Sandy Hook is a large sandy hook capturing a bay on its west side and the sandy surface of the submarine Hudson Canyon in the Atlantic Ocean on its east. When the National Park Ranger told us there were great white sharks in the waters, we immediately loaded up a paddleboard and sought out the salty sea. Gateway National Recreation Area encompasses Sandy Hook and other awe inspiring oceanic sections of New Jersey and New York, and it was to the Hook I headed (with a borrowed Epic V10, courtesy of the Hoboken Cove Community Boathouse) for what was my first surfski session since my immersion with Oscar Chalupsky.
I am a fourth season outrigger paddler and only a second season OC1 paddler, with few options to launch directly from my Brooklyn headquarters via surfski. The Hoboken Cove just happens to be loaded with kayaks and kayakers and puts 6000 people a year into its boats. I'm one of them. I hitched myself to the Cove's staycation and ventured out with them to Sandy Hook for this rare opportunity to get back onto a surfski. It was the Hoboken Cove after all that gave me my first two wobbly minutes in a surfski before I headed out to Michigan in June for surfski immersion with Oscar C.
ARE YOU INTIMIDATED BY YOUR SURFSKI?
It's not uncommon. Just who did I think I was, launching a V10 into the Atlantic Ocean? I set myself side-saddle in the V10, took one stroke while lifting one leg in, took another and...off I went. Remembering my paddle was my outrigger, I got into a pattern of bracing against the wind driven surf, making long football field arcs. I got the wobbles turning over the surf and questioned my sanity, but I returned to the beach over and over to drop my legs out side-saddle. With each dry return to the shore, I became more confident. Oscar was right, practice makes permanent. Just remember to practice!
All too often we emphasize distance over drills. I hear from seasoned outrigger paddlers that they lean too far to the left and get sore. Why not just practice how far you can lean? Why not practice bracing? Why not practice simply getting into the kayak or canoe?
While we were loading up the V10 a fellow came up and asked me what it was - some kind of sea kayak? - he wanted to know. I explained that it was, and that it was called a surfski. So, you can literally surf in it? he wanted to know. Yes, I told him, yes. At least in our imaginations, for we aren't that practiced yet!