It’s been in the 90s and sunny for the last three days, and I’ve been privileged to spent a few hours each day out on the water enjoying the sun and warmth.
First on Tuesday, Dan, Frank and I went for a long slow distance paddle. I didn’t bring my GPS, but Dan figures I went a bit over 6.5 miles. I was attempting to go at a nice steady pace, and because Frank was having a bad day, I ended up zig-zagging some of the time so that Frank could keep up and I didn’t have to slow down. Interestingly enough, I had to zig-zag the first two or so miles, and then I had a mile or so where I could just keep up with him, then when we turned down stream I had to zig-zag again for about two miles, and then for the rest of it Frank and I were very well matched. I can only think there was a bit of wind that was impeding me for the last part of the upstream and helping me for the first part of the down stream. My boat (which used to belong to Frank) is definitely more subject to the wind that his.
Wednesday, most of the team went out and did a bit on the lake and a bunch on the bay. We were trying to learn to get comfortable in the waves, and the mixture of boat wakes coming from all directions (and the rebounds from the shores) were certainly a challenge. Dan remarked afterwards how I was up front leading most of the time, but there was method in my madness – I was almost sure I was going to dump, and if I dumped I wanted to have the maximum number of people in position to help me. In fact I didn’t dump, and while I wouldn’t call it all fun, I did manage to catch a few good waves and have some fun with them once in a while. I definitely recommend doing wave practice (or just paddling in the bay in general) with a bunch of other experienced paddlers around rather than on your own.
Today Dan and I went up the canal again. This time I went a bit further upstream that on Tuesday. There were some boats around, and some challenging wakes. There was one section just past 490 where there were vertical concrete walls on each side of the canal, and it acted like a wave laser, letting the wakes of the boats that had gone by some minutes before I got there to bounce back and forth and reinforce each other. There were times today, like yesterday on the bay, where I just had to stop paddling and brace. But I got through it and into the parts with the sloping walls and everything calmed down. I turned around when the GPS was showing a hair over 3.5 miles, since I figured a 7 mile day was a good distance. The “wave laser” wasn’t so bad on the way back, and I got some good help from tail winds, so I was keeping just around 6 mph most of the way back.
At about the 4.5 mile mark, Dan yelled at me to keep my chin up, and then I didn’t see him again for the whole way back. I was getting a bit worried, because he’d had to stop once already to adjust his foot brace and had something about needing more adjustment, so at first I thought he’d just stopped for that, but I expected him to catch back up soon. So I started to wonder if he’d had some worse problem and had to abandon ship. After I got back to his dock, I figured I’d go up stream a bit to see if he was coming. I got up to the rowing club, and he was coming and so was a motor boat I’d seen a lot of today. On the way up, I’d tried in vain to catch and hold this guy’s wake, then he’d passed me going the other way where his wake had just been a challenge, and then I’d passed him when he was on his trolling motor casting into the shallows at the side of the canal. I turned as he passed, and this time he seemed to be going a bit slower. I caught one of the perpendicular waves behind his boat and tried to surf it, but it actually propelled me up to the next wave. Trying to get to the best surfing position, I found myself going over 7 mph and catching him. Pretty soon I got tucked in right beside him, matching his 6.2 mph speed and going along with only minimal effort. I could speed up and slow down and get to exactly the wave I wanted and where I wanted it. It was very cool. He eventually noticed me there, and he asked me if the wake was helping me, and I grunted out a few sentences to confirm it. I must have surfed his wake for about a mile, and only quit when I decided that was about as far away from Dan’s dock as I cared to paddle back to. The GPS says I ended up doing 8.8 miles, which more than I expected.
I’ve decided that all I need for my next kayak race is a motor boat to pace me at exactly the right pace so I can surf their wake the whole way.
 There appear to be three distinct types of wave from a boat – there are waves that come off the bow and spread out in a “V”, which actually curve to turn more to perpendicular to the boat the further out they go. Then there is another set which come out in a “V” which don’t seem to turn, and which are much steeper than the first set – I think they come off the stern. Then there is a bunch of much more subtle ones that come of behind the boat and which are perpendicular to the boat travel. All of them can be useful if you catch them right.