I was in Richmond Thursday evening to practice my Eskimo roll in The Plunge (a heated swimming pool open to kayakers two evenings a week). Then I was picking up Maryly at the airport at 2:00 PM the next afternoon. I didn't have a portable project to work on, and was trying to decide if I wanted to drive home to try and get some work done Friday morning or just stay in the Bay Area. Then Sami Iwata called and asked if I would be interested in playing hooky on Friday with her and going kayaking. It seemed a reasonable way to spend the morning, so I agreed. I had a sit-inside white-water river kayak with me in Oakland and suggested that we go to Muir Beach and practice surfing in the mild waves we should find there. Sami agreed and showed up with a river kayak of her own.
Although the waves were mild, there was an unseasonable wind coming from the east. This cold wind blew around us and out to sea, making us cold before we had even gotten wet. Sami jumped in the water first and paddled out over the waves to the open ocean while I was still getting ready. I discovered that the foot-pedals on this kayak were way too short when I was wearing a wetsuit and thick-soled sandals. I managed to cram myself in but my legs felt cramped and I figured I would not want to spend very much time in the water today. I also had trouble getting the spray-skirt attached to the boat securely, and it slipped part way off when I launched out through the waves. Only a little water got in so I re-attached it and paddled out to meet Sami. We were supposed to be there to practice surfing, but the only waves that looked surfable this far out were pretty large and scary. We failed to catch a few rides and started getting pretty cold.
Sami suggested paddling down the coast a ways to get warmed up and we headed south towards Point Bonita. A river kayak is supposed to be maneuverable but this also means they do not track well. My boat kept turning when I wanted it to go straight and sometimes even spun ninety degrees and slid sideways in the water. I noticed that the wind was turning to follow us from the north, and suggested that we turn back after only a kilometer or so. Sami hadn't noticed the wind so she was glad to turn back before we had more of it to paddle back into. I happily discovered that my river kayak tracked better when paddling into a headwind and had fewer problems than on the trip out.
Once back we cautiously approached shore looking for those surfing rides we had come for. Sami managed to catch a wave that I missed and was surfed towards shore, then disappeared when the wave suddenly broke. I was worried for a few seconds until the wave subsided and Sami paddled back out. Her excellent bracing skill had kept her upright even in the breaking wave! With the cold wind, a tipsy boat, and cramping legs, I was pretty sure I didn't want to practice my Eskimo roll in the cold ocean. I was pretty nervous in the water and unsure if I would be able to roll back up in a real situation.
Looking over my shoulder I saw a large wave hump up over the rocks on the north point of the little bay that surrounds Muir Beach. I figured we had a few more waves before it got here, and I didn't want to be in the way. I warned Sami about it and told her I was heading in for a landing. I tried to surf two small waves in, but didn't do a very god job. I heard Sami shout "OH NO!" as the large wave arrived and broke far behind us. I was relieved because I feel very comfortable bracing into an already broken wave. So I waited in the shallow water for the breaker to arrive and side surfed it up the beach. It took two more large waves to get me far enough up the sand to pop off the spray-skirt and get out. I was jazzed that I had braved the ocean in a sit-inside kayak without getting in trouble and without tipping over. I had correctly read the waves for a safe landing and had generally not embarrassed myself!
Although we had only been on the water for 45 minutes, we went back to our cars and started packing up to leave. When I calmed down it occurred to me that we should have stayed close to shore the whole time, riding the small waves and staying inside the area where the large waves broke. But neither of us was willing to put our wetsuits back on and go get cold again.