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Currents


N E WS


EXTRACURRICULAR EDUCATION. PHOTO: JASON SELF


CHILD’S PLAY


FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD WAVE WIZARD CORY SOLL MAKES KAYAKING BIG SURF LOOK EASY


The quaint seaside village of Trinidad in northern California, population 367, has been described as a drinking town with a fishing problem. Situated at the gateway to California’s Coastal National Monument, 14 miles south of Redwood National Park, tourists visiting this hidden North Coast jewel can expect to see whales, porpoise, surfers and the largest commercial crab fleet on the U.S. West Coast. Now there is another increasingly familiar sight at the numerous surf


breaks and pocket beaches surrounding the area: kids shredding the waves in whitewater boats and surf kayaks. In the past, the nearly empty breaks behind the redwood curtain have hosted only small bands of hearty surf kayakers, including five-time U.S. surf kayak champion and wave ski/surf kayak designer Dick Wold of Wold Ski Custom. But in recent years, surf kayakers became a rare sight in the area. Now there seems to be a kind of surf kayak renaissance gaining momentum among local youth, and 14-year-old Cory Soll is leading the charge. Like a lot of kids in his neighborhood, Cory is growing up playing in the


ocean. Spending several years board surfing, boogie boarding, diving and spearfishing nearly every day, Cory developed an understanding of ocean dynamics and comfort on and in the water, before taking up kayaking in October 2015. His original goal when he picked up a kayak paddle was to find an easier way to get to and from spearfishing grounds than the boogie board he had been using. It wasn’t until a serendipitous kayak fishing trip with Pacific Outfitters’


coach Jason Self that Cory realized the potential for kayak as surf craft. A north wind blew in and the decision was made to cancel offshore fishing


14 PADDLING MAGAZINE


for the day. Having time to kill and a mindset for playing in waves, Cory and his friends began trying to surf their sit-on-tops. “I started out catching a few waves after kayak fishing and loved it,”


Cory enthuses. “Then I tried a whitewater kayak in better surf and couldn’t get enough.” A neighbor gave Cory a 20-year-old Perception Whiplash kayak and


the focus of his coaching sessions with Self shifted from kayak fishing to kayak surfing. “I’ve never seen someone take to kayaking as quickly as Cory,” marvels


Self. “He rolled on his first attempt and then repeated it 10 times. In the few months that he’s been at it, I’ve seen his skill increase to levels that take most people a year or two or more to refine.” Cory so impressed his mentor that he is now training with Self for his first competition, the 30th annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest, in mid-March at California’s Steamer Lane. “We’ve got a high performance surf kayak coming for him before the comp,” says Self, “I can’t wait to see what he can do with it.” Others have noticed Cory’s inherent abilities as well. Pacific Outfitters,


Werner Paddles and Stohlquist Waterware have brought on Cory as an athlete ambassador, and paddlesports media have taken notice, too. When asked how he feels about being in the limelight, Cory says, “The attention is a fun bonus to the main attraction, which is learning, having fun and finding new ways to enjoy the ocean.”


Jason Self leads kayak instruction and guiding programs on California’s Redwood Coast.


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