On a beach on the New South Wales coast, a mid-twenties surfer stares out at the waves. It is a glorious day, the swell is perfect. The surfer flicks back his long hair… and then pulls up a skirt. And then zips up a life jacket. And then wedges himself inside a buoyant plastic boat, before shuffling awkwardly – somewhat like a seal flopping itself around on land – into the water.
He is surf kayaking.
Surf kayaking is a recent sport, and still seen as the rarely-mentioned cousin of white water kayaking, and the completely disavowed relation of board surfing. To be fair, we are somewhat of a nuisance to board surfers on the same wave, since we not only have more momentum, but we’re not the ones likely to be most injured in a collision. As such, the courtesy is for kayakers to break off from the wave and let the surfers have it.
Nevertheless, the sport is great practice for white water kayaking when the rivers are low, and many people surf kayak for the sake of this growing sport alone. While we may have a few good surf kayakers in the Australian National University Mountaineering Club, on this Saturday it was just a casual play on small surf for relative beginners (with some advice from our more experienced tamed submariner).
As an inland person, and not a terribly competent kayaker, surf kayaking presents a particularly terrifying challenge for me. But it is also an exhilarating sport. And, best of all, since we’d driven all the way from Canberra to the coast, we celebrated the surf with fish and chips.
There is definitely something to be said for surfing, even if we are the somewhat more undignified cousins of the surf boarding world.