As a sea kayaker that’s always been drawn to dynamic water, I have been hooked on surfing Skookumchuck from the first trip with VKC last year. It has even become something of an obsession, checking tidal software for the good days for months ahead and doing my best to book them off work if needed. And while I am generally fine paddling alone, Skooks falls into the whitewater category and soloing that is generally foolish and typically frowned upon.
The plan was to go with a couple paddling buddies, who ended up bailing with 1 day’s warning. I managed to get a hold of Reg Lake and he said he’s coming, and so are a few of the who’s who of the world of skooks surfing. So the trip was still on. Reg is a whitewater paddling legend from the days when the VW bus was the vehicle of choice for people of our sort. Nowadays he still actively paddles and co-designs boats with Sterling Kayaks. He is one of the people I consider to be expert at surfing Skooks in a sea kayak (the others I consider experts are the Hurricane Riders crew from Deep Cove Kayaks, and Warren), he has even designed one boat pretty much for that wave, the Sterling Reflection. Great guy who I had pleasure to meet last year on the coast. So I was already stoked, but somewhat intimidated at the same time (don’t chump out in front of the people who actually know what they’re doing!).
Driving off the early morning ferry, my anxiety not to chump out doubled when I saw the The Hurricane Riders truck with 3 boats on top, undoubtedly heading the same place I was.
After stopping in Sechelt to pick up some stuff, I headed for the launch and bumped into the The Hurricane Riders crew, some of who I knew (or knew about) and some I didn’t. Perhaps I should have followed their example of paddling out in shorts and a t-shirt because the day was so hot I ended up swimming in my wetsuit without ever ending up in the drink.
I paddled out to the spot where the wave would eventually build up, introduced myself to the THR guys, shared some stories and talked boat design. There ended up being 5 of us in total, 3 of them, Warren and myself. As it turned out later, Reg himself missed the ferry and didn’t make it.
As the wave built and we all got back in the boats, I got a nod from Warren and actually did not screw up! Off to a good start, we kept a good fair order of getting rides on the wave and lots of good rides were had by all throughout the day. The fact that the wave on that day ended up being friendlier than the 10kt speed suggested helped. As the day wore on, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse, to try out the mighty Sterling Reflection. Now, we’re talking a boat 16 ft long, so even with the massive amounts of rocker it has, I had some reservations as to what it can actually do on a wave. It simply blew me away. I thought my 12.5 footer Nifty385 was a cheater boat (that I brought hoping not to chump out at any cost). The Reflection actually ended up being better at maneuvering on the wave in just about every way, so I ended up feeling pretty OK about what I did in my own craft of choice(and budget). But if I could justify buying a $4500 composite sea kayak, the Reflection would be in my garage right now, it is THAT good.
Eventually it was time to return to the launch, the familiar routine of portaging up past the wave and then eddy hopping back. It was a great day at the wave with awesome people and I will be back. Sometimes it pays off to just go, even if you don’t really know who you’re going with.