Tariffic Surfing

An extra day in Spain is well spent at the surf beaches of Tariffa. This town 'rides' on the popularity of body, board and kite surfing.

Friday 13 February 2004
I watch Phil and Harry as they walk to the beach. Massive Hawaii-like clean green waves curl and explode into white. A mist curtain as high as the waves is blown off the tops by the strong offshore wind. Perfect surfing conditions: big swell steepened by an offshore wind. The waves come in clear defined sets and Phil and Harry just take their time to paddle through the break without any trouble. I never have seen this clean surf before and I am apprehensive to try surf kayaking myself. The power of the breaking waves must be enormous. When Harry and Phil are 'done' I have a go. The break intimidates me. But because there are those clear defined sets I can make my way out without trouble. The waves are fast. Harry warned me for that. But after a few try and misses I catch that big one. I shoot diagonally forwards at tremendous speed. Without thinking I apparently do the right thing. I do not see the curl but am catapulted out of the froth, do bracing and go into unplanned flat-spins and do not capsize! This is a thrill of a lifetime. A perfect ride. Immediately I know that it will be hard for a next ride to be better. I paddle out again and let my adrenaline rush subside for now. When anxiety is at 'normal' level again I wait for another big one. It takes a while but when I do want to go for it a board surfer catches the wave before me and runs down the slope towards me. I can only reside to a safety capsize. The wave smashes me all over the place and when I roll-up I call it a day. A day later I would have bruises on my lower back and sides from the cockpit rim. "Welcome to surf kayaking" Phil would say! I have to let this sink-in for a while and return to shore. Phil and Harry take an Explorer and a GreenlanderPro out to the surf near the harbour breakwater. The surf is a little less massive here, but more importantly, there are no board surfers there. I decide not to join them because I have a reputation of damaging sea kayaks in surf on pitch poling on sandy bottom. Phil claims that this is just too good of an opportunity to miss for testing out the NDK sea kayaks. I take my camera and watch them from the breakwater. I know off course that I should have joined them. I can see them catching beautiful surfs. Many loopings and close-calls when they paddle out enfold before my eyes. The kayaks and the paddlers survive!

© A.M. Schoevers