|Nukin' Cliff Richard|
|Out on small kites with the Doris.|
|Three wise men|
|Mistletoe and double over head|
|In Santa's Grotto|
|Back to the Chestnuts/fire/ mulled cider|
I had some great rides, but got a bit cocky/tired (day 8 on the water) towards the end of the session, and went for one last turn on a biggun' and got munched, and everything went very slack, my bowel included. By the time I popped up (quite a long time) and got a well-earned breath, the kite was down and a wave hit it instantly although I didn't see this happen in the trough behind, I more 'felt' it as it took me on a trip to Neptune's lair. I was drinking Baileys from a shoe, and no mistake.
I managed to pull the quick release whilst being dragged underwater, that's a testament to the functionality of the new QR. I popped up again and got some more sweet oxygen and flapped about for 10 seconds, before calming down and assessing the situation. I was more or less 100m behind where the 10 knot buoys usually go, in line with the middle of the Island and right in the impact zone. A fair old swim ahead with no board, and a big fat spring tide pumping out of the river. Here's some advice from my experience if it happens to you, which will apply to most 'Oops, I am in the sh!t' situations:
1. Stay calm and control your breathing - even if you are panicking, slow it all down. Take a deep breath before the set hits. Being able to hold your breath for a long while is very useful.
2. Conserve your energy, concentrate on paced/efficient swimming back. Not flapping/struggling.
3. Know where the currents are, and don't swim against them, if possible use them to your advantage.
4. Keep an eye behind you, and turn, duck dive / swim down when the waves creep up behind you. Don't let them hit you and tumble you/pull you underwater, although body surfing can make your swim shorter.
5. If you are tumbled and you are potentially over rocks, cover your head with your arms. Being unconscious in water is a bad plan.
6. Pick some landmarks on the coast and make sure you are moving forwards. This is reassuring as you know you are making progress and helps you work out if you are in current or not.
I am sure there is more you could add to this, but this is what sticks out particularly from my recent mega swims. I normally have one or two a year. There is also just not putting yourself in the situation in the first place.
There's an argument (and a solid one) that if you can't surf (i.e paddle) a wave you shouldn't be out kiting in it. Not all of us are from surfing backgrounds, and a kite can tow you into stuff you couldn't dream of paddling into. I ride waves surfers don't ride/can't access all the time. We all like to push ourselves, and take risks in big conditions which is what keeps the sport fresh for me, so the situation is going to happen. I think it's more about water confidence, swimming ability, local knowledge, a decent level of fitness and knowing what to do/expect if the proverbial hits the fan. If a surfer snaps a leash they are in the same situation.
A great training exercise (with a rescue boat/ski on hand) would be to make people kite offshore where they usually ride waves, fire off their safety on purpose and see how they cope with getting back to shore.
Anyway, I swam in, it took about 20 minutes perhaps and once I knew I was moving forward I actually quite enjoyed it. I came in with a big grin, gathered up my kit which some friends had scooped up on the beach and called it quits. A slightly dicey end to a fantastic festive period, but good to feel alive, and lesson learnt (again).