It’s already the next day and I can’t get the image of those behemoth walls of water coming into Big Bay out of my head. If you don’t know what the downwind dash is, it’s a weekly downwind surfski race from Milnerton to Big Bay and it only happens when the South Easter is blowing.
A few days earlier I had a conversation with a friend about whether I should be doing the DWD when the waves are 4m+ at Big Bay and after speaking to him I knew it was a bad idea and was hoping for the forecast to die down. Unfortunately it didn’t but I still decided to give it a go anyway.
As the horn sounded to start it was clear that there was no rush for anyone to charge out, the set was rolling in and everyone hung back out of the impact zone waiting for a gap. Eventually the gap came and there was a mad dash to get out, most of us were lucky and made it but a few got caught.
Once past the waves I was shocked at the size of the swell rolling in but just put my head down and started having a jol in the runs (wind generated swell). There were stages when I was on a run for 10 seconds without paddling and also stages where the run would break behind me and I’d get knocked sideways.
As I neared Big Bay the swell was cooking and a few sets on the outside of the rocks were breaking. Just as I was about to turn around the rocks I spotted an empty ski flying through the water and about 50m upwind was it’s owner floating near the rocks and getting pounded by the sets. I turned back into the wind to try help him get back to shore but this plan was quickly over when a set wave decided to break on me and wash me about 20m away from him and with another wave right behind I gestured to a windsurfer to keep an eye on him and paddled like mad to avoid getting crunched. I made it to shore and was glad to hear that the rescue boat was already on it’s way after helping another person out near Doodles.
@Bryanallott summed it up well “Emotional. Spiritual. Coming into BigBay and it gets dark behind you as the wave blocks out the sunset… #earnestprayer”
All in all it was great fun, although hairy at times, and I think I finally get the appeal of downwind paddling that Rob from surfski.info preaches about.
With only 3 downwinds in the bag I can already say I’m hooked!
All pictures are from the Downwind Dash facebook page