Woody’s kayak trips

January 30, 2007

I’m obviously not the first Gaijin (foreigner) to kayak in Japan. One of the first sites I discovered was Woody’s kayak trips who was here for a few years and has some good stories to tell:

I hadn’t seen any waves this big all day. Certainly not this many in a row and as I slam down on the back side of the wave I catch sight of the next wave. I know that although I am still back paddling and further out then when the first wave passed, I will not avoid this one.

Again I am staring down at my bow in the trough of the wave. I’m ‘standing’ on the foot pegs and nearly laying on my rear deck as my kayak pitched vertically. Instinctively I reach up and behind me to brace into the top of the wave. As the wave breaks it covers me and pitches me forward. Immediately I am upside down. But I am calm – just waiting for the wave to release me so I can roll up. I have my unfeathered paddle in one hand. The drag I feel will have me off the wave in no time. But a long few moments later I feel the paddle leave my hand. It is obvious from the feel it has snapped in to two pieces.

Now upside down – spending more time on the wave than I want, and because the paddle broke right in my hand, I don’t even have a half paddle to roll up with. I wait till I know I was mostly off the wave and wet exit. I keep hold of the kayak but I know I have to move to the ocean most end quickly. Another big wave is approaching and I don’t want to lose the boat or get it slammed into me. I grab the stern toggle and hold on. As the wave passes the boat it pulls me quite strongly toward shore. This is too violent and strong for me to even attempt to get my spare paddle off the rear deck and perform a reenter and roll. I will have to hang on.

Ahead and a little to my right I see my neoprene cap. It has been ripped from my closed pfd pocket. I tow the boat more in its direction and a few waves later I catch up with it. I occasionally catch sight of half of my paddle floating with the blade in the air like a waterborne stop sign. The weight from the extra shaft in this piece is causing the paddle to stand on end.

I finally get into a zone that is calm enough I feel I can get my spare paddle. After I assemble it I touch bottom with my feet. Close enough now to just go ashore, I walk in to the beach.

On shore I drag the boat up and pull off my pfd and skirt. I begin to walk up the beach looking for my broken paddle. Not seeing it I turn around and walk back and spot the big half near where I had come ashore. The paddle is broken on the right side were my hand was holding it.

I search a bit more for the small half. I begin to give up when I see a `fin’ flash in the water near the jetty. Now I have both halves. Hard to just give up on a $220 paddle.

Now I’m in search of a good surf paddle. Something that can take the abuse, yet not wear me down to the point of exhaustion when touring at sea. I suspect if I had been paddling feathered the paddle would not have broke, but I was still disappointed at how little pull I was feeling when it snapped.

He also took some nice pictures

woody copyright
And has some good info for kayakers around Aomori and Iwate.

From what I can gather, Woody was posted as part of the US army (?) in the Misawa air base in Aomori – the far north of the main Island of Honshu – that’s Hokkaido poking into the top of the map and the Tsuguru strait indicated.

copyright Woody

Much of his kayaking was done on Lake Misawa. He is a very good paddler and has/had a beautiful feathercraft folding boat. Check out his trip reports in Japan from 2001-2002.

And as for his above description of the broken paddle – I had the same thing happen with the same feeling, like a hot knife through butter and great disapointment.

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