My Introduction to Kayak Surfing

Whilst spending some time down at our local beach one day, a friend of mine was just returning from our local paddle shop. He was very excited to show me his latest acquisition. Fastened to his roof racks was a demo kayak. This strange orange/ red toy seemed to have his full attention. Once he had untied it, I helped him carry it down to the waters edge, as he was very keen to test it.

Being a huge fan of boats, not to mention a questionably unhealthy love of motorbikes, I must admit I did cast a very skeptical jaded eye upon this little plastic toy.

After a fair amount of convincing as well as loads of reassurance that this could infact be fun, I reluctantly gave it a try. It turns out that it would not be long before I became very fond of it, as well as open up whole new aspect of my life. It was light, around 20kg and was easy to carry but it was not for those reasons that I found myself later attracted to it. After paddling around taking turns testing out the stability, we discovered that it behaved in a very strange and unique way when entering the surf zone. For the moment that was great fun however all good things must come to an end, so I helped him reload it onto his car and off he went.

It turns out that it was his second craft of this type and it was not long before he very kindly offered to let me use the demo kayak when we went on our swimming adventures. As they were two identical crafts being both small and light it made perfect sense to incorporate them into our daily activities. There was even a little cargo area where we could stash our lunch as well as our mask, fins etc. We would set off to new areas that would be much harder to access from land. Lashing the kayaks together enabled us to create a base of operations where we could swim and explore a whole range of new places. When we got tired or cold we could simply pop back onto the kayak and paddle home. After returning from a swim we noticed that there were a small set of “foamys” breaking along the beach, we then elected to try catch them to surf in. That was day that sealed the next stage of the story.

Despite being molded into the side of the kayak, it clearly states that a Mission Flow’s intended uses are: Beaches, lakes and calm rivers. We never the less pressed on. Slowly but surely we attempted bigger and bigger surf, refining our technique as we progressed. Eventually loading the kayaks onto my bakkie, venturing out, expressly to find the perfect breaks. It became such an intrinsic part of our adventures at one stage we even embarked on a two week excursion, travelling up the East Coast of South Africa, taking the craft with us as a crucial part of our adventure kit. Between exploring new swimming spots, surfing, hiking and camping we even found time to paddle 15km up a river from the very mouth all the way till there was not even enough water in the stream to drag them anymore. A big part of me wished that we had packed a tent in our supplies so we could have spent the night alongside the river. We ate like kings, played hard and slept like the dead. One could not ask much more from a trip. Not being a fan of the surfing culture at all. I was very surprised to be enjoying this as much as i did.

Soon thereafter I bought my very own kayak. Fiona was the next to get involved, purchasing her very own green and yellow version. As I mentioned before, this craft was designed for calm waters, lakes etc so pushing it past its intended use was eventually going to bring about a few bumps in the road so to speak. After hitting my head whilst falling more times than I care to mention, Fiona very kindly insisted on purchasing a helmet for me, as she knew full well that I wouldn’t go and get myself a helmet. Strangely since that day I cant recall a time where I hit my head again. In the surf clip mash up u will see a clip taken shortly after one of my more spectacular wipe outs. I gave myself a black eye included in that a burst blood vessel for good measure, worst part being is that I managed to somehow break the aluminum paddle shaft on the back of my neck. It was a strange feeling to resurface after a huge wipe out with a very warm cheek as well as sporting a paddle as a necklace! As I am sure you will see I was feeling very dispondent as that was around the 8th or 9th paddle lost to kayaking at that stage.

Unfortunately after Fiona had been surfing some really scary Atlantic swells a few days prior, she made a fatal mistake, becoming a bit complacent on our last wave of the day. It is strange to think how a relatively small wave on a calm day would be the one that would shock us all. I saw her fall however I was not overly concerned as it  was a small wave, not to mention that when she fell it was in a foamy part of the water quite close to the shore. I paddled over slowly, on approach she was not looking very happy as she had gotten her hand caught up in the leash while being tumbled. Resulting in her breaking her thumb. It took a year including therapy to get full use of it again. She still reminisces when looking at the scar from the operation, where a titanium plate was inserted, which I may tell you has since broken…..quite the drama indeed. However it is a reminder for all of us who are into kayaking how quickly things can turn, and at the same time how very lucky she was that, that particular kayaking incident didn’t result in something more severe. Very bravely she still manages to muster up the courage to join me kayak surfing, however she leaves the bigger waves well alone. Understandably she is far more cautious and selective on what waves she attempts. She continues to keep me company on the back line.

These are some of the things I have learnt that are very important in my short time of kayak surfing. Get to know your environment in terms of the following: wind speed and direction, tides and swell height and direction. All these factors play a vital part in ensuring a great surf kayaking session.

