Saturday, January 20, 2007

Session 7015: Thinking About Rip Currents

This morning, I wanted to have a local uncrowded session with my neighbor buddy. We checked out a local beach. One of the things that is still difficult to gauge is how difficult it is to get out, let alone the quality of the break.

I have not been back here for at least 3 months if not longer. There has been a report of this location good in the past few days.

The first attempt was horrible. This place is famous for its side currents (and that usually means there is a sandbar out there somewhere!) But I did not reach the outside and instead after good 5 minutes of paddling, I was already 500 yards or so further south, but I did not make any progress to the outside. My buddy did made to the outside as he is a much stronger paddler. It really makes a difference.

I just got out, walked up the beach and this time I carefully located a channel and rip current. A place like this the water comes from both sides, and collide in the middle so it is not much rougher surface to paddle, it is exactly like paddling away from a spewing jet in a Jacuzzi bath. But the speed at which I can get to the outside is remarkable and often scary.
I was actually thinking about it just as write it.

The spots where channel happens are usually consistent from one break to another, and so I almost unconsciously know where to go to get a ride in 3-4 beaches that I frequent, and as a bonus just around the channel are good shoulders that break towards the center of the channel so if everything works out basically you can have a "flight pattern" that molded after the flow of the water. This is probably one of the reasons why I tend to have better times with places I know well.

Another interesting thing about around here is that the rip currents do not always flow in the textbook direction of "straight to ocean". They usually goes rather diagonally to the beach. It is almost easy to get confused whether I am carried in side current.

Third thing about the rip current that I know about is that the flow changes constantly. If I want to take advantage of it, then I wait for big clean-out set to come and then wait for it to die down, then jump in. That's when the current is highest. So conversely I am much less panicked about currents as I know currents will slow down as bigger sets passes by, and furthermore I don't get out if I know it is going to be a big day that I cannot paddle or ride back if I was caught in currents.


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