“Rock hopping” in a sea kayak means squeezing through, and over, and around, rocks and crevices and tunnels on benevolent pillows of water that boost you up and over, without you losing your nose. The whole business is unnecessary, for the most part, and a tad risky—therefore, FUN.
We joined sea-kayaking friends (including Johna of windagainstcurrent) on the rocky coastline of Rhode Island slash Massachusetts for a long weekend of training with coaches John Carmody, John Ozard (shout-out for several pics in this post) and Carl Ladd. Special thanks also to Carl’s Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures of Westport, MA.
We launched from Sakonnet Harbor on the Sakonnet River in RI and headed south beyond Sakonnet Point to play in the areas adjacent to West Island and East Island. In chart-speak, that’s Rk or FOUL or * … ROCKS!
Undeniable Fact: Rocks hurt. Fortunately, we did not learn this the hard way (pun intended). But as John Carmody pointed out, you’re not immune to trouble in a plastic (vs. fiberglass) kayak; your body’s still there—and vulnerable.
If You Only Remember One Thing: Water between you and a rock is preferable.
Funny how rock-hopping skills have a lot in common with capital-L “life” skills…not to get all Tuesdays With Morrie on you, but the analogy ‘s a hoot!
Lesson #1: Be patient. Watch the swell, at least one set (larger and smaller waves). See how the water is behaving, look for patterns. What will your timing need to be, your moves? Determine if you can go through at all.
Lesson #2: Don’t look back. When you’re poised to go through, feel the water. If the water in front of you suddenly recedes more than normal (i.e., the rock is exposed), you know there’s a big wave coming–no need to look behind you to see it. You should be looking at where you want to go, not over your shoulder or at the bow of your boat.
Lesson #3: Don’t let yourself get pushed around. Avoid surfing through, which puts you at the mercy of the wave. Instead, ride the pillow of water.
Lesson #4: Go with the flow (in other words, deal with it). You can’t control the environment because the environment will always win. Observe, then work with it. Take eddies, for example: You can use the ones on either side of a rock to turn your boat in safely behind it. When moving past the rock’s side, let your bow “stick” in the eddyline. Then edge away from the rock, as if admiring it, and voila! your stern swings into place. You’ve still got your nose AND a safe place to hang out.
Lesson #5: Use your support systems (back-paddle). Edge as you go in reverse, putting weight on your paddle blade—it’s super supportive. Do this when a wave’s pushing you onto a rock (provided your bow is pointed at the rock face). Back-paddle to get out of the situation—similar to back-peddling (like, when you realize you’ve just ruined the surprise party).
Lesson #6: Stay local. How could anyone pass up the Moby Dick Motel? The lighthouse kitsch. The wooden pipe-smoking sailor. The lobby-window sign, If you’re smokin’ you’d better be on fire. Similarities to the novel end with the name—we had the bed all to ourselves.