Try to leave early, too many times I have wished that I was a bit more prompt on arrival. Once I have arrived at the location, take a few moments to absorb where you are and try be present as possible. After all we are lucky enough to live in such a pristine area surrounded by unique fauna and flora. I tend to make tea if possible, failing that I crack open a ready made flask. Count swell timing whilst looking at break direction etc. As I am often on my own in these endeavors, so I really have no problem in taking a bit longer than usual to make sure the conditions are ideal.
No matter how much fun I am having or how great the waves are, soon as I get complacent or too tired I get out. I am a firm believer in that there is always a next time.

At present I have three golden rules that have stead me well.
1.No matter if you are entering or leaving the water never ever, ever let the kayak get between you and the incoming surf. Even if you are ankle deep the kayak will    shoot up and hit you in the shins. At best you will feel very stupid whilst swearing profusely at yourself!

2.When you fall whilst in the surf line, the main thing that you need to do is get back in the kayak as fast as possible. No matter how out of breath you are or how much you just want to chill for a minute, it is imperative that you are up and ready for the next swell that is definitely on its way. It will not pause for you. It does not take long for a person to become exhausted, falling into trouble and rolling around in a big swell with a kayak flying around. Not pleasant nor safe!

3.The bigger the swell you want to catch, the faster you have to paddle. Bigger swells tend to run faster. One of the worst feelings is to get a tad lazy only to find    yourself staring over the precipice of a breaking wave. It will probably not end well.

Wetsuits are great to keep warm but I have found that you can’t have sleeves. This tends to restrict your movement as well as tire you out very quickly. Wetsuit booties are a must for me. They really make a difference to staying in the kayak as they make great grips, while surfing as well as making navigating sharp slippery rocks far more pleasant. Helmets are a needed for obvious reasons. There are a range of paddles available. I have found that the more basic flat spade type blade has much more drive. Aluminum shafted paddles are okay for most days however when surfing in colder water I find that the warmth is very quickly wicked out my hands reducing my ability to maintain a proper grip. Having the shaft slip your grasp, then having the blade hit you in the hand can throw you off balance as well as being very painful.
I have been told that grip tape will fix this however I must admit I have never gotten that far to test this theory. Whatever type of paddle I have used I have noticed that the shiny white blades seem to be far more attractive to two of our larger shark species. These sharks have seemed far more willing to test this type of blade.
I must say I have never had a persistent problem with regards to this yet it is still a shock when your paddle gets knocked out your hand when you least expect it.
I also have not had a problem with darker matt colours, hence I tend to prefer darker blades, either spraying them with a matt paint or sanding off the shine of the darker colours. This is not scientific nor has it been tested by a panel of experts, I just have found that it seems to work for me.

A leash of some type has proven to be a essential part of equipment. Falling off is a part of this activity and in turn swimming after your kayak with your paddle in hand can quickly become a bit of a faff. The kayak seems to be swept off all to easily. If there is an offshore wind you can look forward to a marathon swim into deep and unfriendly waters attempting to retrieve it. One time in particular springs to mind. I had my car keys safely secured in the kayak as an offshore wind blew it out to sea. I very quickly came to the realisation that I would never catch up to the kayak with the paddle in my hand. I then swam the paddle back to shore then ran up the coast trying to reduce the distance needed to swim as far as possible. Now only a spec on the horizon I prepared myself mentally for the swim. Long story short I eventually caught up, only when jumping back on, it dawned on me I was up the preverbal creek without a paddle. With a lot of doggy paddling and copious amounts of the what I call the push swim technique I managed to get myself and the kayak back to shore even though I landed some distance from where I set off. I was very happy that I could at least drive home. Needless to say this could have all been avoided with a simple leash. I have found that through trial and error a store bought thick longboard leash does the trick.

I can’t say THANK YOU sincerely enough to illustrate how grateful I am to all the people who either introduced me to this little craft or to the local businesses who always seemed very keen to assist me, with paddle shaft combinations to get me to the stage that I am at presently. Even those who very kindly went out and bought me exactly what I needed to keep me on the water. To all those people involved, a very big thank you. You know who you are.

The following is a mash up of a typical day of kayak surfing. As the inevitable wipe outs can be hard on equipment we elected to only fit the camera on selected smaller days. Unfortunately the truly special, as well as epic moments can only be looked upon in our fond memories.

Dan

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Sunny Sunday

Seeing as we are beginning to experience longer & warmer days, Dan & I spent Sunday making full use of the benefits that Summer brings.

Summer on its way!

Summer on its way!

We spent the larger portion of the day being outdoors, surf kayaking & swimming. However not forgetting about eating & enjoying great tasting food, whilst having fun.

