Force 10 Kayak tours was started by Steve Sinclair and offers tours of the Elk coast in double kayaks. I thought this would be a nice way to get to see the area, especially since my girl friend, Kristi, was going and isn’t much of a paddler. Better a guide paddle her around and why not me too!
The day before our tour, I went to check out their boats to see what shape they were in. The Seaward Passats looked in good condition, so we were on. That day we looked down the cliffs to the water of Elk Cove, which looked completely tame. There seemed hardly a ripple, although looking from that height can be deceiving. At 6:30 the morning of the paddle, Kristi decided staying in bed was a better option, but I told her she had her own personal guide waiting for her, or at least her money, so she decided to come.
At the Force 10 shop we met James and Mike, our guides and got outfitted with full wet suits. The trail that led to the put in was just across the street, so they loaded the boats on large two-wheeled carts for the 1/3 mile or so portage down the cliff. Nice to have guides.
There was a small two-foot shore break making our launch just a little interesting in the +20ft kayaks. As we paddled out you could tell the water was quite different than the day before. Mike said the forecast called for gale force winds to start coming in later in the day. Now, a little way off shore we were plowing over and through steepening 3 & 4 footers and I was wondering what I may have gotten poor Kristi into! For me, at the front of a boat with a Greenland style bow was quite a different experience. I was becoming ‘one’ with the ocean and having a good time doing it. The boats were very stable, though and from the beginning James and Mike showed they knew how to handle them. A little ways out and the swells were of a more rolling nature.We paddled through a giant arch choked with bulbous kelp making it hard to plant a paddle blade. On the other side was calm water once used as a loading area for logs going on to ships. Despite the fog that came and went, it was beautiful scenery.
James asked me if I was up to surfing in through the large waves that were coming in on the far side of the rock. I had already suggested that a sadly underused method of landing was the ‘wet exit and walk in’ landing method. But we were all pretty much wet from head to toe and I could see that Mike and Kristi would be able to make a reasonable landing in the lee of the rock. If James thought surfing a +20ft kayak with 1/8 of a ton in the front cockpit was a good idea, who was I to argue! Our first attempt was a bust, but we had a plan. I would help to keep us straight and get in the wave and then just lean back to keep the bow up. I set the self-timer on my camera to 10 seconds and when James said to paddle I hit the button. He screamed we were in it and we were hurtling down the face of the wave. I could barely glimpse my camera as it reached 10 and took the picture. Two seconds later we were broached in a wall of white water. I planted a brace and fought to keep the boat upright. It seemed a lost cause, but then I think my blade hit the ground and with another push we were back up straight. Except, I had lost my guide!!! James was out of the boat and hanging on to the back! I decided the best idea with more waves coming in was to wet exit as well and we pulled the waterlogged boat up to shore.
I left Elk with a Force 10 tee-shirt and another entry for my “Incredible Day” kayaking list.