Surfski fun does not discriminate
This is a different type of blog than I’ve ever done, but it is such a fun and inspiring story that I felt it had to be shared. The story that follows proves to me, without a doubt, that surfski paddling is the most accessible form of surfing there is. Anyone with the desire to learn can ultimately experience the euphoria of surfing waves. It also demonstrates that it is never too late, and even lifelong kayak paddlers can discover an entirely new world when they jump in a surfski and start to understand what downwind paddling is all about.
Late September last year Will Wyman contacted me on a mission to find a fun boat for his 65 year old sister Margie. A recent widow, Margie has a home on Grand Traverse Bay, and although she had been a long time swimmer, she had not done much kayaking. A long time kayak enthusiast from upstate NY and in his late sixties, Will had been doing research and discovered the surfski and felt that it would be just the ticket for Margie to get into kayaking. Margie was game for the challenge and hence agreed to allow Will to drive her out to my shop to check out some fast boats.
I put Margie in a V8 to start with and she was immediately hooked. Will also took a turn in the V8 and was quickly sucked into the surfski trance. Little did I know that he was also in the market. In the end, they pulled away with an Epic V8 Club for Margie and a V8 Performance for Will. Will now has 12 boats in his garage including 9 kayaks and 3 surfskis, one of which is an Epic Double so he can infect his kids and grandkids with the addiction of paddling a surfski.
Shortly after purchasing the Epic V8s, Will and Margie started working on their older brother Bob, who in his early seventies was beginning to struggle with entry and exit in his traditional closed cockpit boats. It took some time, but Bob eventually “saw the light” and found a used Epic V6 that would provide great stability plus easy entry/exit to keep him going on the water for several more years.
Since introducing Will and Margie to their Epic V8s, I’ve kept in touch with both via an on-going e-mail dialogue. Below is a chronological series of direct unedited excerpts from those e-mails (printed with their permission of course). It tells a really fun and inspiring story. I hope you enjoy, I know I have.
- Sept 22 : “Went out again this morning with Marj. It is amazing how much fun you can have on 1-foot waves with the V8. Good practicing for Marj. Her understanding of leg push went from concept to reality today. I think she gets it.” Will
- Oct 12: “Hi Nick! Hope you don’t mind me emailing you for fun. I am so excited! I got 2 pieces of HydroSkin from NRS. I got the 1.5 pants and the 1.0 long sleeved top. New kayake jacket too. Makes it possible to keep on kayaking for months to come. Don’t look great but who cares! And I think I was huffing and puffing more than I have even kayaking twice a day. Fun! Thanks! Both of my brothers are coming here to visit next week. Will is working on Bob and considering one of the sea kayakes.I can’t wait to get him in our V8. He may be too top heavy and unstable in it. So next week I will be kayaking like crazy across the Bay from you. Thanks for this new avenue in life. I am excited! Bring on the waves!” Margie
- Oct 21: “Hi Nick! What a week with my two brothers this week out in front of my place on Grand Traverse Bay. Great waves. Twice a day runs back and forth. Have learned alot. I love the waves that I can pierce with the bow and fill the boat. Honestly road a few in just great. I have to paddle faster. I will get there. Got Hydroskin pants and top. Boots and gloves. Good thing! It was 40 some degrees. But water is still 58. My Hydroskins are 1.0 top with 1.5 bottom. Worked great and never got cold til I stopped. When your paddling and working it no problem but when I stood still to take a break started get a little cool. I love this! I want to thank you again for opening this avenue for me. Now I just want to be on the water and get frustrated when I can’t be out there. And work gets in my way! For sure!! I want your news letter! I think I did it right. Bob tells me you mentioned a 63 year old lady in it. Ha Ha. I am happy!” Sincerely, Margie
Oct 22: “Margie continues to grow in her paddling. She is pretty much fearless and keeps working on getting the best possible ride, especially downwind. At dusk tonight (Friday), we encounteredsome serious gusts, which came down from the north with a vengeance. It really didn’t bother her. My goal was to get her in a kayak she liked and for her to get hooked. I think I can say, at this point, mission accomplished, thank the Lord. I expect that you will be hearing more from her in the future.” Will
- Nov 20: “I can now say, by personal testimony, that the. V8 handles force 5 winds fine downwind and oblique downwind. It was bad enough that the wind was ripping the paddle out of my hands and when held up in normal paddling position would capsize the boat. I kept my paddle angle low and braced as needed. The low profile of the stearn kept the wind from grabbing the back end and spinning me out. Even though the universal or surf rudders would have been welcome, I did OK with the weedless rudder; I could steer even when the wind and waves were at their worst. It made my heart beat a little faster, but I got back upright and just fine, although a bit faster than planned. ” Will
- Nov 30th: “I hurt my back shoveling snow (part of the aftermath of our 38 inch storm we got last week). Today I took a 1 hour, non aggressive paddle on Cayuga Lake. It definitely helped line my back up and brought the pain way down. This is my idea of good therapy!!” Will
- Dec 1st: “In any event, I have gotten a few more times in since I last emailed. It’s really nice to be out there alone with the geese. We’re still running in the high 30’s to mid 40’s at Lake level, which is plenty warm for me. I think what you are doing is fun and therapeutic, which I have believed for a long time about sea kayaking, but this is another, very enriching additional chapter. I did a fairly long run upwind against a 1 to 2 foot chop yesterday. I know this isn’t a V10, 12, etc., but I am positively impressed with the ease of making good headway upwind against waves with the V8. I have some serious sea kayaks, but this is more effortless.” Will
- Feb 11: “One of the selling points of Epic for me is the very good ergonomics/comfort of the bucket. I have had several 2 hour sessions really going for it and my backside is never even on my mind. I know that coccyx wear and tear is an issue for several skiis. However, perhaps my wetsuit is helping more than I know. Before steering cable freeze conditions locked in, I was able to log a substantial number of hours in the V8. My confidence has grown a lot, even to the point of feeling it is home base for me. Honestly, I didn’t know what to make of it the day you had me test drive it, it was a very different feel for someone with lots of time in sea kayaks. My NDK Explorer now feels slow, even though it moves right along for a sea kayak. I can’t imagine how slow other boats must feel to you when your point of reference is the V10!! Even though this is low speed thrills, I find it addictive.” Will
- Mar 10: “I just wanted to say hello and thank you for the good videos you posted on the V7 at Charleston and the V8 on Lake Michigan, also with your brothers – good small runs video. Having the drone perspective is vastly superior to deck mounted gopro shots that dominate the internet. Also, who could not fall in love with Lake Michigan?! Still getting out a couple times a week and enjoying it very much. It’s coming along for me. I am puzzled at what took me so long to get to this form of kayaking.” Will
So there you have it. I certainly couldn’t make this stuff up. It is all very real, I can’t get enough of these stories and hope to create many more with a new season upon us!