St. Bees beach apparently occasionally can get some pretty big surf with the right conditions. The surf is a beach break with the best waves produced when the tide is coming in, after strong westerly or south-westerly winds have died down. This information came from Magicseaweed.com a site I have used regularly when pursuing surf in the sea. Magic seaweed was saying there was going to be a 4-5ft swell coming in on this day. In the morning we had arranged to meet to catch these conditions and we did exactly as planned. However, what we got was a big menacing surf with short intervals, not ideal for learning or developing skills. Tom and Mike ventured into the white water first, both new to surfing on boards they were thoroughly challenged. After a few attempts they came out seeking advice but nothing I knew about surfing or the sea would help on this occasion. They struggled to get themselves and their boards over the whitewater that came after the waves had broken, being pushed back again and again. What they needed was PADDLES!
Luckily on this day I had anticipated these conditions and brought all my gear. Having watched Tom and Mike get thrown about for a short while I was intimidated by the waves. From the car park you could still hear the roar as each wave broke. I sat by myself in my kayak on the pebble beach for a while composing myself, trying to get in the right mental attitude for going straight into whitewater that would push me to my limits. Tyler Bradt, an accomplished whitewater kayaker, said in an interview
"Successful whitewater kayaking is 50% mental and 50% skill. Holding your nerve in and staying focused in these whitewater situations is key to applying your skills to the water your on at the time."
As a warm up exercise I envisaged myself crashing through the waves moving my arms in the motions I would need to perform. I imagined this in slow motion like you would see in the latest viral online whitewater paddling video. In my head I go through multiple waves speeding up the actions each time I go though a wave, this wakes up all the muscles needed for paddling. I also remind myself of the steps need to surf the waves back in. Paddle fast to get to the same speed as the wave, throw your weight forward to drop in then lean/edge in the direction you want to travel along the wave. I must look pretty stupid doing it but it’s my thing.
After a short time of composure I moved into a position to quickly enter the water. I discussed with Tom and Mike that I was going to need a lull in the wave size to get out. I picked my moment, "Now Now Now!" Tom and Mike thrust me down the pebble beach and into the water. Straight away I was met by breaking waves or "the soup" trying to push me back onto the beach. I fight through it, getting out, this was the easy bit that I was pretty comfortable with, coming back in on the waves the right way up, is what I struggle with. Due to the messiness of the waves coming in it was hard to judge where was a safe place to sit and select a wave to catch, so I caught the first one I was prepared for and it turned out to be a monster.
For my ability in surf kayaking this wave was “pretty stinking big”. Due to my positioning, I didn’t need to paddle fast to get this one. Nor did I need to put my weight forward to drop in. Due to the size and steepness of this monster, coming down the face of the wave I had to lean as far back as possible and pull my legs up so not to nose dive. I managed to stop myself from nose-diving and surfed the wave straight until it broke. I then comfortably "Bongo slide" in the soup, nearly ending up right back on the beach and into the groyne! Luckily I avoided these. I paddled out once more and selected a further wave to catch.