Today we took a class in tidal currents with Mark Schoon of Carpe Diem Sea Kayaking from Bar Harbor. We've been looking forward to this for awhile, and I'll admit: I had some reservations about venturing into standing waves and other wild water. I've fallen asleep on the couch plenty of nights while watching any one of the This is The Sea dvds, and I've woken in the middle of the night, amid half-dreams of scary-looking water.
Well, fortunately, Sullivan Falls isn't Penryn Mawr or Anglesea or the Bitches or The Skooks. It is, however, the second biggest tidal race, or reversing falls in Maine. We started out slow, in some calm water. Mark got us warmed up and then coached us on our strokes, especially the low brace, an essential piece of the puzzle for managing currents. We moved on to ferrying across the current, to sliding in and out of eddies and then learned how to surf on a standing wave.
The above photo is of Todd going down. He'd been surfing on the standing waves, but got turned sideways to the current. We're more accustomed to doing a high brace on the wave side, so it feels counter-intuitive to lean downstream. Well, if you lean upstream, the current flips you right over. Fortunately, Mark is pretty quick at getting himself there for a rescue.
Bob came up from Cape Elizabeth. Three people to one instructor is a pretty nice student to teacher ratio. I didn't really get that many photos for the time we were out there; I was too busy keeping up, and I'm sorry, but I just wasn't ready to take the camera out in the thick of the gnarliest waves. One mental picture I have is of looking downstream to see Todd on a big wave, nearly vertical, his bow buried beneath the current. It inspired me to paddle extra hard to keep myself off that wave.
We had a great day and learned a lot. Mark could have kept going, but the three of us were worn-out, and the waves were only getting bigger. Besides, my helmet was squeezing my brain. Any one of the many things we learned today would have made the class well worth it. Aside from that, it was a blast.