01 July 2010

Kayak Surf Skills

Starring: Craig McSween
Co Starring: Martin, Gavin, Gary, Vanilla, Gnarlydog and Adventuretess
Craig beach briefing_1 (c)
A wise man of sea kayaking once told me "begin kayak surfing by playing in waves which feel comfortable. Over time, move to bigger and bigger waves, which still feel comfortable. Do things (waves) in increments, slowly acclimating yourself to a particular size until you feel the need inside to try something more challenging. If that voice inside you doesn't appear, then you are not ready to go for bigger waves. So don’t let anyone force or talk you into something you are not ready for. Also, if you are going into the surf, expect to get wiped out. There is no shame in that. The trick is to know how to get wiped out". Commander Eric Soares. Good advice.
I was upside down. My eyes closed, I could feel bubbles fizzing around me as waves rocked my kayak in the surf. I was here to build on my surf skills.
I guess the lesson had begun.
Relaxing, I rolled up only to be hit in the chest and pushed backwards by another breaking wave. Laughing, adrenalin pumping, I felt alive.

My kayak surfing skills had been put on hold over summer. During the warmer months my favourite beaches are heaving with surfers, stand up paddlers and swimmers. Not enough space for me to safely practice my developing skills. Frustrated by the lack of time in the surf, I eagerly grasped the opportunity to participate in a formal surf session with one of Queensland’s leading sea kayak instructors, Craig McSween.
I’ve know Craig for several years. In fact, he introduced me to sea kayaking. His easygoing manner belies enviable skill and an innate understanding of the complexities of the sea.**
At the seawall (c)
The objective of this session was to push ourselves in the surf within the boundaries of common sense. Conditions were mild but provided enough energy to achieve our objective and have some fun. Following a thorough briefing and warm up, the helmeted group of 6 hit the water.

Locating a section of surf without the usual mob crowding the swell, Craig outlined each skill then provided a demonstration. Craig’s ability to impart real life knowledge gives his training an edge not found in text books. Under his guidance we ventured backwards, forwards, sideways and at times upside down through the surf. I had flashbacks of the anxiety of going for my driver’s license; hill start, parallel park, reverse, merge...

Until now I believed my days of doing cartwheels were left behind in childhood. Martin cart wheeled and rolled perfectly. His first, he wore an elated yet stunned expression on his face for some time after. Gnarlydog managed 3 cartwheels and rolls as he battled in and out through the breakers. Gavin and Vanilla displayed their usual elegance under pressure and I’ve no doubt Gary was low bracing in his sleep that night.
Craig beach briefing (c)
I cannot speak for anyone else but Craig's confident relaxed attitude gave my confidence a nudge and whet my appetite to play more often in the surf.

**Craig's interest in sea kayaking led to the inception of the Qld Sea Kayak Club. Craig continues to provide training, tours, equipment and advice to Club members, tourists and members of the public through AdventureOutlet, his Gold Coast business.

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