One of the Last Great British Adventures…….
The forecast was horrific, nevertheless we met up in north Wales for our January training weekend.
Unsurprisingly, Nick chose to stay at home with Jonah, his 4 week old son, so Jamie Barclay was (lucky?) to step in for the weekend.
Now, I’ve read a few sea kayaking books over the years, and rarely do they mention 35mph gusting winds as ‘ideal’ conditions for a paddle. Clearly a rethink was needed. After considering the options, we decided to paddle east from Llandudno, along the comparatively sheltered North coast of Wales. We were on Llandudno beach by 0800 to make the most of the conditions before they deteriorated.
After a pre-paddle roadside massage from Abi (Beeline’s newest team member and resident Sports Massage Therapist) we set off east in a calm but cold breeze. Tori and I worked hard to look amused when Adam and Jamie sailed past us at about 10mph eating sandwiches and laughing – the new Karitech sailing rig had already proved itself – and we’d only been on the water 20 minutes!
As we progressed a strong offshore wind was building fast. Too far offshore and we would be blown out to sea yet too close to the beach and the building surf would broadside, and surely capsize us. This ‘margin’ continued to shrink as we made good progress with Rhyl coming into sight. Before too long it became impossible to stop, rest, eat or more importantly pee. Unlucky for Adam and Tori, they’d not managed to go earlier and were now battling hard with both the strong gusting wind and a full bladder.
In the now raging offshore wind, Tori and I suddenly became broadside to a significant and steep wave. The next 5 minutes proved to be Tori’s equivalence of a soldier’s first experience of enemy fire! We just managed to stay upright, but had been ‘surfed’ towards the beach and inside the breaking waves. Whilst not significant in surfing terms, these waves played our 22’ tandem sea kayak like a very large cat playing with a very small ball of wool. I resorted to ‘raft guide’ technique i.e. screaming as loudly as possible until the situation was dealt with.
All this excitement distracted our attention from the violence of the mother of all squalls that was about to hit us. Within seconds, communication was impossible, winds whipped up salty spray and freezing rain tore at our skin as the beach disappeared from view. Throughout this, Adam and Jamie were getting blown further offshore trying hard to fix their rudder which had been disabled by the growing sea. Adam and I, just about in view of each other, simultaneously pretended to slash our own throats – that universally accepted signal for ‘I’m not enjoying this anymore, get me out of here!’
Within minutes the four of us were dragging our boats onto Rhyl beach. Tori gave me a big hug – I’m still unsure whether she was just glad to be alive, or whether she was elated with her ‘baptism of fire’ performance? Most bizarrely, Tori’s deck mounted ipod speaker had been playing full volume 70’s cheese throughout all of this. Gloria Gaynors classic “I will survive” will never sound the same again.
Blog post by Ian O’Grady