Years ago my friend Steve had some experiences getting wiped out in the impact zone. He later dubbed the generic experience of being tumbled, bounced, thrashed, and subsequently thrown on the beach “the twelve-hundred dollar wheel” which was his ballparking of the likely cost of equipment destroyed (any combination of sail, boom, mast, board damage, shredded drysuit etc.) while tumbling end over end. When I started sailing in waves my guide Jonathan Ford told me “you don’t want to be in the water in the impact zone.” I knew what he was referring to: the twelve hundred dollar wheel. The plan to avoid the wheel is to:
1. Don't screw up and fall in front of (or get creamed by) a wave in the first place, and:
2. If you do, don't let your gear go hurtling out of control towards reef and beach.
The thing is, I’ve tried going over the falls whilst holding on to my gear…I failed (or rather, I chose to avoid getting smashed and stabbed by my stuff, and so let go.) Once the wave is past and I’m reunited with air and I’ve spotted my gear twixt me and the beach, I’ve learned to swim like a lunatic (sprint) after board and rig with the goal of, if not actually waterstarting and returning to the outside, at least guiding it all into more reasonable water or doing a controlled drag up onto the beach.
The key to increasing success, I’ve found, is to go all-out immediately. Unreasonable effort. There’s no time to gather one’s thoughts or even to swim gracefully, at least not for me. An all-out blast of effort is the ticket. If a second wave gets to the gear before I do, then I’m really out of luck (though the one time I let this happen at Iron Pier, I got out of it for a measly $100 in carbon base extension.) I think it’s also a good strategy for any time you’re separated from your board (don’t let the wind blow your gear away when you’re a half mile from shore) but in the waves, most definitely.
Otherwise you might be looking at the twelve hundred dollar wheel.
(Today, July 1 has been designated "blog about swimming day" by Tugster and Bowsprite, members of the loose affiliation of New York City area waterbloggers knows as "a loose affiliation of New York City waterbloggers" or ALAONYCW.)