With a huge low pressure system sitting off Australia’s east coast, temperatures plummeted, rain poured down and the ocean swell jacked up to a massive 6 metres. Daily weather warnings advised everyone to stay away from the water as the conditions reached seriously dangerous levels. Then after a week of horror conditions, the weather finally died away and returned Sydney to her usual sunny winter weather.
Three hardy Team Fat Paddlers geared up to see what remnants of the storm were left, arriving to Grotto Point as huge 2 metre rollers jacked up and crashed over the rocky point. We lined up to surf if but a messy southerly wind chopped up the face of the waves, and after buzzing around, decided there probably wasn’t much to be had.
Of course that didn’t stop Midshipman Mike Stelzer who’d not really enjoyed kayak surfing before, and clearly knew not what he was getting into! As he paddled into the break zone, a nice 5 footer rolled in behind picking him up, and I watched as his mad paddling pushed him over the lip before he surfed wildly down the face, his trademark grin from ear to ear.
Of course, I had a funny feeling of what was to come, and Mike didn’t let me down. I watched as his boat started to broach, twisting to the right to take a new route towards the rocks of the point. As Mike tried desperately to keep the boat straight, the curling wave broke into his face and suddenly he was flipped upside down and tumbled into the froth.
Once I stopped laughing, I knew I’d better go in and help. I raced into the break zone and pushed his boat out of the path of the breakers before towing Mike, by now holding onto my stern, out of the wave zone and into Middle Harbour. Once there, we emptied his boat and performed an assisted rescue to get Mike back in, but one of his rudder cables had come loose and he needed urgent repairs, so we took off for a beach a little further into Hunters Bay.
This bay has some interesting rock formations that never see swell, so I moved in quickly to run a small gauntlet. But the big storm swell was still making its way into this part of Middle Harbour, and I was hit broadside by a wave that suddenly reared up and broke as it hit shallow water. I dropped my shoulder and let the wave pick me up and smash me arse-first into the cliff, before rolling down the cliff face and into the water head first.
Fortunately I managed to roll straight back up and after bracing agains the rock face as the next wave rolled in, I was able to paddle out of the little gauntlet to join the others at the nearby beach. Of course I also managed to get hit broadside as I came into the beach and again got to practice my side surfing, before being deposited up on the beach.
Even funnier of course was launching back into the waves, as the beach formation had created a nice wave convergence that made what would be an easy surf take-over quite difficult. We managed to get back out and took off to another point where the surf was surging through some rocks and create nice small rideable waves. We all spent some time catching waves before Mike was finally tipped out of his kayak (again), marking the right time for us all to head home.
We all had a great day surfing and playing today, but there were also a few spills and it was a good reminder on how important it is to paddle with friends. Mike’s first surf could have been a disaster without mates to quickly tow him out of danger – but then that’s what Team Fat Paddler is about – fun (and safety) with friends. I for one can’t wait to do it again, although maybe next time in my new boat! Cheers – FP