Gary working his paddle!

Article: The Atlantic on gale force kayaking

I realise that this blog may (does) frequently overstep its apparent mandate, and delve into subjects other than the narrow subject of scuba diving. I make no apology for this – our interest is in everything ocean related, and there is much to learn and absorb. Everything is interesting!

With that in mind… An article I found from The Atlantic, written in 1995 (as I was matriculating), describes the joy of kayaking in gale force winds and stormy conditions. The author introduces Steve Sinclair, founder of what he calls storm-sea skiing, and who willingly ventures out in his fibreglass surf ski in 100 kilometre per hour winds (and commensurately high seas).

This sport is not for sissies. Writes the author:

I recently spent some time with Sinclair acquiring the fundamentals of ocean kayaking in three-foot swells and winds of no more than twenty miles an hour. During his opening lecture Sinclair emphasized that ocean kayaking is an in-water sport, and that the kayaker must be prepared for complete immersion in surf or building seas. He considers even the warmest outdoor clothing — a common choice of sea kayakers — to be inappropriate, even unsafe: it becomes waterlogged, loses its insulating qualities, and hinders swimming. In his view, only a wet suit is appropriate. Sinclair prefers a “wash-deck” kayak: one is strapped to the top of it rather than inside. Such a vessel — unlike one with a cockpit — is in no danger of flooding, and is as easy to right and remount as a surfboard. Sinclair insists on a helmet regardless of conditions, citing the high ratio of deaths to injuries in all water sports, in which drownings frequently result from unconsciousness following a blow to the head.

But, as Sinclair points out,

Paddling in a hurricane is fun – and also an excellent workout. Storm-sea skiing has also resulted in an adaptation in techniques and equipment which, if they are properly applied, could greatly increase the safety of ordinary sea kayaking.

The techniques learned from kayaking in strong winds may possibly be one reason why local surf skiiers are exceptionally competitive on the world stage. The run from Fish Hoek beach to Miller’s Point (when a north westerly wind is blowing), or in the opposite direction (during a south easter) is a popular, testing route that, by all accounts, is completely exhilarating.

Read the article here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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