Surf Kayak Odyssey [59]

By Tracy Garner

A few weeks ago some friends and I swapped sea kayaks for surf kayaks and packed up the Subaru with as much camping gear and equipment as humanly possible and headed to Crescent Head for the ultimate surf kayaking holiday. A large rolling point break was the promise. With everything in walking distance of the caravan park it was the quiet season for what is a small town in a sensational location. The beach extends for miles from the park with a crystal clear river running to it surrounded by awesome sand dunes. It was a picture postcard.

Our arrival saw a beautiful day for pitching tents with only a breath of wind. However the swell on that first day was a little disappointing, but that was all about to change dramatically.

We were aware of the forecasted change but were hoping it would be downgraded. An east coast low was centered off the central coast and was predicted to throw our way huge seas of up to 6metres and howling winds in excess of 40knts but when you have been planning a holiday for months, a couple of bad weather days are not enough to trample the dream to relax & play. We ordered a trailer load of firewood from a rather dodgy looking fellow named Bud and equipped with the ultimate fire drum (the inside of an 8kg washing machine) we enjoyed a few quiet beverages and as the night wore on, the forecasted time for the low to hit came and went and we thought, “Yeh, it won’t be that bad”.

We woke the next morning to physically see a huge cloud mass front fast approaching. As we raced against time to add extra tent pegs to our humble establishment and with the offers pouring in from the retired caravaners across from us to go to the hardware for extra rope, we knew we were in for a hammering. So we settled in and waited. It came through like a freight train and although it was only 10:00am we were left with no choice but to grab a bourbon, lean hard into the tent walls during the gusts and contemplate our fate.

Although it made for an interesting few days, the resulting swell in the storms aftermath was exactly what we had all dreamed about. Huge, green faces, full and fast long rides – perfect for the Dagger and Pyranha whitewater slash surf kayaks we had as our weapons of choice. Fantastic practice for sea kayak skills like bracing and rolling in anger and learning how to read the surf, but with freedom of so much maneuverability. The specifically designed surf kayaks caused quiet a stir amongst the Mal hardened long board riders in the line up. We, as a group of 6 made sure we followed all the appropriate surf etiquette and after a very short time had earned their respect and was comfortably mixing it up. The Crescent Head locals are a great bunch and were quietly impressed by our level of control in the surf zone.

One of our guys had gotten his hands-on a new purpose built surf kayak that really shone above the rest and was a favorite amongst the surfers keen to cross over to the other side. What a machine this thing turned out to be. Built in the UK by Mega kayaks the XRAY had unmatched speed and carving ability. This kayak and those similar like the Mega Prowler have featured with huge success taking the top placing at the last couple of surf kayak world championships. With the option for up to three fins and a surfboard like shape with hard rails, it is easy to see why. Its ultra light Kevlar construction had us all in awe as it rode these beautifully long left handers carving up and down the face and performing vertical moves off the lip. He could stay on the same wave well after we had lost the pace needed to keep in front of the foam pile. We were all left thinking that it might be time to trade up from our plastic fantastics to this new beast which added so much more dimension to real surfing capabilities.

Over the next week or so the residual swell treated us to the best conditions we have surfed in for a very long time. The campsite by the river overlooking the beach made for an easy daily portage, great for those hung over days. Paddle out and paddle home, what could be easier and as with most trips, my favourite time was at night around the fire as stories of the ultimate ride grew and outgrew. Such was the nature of our most eventful and inspirational surfing odyssey.