Sunday, January 18, 2009


Heading north, through the predawn fog heading to Trinidad for my first "club" paddle and my first paddle in surf of any sort. The butterflies had long since been replaced by frogs, jumping up and down on my hearty, multi-grain breakfast. Up until now, my paddles were in calm water save for the wakes kicked up by a fishing boat or &*%#$ jet ski. Today, the group from Explore North Coast would be launching in Trinidad Bay. I was assured there would be members willing to coach me through this and I knew I'd never learn if I didn't just get out there so, nervous as I was, I couldn't weenie out. "Prepare to launch at 8:00" so I was on my way by 7:00 having loaded the kayak the night before.I wasn't the first to arrive so was able to follow the more experienced members to the sand near the launch ramp. Still dark but clearing with promises of a beautiful day, we lined-up our boats on the beach and watched the sun rise.Three of us who had not yet experienced wave entries received general instruction on the impending entrance through the small waves...drag the kayak to the water's edge, climb in, "knuckle-drag" and scoot yourself towards the water, when the water lifts you up, paddle .... hard!. I got some help from a few members who pulled me a little farther into the water so I wouldn't have to wait quite so long, waited for a larger wave to come towards me and lift me then....paddled like a mad-woman. I could hear them on the beach yelling "Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!" as my bow cut through a small breaker and I reached the calmer water. WOOOOOOOO! I'm committed now.

The rest of the 19 members launched into the bay and we followed the leader host south. While some members maneuvered through the "rock gardens", we sat and watched while the process of gauging the currents was explained. The water surges in to cover smaller rocks, allowing the kayaker to float over, between larger rocks, continuing through the entire outcropping. Looks like fun but my skills aren't quiet there yet.

We headed to Prisoner Rock and some members were paddling between it and it's smaller neighbor. I wasn't sure if I was up for that and the host assured me I didn't have to, others were going around, but he felt sure I could do it. They coached me through the timing of the surge then the obligatory "Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!" until I came through the divide unscathed. As we continued towards Trinidad Head, I started getting more unsure. Watching the horizon rise and fall as the enormous swell passed under us was unnerving to say the least but somehow relaxing at the same time. We sat just around the point, bobbing and chatting while two porpoises swam around us. Looking up, I saw this awesome view of Trinidad Light, an angle you must be on the water to enjoy. We watched to the north as some of the braver club members surfed the waves on the beach side of the head -- not for me, thank you! We headed back in, through the churning water that is deflected off the Head. We returned through the gap at Prisoner Rock - a little more interesting with the swells coming from your back but the same theory. Sat to watch the blowhole that occasionally explodes near the pier before aiming our boats for the last challenge of the day... surf landing.
The more experienced went in first to show us how it's done...then the host directed the three surf rookies in, one at a time. Standing on the beach with his paddle held vertically, I aim for him. As he pumped it up and down, I paddle harder, he swings it vertical to direct me to stop then paddle backwards a bit then.... he holds it vertical again and pumps it up and down....again with the Paddle! Paddle! Paddle! As the last little wave deposits me on the sand, a guardian angel came forward to drag me out of the wash, allowing me to disembark more gracefully. I had made it. The huge swells that I felt sure would take me down just added to the day. This was an amazing day I won't soon forget.


Fred said...

You need to be careful of sneaker waves and sharks out there.

Indie said...

What an incredible description of something I will never be brave enough to do. But through you, I get to experience it a little! Thanks. The pictures are so amazing, especially the lighthouse up on the rocks. Fred is right; I have heard warnings of sneaker waves this week. But it does sound like you were with experts who understand the waves well.

beachcomber said...

Actually, I thought about the sneakers as I watched the waves crashing on the base of Trinidad Head but, other than the rougher water in that area, truly NOTHING was sneaking. We could see it coming then pass beneath us because we were behind the breakers.

And Fred? We had porpoises to protect us from sharks. Didn't you watch "Flipper"? Remember how Flipper would go for the delicate underbellies of the sharks with his pointy snout? I'm CERTAIN we were safe (she tells herself over and over.....)

Anonymous said...

Wow I love this story & photos! Trinidad is one of my favorite places, and this new view of the lighthouse is so cool. I'm totally thinking of trying something I normally wouldn't! Thanks

Fred said...

Yes. I was a Flipper fan.