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mixed bag at popham

rick stoehrer

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popham beach is at the mouth of the kennebec river in maine, in phippsburg. the very long sand beach is formed by the river water coming on out and then swirling back around in a very large eddy and depositing all that lovely sand on the beach.

due to the vast amount of water flowing out of the mouth and the islands right there off shore, popham is often the site of some very interesting waves and home to some very strong currents.

saturday we got up and headed out around 8:30 or so with the ebb and along the way played in the eddy's formed behind the islands in the river and the outcroppings and everything else we could find. while the current was swift, there were little conditions to play in save the mouth between wood and pond islands. there always seems to be a little something going on here and today was no exception. the swells were coming in from seemingly every angle and we played and surfed them for a bit before riding the current out to seguin island.

seguin island light is the 2nd oldest light house in maine and was commissioned by washington (george, not the federales) in 1795. it offers a great view around from cape small to elizabeth and then northeast. in the cove that serves as about the only landing spot on the island, we met an old acquaintance and all lunched together atop.

the paddle back was uneventful and we rode the current in at this point and so there was no struggling against the water at the end of the day.

from here we packed up, camped at hermit island and then 3 of the group headed south with chores abounding for their respective sundays. as it turns out this was a regretable error on their parts.

the remaining 3 of us got up late, had a nice breakfast and then drove over to popham to see what we could play in today....our initial plan was to head northeast up the coast. this soon changed.

as we drove in we could see through the break in the tree's the waves marching into shore in repeated sets going out half a mile! it was a day to surf at popham!

we launched at fort boaldwin and paddled down the ebbing tide again and out the mouth. where yesterday there was a only a little to play in between wood and pond, today the waves abounded! much fun bracing and surfing here....we made it around wood and looked down the beach and what we saw was exciting! the swells were feeling the bottom and rearing up and setting down and rearing up, repeat....great rides to be had here with big breaking stuff farther down towards fox island! excellent, smither, excellent....

headed down towards fox and surfed - forwards, backwards, bongo...all manner of fun with water to be had. pulled off a pirouette (sp?) and was quite happy. the goal is to uncork one at will - there's the goal...this is quite fun. rode a few in for a loooong time and got off at the beach. once you figure out the idea behind the pocket on these things, you can really just fly!

surfing along one larger wave as i was pulled back (going backwards) i had a fine view of janis, bracing along the top of one farther out...beautiful...until it grabbed her and down the face she went, briefly bongo'd before she leaned away and over she went. suzanne had the rescue sorted out before i could get there to throw on a contact tow and get them both out of there - great job. rescue down lickety split! there was no better vision than her on that wave crest just bracing onto the soft side....she is going to nail all of this soon and make us all look like rookies!

we eventually tired, broke for lunch and rode those velvety waves to shore for lunch and lounging in the sun. a beautiful day!

we launched later, a little fatter, rested and surfed for about another 2 hours before paddling back with the flooding tide and made it to the launch in record time.

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That whole timing to ride the current is a lot more fun than last years slog against the ebbing tide. Lots of fun to be had up there.

Although as we were heading back up the river a father and son were heading towards the mouth and I mentioned to them that there were 5' swells coming in at the mouth. They were blissfully unaware. We round the corner to take out at Fort Balwin and overheard a couple in two 8-10'rec boats commenting on our overdressing in neoprene for the day and here they were in their bathing suits.

The Lacey's have a scary story to tell of their first trip to Popham in brand new Carolina's.


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Ah,but back then ignorance was bliss! Launching from behind Ft. Popham into a full ebb in the Kennebec seemed like a good idea...

I did have the good sense to wait a little while until there seemed to be a bit better chance of survival. And then of course,the think to do is cross the Kennebec from Salter Island (full flood tide of course) and head into the rip at the end of the beach.

"We've been paddling for 15 minutes and the fort is still beside us!!..whatta we do???"

And then the nexd day,undaunted,we paddle to Fox Island where Linda's boat slams over the stern of mine in a wave,dumping her. This would have been a handy time to know some kind of rescue.

"Let's take lessons next week if we live through this!"

This past Saturday I was surfing by Reid State Park,then playing in the standing waves in Goose Rocks Passage.

It's more fun when you have some idea what you're doing!

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