Since my revelation that my brother Ralph might really like to Sea Kayak, I have been trying to arrange to take him surfing with his son Jeremy. We tried a few times but had scheduling problems or the swells at sea rose up too high. Friday morning I wanted to pack up to go to Berkeley, but at 8:00 AM I checked the NOAA wave data on the WEB and found that the swells had calmed down to 5 feet, and it would be an ideal morning. So I called Ralph up on the spur of the moment and talked him into it. We took both my kayaks and his Frenzy, both my wetsuits, Jeremy and his wetsuit to Salmon Creek Beach. Ralph put on my 7 mm wetsuit, complete with the jacket. I put on my old 3 mm wetsuit with the boots and gloves to try and make up the difference.
Ralph said this was a momentous occasion: He had lived in Sonoma County his whole life, but had never been in the ocean. I had him get in the kayak in the shallow water and turned him sideways to a breaker. He forgot the verbal lessons I had given him, and with a puzzled expression, he had time to ask "Did you do that on purpose"? As the wave arrived, I still had time to point at the end of his paddle, then at the breakers and say "Put this, in there"! He reacted just in time to stick the paddle into the white water and was carried away towards shore without getting rolled over. He enthusiastically paddled back out through the waves, got knocked over, got back in, and plowed on through the waves. With a big grin on his face, he shouted "I can't believe I never tried this before"! After a few more minutes in the waves, I heard him say "I have to get one of these for every member of the family"! I asked him "A kayak for everyone"? and he replied, "No, a wetsuit"!
Ralph instinctively had what I call the "surfer mentality" about trying to catch a wave. He would plow through the breakers out almost to the open sea, then wait for that Perfect Big Wave to arrive. Several times I told him he would get more rides just hanging around shoreward of the breakers and riding back and forth with Jeremy. He spent a lot of time in one spot between the waves breaking close to shore and a place where they broke far from shore. Between these areas the waves calmed back down and rarely gave a good ride. I paddled out and explained that there was probably a sand bar out there causing the waves to break, then a deep spot where he was waiting. He asked, "So I should be farther out or farther in"? I nodded yes and turned to head closer to shore, but saw Ralph turn and head farther out. I should have guessed he would head in the more exciting sounding direction.
Eventually he came back closer to shore and admitted I was probably right. One wave rolled him over and when he tried to brace on the shoreward side of the kayak, his paddle struck bottom. The wave pushed him over into the stalled paddle and the cheep aluminum shaft of his river paddle bent in half. I had him try out my longer "Scupper Pro" kayak and he had a lot of trouble keeping it from rolling over in the surf. Eventually it escaped from him and rode a wave all the way to dry sand without him. By this time Jeremy was tired of kayaking and was body surfing, so Ralph switched to my Frenzy kayak and my backup paddle and went back out to play some more. After he got one long fast ride all the way back up onto the sand, I convinced him to reluctantly quit for the morning. Even so, it was after noon before either of us got back to work.