Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shred Sleds 101 - Intro to Kayak Surfing

By Kelly D.
On the calendar this week, in addition to the usual sea kayak tours and classes, we've got surf kayaking levels 1 & 2 on Saturday and Sunday.
Surf kayaking packs a high adrenaline punch into those days when you want to make the most out of limited time. Just park, unload, walk down the beach and you're at your destination - the waves. Last summer, I decided to take the plunge to the frontside for Surf Kayaking Level 1. It reminds me of a haiku I had to read in school:

Surf kayak lesson
After week in cubicle
Let go on shred sled

Here's how my class went:
We met at the south end of Tybee beach and staked out a spot on the sand. Our class figured out pretty quickly over introductions that we ranged in ability from seasoned tour guide to flat water rolling junkie to total paddling novice - no matter because we were all surf kayak newbies. The agenda was set out for the class - be safe, learn how to catch a wave, and enjoy the ride!
After selecting helmets, strapping on our pfds, and adjusting the thigh straps of our sit on top shredders, we plunged into the waves for some drills. Diving - what you do if you're standing in the water and a kayak is speeding towards you. Handstands - good for holding your breath under water. Capsizing and releasing from the thigh straps - a.k.a. the sit on top wet exit. Holding on to the boat in the waves - very important so you're not the guy whose kayak levels the kid bobbing in the water by the shore. Getting back on the kayak after falling off - pretty key as we will all fall off a lot on our first waves.

Next, we partnered up - one person stood waist deep, holding his partner's kayak in position and gave him a little push to catch a wave. This was followed by a joyful whoop during the ride, then a clumsy capsize and mad grab to hold on to the boat. Balance was crucial, and we put those early drills to use.

We took a break on the beach for a lesson on basic strokes, waves, and surf lingo like "soup," "outside," "riding the daybed," or "surfing the attic door." Soon after we grabbed paddles and boats and headed back out. The short paddle shafts and fat blades felt different, but gave us more oomph to paddle over the breaking waves to the outside. We made it, and the shredding began! Lots of adrenaline, lots of cheering, and lots of perfect waves just missed. After a good ride or a near miss, we all agreed - we wanted to paddle back out to try again.
Some of us ended the day just catching rides and hanging on, others were already learning to carve. Carve, you say? More about that in level 2. It was hard work paddling - but well worth the effort when you let the wave take over. At the end of the lesson we gulped down water as our instructor recapped the basic safety lessons and surfing principles again. Finally, we left the beach to refuel on the deck at Hucapoos and relive our best rides.

So, still don't think shredding waves on the frontside is for you? That's ok, the tide is perfect this weekend for tours through the less traveled Little Tybee cuts. Join us for a full day in the marsh on Friday, or through "Mosquito Run" on Saturday. Whatever your speed, we hope to see you on the water!

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