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 Justine's Journal

CackleTV Productions


Perfect Day on the water?
Monday, May 21, 2007

I will never get bored of paddling 'around the Stacks' on Anglesey. The convoluted folds in the cliffs, the narrow gaps between stacks and through arches, not to mention the stunning lighthouse on South Stack, mean it's always a beautiful paddle. On Sunday, the hundreds of guillemots & razor bills flying around and sat on the sea added something extra, as did the sunshine, the light breeze & the moderate swell - the remains of 2 days of stormy weather. Barry, Axel & I set off from Porthdafarch around 11.30am, aiming to catch the last of the flood tide through Penrhyn Mawr. The boys had seen the notorious race from the cliff tops earlier and said there was white everywhere so we didn't mind getting there a bit 'late'! Hopefully it would be a bit smaller and more maneagable by now! Once in the eddy besides the race, none of us rushed to get surfing. There were big breaking waves everywhere and we wanted to watch for a while! The inner race - often the wiser choice if it's raging too much - had smaller waves, but they were more confused. We had a few tentative surfs there but were being thrown all over the place. So it was out into the outer race where you'd paddle to catch a wave, pause to ask yourself whether it was really a good idea, then either dig deep and surge down the several metre face with a massive feeling of exhileration ( and just a little fear!) or back off a little and let it roll under you. We all had some great rides - a few stand out for me, like the one where my bow slid inescapably into a deep hole in front of the wave and I was convinced I'd pop out, capsize and then have to roll. Fortunately the boat turned around 180 degrees when it was nearly vertical and I was back upright but facing the way I'd come from, grinning at Barry who was surfing towards me. The other memorable wave was when I inadvertantly ended up surfing the angry looking, 3 metre high steep front wave, which all of us had been avoiding. About 3 waves back, I caught such a good one that I just kept going and suddenly I was on the front wave careering down the face. It's hard to describe but surfing on a tidal race wave is a bit like surfing down an escalator that's moving upwards. The tide is constantly pushing the sea towards you - and yesterday the flow was at leat 4 knots - so as you surf down the wave and are convinced that you're going to disappear into the trough at the bottom of it, the sea moving towards you means it takes longer to reach the bottom and you usually surf just fine all the way down and end up still shooting forwards on the flat water in front. Maybe that explanation is 'not correct' but that's what it feels like to me, and the knowledge that this often happens is usually enough to convince me to take that extra paddle stroke and commit to the steepest part of a wave which feels really intimidating and which I'd never purposefully surf on a beach.

So after an hour and a half surfing at Penrhyn Mawr with big grins on our faces, you'd think that any sensible person would go home and put their feet up. Barry Shaw had different ideas. "It's a beautiful day, let's go round the Stacks", he suggested with a big smile. Axel and I were feeling tired already but didn't like to be party poopers so we agreed to the extra miles. We paddled close in to the rocks to South Stack, under the bridge and close in again to Parliament House Cave for a well earned lunch. We all lay down on the rocks in the sun and shut our eyes for an hour or so before getting back on the water with a hitch-hicker. A football we'd found snuck into my cockpit! The next half an hour was spent in North Stack Race not only trying to catch the waves, but trying to catch the ball. I'm not sure how many other people have played canoe polo in a tidal race but we enjoyed it. Eventually I had to drag Barry away and we headed off towards home. As tired as i was, the waves at the South Stack race looked very inviting and I suggested having a 'quick surf' for a couple of minutes. 20 minutes later, I again dragged Barry away as once I'd caught a few waves, my tiredness won over my enthusiasm. So it was back to Penrhyn Mawr for round 2! Fortunately - and I don't often say this - the race hadn't started there yet so there was no temptation to play and we continued to Porthdafarch, and landed at 6pm! A fantastic day on the water.

Thanks Axel for the photos!


Blogger derrick said...

sounds like a fun day. Brat!

7:50 pm  

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