Not my best day paddling

Today the team met for our first paddle on the lake. Originally Stephen had said I might be able to paddle his v10 sport surf ski, while he used his new v12. But it was too rough, so he took the sport, leaving me in the Thunderbolt. This is my first time on the lake in it, and probably only my second time in waves – the race being the first.

I was moderately nervous as I went out a few hundred metres into the swell. I waited for a small lull and turned down, and actually got a few nice runs. But as I attempted to turn up swell again, I dumped leaving me cold, wet, and even more nervous about the swell.

Dan immediately set course to a lighthouse which is about 5 miles away, but of course it was exactly 90 degrees to the swell, which is the worst. I was determined to give it a chance, hoping my nervousness would abate. I told several people how nervous I was and Mike and Paul kept fairly close to reassure me.

Dennis, a paddler I know through Facebook whom I’ve never met in person before, showed up. He was test paddling a new v10 sport to see if the cockpit was easier on his back than his old v10 sport. He, like everybody else except me, was showing every sign of enjoying the swells.

After half an hour of slow paddling, I realized that I wasn’t getting any less nervous, and the fear was making me more tired than hard paddling would. I was thirsty as hell, but couldnt grab a drink because i didnt dare take a hand off my paddle I knew I was never going to survive another hour of this. So I told Dan I needed to turn back and I needed somebody to go with me. He turned the whole group around. He paddled with me and said he’d stay with me. I was grateful because I’d already dumped once, in shore, and now we were hundreds of metres off shore and a long way from where we’d started. I knew that a dump out here would require a long, cold swim to shore, abandoning my boat and paddle since I am unable to remount this boat, and then a several mile walk back to the parking lot.

So it was with more than a little consternation that not more than five minutes later I realized that Dan wasn’t anywhere around. Mike was still with me, so that wasn’t too bad. He stayed with me until we were about a mile and a half from the start, but then he disappeared as well. Not sure where he went, but he’s not the one who promised that he’d never abandon me. Dennis came up beside me and talked to me. I was getting more and more tired, and the fear and the tiredness was making me less and less in control of the boat.

Dennis disappeared for some reason, and I just about freaked out. I was shaking, and on the verge of tears. I was sure my only hope was to swim for it. I screamed for help, and Dennis showed up – I think he’d just dropped behind. I was even less able to think straight or paddle straight. I was barely moving at all, and doing more bracing than anything else.

As I got parallel to the beach where I’d launched, I was able to turn down swell and pick up the pace. I didn’t quite get a ride from the waves, but at least I wasn’t fighting them. But as I was getting out of the boat, a wave hit me and I fell on my paddle shaft, snapping it in two. What a perfectly horrible way to end a perfectly horrible day.

At this point, I’m not even sure I want to replace the paddle. This was supposed to be fun. Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow, but right now I don’t want to paddle and I definitely don’t want to see or talk to Dan.

3 thoughts on “Not my best day paddling”

  1. Hi Paul,

    Don’t get discouraged — I think you are doing great. Evidence of this is the reason I fell behind is you were going faster than I expected — I stopped just stick the water bladder in my mouth and, next thing I knew, you were 20 yards ahead.

    I’ve had a Thunderbolt and can attest that it is, indeed, a handful in these kinds of conditions. And you’ve had yours for less than a year! The V10 Sports are MUCH easier to handle if they’re outfitted properly — their stability is more akin to a WSBS EFT.

    I’ve got good news for you — I told Ken about your paddle (apparently he already knew) and he asked me if you just broke the shaft. I said yes and he thinks the staft can be replaced without having to get a whole new one.

    I remember well thinking that I would never get to the point where I enjoyed big water. I also remember being scared to death a lot of the time. Now, a few years later, I find rough water in fast boats to be more fun than anything else. Stick with it — you can learn this stuff, too.


  2. Thanks, Dennis. Dan has dragged me through things that were outside of my comfort zone in the past, and all those times I eventually got used to them and even started liking them. This time I think I just got thrown off by my early dump and never got to the point where I could stop thinking about how cold that water was and how bad it would be if I dumped.

  3. I capsized, too (big boat wake at the mouth of the bay). I was VERY happy to be wearing a dry suit. I always dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. That way, no stress.

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