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Horseneck Beach - 9/6


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Surf was up, beautiful day for the beach - I suppose I should have stayed there.

Three went out, three came back.

Many thanks and my profuse apologies for worrying Paul and Rick.

It was a blast! When can we do it again?


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yes, 3 went out and 3 came back (great quote, who's is that?) but to fill in some of the space around that theme...most important of which are some lessons in judgement.

arrived early and checked out the surf from a high point in the dunes. hawaii 5-0 city! it was an awesome sight to see the swells rise up to form large frothy curls with the whisps blowing back until the wave crashed back into the sea and the beach! wow! this was going to be a day! from the vantage of the dune you could see the occassional surf boarder and this was where you got a good idea of the wave size. full size people were taking up little more than half the wave face....hmmm, these waves had some teeth to 'em.

we launched from the boat ramp into the river around 9am or so on the outgoing tide. warnings were posted here about the dangerous conditions at the mouth and we heeded them with an eye towards expanding our comfort levels and managing to get back to shore in one piece.

paddling through the large swells coming into the mouth was impressive and a portent of things to come. as we looked up the beach toawards goosebury point off in the distance we were now looking at the same 5-0 waves from the suddenly very low vantage point of our kayaks...gulp...gut-check. group still together? excellent.

we paddled out past the break and parked sue to loiter in the swells and just ride those monstrous things. we rode the fabian express elevator to the top on the crest and then the basement as the swell passed beneath - a view of the backs of these freak things as they marched inexorably towards the beach and then in the trough nothing but water as you looked up and just kept hoping to see blue sky. man, it was awesome!

paul and i then paddled in to see what could be surfed and played upon. and the short answer for me was not much surfing! they were moving in very, very fast and were very difficult to catch up with and then ride. a few short rides going either forward or backward and then a great many bongo's. the bongo's were a blast - holding on for dear life in the deepest soup you could ever imagine! there were a few that you just sensed that if you blew the high brace and fell off of this thing and into the bottom of the wave face you were going to be hammered beyond recognition! it was great! what incentive to hang on!

at one point or another we all inevitably went over and into this sea that looked the head on your favorite brew. as i rolled up from one i had my eyes closed and the next one caught me and literally pulled me half way out of my cockpit. forget that roll and for the love of god, come and get me back in my boat! the rescue went well and the warm water a blessing on this day as there would be no 30 second rescues!

after a bit more play/survival we decided to get ourselves to shore for a spot of tea and a snack. this proved problematic. as the tide receded with the 11am lowtide, the breaks intensified and there were many, many break lines now staggered in formation along the entire beach. the mouth too was now blocked by very large, very breaking waves....hmmn...we chose what looked like a relatively benign line into shore and while i went ahead to try to scout, paul stayed back with sue and led her in alongside as she went backward. the idea being that he could walk her through the breaks and the landing to come and that it was better if she went backwards to see what was coming. well, it was a fine idea but the dang waves seemed to have very different views! the inevitable capsize and wet exit happened and while it was impressive to see 2 kayaks with their repsective stern and bows vertical and then quickly decribe an arc, i knew that it couldn't be good. not that the view i had lasted long as the next giant rolled out from under me and left me with nothing to look at but water.

paul was still in his boat and we managed to get sue into her kayak past this particular break. and this is where she shined! talk about composure under pressure! she handled the rescue like she has done this a million times and in conditions that few of us will ever see again for awhile! major league kudos!

after this incident we thought perhaps that discretion was now the better part of valor and the beach went from a nice place to eat to being our biggest consideration. it was time to get our less experienced partner to shore for several reasons. amongst them was that she and we were still fresh and she wasn't at all rattled by what had just happened; but if it happened 4 or 5 more times more would any of us still be composed? physically and psychologically, the time was now. another consideration was that if these waves continued to grow we were going to have a big problem in getting her and maybe ourselves to shore safely.

we searched a bit further south past the mouth and looked towards the private beach. yes the waves there seemed a bit smaller but they were dumping and while not a good option, the best we had available. i went in, landed while paul stayed out in the water with sue and we all tensed for the next few minutes of excitement...and it went fine. again, sue shined. landed on the back of a dumping wave, released the skirt and out and up the beach! textbook - fantastic! paul came in and we were all 3 ashore! we had made it - terra firma! yippee!

we portaged (an ugly word, but it was quite a day) over to the other side of the small penninsula we had landed on, and launched back into the protected side of the river mouth and got sue situated on the public beach.

paul and i then launched and played a bit more in the big breaks a little further out and if possible that was even more exciting than the water we had earlier. there were a few that were simply too big to play with so we rolled under and let them pass and then rolled up on the other side. the best ride of the day came with paul screaming down a face with the roiling water following him close behind - beautiful!

after awhile we beached it again, ate another of sue's fine beach chow lunches and afterwards we launched back into the river and made it back up river to the take out where we were certainly lighter by a few cc's of adrenaline.

the big lessons of the day -

a reminder that you have to come back in from all this stuff so even if you get out, keep an eye out on coming back in. with the outgoing tide, the conditions changed and it was very nasty for the return. we contemplated our radio rescue protocols and even waving down passing boats for assistance if need be. the shame would have been only slightly less painful than not calling for help if it had been needed.

practice your rescues more and then some more. everything changes when you need to rescue in big, ugly conditions. all you can do is train and then train some more and hope to get it right in the end. as it turned out, they went okay, but we could have done them better.

lets hope we get another off-shore hurricane soon!

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It was the biggest surf I have ever tried surfing and playing in. Hard to guess, but they were 7-9' at times. There was an offshore break and more breaking in closer to shore. Plenty of deep water for safety.

Some were breaking towards me and if you didn't roll you would be in grave danger of hurting your back when they would throw you back. Tucking did not always help.

Beware about towing out through surf. I was towing two and got past the wave but when the wave hit the raft I was put in "reverse" and made quite uncomfortable wondering if my tow would be long enough to keep us apart.

Saw an amazing diplay of flying jet skis. They would run up the faces of the waves and launch themselves 15-20' feet in the air.

A mile long beach and we had a few hundred feet to ourselves.

One of my best days ever on the water. Where were all of you????

Total confidence in my Explorer!

Paul Sylvester

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