26 / 06 / 2017   10.29pm NZT
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Leave it on the Beach - What's your outlet?

Posted: 24th September 2015   |   3 comments

How important it is for us to be able to leave behind the mundane, frustrating, stressful, ordinary things in life and to paddle...
If I didn't I'm not sure what sort of person I'd be trying to deal with these things without this outlet.
Case in point Sunday morning.  A busy work week away from town on the road. Crew training canned Sunday morning. Arrgh!  Grumpy as dad making kids upset needs to do something.

Ok wind is SE blowing 20knot gusts down coast- quick check shows good wind swell.  Next 45 minutes is spent second guessing if I do it or not... No one else keen or available.

Decide to V1 downwind to pickup point so sort a ride so mind has settled now beacause its sorted.  Spend the next 20min prepping canoe. Lashings, setup, bailer missing so cut up a 2l milk bottle, water, spare blade.  SE is cold so decide on long John wetsuit for comfort, bright yellow shirt and fluoro cap.  You never know.
Wind is up a bit more now say 25 knots and I'm excited now, looking forward to being on the water and working free some energy.
I give the kids and mum quick kiss and lift the V1 onto my shoulder and walk the 500m to the beach down from home.

Sky is grey with brighter spots where sun tries to break thru.  It's a relief to put the boat down on the sand. My shoulder is aching from the carry and I have a quick stretch.
A guy who follows me down the access comes up for a chat- he's a paddler too, Brazilian maybe from his accent, paddling locally and we have a korero about canoes and V1 paddling.  He's keen to train over summer so we both agree to try to catch up.
He heads off for a swim- I think he's mad. He thinks the same I bet...
Good energy shared.

Last check of the canoe and I walk to the shore break.  I note that there are now some good size wind waves breaking on the bank 10m out.  Now I get the first flutter of nerves wondering if I'll make it off the beach.  I don't look back, I think I can make it so I wade the canoe to chest height through the break, pick a gap and boost up and into the seat.  The wind swell is side onto the hull and short and as I grab my hoe from the cockpit a bump passes under me and for a second the Ama lifts out and I roll right in slow motion.
Now I'm focused.  I drop the Ama back and paddle out through the break taking 2 small waves over the front but deflected by the splash guard.
I stop and bail out the cockpit which has caught some side chop and as I throw it out I see the lid of the bottle come loose and drop in the water to my left.  I see it floating upside down and pick it up wondering it it had landed the other way it may have sunk.  I file that thought and screw down the lid tight.

The wind is still building and I steer the Va'a left and start the run.  I stay 200m or so from the beach on the way down the coast more or less but I'm a little uncomfortable about being too far out at this stage.  The wind is straight down but the swell is from the right rear quarter angling into the beach.  It makes steering tricky so I relax and try to get the feel of the boat in the wind and on the wave.  I decide not to force things or try too hard, and as soon as I decide this my mental state relaxes and I drop into a small wind bump for the first of many glides that day.
Everyone I rate in V1 paddling talks about feel and flow, not trying too hard in the bumps.  I believe it even though I have rarely found the mindset to match that belief.  Today I think I get it from the start of the run.

It's 12 Kms to the pickup point and the first 4km I'm working on the feel and only picking up smaller bumps to sharpen my anticipation and steering.  Nothing else but the boat, conditions and my technique are in my brain now.
Some of the glides are fast and I can link up once the line is right.
Even though I can see the people walking the beach they seem  a world away to me.  If I get in trouble I'll have to get out of it myself.  It gives me confidence.  No arrogance at all but a confidence in my ability.  I'm still within my limits.

I stop to bail again taking care with the lid.  The crazy swell angle means the odd whitecap jumps in the side.  A pump would be nice... My leg is a bit achy on the left so I try to sit more neutral in the seat despite the conditions.
I can feel the wind has increased again and is holding steady with fewer lulls. I look around and the white water is solid as the bumps grow and crest in the wind.  I'm picking it to be 30knots now and I keep away from the beach more as the waves start to break further out.

I'm angling across the swell out then dropping back with the wind which presses on my exposed back pushing me on.  I'm still relaxed even when the wind starts pulling me round making it harder to  head downwind.  I stop, bail, adjust and then use technique to get back on line.  I'm making more good steering adjustments than bad which is great so far but the conditions are now much harder than the start.  

I begin to check the rest of the course closely for best line.  Bailout points begin to pop into my mind.  I flash a thought which reads like 'pussy' but I wipe that out and decide on 2 spots if I need them.
I think I'm probably better off where I am than trying to get through 3 ft beach chop safely.  I'm ok but my Va'a might come off 2nd best in there.

There is some unease I feel now as I can see the conditions look worst past the islands but I work on staying positive and light in the boat.  The sun breaks through which lightens my mind too.
The glides and links I make keep the V1 out of trouble, but when I get offline or slow up in the chop it becomes much harder until I get another small run going.

Up ahead the wind swell hits the rock cliff of the island and creates a backwash I can feel over 100m out.  At the top end the water has no direction.  It's the most confused slop I have seen there ever.  More up and down than any direction.  Certainly no bumps I can follow.  I stop just before and bail then head across this stretch of water with the wind side on, pulling my nose up.  My right side is working hard now trying hard to keep a line but I get the angle wrong and my nose pulls upwind more.  I stop amongst the slop and bail again.  No panic, some nerves again but I'm close to the shelter of the bay now so I reset upstairs for the last push through the rocks at the base of the entrance.

The next stretch is the fastest I've ever paddled on any canoe.  I get a sweet run once out of the boil up and make so many links I lose count.  It's a dream run and all my rudder strokes are good with no big errors.  I'm feeling a rush now I'm nearly home and my focus is still sharp.  It's pleasing so I decide on my line through the rock gap and begin to set up.  The sets here are breaking with the wind blowing the tops off the biggest ones.
Again I have a moment of nerves which is gone in a flash.  Wave rebound is in full effect and I'm trying to stay with the wind bump on top floating over the rebound and watching the bump move ahead of the nose.

I visualise getting through the gap before I'm there.  Once I turn left with the swell direct behind me I hook into a small glide which I paddle into a bigger bump.  I keep my eyes up on where I want to end up past the gap and the bump boosts me so I sit forward controlling the run with the blade for what seems like 5 or 6 seconds without paddling.  Im real focussed through here and I catch myself thinking I don't want my boat up on the rock in this wind.  I feel a smile inside now which is probably relief as I know I'm good.

I get a second wind to push onto smaller bumps for the next 5 minutes until I am in the shelter of the maunga and the swells die out.  I see in the corner of my eye people watching my progress in the wind.  It starts raining and as I turn into the bay I hit the SE wind head on.  It's a nice change going into it so I work on technique to the beach where I glide into the sandy shore.
I sit in the Va'a for a minute and let myself enjoy the feeling of completing this run in good form and safely. I've learnt a lot, grown a bit I think.
My mood is lighter, I'm cold and tired but feel like I have made an important step towards understanding my boat, the water and myself.
The wind is less here and I de-rig and stash the V1 till it gets safer to load up.

I forget what I was wound up about before I left the beach this morning. I should be good now for a few days at least.
I've replaced  stress with the joy of doing something I love which I hope I can share with others down the track.

Whatever we paddle... That's one reason we paddle.



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