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Killer Kayaking

I have mentioned before that I have a slight hearing loss.   It equates to about a 20% hearing loss, and it's noticeable because my lovely wife still reminds me to wear a hearing aid all of the time.  Basically, I can listen to people talking to me just fine unless there is a lot of background in a bar, amusement park or the beach.

One of my Army buddies from my days in the 3rd Infantry Division, Todd, lived a quarter mile north of Zuma Beach in Malibu, California.  I went to visit him a few years ago in late August, and he decided to teach me how to kayak on the ocean.  Being from Chicago, where the waves of Lake Michigan rarely get over a few feet, kayaking on the open ocean was something that I wanted to experience.

So we put on wet suits and took these huge open bay kayaks out onto the ocean.  The kayaks were big, long and narrow, unstable as hell, and heavy.

Todd taught me about kayaking and we were paddling around the shore for awhile.  Then, he decided to teach me how to break through the surf, and we paddled out into the kelp beds a few hundred meters off-shore.

So, after an hour or so of kayaking, I was begining to get tired.  I dropped my legs into the water and just followed Todd around in the waves trying to keep the kayak from tipping.

Todd shouted:  "Hey, Matty, you might want to put your legs back in the kayak."

I yelled back:  "Why's that?"

Todd:  "With all of the environmentalists protecting the sea lions around here, the Killer Whales have really been hanging around in the kelp beds looking for food.  You don't look all that different from a sea lion in that wet suit."


Me suspecting a joke:  "Are you serious?"

Todd:  " a heart-attack."

I pulled my legs back in the kayak.  That's when I really noticed how unstable they were.  I almost dumped it just thinking about rolling the kayak over and me falling into a hungry orca's mouth.

Todd saw my apprehension and thought maybe it would be best if he took me back to shore.  He began teaching me how to catch a wave and ride it back to the beach...something that I thought was a great idea.  Getting me the hell away from kelp beds, sea lions, and killer whales.

The whole trick to riding the wave in-land is to keep up with it as long as possible before it breaks.  If you go faster than the wave, you will dump your kayak head first.  You would probably get knocked out because the heavy kayak would land right on your head.

If you went too slow you would either not head towards shore or you would get creamed by the next wave coming up behind you.

So I get lined up for the next wave.  I keep looking at the wave coming and then looking at Todd for some kind of signal that this is the wave that I want.  Finally, Todd shook his head "no".  So I let the wave roll by and watched out for the next one.

The next one looked big.  I lined up the kayak and looked at Todd.  He was looking at the wave, too.  It was coming fast.  I got my paddle ready to go.  I heard Todd's voice yelling....

"Go, Matty! Go! Go! Go!"

And off I went.  I paddled as fast as I could.  The wave scooped up my kayak and I thundered towards the beach.  I heard Todd yelling encouragement from behind me.  At the last minute, I remembered to lay back on the kayak to lower the weight in the boat to make it more stable.  For a second or two it looked like I was going to make it.  Then, I dumped it and got dragged along the bottom.  I finally made it to the surface.  Located the bobbing kayak and pulled it the rest of the way to shore.  Exhausted, I fell on the beach.

Next thing I know, Todd comes running out of the surf yelling at me.

"Are you out of your f-cking mind?!"

Me:  "What?"

Todd:  "What the hell did you think you were doing?"

Me:  "Hey, man, you're the one who said 'Go, Matty! Go! Go! Go!'"

Todd:  "No, asshole.  That was the biggest wave that I've seen all year.  I said, 'No, Matty! No! No! No!'"