Monday, May 2, 2011

When Good Waves Go Bad

And so ended the sailing experience for the trip.  Note the mix of emotions on this grizzled veteran's face. 

Ken and I have sailed together quite a few times from wave jam action, sound side and surfing SUPs.  On Saturday after a little NE sound sesh we hit Old Lighthouse beach with the SUPs and sails for your favorite and mine- wave sailing in side shore wind.  Ken had a 5.8 and I grabbed the 4.7 since Leah was using the 5.8  Ken certainly had the right combo since we both had 10'5 Starboard Drive SUPs and the wind was really light.  I bagged out my sail like a potato sack trying to turn it into a 6.0 but we managed pretty well just the same.  We both made it out on the first attempt and worked up wind toward the jettie to catch the waves wrapping in from the ENE.  We spotted this great little channel from the beach and with timing and luck it held as a good route.  I got tuned to the conditions and started catching a few waves, popping out the end, jibing and heading back out.  I saw a few freight trains coming and boldly took a big ride.  Toes in sail sheeted out, down wind and popped out clew first for the trek out to catch another.  By this time more trains were coming and I busted through a big one with huge sigh of relief.  I flipped the sail just in time for the daddy of the previous one to jack up in front of me.  It was overhead, snarling and yes I bailed.  This nasty bugger broke on the outside- I took a looong swing not only to the beach but also down the beach thanks to the current.  Most of the time the ocean she toys with you- letting you get just in reach of your mast before the next wave takes your gear away again.  I had no chance of catching it at any point after I bailed.  So I took the swim of shame, not 1 but 2 walks of shame back up wind first with the board then with the sail.

Meanwhile Ken is on fire.  Experience is key.  Ken was catching great waves and surfing all the way to the inside (which was uncharacteristically mellow).  After a tack or jibe then heading back out from there since the wind was just as good in as outside.  I caught my breath and we both carried on like that for while.  Luckily I abandoned my strategy of jibing out of the wave like I was lit and started taking Ken's approach since the wave power was the only way to maneuver.  We took a break and were standing on the beach discussing how the wind seemed to be determined to stay up the rest of the day.  Also each of us noted how awful it would be if we had to continue wave sailing the rest of the afternoon.  But on the other hand we planned to paddle surf with Mac and Sam later so Ken said he had one more sesh in him.  One more and then we would head out.

As if we had been overheard the wind almost went away as we jumped on the boards for the trip out through the zone.  We both made it out but it took concentration.  The upwind trip took a great deal more time too but the waves were still pumping.  I got on a good one and rode it in to the inside.  I figured if the wind didn't come back I was finished sailing.  This is how Ken described the next series of events.

He went for the second of a set of biggies and thanks to the loss of wind power missed it.  Of course this had pushed him inside a little too much and the 3rd was destined to break on him so he bailed.  After the initial wave he actually got a hold on the mast but a 4th ripped it away from him.  He had to take a swim while I watched his gear heading to the beach and down wind I thought I saw that his old sail had finally bit it.  Turns out it was in fact formaly retired.  When he caught his gear and dragged it on the beach something else looked suspect- then I saw the board was folded a couple feet behind the nose!  Ken emerged from Old Lighthouse beach carrying gear trashed just like those heroic images you see of the professional windsurfers in Hawaii or somewhere else equally insane.  Waves are rough on any equipment but I'm hopefull Starboard will be sympathetic to Ken's case.  Usually masts break before anything else.  At any rate Ken was still amped from the great sesh and had a great attitude about the whole day.  Later he even borrowed my Starboard Drive and we had that paddle surf sesh anyway.

The day before while paddle surfing I experienced the longest wash cycle I've ever had to hold my breath through after a monster tossed me off the lip in a strong offshore gust.  Rob said he took a beating in a similar situation.  Though not the average size Friday and Saturday had fairly frequent large and powerful sets rolling through.  Dues were paid, bruises handed out, blisters worn in heavy air but what a time at the Outer Banks with great folks.  Super special thanks to Mac and Kris for having us stay with them on their spring break.  Mac, Rob and Sam have some wonderful pics and stories from the whole trip.  Check them out for stories of the windsurfing, paddle surf/flat and good times had by all.               

My blushing bride lit with a 3.5 and dialing in the beach starts in heavy air.  * This photo shamelessly lifted from Mac's blog.

Leah and Kris.  Further description not needed.

Sam luvin the new Fly 10'

Jedi Master and new apprentice


  1. Ralph,
    It was great SUP sailing the lighthouse with you, except that last wave of course! You described the session really well. We had that playground all to ourselves for a couple hours, except for that big sea turtle on the outside. Thanks for letting me use one of your boards after my mishap.
    Ken K

  2. Yep, that was the biggest sea turtle I've seen. By the way, the plover nazzis have the Cove closed!

  3. This just in! Starboard will replace the board for free! So all is well. Andy at Wind NC provided great support.

    Ken K