Rich's Inlet, North Carolina - Surf Shenanigans
Four of us from the Carolina Kayak Club launched from Scott's Hill Marina ($20 per car parking for their excellent facilities). Naturally I was the weak link in the surf team as far as skills go, but again I think I had the most fun of anyone! My lap belt held me in the boat much better than the thigh strap I had always used before, so that experiment worked well. I only capsized about twice which is half of what I usually do.
On reaching the inlet at low tide there was a long "zipper line" where waves from different directions were meeting each other at the edge of the sand bar. It was a lot of fun to play in the clear water and confused conditions. I could not tell what the boat was going to do. I'd catch a little wave and then another wave would meet it and push me straight up a bit with a splash. Then I would paddle a bit and be sucked down into a temporary hole for a split second. I could have played right there all day, but there were bigger waves to surf. So we went on to find them and Chris made an excellent video that shows how pretty and clear the water was:
The water was very clear and we saw a few little sharks from two to four feet long. Some were surfing along with use. I always prefer the clear water as the sharks are always there, but they can see I'm not food when I'm splashing in clear water. If they cannot see me well, I'm afraid they might bite first to see what is making the splashing.
After surfing a bit we paddled down to find a place to camp for our next trip. We decided after a group consult to land where there were people. The thinking was that people would be close to their boats on the sound side so they would know where the shortest walk across was. It turned out to be a good decision and we found a nice place to camp with access to sea and sound. The surf was starting to dump as the tide came up to the steeper part of the shore, so I had a bit of a time landing. I stopped to see how the more skilled paddlers would handle it and learned not to stop near dumping surf. Next time, I'll back paddle quickly to prevent catching a wave or I'll just paddle in quickly at a diagonal angle to the waves. As it was, a steep one decided I was going to catch it and I was not moving so my bow was plunged straight down into the sand! Sand for Lunch!
After lunch we launched into a much higher tide and increasing wind. It was fun paddling in the bigger swell out side of the waves, but I should have noticed that the building conditions would mean waves breaking farther out in deeper water.
My second capsize was very taxing. When I came up I noticed my rear hatch sinking about two boat lengths away, so I left the boat and swam for it. When I got there it was quite difficult to get down to it with my life vest on but with the aid of my paddle I pushed it up where I could reach it. Swimming back to the boat while gripping the paddle and hatch cover was interesting. When I got to the boat all my other gear was floating close by! I put in my hat, gear bag, water bottle, and sponge, then flipped the boat over and put on the rear cover quicker than ever before. Unfortunately the level of water in the rear of the boat made it a bit of a sinker so I towed it in with my short tow and paddle. Next time I'll want more line to separate me from the boat in the waves.
As I was working my way in the others were standing by ready to offer help while trying not to get dangerously close in the rough stuff. After I got to shore, the rest of the team came in and helped me sort out the mess and dump out the water. I saw John make the most fantastic combat roll I have seen in a while. He was getting pummeled by a big dumping wave and just when you think it would subside it would recharge and bounce him around upside down some more. I'm certain the wave meant to shake him from the very cockpit of his Alchemy, but he held a tight tuck and was finally able to roll up. I realized that I was holding my breath for him too.
Someday I'd like to be able to roll in conditions like that.