Archive for the 'surfing' Category

Last kayaking in Japan

August 4, 2007

My last kayaking in Japan – surfing in the river kayak at Nobiru beach.

The previous day we got back from the beautiful Ajishima on what we were told was the last ferry before the typhoon waves got too big, so I was expecting some big surf today. It was obviously storm surf but the height wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it might be, I’d say from crest to trough somewhere around 5 feet on the bigger waves. Some of the waves were breaking really nicely – holding up for a long time and then crumbling down while others were dumping so it was really pot luck on a lot of runs. The beach shape was also a bit funny causing the waves to break flatten and then reform into a shore break with 2-3 footers and a 20m run into shore.

I’m not sure if I am getting better or less scared of the surf (by the way I think a helmet really helps your confidence) but I was able to get on a lot of waves and was even waiting for the bigger waves….

Still not doing very much; starting to carve a bit on the wave face and I think I even got the steering rudder worked out but I definately need to engage with the ‘power pocket’ of the wave more. Still, enjoying the speed very much. As usual got tossed a few times but had great fun.

It was raining when I started around 10am but the sun came out and the beach got busier by 1pm when I packed up – exhausted. So that was it.

Thanks Japan for a great place to sea kayak and surf: the pacific is a lovely warm ocean to learn to sea kayak.

Thanks also to everyone who helped me, taught me how to kayak and provided priceless snippets of information about sea kayaking in Japan…


Summer’s here

July 24, 2007

At last sumer has arrived. 30 degrees washed out blue skies and bleached landscapes. The green of the rainy season will only last a few more days… This is my favorite time in Japan.

I went surfing again just to get in the sea and to cool down. The sea is still not super warm but is beautiful. Lots of washed up broken seashells on the beach from the recent Typhoon that I had to be careful off in my bare feet (practicing for when I ship my kayak boots back home on Monday).

The waves were only 1-2 feet high but I still had lots of fun carving and bongo sliding and I even managed my first, unexpected, roll in the surf – using the paddle in an extended C to C.

From 4 to 6pm I was all alone on this part of the beach. Then two surfers arrived and like assholes swam right out and just sat in the middle of the break I was surfing. I decided not to worry about it, it’s probably their break anyway.

About 30 minutes later a fisherman walked along the beach and started setting up his stuff right in front of where I was playing in the surf. I waved to him to make sure he saw me but before I had a chance to say anything, Plop, in went the heavy weight about 5m from me. Abunaii! I didn’t shout that but my wife says I should have – what an asshole. What I wanted to do was beach the kayak and start pumelling him… I restrained myself of course.

I find the problem with Japan is that because no one tells other people off – face saving is so important here – then people just do what they want. Around where they live or work they are restrained by duty (actually I think it’s “the neighbours”) but at the beach or in the mountains they are free to be totally sellfish. Hence beaches are covered in trash, car parks with piles of cigarette butts from the car ashtray, huge SUV’s drive down the beach, and Jet skiers come with 5m of swimmers. And fisherman act badly secure in the knowledge that no-one will say anything. And they would be right.

There are good and bad things everywhere right? I mean as Rik described in a comment here, the other extreme is North American rightousness…

I got rolled and had to swim three times (in 1-2 foot waves, I know!), once after battling through a small rip tide swimming the boat to shore I realised that a sit-inside kayak isn’t the right thing for me, for surfing. I should get a sit-on-top – be like surfers who never have to beach and bail, just climb back on if I fail to roll.

This one from dagger.
Some much nicer looking designs and a review of sit on top surf kayaks is here and here.

I also found out about the term Pearl in kayaking and a Plowing Ender, a related technique that I will try next time.

Of course proper surf kayaks are not sit on tops. Paddle Surfers United is a good place to read about boats like this one; the Reaction from Murky Water in Canada

the reaction

Surfing with a racing paddle

July 21, 2007

Having sold my sea kayak and paddle I am now forced to use the borrowed carbon fibre wing paddle for surfing. It was an interesting experience.

