“Maybe on this wave,” I thought as the stern lifted and the kayak picked up speed, but the wave broke too early, grabbed the stern of the kayak and pushed it to the side. I leaned over the breaking wave with a low brace and was pushed sideways far towards the beach. As the force in the wave diminished, I leaned even more against the brace and turned the bow up above the foam. With a few quick strokes I was paddling out towards the area of the sea where new waves could be caught.
Cascades of foam
On the way out, another wave rose up and hit me right in the face. The moment before it broke, steepest, it hit full force. I managed to stay upright and paddle on towards the next one. It was a little bigger and broke before I reached it and I paddled up over it and further out.
I reached where the biggest waves were rising and shortly after dumped in cascades of foam. There wasn’t much time from the moment the waves started to rise until they broke, and that day most of the surf was on the foam after the waves had collapsed. There was still so much power in them though that there were a few fun rides now and then.
Where are the waves and surf?
The day before, at Hanstholm, the waves had been a bit smaller and had provided a better opportunity to get some good rides, both surfing straight into the beach and diagonally on the waves. Rides, where we had time to work with low brace and stern rudder and learn to steer the kayak.
When we met that morning at the car park in Klitmøller, it was clear that this was not here we were going to play in the waves. The wind was from the north-east and had been for several days, so it was pretty peaceful here on the west-facing coast. We also found out that there was going to be a surfing competition later in the day. So, after a good look at the water and the little surf that did show itself on the reef, we headed to Hanstholm.
From Copenhagen to Klitmøller
We, a group from the Copenhagen Kayak Club, were on the trip with two skilled instructors, Martin and Jan. We were going to learn, train and have fun on the waves and the surf of the North Sea.
It is a long way to Klitmøller from Copenhagen. About 6 hours in the car with the trailer and all the kayaks. Those who drove the other cars took their time to eat and charge batteries and actually arrived later than us driving all the kayaks.
We had rented two nice cottages and were able to meet up with Martin and Jan the next morning, well rested and ready to throw ourselves into anything.
The west coast of Denmark
The west coast of Denmark is sand and dunes. In summer, in sunshine and good weather, a tourist paradise, but in autumn and winter, or when the ever-changing Danish weather changes its mood and the North Sea waves washes far up the beach, it is a place where ships have wrecked in the past on a grand scale – a place at the mercy of the sea and the wind.
It’s a place where, in the right conditions, you can find waves and surf and other fun in your kayak.
At all the coast, and all the way down along the Dutch, Belgian and French coasts, the Germans fortified the whole coastline during World War II with a myriad of concrete bunkers.
They are still strewn across the dunes and sand and in the water.
Big waves at the sea
Again a big wave hit just as it broke, one of the big ones that day. I wasn’t quite ready for it, it pushed me over and tore me under before I could make a brace, which would probably have been futile. Underwater I was ready to roll up when the wave had passed over me, and I came up and could brace when the next wave hit me. I used the top of the wave to turn towards the beach and tried to catch the next one, but I didn’t have enough speed in the kayak. I paddled hard and caught the next one again. When it broke, I managed to stay on it and surf the frying foam further in, where I then used a low brace and a couple of hard, fast strokes to turn back out – out to the big ones again. And back again.
What you can learn in waves of the sea
Even if you’ve tried it before, there’s a lot to learn on a trip like this. Especially when you are in the company of a couple of good instructors. They started from scratch. First, they had us wade as far out into the surf as we could and swim back in. Then we paddled out in the kayaks, capsized and swam in with the kayak, and last we got to paddle out and paddle back in before they let us go.
Throughout the day, they gathered us up, and we evaluated what we experienced on the waves and the surf.
They explained more about the conditions, how they affected the kayak and how we could deal with them, and then sent us back out on the water with new challenges.
Rolling in the surf
In the past, the thing I have felt most unsure of on big waves has been when I came against the waves and had to turn 180 degrees and paddle the other way. Not that it has been a problem, but my thought has been that this is where it could go wrong (although it never has).
At one point when we had been well underway, I realized that I hadn’t given it a second thought. On the whole, I felt comfortable with the circumstances. In particular, I was pleased that my roll was working really well. I capsized a few times, but the only time I had to get out of the kayak was in shallow water where there was no room for a roll.
Taking photos of waves and the sea
I had my little waterproof camera along and was hoping to get a few surf shots, but it’s not easy to capture the good pictures when you’re in the middle of the surf yourself. Back home, when I was going through the pictures, it turned out that either the photos were shaky and blurry, or there was water on the lens.
It is also difficult to give an impression of the size and energy of the waves in photos. However, in the photo with a couple of the old German bunkers, you can see how powerful the water was that day.
By the way, it’s definitely the fault of the camera that the pictures aren’t better than they are – the photographer is certainly not to blame…
Sand – next time too
Sand everywhere. Fine sand, so fine it can get in anywhere. And it did. When we had to pack up at Vigsø on Sunday afternoon, I couldn’t get my paddle apart. It was absolutely impossible. Charlotte and I stood pulling on opposite ends and it didn’t budge an inch. We gave up, and I slowly began to accept that I now would have a full-length paddle with no joint in the middle.
At home, however, after many fruitless attempts, I managed to get it apart. It was full of sand.
The thing is, the paddle is a bit worn and there is some clearance in the joint. Apparently, there was enough space for the finest sand, the kind that floats around in the water in the surf, to find its way in easily and block up the joint.
The paddle works again as it should – until next time…