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Saturday, 22 November 2014
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Hardest days sailing of my life!

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4 degrees centigrade. That's the coldest I usually go sailing in. It's never seemed too bad, but there never seems to have been a colder windsurfing forecast worth going on.

Until yesterday. Yesterday was forecast Easterly winds, 13ft, snow, and 3 degrees C. 

The swell direction and size meant that a rare East coast gem would break again and the wind would be the best angle I'd seen. I would almost have driven the 2 hrs just to see it breaking at this size. Plenty of people were snowed in, schools closed, more snow forecast, I decided to trundle off for a day at the seaside :)

I half expected to find the secret little spot inaccessible when I got there, but was a bit disappointed to see there wasn't actually that much snow on the ground, I guess the salty spray off the sea had melted it all. So drove straight up and spotted some surfers and a jetski already out. (having back up when it's this cold must be great!)

I weighed it up, decided it was do-able and I wouldn't get in the way, so headed out. 

It's actually one of the heaviest waves on the East coast, and that's saying something in these parts. The problem is for windsurfing the wind blows straight offshore and over other obstacles, so it's super gusty (but actually side shore to the wave), and the wave so fast and hollow that you can't slow down in front of it (or you'll get steam rollered ) -not a great combination I promise you. So for the first session I played it safe. I could honestly barely feel my fingers and wearing the palm-less mitts was still giving me cramp. The gusty wind meant you couldn't really sit back in the harness, you were always fighting it. I had to sit down on my kit a few times and just get my hands warm again. After catching a few waves I figured it would be best to take a break, and get a dose of hot aches out the way, after that it usually isn't so bad for me.

Some pics from that first session by Ian Forsyth. Lots of the surfers which was Gabe Davies and friends..

 http://www.ianforsythphotographer.com/surf-blog/?p=3412

I warmed up back at the van and had a few words with myself about manning up and going for it. It definitely felt warmer, maybe I was getting acclimatised, -the air tempt was still only 1 deg!

The first wave went really well -a mid sized one so I managed to get some good turns. Next run out back and I pick up a beauty, easily a mast high lump, and feeling confident as I can feel my hands this time! I set up deep and get ready to race it, take the drop and try to set up to hit the critical part, but then the wind totally disappears out my sail and the lips going to break right on me. I try and throw the kit out front and dive off, as I'm not prepared to take a tumble strapped in with the kit -it's shallow boulders! 

I get a pretty damn good pasting and eventually surface to see the board and rig have gone separate ways.

Here's the wipeout captured by James Cummings..

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescummingspics/sets/72157632576178881/with/8402234165/

Now things really got tricky! The wind was offshore, the tide outgoing, the swell pretty big..  I was paddling my arse off with the board and rig but going nowhere. The mast and boom were fine, but the sail was in two bits, so I still wanted to salvage it. I've never ditched a rig in my life, but this was looking desperate! Remember it's a tad baltic!

Luckily I'm getting dragged towards a buoy, so tie the rig remains to that and it now becomes evident just how bad the rip is as it's dragging my kit underwater with a good 5knot current, just what I need! It takes me an age to paddle the board in. Luckily the surfers have been keeping an eye on me and had slightly embarrassingly called the coast guard, but thankfully stand them down when they realise I'm making headway. Phew.

After bit of a rest, I've got the task of re rigging and sailing out to salvage the rig. This was bloody hard work. Towing speed was about 5mph with clawed numb hands, and I had to sail non stop for about 2 miles to make land. Yes the hot aches were just sublime! 

By the time I'd sorted my kit out it was dark, so the surf I was looking forward to never happened. Lessons learned? Well not much else I could have done really. I managed to get myself out of a pretty extreme pickle, but had it gone the other way there were at least people looking out for me for which I'm very thankful. If I'd paddled the board straight in I'd have not really have been in a predicament at all, but I'm obviously pretty happy to not have lost the carbon mast/boom.

Gotta love the East coast though, 2 hrs from my door and waves gnarly as anywhere. I've actually sailed this spot before when the wind was much steadier and slightly cross on, and the swell smaller and it was hell of a lot easier. Ideally the wind needs to go round further and be full cross off and it would be a lot cleaner, not sure it'll ever happen though.

Some of my pics from the morning, not as good as the links above..

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