NW swell predicted 5-7 ft. at 10 seconds, prediction accurate. S swell predicted 1-2 ft. predicted, prediction accurate. Calm winds predicted, prediction accurate.
Greenwood beach at Elk, Ca. altogether
Redwood Empire Club Dive schedule for Cuffy’s Cove. Boat and kayak accessible only. Boat in from Albion or kayak in from Greenwood Beach. As you can guess, Cuffy’s Cove is desirable, because it’s hard to get to. Bigger abs, and last year I shot a 21″ Black there via inflatable from Albion.
So…our outgoing president of Redwood Empire Divers scheduled a kayak dive to Cuffy’s Cove via Greenwood Beach.
There were six of us. One of the six has never even been diving or kayaking before. Terry, you are a trooper. Well, we checked from the bluff, as the beach is at least a half mile down hill. There were some big sets and some smaller ones but there was about 5 seconds between sets. Now that I have kayaked in and out of Greenwood Beach, of course I hear the stories that many have given up on kayak diving after Greenwood Beach.
We all have our kayak carts, and we make it down the half mile path to the beach, only ready to abandon the wheels and drag the kayaks another quarter mile across the beach to the one slightly protected entry of a NW facing beach. Let me say that I don’t personally own a kayak, my husband Brian does, but I don’t. Our DEAR FRIEND Chris let me borrow his kayak for the day. Oh yeah, Chris, we carried your kayak, we didn’t drag it.
We are watching the sets, and we go to the calmest part of the long, crescent shaped beach. My husband says, “It’s time to go and be ready to paddle hard right from the get go”. He pulls the kayak out and says “hurry get in and start paddling”. I hop on the kayak and fumble for a second with my paddle and then I’m paddling. It’s a long flat sand beach and there’s not just one short set to get through. As I paddle, the small roller grew exceedingly fast. I hear my husband yelling from behind me, “paddle as hard as you can and stay straight to the wave!!!!” The wave is growing and growing, and there’s nothing to do except paddle as hard as possible. I hit the 6 foot wave and I feel the force hit the top of the kayak and I make it over! Wow, I couldn’t believe it, was a rush! Mike, from the club was a boat length behind me and the force of the wave knocked him out of his boat. Unfortunately he did not have his top on and was sent back to the beach in 48 degree water.
Two of us are out and the last four are making their way through the surf. So Paul and I go through what I now call the “gauntlet”. The sets had been low, but of course as we start to go through it picks up. The preferred route is to go between the 3rd rock “Casket Rock” and rock #2, but Paul thought we could make it. Well, Paul did and I barely did.
I see Paul ahead of me and he’s surfing down white wash between a narrow opening of rocks, and my white wash wave is bigger! I couldn’t turn in time to face the kayak down the swell, and that would have only sent me directly into a huge rock spire. Remember, I’ve only been kayak diving a few times before in fairly calm seas…. There are many “boilers” in the small area and the white wash wave comes and launches me from the kayak. I go under, pop up to see another one coming. I think of surfing and think just duck dive and you’ll be fine. I take a quick look for the kayak, and to my absolute horror I see it crash on the rock spire not far from me. It took only a split second for it to get to the rock. So I now I’m stuck in the washing machine of the white water wave crashing on me and trying to not get bashed on the rock like my DEAR FREINDS kayak is. No one is watching to see what is happening. I watch for on coming waves, and I’m trying to kick, with no fins and only booties which seems harder than bare feet, to stay away from the rock.
There are many very shallow rocks beneath me. My hand brushes against some kelp and I grab onto it, thinking “great I can hold onto it and won’t get sucked into the rock”. I scream for Paul, thinking he might be able to paddle in and help me. I quickly realize there is no way he can paddle in and I need to get myself out of this. At the same time my legs start getting to get tangled in the kelp I’m holding onto and I have to force myself to relax so my legs can escape the grip of the kelp around my legs as I’m in the washing machine of water.
Luckily I determine the waves are getting smaller and if I’m going to make it through the shoot, I’m going have to do it NOW. Meanwhile, I’m still horrified to see our DEAR FREIND’S kayak get slammed onto the rock a couple more times before it makes it’s own trip around the rock away from me and up side down.
I did have the mind to hold onto the paddle, as I thought “well, I’m going to need it when I get the boat back.” I still have to surf into Greenwood Beach and I didn’t think I would be body surfing.
Let me tell you, it is not easy kicking without fins, and holding a paddle. Fortunately I had my 7 mm on with booties, but no gloves. By the time I made it Paul’s kayak, I was pretty exhausted, hands bright red and aching from the cold, and didn’t even feel my head, even though I had my hood off.
My husband finally come along and is a little perplexed why he sees me in the water without my kayak. He yells, “where’s your boat?” I point behind the rock, and he thinks “well, this is great”.
He rescues my boat and we paddle another half mile to the dive site to Cuffy’s Cove. The viz is shit, 5 feet at best. We spent some time bailing my kayak, and I sat there suffering from some Post Traumatic Stress. I told Brian, I don’t think I can dive. I was already shivering and spent.
Brian say’s to me “You can suck it up and put that behind you and get your limit or you can sit here and freeze your butt off on the kayak.”
It took me a few minutes to pull it together, but I eventually got in and pulled my limit of abs.
We all started back in and it looked calmer than when we came out until we once again got to Greenwood Beach. Four of us made a bomber attack to the beach as soon as the waves appeared to get small enough and we made it in without getting rolled. I did manage, however, to completely ram Paul’s legs with my kayak. I couldn’t steer, and he did not heed my screaming warnings that I was headed right for him. His words were “payback’s tough!”.
Once my feet hit sand, I gave a high five, and big hug to Terry and kissed Terra Firma.
It was a long, long trip across the beach, up the trail and a 3 hour drive home.
Like I said, been there and done that. Never again do I need to kayak dive from Greenwood Beach. And all of the party was in agreement.