The conditions were not ideal for surf kayaking & as a result I decided to give it a miss, instead taking opportunity of being photographer while Dan gave it a bash.
After enjoying some delicious “boerewors” rolls. Afterwards we both decided to brave the murky waters to have a swim. We were hoping to come across a short tail sting ray or even a spotted gully shark, sadly we never came across anything. In fact there was no sign on life, apart from the various kelps & sea grass!! Getting out proved tricky for me whilst entertaining at the same time. Thankfully I didn’t hurt myself. Dan got out with such ease and gracefulness, however this was quite the opposite in my case. Having to scramble over the rocks to get out, I mistimed the set of swells and soon found myself like a beached whale rolling with the waves over the rocks landing on the shore. Still smiling I managed to compose myself and walk out, suffering only from minor scrapes & bruises to my legs.

Ready, Steady, Go

Ready, Steady, Go

It never the less was a wonderful day spent out in the sunshine. Only the start of what is going to be a wonderful Summer ahead.

Wave Dance ...

Wave Dance …

Fi 🙂

Primates

 

Zoo – an establishment that maintains a collection of wild animals typically in a park/garden for study, conservation or display to the public.

Sanctuary – a place of refuge or safety

We were privileged enough to get the opportunity of spending a few days out at Monkey Town in Somerset West.  It is a centre for primates who were either orphaned shortly after being born, born into captivity or had previously been kept as pets. They have about 28 different species some being Spider Monkey’s, Vervet Monkey’s, Chimpanzee’s, Lemur’s, Marmoset monkey’s, Macaque’s, Owl monkey’s & Wolf monkey’s to name but a few. Not forgetting the other animals in and around the centre, there is a variety of bird species and small antelope along with a small koi pond.

Ring-Tailed Lemur

We spent some time meandering around the centre ourselves, taking in all the sights and sounds of the monkey’s and their unique behavioural traits they displayed. Taking photographs where we could, without getting the fencing in frame. Proving in some cases harder than we thought! Many of the monkey’s curiously coming toward the front of their cages, showing us their beautiful coats and warm gentle faces, as we walked past. Seems they were just as happy and interested to see us as we were to see them.  We spent some time interacting and feeding the Squirrel Monkey’s, in addition  to feeding the shy yet beautiful Wolf Monkey who would come upon the food tray when no Squirrel Monkey was around to harass him, managing to film this wonderful interaction on the GoPro. I found it so captivating to see their curiousness with the GoPro in conjunction with catching a glimpse of themselves in the reflection of the lens.  This kept them entertained & puzzled for some time. Primates are truly clever animals whom so many are often misunderstood.  For me they are creatures with an incredible heart, an overall warm loving nature and yet have the smallest “voices” that are seldom heard, hence many of them are in fact endangered animals, with their numbers rapidly declining.

Fascinated with the GoPro

Later in the morning we watched the feeding of three Chimpanzee sisters – Tammy, Sunny & Ruby. Again it was so incredible to witness just how intelligent these wonderful and special animals are. Each one indicating by clapping their hands, when they were ready for their meal. Despite them being sisters, each displayed different behavioural traits from one another. All of this quite captivating, resulting in me being mesmerised by each and every animal we walked past.

Chimpanzee - Lunch Time!Chimpanzee

We were lucky enough to have been given a special one-on-one encounter with Malaika a Black Spider Monkey. Born in captivity, we immediately could see she loved human interaction and almost craved our undivided attention.  Feeding her peanuts, she allowed us to gently stoke her soft black hair.  We instantly were best of friends.

Black Spider Monkey Reflecting on my short time spent at Monkey Town, I can conclude that I learnt a lot about the various primates housed here, such as general background information about each species as well as learning the personal history of specific animals kept in the centre. It was a memorable experience for me having a personal interaction with different species of monkey’s, enabling me to see how each one differed in their personality and/or behaivour’s.

Black Spider Monkey

Black Spider Monkey

However the reality that I constantly find myself thinking about is, how fine the line is between something being a zoo and a place being a sanctuary. I do not find myself having a particular problem or issue with zoo’s as long as it remains just that, a zoo, and it doesn’t become a form of business. The focus should  remain solely on the animals itself in order to better their welfare, conservation and preservation. Not detract away from this and more along the way of importing and exporting animals for show or to receive an influx of visitor foot count, which is sadly what is happening to most if not all zoo’s across the globe. Likewise, most of the animals we see in a sanctuary would have been euthanised due to ill health, being an orphan or as humans have termed them as ‘destructive’, if it were not for a sanctuary coming to the forefront, where they are able to live in a place of safety. I am very happy that we have places that are open to the public, to allow them to see, experience and view animals that perhaps they would not have otherwise had the opportunity to see, along with trying to educate people about the importance of animals in an ecosystem, endangered species and that the wild animals we come across are not meant to be kept as pets!

I walked away with more overall knowledge and awareness than I had when I previously entered Monkey Town. I truly fell in love with each and every individual, each grabbing a portion of my heart. I definitely will be returning in the future.

See their website for more information – http://www.monkeys.co.za/

Fi Goose

Wolf Monkey