Dancing with water in unlikely places

I spent a lot of my childhood in Orange County. Many weekends were spent at Wild Rivers, the local water park. I’d head straight for a wave pool called Monsoon Lagoon, and would make my way through all of the people to the very front of the pool where I’d spend the entire day on a boogie board in front of the wave machine. I can still picture the noise that the machine would make as it generated wave after wave. Every wave was the same size, had the same interval and the same amount of power behind it. Every two hours or so the wave machine would turn off and the water would go flat for several minutes. I remember lining myself up in the flat water waiting for the machine to kick in. When it did my heart would jump in anticipation of the waves that would follow.

Gorgeous morning on Humboldt Bay.

In Humboldt County, California we have a surf break that forms in the middle of the Bay if conditions are right. There are three underwater sand spits in the middle of the Bay that line up nicely with the mouth of the Bay. If the swell coming in the mouth is large enough, the tide is ebbing and the tide is low enough, waves appear over the spits. In theory, the waves can be surfed from one end of the spit to the next, and then the kayaker ferries off to the side and the current carries them back to the start, where the process can be repeated. The waves will often disappear for minutes at a time and then suddenly pop up right behind you, in front of you, next to you or directly under you. The moving current, flat water and no identifiable features make it easy to lose place of where the underwater sand spits are located, and when the waves appear the adrenaline kicks in, but unlike Monsoon Lagoon, their size, shape and strength is completely unpredictable.

Wondering if this is the right spot.

Same spot, seconds later.

Yesterday I was sitting in the flat waters of Humboldt Bay waiting for that surf break. I found myself thinking of something an instructor (thanks Steve) once told me. “It’s not the sea that is confused, it’s you that is confused.” How true is that? The ocean knows exactly what it is doing, people however, often don’t.

Location, location, location.

We played in the surf break for a couple of hours, riding what was rideable; forwards backwards, sideways. We punched through surf, and sat in an awesome spot where small waves come from every direction crashing into each other and shooting water high into the air. I played in this spot for awhile trying to position myself so that I’d be right in the middle of this convergence, which is relatively gentle, but there’s something really fun (and hysterical) about getting hit in the face by a poof of water from the sea.

Dancing water.

It’s these unknown and unlikely spots where water dances that are often the most fun.

– Happy paddling!

Pictures by Michael H. Morris and Helen Wilson.

On another note, the Necky Chatham 16 in these pictures is for sale. For information, e-mail helen@greenlandorbust.org.

4 Responses to “Dancing with water in unlikely places”

  • Fat Paddler says:

    Bouncy times are fun times! Love the way the photos show the water going from dead-flat to completely confused. Awesome!

  • Joe O'Blenis says:

    Sounds like a fun day to me! I’m counting down the days now until Lake Superior opens up.
    Confused water = FUN water!

  • Bryan Hansel says:

    That looks like a fun place to paddle. I like that saying. The sea is just the sea and does what the sea does, it’s only confused because we assign that feeling to it. Probably a bigger life lesson contained in those words.

  • Moulton Avery says:

    I just love the quality of light and the texture of clouds and water in your Dancing Water photo, Helen. That shot is so evocative it just makes me ache to paddle. Never gave much thought to the nomenclature of confused vs dancing water, but I really like that description. I think you and Bryan are on to something very meaningful. We see the world through our eyes, but the language we use has great power to direct, shape, and define our vision; not so much what we see as how we see it.

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