Saturday morning we had Outrigger Canoe practice for everyone who didn’t race the previous weekend. Outrigger canoeing is that sport with 6 paddlers in a Hawaiian open ocean canoe with an ama (pontoon).
2 boats filled with paddlers, we set out for a normal practice in the ocean. As is typical for the San Diego ocean area, there was wildlife of all varieties around us including dolphins, sea lions, and sea otters. While somewhat common, I always enjoy seeing ocean animals in their natural environment. This Saturday was no exception.
We paddled a 30 minute piece south out of Mission Beach toward Point Loma for the first leg of practice. Just before Sunset Cliffs, we found a boat from a Kai Elua, a competing canoe club, surfing in their boat across a non breaking reef. Coach Aron stopped us about 150 yards out and tortured us with boat-ups watching Kai Elua catch wave after wave. Then he said, “Do you guys want to try surfing?” Elating our combined mutual desire, nobody even hesitated. We were in!
We lined both our boats up just like Kai Elua, right where the waves were “breaking”, and waited for our first opportunity. It came almost right away. We paddled like hell to catch our first wave. The wave picked us up, and looked like it was going to break on top of the boat. If the wave broke on our boat, we were certain to huli (capsize) right in the breaking wave area making getting out very difficult.
I snapped the boat to the left, which caused the amma to go up the side of the wave putting our boat at almost a 90 degree angle to the ocean. Skip jumped up and grabbed the amma, and pushed it through the top of the wave preventing us from huling.
We recovered, paddled a few yards out of the way of the next wave. Paddlers in our boat said “That was almost disastrous! Let’s do it again!” Who am I to argue with crazy ideas? Having no experience in riding an outrigger into surf, I had to rely on but my long board surfing skills to determine the location for our next departure. We paddled out to a spot slightly farther out in the water and waited.
A short while later our wave peeked above the water and I gave the call to paddle! The team responded immediately with full speed ahead. We caught the wave right away. It was like being in Hawaii catching a wave toward the beach. The boat picked up, pointed its way down the wave, and started to move all by itself.
John, who was stroking (first seat) our boat, realized we had caught the wave, pulled his paddle out of the water, put it in the boat. He then stretched his hands straight up in the air like he was riding a roller coaster. Like a great team, everyone followed suit. From the back of the boat it looked like we were on a huge roller coaster with 4 people screaming to have their picture taken.
We rode that wave so much farther than the first wave, and never worried about going over. You couldn’t wipe our grins off our faces for anything.