Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Breaking Waves

Oct 10th Day 4:

I woke up in a hostel, ate breakfast, got my stuff together, and went to the train station.  I would need to be back at the hostel that night so that the next day Pigeon and I could go shopping for her gear.  I got a two way ticket for six Euro, exactly the price of two one way tickets to any number of stops in the area I would be paddling.

I got off the train at my destination and went to get my kayak.  I had hidden my kayak under a covered light sail boat at a sailing club (41.585115,2.578296) with my phone number and card on sheets of paper placed on it.

When I had left my boat there the club had been empty and locked.  Now it was open and there were a couple of guys doing some work around it.  One of them, an older man, was happy to be help.  Though he did not speak a word of English I managed to communicate to him some of my adventure.

They asked me if I was going to put in then and there.  I said yes, and they gave me a look as though I was either very talented or a little crazy.

The weather was cloudy but no rain at the moment.  The surf on the beach was only slightly intimidating so I watched it for awhile and then put my kayak down, as the waves lulled, in a spot somewhere between the current wave height and the height they might achieve any moment.

I secured the spray skirt around the rim of the cockpit as quickly as I could so that when a larger wave would come to take me out to sea I would be ready.

When I was almost ready a moderately sized wave came and moved my boat slightly, though one of the guys from the club who had come to watch held onto the back of it.

My spray skirt was on.  I was sitting in my kayak facing the waves.  I made it clear to the sailing club guy that he should let go of the back of my boat.  He gave me another look as though I might be a little crazy.  And then let go.

I sat there and the waves came and went, not quite reaching the tip of my bow.  The first high wave put some water around my boat but not quite enough to get me moving, a moment later there was another that swept up under my boat and had me paddling with all my fury to get out to sea.  In a second I was rushing into the next wave, breaking in a white foaming frenzy and roaring over my head.  I closed my eyes for a second and felt the wall of sandy water blast into my face.  And then I was through it.  There was a second wave but I was as ready as I was for the first and that too was above, and then behind me.  I was beyond the surf.  A little cold and wet, and with a little water in my cockpit, but I was good.

I paddled north into what was probably a one knot current.  My rudder wouldn't engage, but that was fine.  The Epic handles really well without a rudder, at 18 feet long a little edging (leaning to the side) goes a long way.

There was rain, sometimes hard.  The water temperature was warm and I was working hard so I didn't get too cold despite the fact that my splash top (rain jacket for kayakers) was stowed away in the back of my boat.  The waves were high, but for the most part I was fine.

There was another kayaker out there in a wet suit handling a sit on top in the surf.   This was the first other kayaker I had seen so I gave an excited “Hola!”  I also saw a group of black forms in the water some distance off.  What looked like dying ducks turned out to be a group of about 15 surfers in black wet suits doing very little surfing and a lot of floating.

Farther on I could see that there where some pretty big white caps ahead of me.  I had been staying kind of close to shore, earlier their had been some lightning off in the distance.  Now though I would have to be out beyond the white caps, yet not too far out.

I paddled some more.  I wasn't out far enough.  A breaking wave hurdled towards me from my right.  I leaned towards it with my impact blade towards the front of the boat ready to skull back providing me with support. (I had read that one should not high brace with a winged paddle.)

Wham!  I was leaning way into the water as it threw me at a fantastic speed towards the shore.  The wave was holding most of my weight. I was leaning out way over the boat; I don't know how long it lasted.  The turbulent water flashed and stormed over me and then collapsed and I went down with it.  A moment underwater, my roll was already set up so: sweep, hip snap, and I was back up to see the next white monster roar towards me.

I paddled forward to barely escape its path and then continued on as quickly as I could, hoping to be out of this section before getting hit again.  Yet I soon learned that this would not work as another flashing breaking wall of water stormed in my direction, this one well over my head, flipping me easily.  Another roll, I was up to see the next coming at me.  My bow was faced slightly towards land so I completed the angle and backed directly into the oncoming wave.  It crashed around and over me but I kept upright and continued to paddle backwards.

My goal was now to get far enough out and beyond their origins.  There was a slight lull in the watery fury so I turned around to be facing out towards them.  Then I paddled hard.  The lull was over and another one came crashing over my head.  I may have moved through it more smoothly on account of facing into it, but seeing it was scary.  The next one was bigger and the swirling tumbling strength knocked me over again.  After that there was one more before I was free.


I had never before been so rescued by skills that had until then only been neat tricks.  I pumped the water out of my cockpit.

As I approached my destination for the afternoon, Blanes (41.673264,2.796814), I gave the white caps a wide berth.  The waves along the beach approaching the harbor where the largest I had seen in my life.  Curling into themselves before breaking, I had later heard that I was looking at eight footers.

I got onto the train at Blanes only to find that my return ticket wouldn't work.  I would have to buy another three Euro ticket, the same price I had paid for my return ticket.  Blanes wasn't the same place I had gotten off the train.

I worked it out so that I didn't need to buy another ticket.  Getting off the train I also needed to pass my ticket through a machine, and there was a police officer there watching so I had to wait until he wasn't paying attention.

If all goes well, tomorrow I'll be back on the water and on my way.


  1. This is why they have SMALL CRAFT WARNINGS. I know that your kayak is 18 feet long, but as I understand it, it constitutes a small craft.

  2. Exhilarating! I feel like I just paddled through those waves with you!

  3. neat, sounds like a good day for surfing! was there water in the boat from the hatches? the type hatches you have if properly secured should be right for these conditions..

  4. Mom, behave yourself in the comments section, please. ~ ed.

  5. There was a very little bit of watter in the hatches. For the most part my stuff was dry.

  6. The invitation is always open!
    I get a lot of encouragement in the comments here and it's always nice. When people complement my writing it makes me really happy. Thanks so much!