Yesterday I paddled solo in Chicago. Although the near-shore forecast said only 1-3 ft waves, I knew the sustained east winds would not disappoint. Sure enough, down by Oak Street, where the sea-wall gives way to open beach, I found some interesting choppy, clapotty stuff to play in, where reflected waves run sideways into the break.
I hadn't outfitted for surfing -- no helmet, and my only hydration, a bottle of Gatorade, under a bungie on deck. After wrestling the waves for a while, I got seriously thirsty.
Out beyond the break, I grabbed the bottle with one hand and was just about to open it when I felt the whole hull drop by six inches. I knew what was next, and 2/10 of a second later an up-gusher launched me three feet in the air. Reflexively, I grabbed my Greenland paddle with both hands, and managed to low brace, not even getting my face wet -- which was good, since my nose clip was on my pinky so I could gulp. But, the Gatorade was gone and not to be found.
My state of dehydration forced me to land, abandon my kayak on a crowded beach, and search for a drinking fountain. I chugged about a liter, I'd guess.
In retrospect, I have a few one-handed rolls, any of which would have allowed me to capsize and roll up with my bottle still in hand. I've managed to do this when holding my camera, after floating into a big break while looking at the viewfinder.
Sometimes it may be better to think for two seconds underwater than to react in 0.2 seconds in the air.
But to do so requires planning -- what you will do in a pinch. Or even earlier, like packing spare hydration below deck. Live and learn, that's me, never.