Friday, April 10, 2009

Rehoboth, Delaware

We pull up at beach after beach, shopping in the way that surfers do, comparing the waves at each break along the Delaware shore. At the first stop I brace myself for disappointment, trying to lower my expectations since I have heard little positive about surfing the US east coast other than North Carolina.

Cresting the path over the dunes, I am surprised by the waves. They steadily pelt the sand, regularly spaced, too close to shore but curling nicely. We move on in search of a more forgiving place to surf our kayaks for the first time. Yet the second beach looks meaner, the waves crashing in even shallower water. I envision being thrown into the sand with my kayak on top of me. We move on, driving all the way around to the north entrance of Henlopen State Park.

Roof racks, surfboards, and people in hooded wetsuits let us know that this is the spot as soon as we reach the parking lot. We dress nervously for the cold water, still frigid beneath the bright sun. I walk to the bluff for a glimpse of the seal-like surfers hopping waves by the jetty and my stomach flutters. Is this really a good idea? These boats are for whitewater and rivers, not meant for beatdowns in the sand.

We paddle out, helping each other launch before easily pushing past the zone of crashing waves to the gentle swells beyond. With the exception of a few poorly timed waves hitting me hard in the gut, paddling out in a kayak is much easier than on a surfboard. After waiting a while the next wave curls invitingly, "What are you waiting for? Got something better to do?" and I paddle hard. Two strokes, the kayak grabs the wave and we are off, front surfing, carving, magic.

Later on, I find that the boat surfs just as well with or without me. I flip forward and hang upside down as the boat continues in towards shore undeterred. The washing machine is fiercer than I remember from regular surfing. Eventually things get quiet. Finally I roll up and catch my breath in the shallows before paddling out.