Karmers on a Big, Angry Day - Alone

01 May 2009. I woke up before the crack of dawn and it was cold and raining. Thoughts of staying in bed were strong in my mind, but the kayaker inside me persisted! I took a drive to Melkbosstrand but it was too dark to see anything. I could hear the waves and they sounded good. I then drove to Derde Steen and it was raining very hard and still too dark to see anything. Then I drove to Big Bay and it was still too dark. I sat alone in the car for about 15 minutes and waited for a fraction of darkness to fall away.

As it became light enough to see the ocean I jumped out and was greeted with a big and angry sea, and a slight NW wind, which is onshore. Massive waves were breaking across the very back of Big Bay and closer to the beach were some huge close out sections. Because it was closing so quickly it would have been a waste of time and some extreme beatings would be guaranteed. But on the right (when facing the sea) of Big Bay are some rocks. On the other side of the rocks is where Karmers is. A truly awesome spot! Just then Niell Taylor arrived and we were ready for maximum action.


We set out for Karmers and walked across the cold sand. Almost no one was around, and it was almost a little eerie as this place is usually busy. Maybe it was because the sun was not up and the fact that it had been raining beforehand. Niell decided to surf the smaller waves in front and I headed into the thick of it. I charged to the back and managed to get caned a few times along the way, but all good. There was an incredibly powerful rip current running NW and I knew that one swim would have meant a lost boat – the beach runs NS with the sea to the West. I felt nervous the first fifteen minutes out at the back and could only see land when on the peak of a wave, most of the time I could not see Niell at all. After that I was fine but still tuned in to my surroundings. I surfed a few awesome waves and really had a lekker time. I think at some stage Niell took a swim because of a burst deck, I can’t quite remember, but I went back to the beach and he said he would rather go back to take photos for me. Niell hasn’t been kayaking for long and although he has improved massively over the last 10 months he is not yet at that level to charge waves like this. I respected him for knowing his limits. I went back for more waves and scored several excellent rides.


Adrian Tregoning about to head out. Note, I'm using just one fin on either side.


Heading out. You can see Robben Island in the background, the island where Nelson Mandela spent so many years in prison.... Poor chap!


Nice and big. Bloody awesome fun!


What a wave... :-) Want to get into the action? Get a Fluid Element.... You won't be sorry!!!!


Eventually I went back to the beach and discovered I was very far north from where I had started. I was now at a surf spot that is known as Horse Trails. Also a super duper spot for waves! The only option was the long walk back. Eventually I got back, dumped my gear and went looking for Niell, he was coming down with the camera and he positioned himself in a good spot, then I went out. Sorry if my writing seems a little dodgy. I had 4 damaged salivary glands removed this morning from a big windsurfing crash and now have some nasty stitches in my mouth and some chemical drugs possibly fogging my mind… Anyway, I went out for the third time and scored some more waves. Niell missed a lot of stuff but reality remains that the waves in front were often blocking what I was doing and thus rides were missed. Nothing wrong on his part, that’s the nature of the game. The photos do the waves no justice that I can assure you. But I couldn’t care less. They are some good memories to me and only me. I can still remember the view from above and feelings through my body and that is all that selfishly matters to me. The photos serve just to motivate you to go out there and push yourself. Not to be better, not to be better than your mate, but to go out, push yourself, and just feel so damn good afterwards. That is the feeling you want. It’s a wonderful feeling and the exact reason I kayak.


I am invincible!!!!!!!!! *reaches for a big piece of wood....* Always keep a blade in the water, note my left blade. If it wasn't in, I would have eaten it for sure.


Amongst the 'friendly' giants. Seeing land is optional.


I should have carved from the beginning, but I went down the face and the boat jumped up. Luckily I didn't lose it, this is called experience. With an edge engaged the boat is much more stable in big, fast waves like these. And so I learn....


At this point I’d like to thank the people who always support me and the site. I’m always so stoked to hear from YOU. The effort of cropping, editing, watermarking, resizing and uploading photos, then placing them one by one, writing captions and writing the stories is all worthwhile when I get positive feedback, so thank you! It seems more and more are enjoying the site and using it as resource for information, which is exactly its purpose!


During this session I paddled the biggest waves I have kayaked thus far. The final sequence of photos you see I will not easily forget. I pulled in and the lip crumbled because of the cross shore wind, but it was a big boy for sure. The only way was surfers left and I went for the bottom of the wave for maximum speed and carved hard along it. As I did so I looked up over my left shoulder and realised I was over one of the shallower sand backs. The face of the wave jacked up and the lip rose up and over me as it pitched aggressively forward. Still holding my line I looked forward at the section and knew I would never make it, this lip was going to land on me and I hoped it would not burst my deck or break anything else. I looked for a split second again and lowered my head and body over my deck to protect it and waited for the impact. The lip landed on top of me and for a moment I was thrust into the air and the world went silent, the impact was incredibly powerful and I, Adrian Tregoning, was nothing in the mind of that wave. I landed back in front of it and the most violent beating of my life resulted for a few brief seconds. Somehow, I didn’t need to roll and came out upright even though a wild of world of white had surrounded me. I couldn’t believe it and felt almost numbed afterwards. It was a good feeling. Only my lower back hurt from the jarring and I still thought to myself that riding bigger waves might carry heavier consequences for kayakers and that there is a limit as to what our bodies can take. But for that moment, it was pure bliss. I felt alive.


The biggest wave of my kayaking career thus far and the one described in the text above these photos. What a super feeling... I'll never forget that one wave :-) Click HERE for a larger picture of one of the above so you can see some scale...




Still super stoked! :-) A massive thanks to Niell Taylor for taking all these photos in bad, misty light and still producing something to enjoy!


Back on the beach there were a few more people walking their dogs and going about their daily business. Not a single surfer was brave enough to enter the usually crowded waters and I was glad to have gone out alone and returned intact. But as the law of real numbers says, the more you throw evens, the more likely it is to land on odds… I don’t try to push my luck too much, but damn kayaking is fun! Thanks again to Niell for taking these photos in misty, windy and cold weather. Not easy and it was very bad lighting. Hopefully next time conditions are better! This winter I expect to surpass this level for myself and go larger. Stand by.



Photography by: Niell Taylor. Thanks Niell, much appreciated!

All Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Final article of the 2008 SA Road Trip series of articles. This article will also have a video almost 18 minutes long embedded into it. Stand by...