This was a beautiful morning, with warm air, sunshine, and no wind at 8:00am in Point Reyes National Seashore. A book I have called "Quiet Waters in the Bay Area" says that Drakes Bay is accessable by kayak here, but the walk down to the beach is long. Compared to some of the hikes I have done carying a kayak, this was a piece of cake. The NOAA report said that the swells at sea were 7 feet and climbing a few hours ago, but I expected much milder waves at Limantour Beach where there was some protection in Drakes Bay. I considered leaving my jacket behind, but took it down to the beach when I heard the waves breaking from the parking lot. Then when the waves turned out to be as mild as I hoped, I forgot to send the jacket back o the car with Dad. Strapped to the front of the kayak, it got all wet and had to be rinsed out later, even though I never used it. As I got into the water, the safety line wrapped around the nose of the kayak and prevented me from getting effective strokes. As a result, I got caught by the next wave and got a face full of cold salt water on this mild day. I've done better on worse beaches! Oh well.
The waves were mild, and I was able to stay 30 meters or less from the shore and enjoy the sound of the breakers as I paddled. Most of the way along Limantour Spit, the water was clear and I could see ripples of sunlight and my shadow on the yellow sandy bottom. But when I got to the opening to Drakes Estero, there was a sand bar underwater, sticking way out to sea. This caused the waves to rise up and break farther out, and I had to go 400 meters or so out into the bay to get around them. The sandbar had a complex shape underwater that I could not see, and caused the breakers to raise up in different places. One time, I saw the water under me turn yellow in the trough of a wave, and looked down to see that the water under me was less than a meter deep. RED ALERT! SHIELDS UP! FULL SPEED AHEAD! Too late, the next wave rose up in front of me and broke. I got very wet, but managed to stay on the kayak. I stayed farther from shore for a while and was a little more paranoid about the height of the waves and the depth of the water for a while.
The breakers over that sand bar and the low tide prevented me from even considering going inside Drakes Estero this trip, so I made it to Drakes Beach much sooner than I expected. At first I didn't realize how early I was, and I worried about Dad showing up to pick me up. Did my VW Bus fail to start for him? Is he going to the right beach? I waited offshore for a few minutes, marveling that the water was so shallow that I could push my paddle down and find the bottom. (Less than 2 meters). And yet the mild waves were breaking closer to shore and the shallow bottom wasn't causing me a problem. Away from the beach, I could see details on the sandy bottom, like sand ripples, rocks, shells, and even a crab. Finally I went ashore and asked someone what time it was: 9:50am. I had arrived 40 minutes ahead of my best estimate.
So with the extra time, I went back out to sea and practiced surfing. Usually, I am afraid of the breakers, and go to great lengths to find calm spots on the beach, wait for low waves, then charge in to get ashore without getting in trouble. This time, I took the bull by the horns and waited for the largest waves, and rode them in. I did this 6 times at Drakes Beach, and only wiped out once! For the first time, I managed to surf the waves before they broke. When a wave started to break, the kayak seemed to pause, and I would brace into the water as it broke. Then there would be a second ride the rest of the way up the beach in the breakers. The last ride ashore was after Dad arrived. He was not impressed: The waves did not look very big to him.