Saturday, January 19, 2013

Karenia brevis Red Tide Doesn't Kid Around

When I saw the swell forecast last week I couldn't believe it- "4 foot waves with a 9 second period? That NEVER happens on the Gulf side of Florida!" But strong Northwest winds on the other side of the Gulf had indeed pushed a rare swell in our direction. There was no question in my mind that I was going to be ON it when it came.

The day arrived, I strapped the WindSUP 11'8" to the roof-rack, and headed down to Wiggins Pass State Park. At the entrance they had a little note posted- "Red Tide: Dead Fish on Beach." They were still letting people into the park, though, so I figured it couldn't be too bad.

The water didn't look red to me, but I did notice an awesome (by Gulf Coast standards) swell peeling along the sandbar. The too-good-to-be-true forecast was really happening! I opted to paddle rather than sail the WindSUP because the wind was ultra light and offshore.

Out in the break there were a few dead mullet floating around- not the most encouraging sign. The single-celled dinoflagellate alga that causes most red tides in Florida, Karenia brevis, contains a neurotoxin that poisons the fish when they ingest it. The poison can also be released into the water when the algal cells die, and waves or wind can froth the poison into the air. The airborne toxins can cause coughing, sore throat, burning eyes, congestion, and asthma-like symptoms in people.

There was one other SUP guy out there who seemed to be doing alright, so I didn't worry. The waves were FUN, and I finally felt like I was using the WindSUP to it's full potential. It caught the waves easily, went down the line with speed and stability, and even turned if I told it to. In the video it looks like I'm riding barely-there waves, but they were actually about waist high on average.

SUP Session in Smooth Waves at Wiggins Pass from James Douglass on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, I didn't completely escape the effects of the red tide. It made me cough and feel congested- like mild asthma and hayfever. When I got home I had a headache and a sore throat that hasn't gone away. I had been hoping to get out on the water some more this weekend but unless the red tide condition changes I don't think I should. Checking the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Red Tide Website was disheartening, as it showed the toxic algal bloom currently covering most of the SW coast of Florida.


Apparently, blooms have been known to last as long as a YEAR. Ugh.


Lady Notorious said...

Great video! Love the song :)

Even with the camera lens effect making the waves appear smaller, you can get a good idea of the speed from the wake around the board. Looks like you caught some nice rides!

Love to see the long periods between the waves, but MAN that water looks nasty. If the bloom lasts longer than my foot injury I'll be pissed. =\

PS. going to work on going down the line to the left on your next SUP trip?

PPS. Don't tell your dad you were out in the toxins!

Johnny Douglass said...

Too late. I already found the message. Boy, you stay out of that nasty water with all those red toxins in it! You've got guests to entertain next week.

Max Vockner said...

Love the wind sup action down there! You really make the wind sup look like the ultimate do everything board. i need to make up here for the big bore tides that we get up here in turnagain arm, alaska. great post. for skiing and random windsurf adventures in AK check out our blog

Frank said...

Hi James,
I noticed you have the foot straps on while paddling. Do they get in the way? Love the video. We have red tide in Texas quite often but it is hard to stay out of the water on fun days.


James Douglass said...

Max- Wow, your blog is awesome. I was a little worried when I saw the title, but relieved to learn that you don't actually show your dongs on the blog. Interesting that you had some snowless January days there in Alaska. I thought that was impossible.

Frank- The footstraps don't usually get in the way when paddling. Sometimes if I'm really worried about pearling the nose I'll step back and purposefully step directly on or behind the back footstrap, but for normal no-sail waveriding your feet aren't where the footstraps are. We are still having red tide here, but I couldn't resist going out yesterday for a 4.5 / 3.5 windsurfing session in a big cold front. Yahoo!