This past weekend was the national championship for surf kayaking, held at Davenport, CA, and organized by Buck Johnson. I went down a day early to get a practice session in. Friday was super fun. I was on the water from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., one of my longest surf sessions ever, stopping only for short breaks. Super fun. Throughout the day, it was a changing cast of characters, including some really strong paddlers, some people that are brand new to the sport, and every level in between. I had a great time hanging out and surfing.

Saturday: Showed up early, just as the sun was rising.   The waves weren’t huge, but were pretty solid and big.   Heats ran from 8 in the morning until a little after noon, and the swell just kept building.  Bigger, and bigger, and bigger.   The Level of surfing displayed in the group was really impressive.  It was fun to watch, and even more fun to surf.  As soon as the heats ended, I was outside, waiting for waves.  They’d gotten BIG.  Some in the SOLID 15-18 foot range, in my estimation.  Big, powerful waves.   Dan Crandall and I were sitting outside, and this huge wall was powering towards us.   I wasn’t sure if I should go, it was big enough to be scary, and I was worried I was in the wrong spot.  Dan looked at me and said, “If you don’t go, I will” which was all the prompting I needed.  I turned for it, dropped in.  Dropping in felt like running a waterfall, it was such a long way down.   Crank a bottom turn, and run.   Wow.  Wow. Wow.  What a wave!  It help up forever, just a perfect wall of water and energy.   If it was the only wave I caught that weekend, it would have been worth the trip.  Wow.   Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of this session, as I was on the water, but it was spectacular.

And there were others like it.   Like a hard whitewater run, it was that line between exhilaration and scary. Big waves are fun, but unforgiving of mistakes, and Davenport can be a tough spot, as being in the wrong spot can send you crashing into rocks and cliffs.  Crazy good conditions.
Sat afternoon was a party at a local cafe, with tons of good food, and a fun band.    Good times with good people.
After the Party, Kim and returned to the comfortable beach home we were staying at.  It was the home of a friend of a friend, and we appreciated their hospitality, and enjoyed the conversation at dinner.
I slept a little restless that night.  Reports had the swell building, and I was little nervous that it would be stomping huge.

Woke early and got up, headed up to the beach.  I had an early heat.   Arrived to find the waves were still good size, but smaller than Saturday afternoon.  It was super foggy though, foggy enough that the competition was delayed 20 minutes in the hopes it would lift enough for the judges to see. Soon enough, I was suited up and paddled out for my 1st High Performance (HP) heat.   I was pretty pleased, felt like I surfed well, but I watch my friend Eric catch some gorgeous big waves, and tear them up, and knew he’d beat me long before seeing the scores.  I took second in the heat.   It was enough to take me into the Semi-finals, so I was pleased by that.   Kim was here, and trying to take pictures, but with the fog, there are not really many good ones.

Just a bit later, it was time for my International Class (IC) heat.   I rarely surf the long IC boat.  I had surfed it Friday for the 1st time since this contest last year!   Although I like their speed, I find them difficult to surf and control.    I was in a heat with two guys who have won national and world championships, so I wasn’t expecting much, and indeed, came in third.    Suprisingly though, my score was the highest of any of my heats, higher than my HP heats!   How did that happen?

Next up was my Semi-final heat for HP.   It was me, Sean Morley, Buck Johnson, and Alexander Stubbs.   Sean won the heat, then Buck, then Alexandar, then me, but I was pleased that my scores were only a few points away from what would have been needed to take me to the finals. All in all, I was pleased with my surfing and how I did.  I didn’t win, but considering the caliber of paddlers at the contest, I hardly expected too.  It was fun, and great crew of people.   The level of performance was stunning.

We did have a couple of scary moments.  On Saturday, after the contest, a paddle swam and lost his boat.  He was outside when a big set came through (they were huge) and lost his boat.  He was swimming and getting pushed way south, and none of the other kayakers realized there was a problem for 20 minutes or so.  Then, finally, a paddler spotted him and raised an alert, and several people went to his aid.  As far as I know, his boat is still missing.

When the bigger waves hit the rock I'm standing on, it threatened to wash me off.

Sunday, the same paddler (in a borrowed boat) swam on the inside, near the cliffs.  He was lucky to have his boat and paddle wash in with him, and after resting tried to paddle out.   Unfortunately, he got clobbered again, and swam.  The waves washed him and his boat into the dangerous rocks, where we had some difficulty getting him out. Thankfully, he escaped with a battered nose, a broken boat, and some bruises.   Thanks to Kristie, Jeff, Matt, and Mark for their help.

There was a fair amount of carnage this weekend. I personally helped fix 3 boats, and know of two others that were irreparable, but thankfully no serious injuries to any competitors!

All in all, simply a phenomenal weekend.  The most fun I’ve ever had at a contest.  Great people, incredible waves, good party.  Everything you could want.    Buck did an incredible job, and it is much appreciated.  Thanks Buck!


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