Kayak Surfing with a Friend

Today I met Pierre de Chabannes, a young Frenchman interning at the Ponçon’s La Cumplida farm in Matagalpa. A student at a French University, he is working on repairing and improving the current hydroelectric dam/canal system in place at La Cumplida so that the farm can produce enough electricity to supply the surrounding area in Matagalpa.

After showing Pierre around the ecolodge, we decided to go kayaking in the cove. We went out past Morgan’s Rock and then crossed over to the other side of the cove before returning to the coast, where we caught a wave onto shore and tried surfing a couple times. Eager to surf some more, Pierre switched his seat to the back of the kayak (we’d had them in the middle), where he thought it would allow him to control the direction better, as well as prevent the nose of the kayak from plunging into the water and causing a flip (which had happened to both of us already). Controlling the direction was also useful because we had both been pushed parallel to the wave we were riding several times despite out best efforts. When he switched to the back seat, Pierre surfed all the way to shore with little difficulty, so I soon made the same change.

It was a great decision. A couple waves later we were both expertly catching waves and taking them to shore. The amazing part of this newer, better surfing was that about 90% of the kayak was left floating as if by magic in the air, while just the back tip we were sitting in stayed in the water. Although I wasn’t able to capture the most extreme example of this on camera, I do have this video of Pierre riding a small but fast wave to shore.

But even when surfing from the back seat, you must be ready to flip or capsize at any moment. For this reason I kayak with a lifejacket and without sunglasses or a hat. It is never difficult to flip the kayak upright and hop back in, but with bigger waves the vessel and your paddle can get carried an inconvenient distance to shore. Pierre and I decided that as the ocean is getting closer to high tide, which in Ocotal’s case means 3PM or so, the waves are best for kayak surfing because they originate farther out and don’t break until very close to the shore, thereby providing the longest and smoothest ride possible without compromising speed.

The other benefit of the back seat is that paddling through the waves to get away from shore is much easier, since the kayak’s nose cuts through the waves instead of slamming into them and sending a splash of water strong enough to knock you backwards or even off the kayak. However, once the waves get larger and stronger, sitting in the back also makes it more likely that the waves will flip you and the vessel over backwards. In general even capsizing can be fun, and part of the challenge and adrenaline of the surfing experience. Who knows, maybe Pierre and I can make a sport out of back flipping off waves in our kayaks.

4 thoughts on “Kayak Surfing with a Friend

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