You get lots of types of surf and just as many types of beaches. I am just sharing what I have learnt over the years. I do have a skippers ticket and have been out to sea many times on different types of boats. I remember the first time I went out to sea. My dad has just finished running in his motors and we were at Mtunzini. So he said to me and my mate, lets go do a Surf Launch. The nice part of that launch is that you that can launch out of the river mouth. Well it was a frightening experience that day. We managed to go over a few small waves, but the next thing there was this massive wave that was just about to break, we had to punch through it. I remember cutting my knees as I was flung into the air and water sprayed onto my face as we went through the wave, then landing on my knees on the other side of the wave. The shock was short lived as the next wave was even bigger, I am so glad my dad turned the boat and we were out of there. I have learnt a lot of respect for the sea over the years, and have a deep love for it.
Well I did many more launches after that. Some straight off the beach, some through river mouths and some protected behind reefs. I do have many stories but that will be for another post. This post is about surf launching on a fishingski (kayak).
Waves come in sets. That means you will have a few big waves then a few small waves. I am not a good one for maths but I will watch the waves for a while before I make any move. The other thing is that the waves always look much bigger when you are sitting on your fishingski with them charging down at you compared to when you are on the beach. So watch the waves and look for the sets. Another challenge is you don’t have the speed and power on a fishingski like a ski boat so you need to plan ahead a bit. There is nothing more scary then being caught at the breaking point of the waves and the big set is still building up behind that. You are going to get nailed hard and with no mercy.
You get steep beaches, flat beaches and beaches with a sandbar, just to name a few. There might even be a channel. Just watch the channel as only very big waves break in them. Steep beaches tend to have a shore dump and even before you are on your fishingski you could be back up the beach. Steep beaches sometimes have a step down just before the wave breaks. This makes it hard to get onto you ski when you are in deep water and on top of the wave and getting pushed back to the beach. If you can get past the shore break quickly, generally you should be then on you way to the next part of the fun and games. The technique I use to get beyond the shore break is to hold my fishing ski by the foot strap with one arm. The other arm has the paddle. You are holding the fishingski like a suitcase at your side. I do this as close to the water as I can. Sometimes I do have to move back as a big wave comes and will turn the fishingski, don’t rush it. Just after the right wave has hit the beach I run and drop my ski into the water. Now putting both hands on each side of the foot wells I keep running and pushing the fishingski as fast as I can. The main thing you want is momentum, as this will keep you going forward. I then throw my leg over the fishingski but keep them both out of the water. So I am now in a pushup position on the fishingski and the boat is still moving forward. Then it is bum in the seat, bring the feet forward, paddle on the go and feet into the foot straps. All in one fluid motion. You need to keep moving forward otherwise the waves will push you back up the beach. If you watch surfers you will see this is how they get going. The thing is they don’t get into a sitting position afterwards, but what they do works.
So you have got past the shore break, depending on your area you might have a mid-break. A mid-break is cool to help you catch your breath and plan your next run. If you have no mid-break you would need to just keep paddling and keep the forward momentum going as you either punch through foamies or go over waves. Keep paddling as it is very important that you have power when you punch a wave. If you have stopped and a wave hits you, you will go backwards and you will fall off your boat. I have sometimes gone over a wave only to land a bit skew and then loose my balance and fall off my ski. It is just one of those things. If you do fall off and the waves are rather close and you feel you wont be able to get back on time before the next wave comes hold onto your boat. I normally hold onto the front of my boat, because it will be upside down and I bring my hand as close to my chest as I can. This way I can use my folded arm as a sort of shock absorber as the wave tries to pull the boat from me. My body then also acts as a sea anchor and the boat is facing out to sea when I am ready to flip it over and jump on. I sometimes feel like a wave is just to big and it is very close to breaking and there is just no way I am going to make it. I will jump off my fishingski and flip it over and hold onto the front for dear life. Sometimes it works but sometimes the force is just to strong and I will not be able to hold the ski. Then I have to swim. Never let go of your paddle.
At the end of the trip when you get beyond the surf zone you can then enjoy the fishing and it will all be worth it. Sometimes you don’t even get your hair wet, so what is all the fuss about. I just love it, no matter what happens.