THAT Downwind

A kitesurfer at Fishhoek had a four and a half meter kite up on the day of my first Miller’s Run. If you speak Kite (which I do, because I am the GOAT Kite Widow) it means that either the kitesurfer is the size of Tinkerbell or the wind is stronger than you can imagine.

summer sup downwind

pic XOTB

Anyway, the husband ID’d the kitesurfer as a friend of a friend and not Tinkerbell, so it is safe to say the wind was pumping.  In fact, someone said it was gusting at up to 40 knots.  I took a peek at the Beaufort Scale, and 34 – 40 knots is indeed a gale.

According to my pals  over at The Online Tornado  these wind speeds have the following result on water:

“Moderately high (18-25 ft) waves of greater length, edges of crests begin to break into spindrift, foam blown in streaks”

I looked at the ocean and gulped. I couldn’t even decide which wetsuit to wear or manage to zip it up unaided. And either my fake eyelashes were sticking to Island Tribe that had smooshed down onto my eyelids or my eyes were so wide that my lashes found their way up to the Island Tribe.

TBH it wasn’t that bad. The problem is me. I have a very vivid imagination. How else do I think up entire books, full of characters, intrigue and drama?  Also, while in danger of sounding absolutely stark raving mad, I have a bossy person, I think her name is Dr Second Guess, who lives in my head and she tells me ridiculous things. My third problem is I read too much. If there is a sea-worthy horror story out there, I’ve read it. Every single Reader’s Digest Lost At Sea Nightmare I’ve read and retained.  (eg. Recently I read Brett Archibald’s Alone.)

But I’ve trained physically for this. I can paddle 11 kms. I can catch a few runs on a downwind. I don’t love every minute, but I do love many of the minutes. And I do love a challenge.

downwind start

pic XOTB

So the plan was to paddle out and take it easy (also known as kneel on the board) for a few kms to get the feel and when I got to Boulders (from where I am used to downwinding) I would stand up and shoot for home like a boss.

So I churned along for the first couple of K’s. I even got hot because I didn’t get wet. In fact, my hair was as dry as the Theewaterskloof Dam  in midsummer. I caught some runs on my knees and it was amazing. Dr Second Guess was wrong. This was the best fun ever. I kept up with Megan and Kim and Steve and Joana. I even screamed with delight a few times.

When I saw Boulders coming up, and the lighthouse, I thought ‘Woo-hoo I’m styling, I’m going to stand and fly.’

And boy did I fly. Except not on the board. I flew into the air and then into the ocean.

The same thing that took place the first time I got on a SUP at Muizenberg happened in the middle of False Bay. The board flipped. The wind kept blowing it out of my reach, my brain defaulted on common sense and Dr Second Guess reported shark activity.

That time at Muizenberg no one stopped to help and I wore a set on my head.  This time Steve Tripney paused, as best as one can in an ocean gale, and inquired after my state of being. I could not speak due to the fact that I was gasping and clutching at a slippery hull in the Very Deep and Dark ocean about a trillion meters off Boulders in a Force 8 Gale.  I think he got the silent message that all was not going as planned, but then a huge gust flipped the board for me, so I clambered back on and didn’t stick around for small talk.

I did not stand back up. Hell no. I was not going through that again. I paddled on my knees till my legs cramped. I eventually tried standing a few more times, but each time I either got jettisoned, or Dr Second Guess started telling me lies, or I got barrel rolled (Yeah baby. Rolled under the SUP in the blue yonder. Was epic.)

So eventually I passed that lighthouse at Roman Rock.  I took the widest berth in the history of wide berths because the husband has been rinsed on that reef before and I didn’t envy his version of events.

I also deliberately avoided catching some of the runs because they were so steep, it would be like pitching over the edge Niagara Falls, or So Dr Second Guess said.

(Actually she might have been right there. Watch Dale Robinson’s short video clip of his Miller’s Run in a surfski on the same day. Some of those drops look pretty steep.)

Anyway, I actually don’t even want to write anymore about what me and Dr Second Guess talked about or what we did the rest of the way, because it is embarrassing that I had no chill and didn’t Stand the heck Up.  The nice rescue boat man, who looked slightly bemused as he zoomed around me and Evette, suggested I paddle more on the right side to make it to the flags. I didn’t smack him with my paddle for an unsolicited suggestion, because a) he was too far away, and b) I was supremely grateful for his presence.  But at that point anything on the shore was a win, flags or no flags.

sup downwind

pic XOTB

I managed not to get annihilated as I came in but I did nearly kiss the white sand of Fishhoek Beach on arrival and crawl to the flags.

If the crew at XOTB don’t run away and hide next time I sign up for a downwind, I hope to do better. To stand, to relax, to have fun. I know I can do it because… oh yes,  I did do it in the most extreme conditions. But also, the next day, I caught and made the most epic wave  at Doodles on a downwind board. That wave has me stoked for life.

So bring it, big wind, big swell. Next time I’m leaving Dr Second Guess at home.

summer sup

pic XOTB





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