I got to the beach at noon and played around in 2-3 foot surf for a few hours. As ever I failed to roll except when setting up in advance (except once when the wave rolled me back up by itself). I need to find a roll that I can do from the back deck, which is usually the position I find myself having been tossed in surf: I’ve been leaning right back high bracing into the pile, trying to keep the bow from sinking…

The wing paddle peforms okay for high braces though it does have a tendancy to slide out but I found this managable, I could flip the blade to the back and draw back to finish on a low brace. However that might be to do with the size of these waves. Where it is less good is in the strain it puts on my lower back and joints punching through waves to get back out – the paddles inflexibility really takes it’s toll. The 60 degree feather was also too much in the surf and caused some soreness in my grip (probably gripping too tightly).

The waves today were very short frequency, about 6secs which is a short as they get here, so getting back out was the hardest part as you have to punch through at least 3 breaking waves.

I planned to go again on Sunday (9sec frequency and 4-5 foot waves predicted) but my body was too sore!

Surfing in the sun

July 10, 2007

Another evening surfing, this time in the sun.  Really beautiful day with the most beautiful sunset into the mountains. Alone on the beach and swimming in the warm Pacific Ocean (21 degrees now) I was overwhelmed by nostalgia for my soon to be lost Japan.

It is an amazing country.

No pictures again (makes blogging pretty boring) so here are some from Seacliffe Beach in Scotland (wikipedia) which will soon be my local surf beach.

copyright Edinburgh Kayak Club

The people surfing are members of the Edinburgh Kayak Club which will soon be my local club – I’m thinking of joining… You can see more pictures of their trip to Seacliffe beach in this gallery.

My surfing was ok. The sea was almost totally flat and the waves small but as usual the sand bar at Oku Matsushima pops up some nice little waves  perfect for a beginner like me. I guess 1-2 feet.

My only noteable event was getting cartwheeled when stationary and an unusually big wave suddenly reared up, I was hoping to hold on with a big high brace and leaning right back to the rear deck but as the front of my kayak disappeared down into the water my spray skirt popped a bit as the wave landed on me and water rushed in sinking the front and ending any hopes of saving it – I went over backwards and failed to roll.

Pretty exciting in an 8 foot river kayak in small surf wonder what it would be like in a 16foot sea kayak in huge storm surf?

Surfing in the rain

June 30, 2007

It’s the rainy season in Japan. Up here it lasts from June 20th – July 20th give or take a few days. When it’s over it gets VERY hot, like 35 degrees, so the rain is to be enjoyed.

I went surfing again today. I only really have time for surfing at the moment – I go when my kids go for their nap and am back not long after they wake up. As my social work cousin says “3 kids under 5” (apparantly it’s one of the indicators used in social work to predict high risk families – whatever that means).

When I got to put in at 2:30 the waves were looking great, long curling spilling waves.


Avoiding the six or so surfers (none of them that good) I started playing around. It was great! The waves were a bit higher than last time – maybe 2-3 feet.

After about an hour though the waves started to change. I missed one wave and then got dumped on by a huge wave paddling back out, I managed to brace into it and stay upright but it popped my spray skirt and I sank – funny feeling. (One problem with the river kayak is that it doesn’t have any flotation). I swam the boat to shore bailed and then padled back out but didn’t make it again, got rolled and failed to roll in the soup.

Same again beach and bail. Then I noticed all but two of the surfers had gone and watching the surf realised that the incoming tide had changed the waves to shorter dumping waves.

Anyway I persevered and surfed for another hour (bailing out twice more). I also practiced rolling in the surf – waiting in the surf zone and then rolling just as a wave was about to break on me coming up through the aerated soup.

I also realised what is wrong with my ‘big kayak’ roll: practising with the river kayak has made me lazy and I’m not doing enough to get the beamy sea kayak over (the river kayak is just so much easier).

