Emilie Phillips updated October 11, 2017
On their own, my parents are flat water paddlers. When they visit, I push them to play in ocean waves. This time I also wanted to demonstrate what their new kayaks could do. Magic Seaweed predicted 1 to 2 foot waves with 9 to 10 second period at Hampton Beach. Just right for a beginner surf session.
The bright sun warmed the 65F air and water. In 5 years of disuse my dry suit and dry top gaskets died, so I wore all neoprene. My Dad forgot his dry suit at our house, so he wore fleece under Tyson’s dry top. Dad would be warm as long as he kept a traditional dry Greenland cockpit. I was relying on the lingering summer heat in thte water.
We stopped in the eddies and standing waves behind the Rt 1A bridge piers. My kayak raced ahead of the standing waves. Dad liked them because they were small and predictable. After a little bit of play, we continued out the harbor to Seabrook beach. Waves crashed on the rocks at the end of the harbor, but just south, they were mellower. Two surfers tried a small break without much luck. The waves looked better suited to our long boats than their short surf boards.
Tyson rode in and pulled up on shore first. I tried to come in second so I could help my parents, but they were less patient than I. We all arrived on shore in one jumble. The waves flipped my Dad in the shallows. He rolled back up dry, missing one lens from his prescription sunglasses. When we searched the water, it was a tumult of bubbles and sand. I couldn’t see anything. For my Dad, the whole world was now a blur.
After lunch, Isaac and Tyson went swimming in the waves and the rest of us headed out to surf. Dad was navigating by braille and didn’t catch many waves. As he said, “when you feel the stern rise, it’s too late to start paddling.”
Mom approached the waves with her usual grim determination. She would ride a wave until it broke near Tyson and Isaac, then the wave would flip her, she would roll upright, and finally the wave would strand her on the beach. Then she would laboriously push herself back into the water and start over. Mom struggled with her first rolls. Bobbing in the water, Tyson saw the problem.
“You need to roll the other way,” he instructed, “with the wave.”
Once Mom had that down, Tyson’s next advice was “give up on the stern rudder earlier. Switch to a low brace before the wave breaks. The rising water in the wave” he asserted, “will hold all your weight.”
Next thing I knew, Mom wasn’t getting thrashed near shore any more, she was out surfing the smooth waves with me.
“How do you carve off a wave?” she wanted to know.
“Start turning” I said, “well before the wave breaks. Then low brace and ride out over the top.”
Over the backside of a wave three tries later, I saw the parallel eddy lines etched by a low brace, the inside of the hull, and the outside of the hull curving to the left. I knew she had it. Sure enough, she slipped back over the wave grinning and hollering just as the wave broke.
This was the best Mom had ever surfed and the happiest we had seen her. Later, I thought back to other times we have taken my parents surfing. The last real surf session was 5 years ago when Mom was still paddling the Impex. A properly fitting kayak does miracles.
Shortly thereafter, the waves died down. Tyson had enough of swimming, my Dad enough of paddling blind, and I too cold from the water. We called it a good day and headed back to the harbor.