Bryon is testing his newest protype paddles.   Lighter,  stronger,  neutral bent shaft,  better grip.   These will be the paddles to buy when they go into production later this year.

I sit inside and take a couple photos of the guys when a solid overhead set graces the horizon line.   Twelve vertical feet of curving heaven fires down the line toward me and I barely make it over the shoulder,  my boat catching an air-drop punching out the back.  It would be a moral affront to let another such wave go unridden so I hand Bryon my camera and wait outside,  watching the guys pick up lots of fun waves.   So much for taking photos.

Outside I'm patient,  sets pass by,  and then a nice big set rolls in.   I let the first two roll under.   The third wave is the biggest and I'm a bit deep meaning that if I paddle I'm going to pull myself under the lip.    I resist the urge to do anything and simply let the wave lift me up the near vertical face,  finally I take one gentle stroke and the boat breaks free.    Angling-in on a face this steep means tripping and getting pounded,  and dropping all the way and hitting a bottom turn means getting the lip-guillotine.   Something between the two is called for.   Leaning into the drop I dive straight halfwav down the face,  slowly set my rail,  and ease into the angle.   If a wave gives me even a half second of free time I'll use it to slash a turn or cut back deeper into the pocket,  but no such antics would be had on this wave.   I smoked down the line,  the boat as critically perched as it possibly could be without tearing out of the wave.  Cutting a white spraying laceration across a thumping ten foot face is as close to enlightenment as I am ever likely to experience,  I get that wonderful feeling of time dialating,  an eternity of space and breath nestled paradoxically in the critical moment.

Bryon,  bless his heart,  turns on the camera and takes the only decent photos of me surfing that anyone ever has.     I've always enjoyed watching the gulls "surf"  the updrafts in front of a wave and when a wave is good and I've got a rail set,  I'll take my hand off one side of the paddle and spread my arms like a bird and fly in front of the wave,  steering only with my body weight.  I love doing this.

I used to surf a board before I shredded my shoulder, and I miss the feeling of reaching out and combing a wave with my fingers,  another use for my one handed surf technique.   There were some nice bigger waves (about twice the size of the wave in this photo) that we didn't get any photos of,  but it's still neat to finally get any photos.     We all took a couple of solid beatings including one where Jeffrey tried pulling in a little too late and the curling lip of a big one bit down on him,  growling and shaking before spitting him out the back.   He rolled up and shook it off.   Did I mention that Jeffrey is fourteen?   I took an equally nasty pounding that whipped me like a rag doll and I could feel some of the scar tissue that now substitues for ligaments in my left shoulder tearing loose.   I'll be feeling that in the morning.

Perfect position on a smaller wave in the shadow of Cape Falcon.   Pure bliss.  

I follow the guys in,  taking lots of pictures as I go,  enjoying the beautiful light.

Evening at 4pm.   Plenty of time to go home and write the blog....

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