5 weeks left in Matsushima, then 1 week in Tokyo then back to Scotland…

car and river kayak

ps I bonded my paddle together with an epoxy type resin and it worked really well – no hint of movement. But it is now a 30 degree feather fixed paddle that I can’t take home with me.

Surfing small waves

June 27, 2007

I think I finally got it today – how to surf properly.

I got to the put-in at 4.30pm (leaving work an hour early) and had two hours on my own before the first surfers turned up. The surf was small 1-2 feet, but I realised perfect for my level. I surfed a small break over a sand spit about 150m out which allowed about 100m runs before the wave petered out. This was part of the reason for ‘getting it’ I think as at the end of every wave I wasn’t beached! It was great fun.

The key I think is to paddle like billyo to get on the wave and stay in front of the pile so you don’t broach. Once you are up to speed it’s an amazing feeling and I was able to look around for the first time, skiming along the green part of the wave with the pile behind and in control.

Well mostly in control. I got trashed three times and failed to roll – partly because of the surf but mostly I think my paddle which is now loose and spinning around in my hands. Need to get some loctite anerobic glue (used for thread locking should work on my steel shaft) although as I looked around for it I found the sumo stuff – maybe that’s the one for me!

sumo glue

As I was paddling around getting on waves, punching through etc I was thinking what an idiot to be surfing with this broken paddle but it was also good practice in a way – being so aware of paddle blade position.

When the surfers turned up it was instructive watching how they did it and I realised that surfing is much cooler and more interesting than surf kayaking. These guys are just so self sufficient – no masses of saftey equipment for them – just a board and shortie wetsuit…

The water was amazingly warm in the wet suit (though chilly without) and the weather was weird – 20km inland it was sunny and hot (26C) but getting the train home suddenly it got cold and foggy (unusual for here) with about 15kmph winds.

I finished up at 7:30 as the light was starting to fade. Tired and happy.

Again no pictures.

Cloud surfing

March 22, 2007

Burketown Northern Australia, under the Gulf of Carpentaria a cloud formation known as the Morning Glory:

cloud surfing

“With a population of just 178, Burketown sits in one of Australia’s most remote shires. But every September and October, a small group of individuals journey from all corners of the country for the appearance of a remarkable and dramatic cloud called the Morning Glory. Clouds don’t usually have names, nor are they normally linked to a particular location, but then the Morning Glory is no normal cloud. Looking like a huge white roll of meringue, it stretches up to 600 miles (about the length of Britain) and sweeps over Burketown at speeds of up to 35mph. The visitors who come to marvel at this beautiful and awe-inspiring meteorological phenomenon are an intrepid group of glider pilots, for whom the cloud promises the most unique and thrilling flying conditions of anywhere in the world. Each year they come to this sleepy town in the hope of ‘soaring’ the Morning Glory, an exhilarating gliding adventure that can only be described as cloud-surfing.”

source: the cloud apprecaition society but quoted and seen be me here

“After accidentally sleeping in the next morning, they made a scramble to get to the airport. “We lined up on the runway, just as the cloud rolled overhead, very low, eclipsing the sunshine as it went. We caught it halfway down the strip, the windsock still indicating nil wind, turned low and faced this great, grey Chiko Roll at 400 feet,” Russell says.

Rapidly they ascended to 330 metres, and suddenly they were at the front of the cloud, moving up quickly. It was at this moment that they killed the engine. “The silence was eerie as we continued to rise, awestruck by the spectacle. It was truly a magic moment.”

They rode the cloud inland until it petered out, then turned tail and headed back to Burketown, thrilled and amazed at what they had achieved. A few years later, Russell returned to do it all again and to his delight, reached speeds of 150km/hr, unofficially breaking several world records.”


Really does sound like surfing.

The original post by Kevin Kelly was about a book, the cloudspotters guide, about understanding cloud formations as predictions of weather. Douglas Wilcox posted on this subject: mackerel sky.

