Gusty Northwesterly

Monday, February, 12023 HE

The weather was great! For wind that is. A combination of a strong pressure gradient and an unstable airmass meant gusty northwesterly winds to the British Columbia south coast for Monday. The winds were predicted to peak in the late afternoon according to the Environment Canada WeatherCAN app wind alert (see below). My app had pinged me earlier in the week to let me know about my “favourite” conditions. While was predicting the waves to be best after 1400 hours, my window of time was before school pickup at 1500 hours. I could get out for a quick afternoon session in the less windy window between 1300 and 1400 hours.

After grocery shopping and preparing dinner for tonight (pancetta pasta) and tomorrow (chicken and orzo casserole) I rushed out the door to get to Vanier Park to make the most of my wind window. With the northwesterly wind and limited time my plan was to do a few upwind/downwind runs in Səl̓ilw̓ət (Burrard Inlet) off of X̱ats’alanexw (Kitsilano Point). I could paddle northwest into the wind and then ride the wind swell back to my launch point at the end of my session.

Launching from the dock at Vanier the conditions at the mouth of Sen̓áḵw (False Creek) were relatively calm.

There were more waves than typical, but most of the swell was being blocked by Vanier Point and Elsje Point. As I made my way closer to the tip of Vanier Point I got my first taste of the northwesterly winds. They were strong, but I was still able to make forward progress. And heading more or less directly into the wind made managing the chop easier. On the other side of the point, things were a bit tippier with stronger wind and rebounding waves from the shore creating more turbulence.

I continued on to clear the banana-like process of Elsje Point, but around this time I needed to kneel to reduce my windage. I was using a fair amount of energy to paddle into the wind and wanted to save some gas for my return paddle.

I set my sights on paddling out past the furthest of the moored sailboats at X̱ats’alanexw (Kits Beach) before turning around to downwind. This proved to be enough of a challenge as my right shoulder was already fatigued from rock skipping on the weekend. Despite the DOMS, I deemed the endeavour worthwhile as I managed to set a PB on rock richochets (thanks to Mark Rober and his Rock Skipping Robot video).

I eventually made it out past the last of the moored boats, burning shoulder(s) and all. I stood up to paddle a bit further out into the wind to get my sea legs. Then, one slightly off-balance left pivot turn, and I was aligned into the wind waves ready for a short downwinder.

The conditions were chaotic as the only real swell in the inlet is wind-based. I was paddling through a series of haphazard waves rolling and collapsing in all different directions. Vancouver Island acts as a wave shield blocking any significant swell from reaching the shores of Vancouver. So, for a mainland Pacific Northwest Coaster, this was as good as it gets for surf-like conditions in my backyard. I caught a few good bumps as I manoeuvred between the moored vessels on my return Vanier Point. My (life-)force was filled a phenomenal, yet fleeting, feeling of floating over the water.

It was a quick run before approaching the Vanier Point shoreline, so I decided to head back out. I pivoted around, then started my struggled back into the wind. Again, to conserve energy I went to my knees to reduce my windage. Below is a quick clip of the conditions coming back inland on my second sojourn. It’s always amusing to me to see how benign the conditions look in hindsight. They felt fairly gnarly in the moment but the video footage is incredibly tame. And what felt like a surf stance was much more of a staggered SUP (parallel) stance. I can see how the seaman of yore were apt to stray into fishing tails.

After my second run I was pretty gassed. The upwind paddles, plus the interval-like sprints downwind to catch bumps were hard work. I contemplated a third pass but decided it would be best to head in and not risk running late to pick up my kids from school.

Coming in to land at the Vanier dock there was a Coast Guard boat docked with two officers. I assumed they were on alert giving the forecasted high winds. As we exchanged pleasantries I queried if they typically got more calls on windy days like today. They revealed that they weren’t sure as they were part of a hazardous spills team and were attending to the oil spill. Surprised by their response I asked where the spill was. I was assuming it was a tanker somewhere and was surprised yet again when the responded that it was at Granville Island. They explained that several boats had caught fire with one sinking and leaking oil. That struck me as odd and reminded me of a recent news story where a building fire was suspected to be an arson case of insurance fraud. I asked if that could be the case here. The officer declined to comment but did suggest that the circumstances were “strange.” I read in between the lines that is seemed to be a similar situation. Later I did look up the story in the news and came across this article in which it was public knowledge that the circumstances of the conflagration were strange. But who knows, as predictions and probabilities are a difficult problem to ponder.

Coming in early turned out to be a good call. Packing up my kit was more adventurous than typical. The winds were the strongest I had been in on my new board. While walking to my vehicle to get my hose for the wash station a gust of wind picked my parked board up and rolled it along the ground. Thankfully it was over grass and I heard the sound of it somersaulting. I turned back in time to catch the last few rolls and ran back to stop it from rolling any further. Experience is the best teacher and luckily there was no damage. It was a good lesson that a light carbon board in strong wind is liable to fly away!

I still needed to get to my vehicle, so I repositioned my board with the nose pointing into the wind. Previously I had just lain it down in parallel to the was station as per usual. With the nose now directed into the wind I waited to see if the gusts of wind were strong enough to cartwheel my board end over end. It seemed my new aerodynamically aligned orientation wouldn’t allow for lift-off, so I quickly dashed to my vehicle, all the while keeping a watchful eye over my shoulder for any SUP shenanigans.

The rest of my kit clean up was uneventful apart from managing my board in the wind and worrying about it flying off the roof of my vehicle before I fastened it down. Thankfully the gusts seemed to have eased from moments before when they were strong enough to topple my board overland.

It was a solid SUP session with some simultaneous shoreline safety lessons.

My route and stats are below recorded with Geo Tracker.

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