With the biggest storm in 70 years blowing through the Midwest (winds in the wrong direction, as usual) a kayaker with proclivity to roughness has to get the blood flowing. Southern Indiana did not see wind-waves over 20 feet like northern Lake Superior did but that's not exactly something I want to experience from the cockpit anyway. Our end of the lake got some waves in the 10-foot range and that's enough.
This being a weekday I ended up in Beverly Shores Indiana all by myself. Behind—an hour and 15 minutes drive. Ahead—roaring waters of Lake Michigan. I had her all to myself for two hours. Here's the summary: first ever backward endo, first involuntary wet-exit since I thought I went beyond the 'pool-proof' roll, and a whole lot of fun wave slides (I would call them surfing but the locals on the east coast say that fun with waves in sea kayaks cannot be called surfing).
The endo is normally the stern of the kayak going over its bow when a kayaker picks too steep a wave and does a somersault. Backwards endo is the opposite: the bow going over submerged stern. This particular one came on number three. The third wave of the set that is. I was paddling out and ended up in a wrong place at a wrong time. A set of bigger waves was coming in over the sand bar several hundred feet off shore. With experience, a kayaker starts to believe that as long as you take a wave while perpendicular to it there will be no capsizing. Right? Right, right, and then a wrong.
The first one broke right in front of me with a punch in the stomach. The second one followed shortly and broke closer to the bow with not quite as much impact on the torso. I was probably losing ground as I was punching through these breakers and remained right in the high-impact zone despite my best efforts. I distinctly recall saying to myself "I just did this!" as a third large wave was about to break in front of me. "No! Not THIS, my friend!"—she whispered back mischievously in my ear. Then it felt as if I lifted-off straight up form a runway and after a while of this high-angle flight simulation the stern hit the sandy bottom, stalled the stern and I was under water. As simple as that—all in a matter of seconds.
This was not the time for involuntary wet-exit. This time some sculling and a brace got me back upright. The shameful exit happened at a tail end of an early run. Having proudly slid down a steep face of the wave and climbed over it I noted, with some apprehension, a new impressive wall of water over my left shoulder. Here on the Great Lakes we don't get much spacing between the waves.
Now I must confess that I am severely right-handed and I definitely have an off-side. This was it—the left side and a monster wave was approaching it fast. There was no time to turn and face this one head-on. This one was going to hit me sideways. Rather than trying to estimate the size of the wave, let me just say that it was scary!
The face steepened up just about to break. I did not actually see it decompose as I tried to do what I always do when in this position—lean, or rather fall, straight into the vertical surface of the approaching wave. Either I did not fall hard enough not trusting my high brace on the left or, more likely, I timed the fall too late but, in the end, I was quickly flipped straight into the drink over my right side. I had tried to come up on the down-wave side before. It's hopeless! Stuck on the surface on the wrong side of the boat, out of breath from an exciting run I just finished, and with the fear of the monster bubbling in my stomach, still early in this solo surfing session I didn't even try to roll up. I threw in the towel without a fight and went for the surface head first. I was promptly rewarded for this act! To add insult to injury, an official looking car was passing on the road above the beach just as I surfaced. As I began the long journey to shore, the car stopped and watched me through those painful minutes until I waded out of the waves with my tail between my legs like Robinson Crusoe. Thankfully, this fella did not call 911 and there were no fire engines showing up to save me.
Other than that, the play session was a lot of fun and well worth a vacation day. Another friendly tussle with brother Lake Michigan and a friendly outcome. I drove home thinking that this was not even close to the worst (best?) of this storm. I came to play AFTER the storm has passed and I chose a place quite FAR from where the storm has hit the hardest. I can only imagine what the waves three times the size of the ones I encountered would feel like. I think I will keep that picture as a figment of my imagination for a while :)
Thank you Big Brother! We'll wrestle again soon.