Surfing in Alaska

March 21, 2007

surf alaska

A still from a surf video on Alaska Sport Exposed. Interesting how small the break actually is and a very good instruction video (even though it’s not an instruction video). The kayaker is Martin Leonard, more about him another time.

Risk, surfing and a wet phone

September 30, 2006

Saturday 30th September 2006

Leaving home at 9am and picking up breakfast and a can of tinned hot coffee on the way I head to my usual put-in. These donuts by the way are amazing (they are on my list of things to miss when I get back to the UK) they are filled with a bean curd paste called anko.


They are a mix of unhealthy, sugary, fatty donut and healthy protein based bean paste and a great high energy food before kayaking. Nicknamed anpan these donuts even inspired a childrens comic book superhero: anpan-man. 2 for 100yen.

Again the westher forecast was wrong – it was supposed to be cloudy with the chance of rain, it started off cloudy but by 11am it was glorious sunshine and blue skies. Sadly by that time my cell phone and camera had stopped working. A little sea water got in my supposedly dry bottle (perhaps I’ve lost a rubber seal?) and my phone went a bit weird. It still runs, tells the time but none of the buttons except the on/off button work.

I wasn’t sure what to do, one idea was a long tour round the headlands and the other surfing. I had decided that I should spend the rest of the warm water season surfing but the cloudy weather wasn’t encouraging me to get wet. On the way to the put-in I drove to one end of the beach and had a look at the surf – it was looking lovely.


Read the rest of this entry »

Answers to surf questions

September 12, 2006

I posted about my first surfing experience last week and I have now done some research to answer the question posed there.

I found a brilliant description here, the first quarter of which I have decided to rip and post direct. It is obviously not my work but the internet is a fickle and quickly changing beast – who’s to know how long it will be there for. Anyway I strongly recommend reading the original with long descriptions of what to do during the ‘ride’, fascinating (and advanced) stuff.


Kayak Surfing ZoneSurfers have been taking to the waves in a variety of craft for centuries. The beginnings of board surfing is commonly known to have started in Hawaii. The beginnings of kayak surfing are shrouded in mystery.

Whilst Indians and Eskimos are typically sited as the forbears of canoeing and kayaking, it was the Polynesians that were first recorded to be surfing their war canoes in Captain Cook’s log. Read the rest of this entry »

Surfs up

September 7, 2006

Wednesday 6th September 2006

I got to my usual put in at 4.40pm and am getting more efficient at getting on the water so it didn’t take long. It was high tide and the sand bar was producing those small but long rolling waves. Maybe 20cm high. Fun, easy to get on, but not challenging so I quickly headed out along the coast.

wee ones

It’s raining and there is no-one around. [I have noticed that the Japanese people do not seem to like getting wet. I read somewhere that there are lots of umbrellas in Japan, 200milion in a country of 125million people. My mother-in-law has a theory about this. She says that in Japan it is harder to dry wet clothes inside (no central heating) so people tend to try and stay dry. It may also have to do with taking your shoes off, somehow but I digress.

Read the rest of this entry »

I love summer in Japan

August 7, 2006

Sunday 6th August 2006


Before I wrote all hail the Eskimo roll but I’m back to all fail the Eskimo roll!

Nori invited me to go kayaking with him as he planned to meet up with some friends and go to Kinkasan depending on the weather. The forecast was for small waves but potentially some difficult wind – opposite the wave direction. In the event the wind was almost non existent and the sea was calm.

I got up at 6:45 and, having stopped to buy ‘esa’ (a kind of lugworm), on the way was 10 minutes late to meet Nori. I was then delayed another 10 minutes trying to find him (no mobile phone coverage) in the big port of Ayukawa. This launch site (or putin, eh Nori?) was from the very place I suggested wouldn’t be a good launch site is my last post about Ajishima or Kinkasan. Today I was going to find out I was wrong about a few things: Read the rest of this entry »