I looked out over Umina Beach in the failing light, satisfied that another surf day was safely completed. It had been a great group with everyone giving it their best shot. Early morning jitters gave way to some good surf skills interspersed with a fair bit of 'swimming'.
First up, teamwork and good humour saw us off the beach and moving North parallel with shore.
We checked out the larger breaks from seaward: where were the rips, surfers and swimmers? and could we locate the shore dump from a distance rather than learning the "hard way"?
We selected a potential landing during a lull. With everyone at at a safe distance offshore, I went for closer look and disappeared into a larger set for some minutes. My boat was almost airborne as I punched out. Most of the time this part of the beach was O.K for kayaks but every four or five minutes this zone was transformed into a nasty place to paddle. It was a great example of just how long the 'lulls' can be and how much bigger the sets can be - in this case at least twice the height of the regular break.
With a heavy shore dump and an offshore bar picking up the bigger ones we gladly headed back to the smaller spilling waves in the corner.
Our first challenge was to practice landing on the back of the wave i.e. non-surfing. Then we progressed to punching out, bracing and ruddering. The main aim of this was to develop a feel for edge control and familiarity with moving water.
Our day ended with coffee and a video review of the action. I believe learning to kayak is about knowing, feeling and seeing, so the video is always a good way to finish the day. It reinforces lessons learnt and with surfing always creates some grimaces and some laughter.
Learning to deal with breaking waves sharpens boat handling skills, adds meaning to techniques which are less effective on flatwater, and is fun.