“It was the purest moment of freedom and headlong exhilaration that I had ever felt”
– Pat Conroy, Beach Music
Oh yes…it is all of that
They call it 'Whitewater Kayak Surfing' and unlike their ocean brethren, they're surfing a 'Standing Wave'
A Standing Wave
Contrary to what one might expect, a standing wave does not form due to an obstruction on the river bed, but rather, due to an abrupt increase in water depth. Where water swiftly flows down a sloping river bed into deeper water, the deeper water is able to resist the forcing of the flowing water, causing a release of energy in the upstream direction in the form of waves. Where “normal” progressive waves move through water, standing waves are stationary relative to the bottom.
The powerful flow that creates the waves, eddies, whirlpools and rapids at Skookumchuk is a result of the billions of gallons that pass through the narrows in the form of a tidal rapid
Tidal rapid is a natural occurrence whereby a fast moving tide passes through a constriction resulting in the formation of waves, eddies and hazardous currents. The constriction can be a passage where the sides narrow, for example the Gulf of Corryvreckanand the Saltstraumen maelstrom, or an underwater obstruction (a reef or rising seabed), such as is found at the Portland Race.
In extreme cases, such as Skookumchuck Narrows in British Columbia, through which tides can travel at more than 17 knots, very large whirlpools develop, which can be extremely hazardous to navigation'
Unlike in ocean waves, river waves don’t carry the surfer toward the shore. They are mainly standing waves in that they remain in a fixed location in the river. When a boater surfs these waves they too stay in a relatively fixed position with regard to the rest of the river, but they are able to move within the wave itself.
– George Sayour
In other words…the water is thundering past the kayaker but they aren't moving at all (funny, that's just like life)
The water rages past us with the force and sound of a thousand locomotives. It reminds us of Niagara Falls
The wave is huge and the kayakers manoeuvre into and out of it with obvious delight, no silly person has to remind these people to smile…they are clearly digging what they're doing and the grins come easily
A quartet of kayakers are surfing the wave four abreast…adjusting laterally within the wave to stay in formation (future Snowbirds). Wendy says, “They look like otters playing”
Usually, it's a single rider who slides back into and catches the wave…for a moment in perfect harmony with it…holding…adjusting…and then, inevitably, rejected…flung to the top of the wave, sliding over it's crest and hurried away by the strong currents.
Wendy says “Can you imagine the core strength” (well yes, i can imagine it)
Two young couples approach Wendy and ask her to take their picture.
One of the guys hands her his Canon.
The camera is huge and according to Wendle, “it weighs a ton”. When she returns the camera she asks the guy, “how much does this thing weigh?”
Seemingly unnerved by the question, the kid stammers, “Oh yes, it's very heavy”
Wendle is entranced…she snaps off several inconspicuous, if slightly unfocused, pics (she's having a Gladys Kravitz moment)
Hey, check out the lens on that guy (how old are you?)
After being dismissed by the wave, the best surfers often remain in their kayaks and sneak back into it from the side.
Others, paddle to shore, climb out of their boats and carry them back upstream.
Luckily, the whitewater 'freestyle' kayaks they're using weigh only about 14kg
We've watched from seats of solid, wet rock and ignored the rain for well over an hour…and now the body is in full complaint. We have a five and a half kilometre walk back to the car and now would be a 'healthful' time to begin
The forest seems even more still after the torrid tempo at the narrows. There's no hurry to get back…we ease our pace and enjoy…
There's a little bakery down on Old School Trail. It isn't open today and although it certainly looks intriguing, we aren't really sure if it's ever open. We'll have to check on that
Note: It turns out it's open 9-4 daily, throughout July and August and bakes the best cinnamon buns ever
It's good to be back in the car with the heat on. My back was sure stiffening up on the return hike..probably the wet clothing (the stiffmeister). Ahhh, let's just enjoy this moment…a moment longer.
The cloud cover, cool air and falling leaves are conspiring to produce a Southern Ontario Fall kind of afternoon. The drive back to Halfmoon Bay is subdued and beautiful.
Wendy calls Sandra in Campbellville and we chat alternately about our trip to Skookumchuk and her solo camping trip in Algonquin. What a great country.
We stop at the IGA in Madeira Park. Here's a tip for you…never go into a supermarket in soggy clothes (my gawd, i'm freezin)
It's going to feel so good to get into some dry clothes and eat a hearty dinner.
And it is
We hiked eleven kilometres, we witnessed Nature's serenity and power, we enjoyed man's incredible playfulness and we saw the biggest damn camera that you…
Moose and Wendle
The close up pics of the kayakers were once again taken through the lens of the binoculars. At one point, while balancing the phone and the binocs and trying to frame both lenses, I thought I was taking snapshots of the surfers. I wasn't. I was taking very short video sequences. Fortunately, Wendy put them all together and made quite a nice video. You can watch it at…
Wendy also filmed some surf action and her 'intentional' videos are much better. Check these out…
Two very good kayakers wiping out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivOwYHQrvG4
A kayaker backs into the wave http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WwN1PC2Lo3o
Check out this dude. He's riding the Skook too…Standing Up (remember, he's not moving). If you watch until the end, you'll see him deal with a whirlpool