Ryan (qwantz) wrote,

jenn's longboard has a Story To Tell

As Wikipedia will tell you, I am a longboarding enthusiast[citation needed], and this weekend when my sweetie Jenn and I went to Kingston to visit my parents, we brought our longboards. Mine has a picture of a T-Rex skateboarding on it! My brother painted for me and it is TOTALLY AWESOME. Jenn likes horses so Victor painted a horse skateboarding on hers, last year, when we both got her the board for her birthday.

Jenn is new to the sport, so she's still learning! We went down to the waterfront trail so she could learn how to brake and corner in a place where there wouldn't be much traffic. UNFORTUNATELY, Kingston's waterfront trail is really spotty, and ended in a vehicular road in a few places with just a sign saying "MORE TRAIL THIS WAY AT SOME UNDETERMINED POINT DOWN THE ROAD". But we found this nice 5m wide cement pier down by the water and it was perfect. Smooth, safe and dramatic. Here's a shot of Jenn!

Jenn almost lost her board in the water once, but not really - it wasn't in any real danger of going in. She asked me what we'd do if the board went in, and I said that the water probably wasn't that deep, but in any case I would instantly strip down, hop in, and pull the board back out. This is an example of "fore shadowing". A few minutes later, Jenn was working on her inside turns, when she bailed backwards, which, as you may know, is a bad sort of bail in this situation because as you fall, you kick the board out from under you. The board went speeding to the edge of the pier and straight into Lake Ontario. I ran over as fast as I could and saw the board sinking slowly, and true to my word stripped off my clothes and hopped in the lake to fetch it back.

What I had failed to realize were two things: one, that the waves crashing against the pier were high enough to splash over, and two, that the water was barely above freezing. I jumped in and instantly felt like I couldn't breathe: the cold was so shocking. I surfaced without touching bottom, and the board was gone. In retrospect it was pretty dangerous, and Jenn joked that if I'd died, she would have just thrown my board after me and driven back to Toronto alone, washing her hands of the entire matter.

This was very sad, as the board was now underwater, and we could see that the water was way deeper than we'd thought. We were quite a distance out from shore, and the shore we were on was built up anyway - the natural shore was further away still. The board was lost.

We consoled ourselves as best we could and went to Queen's campus where I insisted Jenn keep learning on my board. Here is a shot of us on campus looking sad:

Later that night we called Victor and told him that his artwork was at the bottom of Lake Ontario, snatched by Poseidon's watery hand. HE DIDN'T THINK IT WAS THAT FUNNY, even when I said on the next board he could draw a horse wearing a snorkel. It was a sad evening. The board was gone.

I don't have a picture here, but you have to imagine a shot of the board resting silently at the bottom of the lake, barely lit by a few silent moonbeams. Maybe a fish swims up slowly, pauses, and then speeds away.

The next day was brighter. My dad said that due to zebra mussels, there was very little plant life in the lake, and you could sometimes see to its bottom from that very pier. But even if we could see the board, the water was pretty deep there - beyond the range of most casual diving, he said. Plus, the water was way too cold to jump in anyway. It was time to take a box and then think outside of it!!

After we did that, we drove back to the pier with a shovel in the back seat: an extendible shovel that my dad bought to pull snow down off the roof. It had a range of 20 feet, and in tests with my board, I could hook its lip over a wheel and pull up a board. At the pier, however, we found that the water was actually 20 feet deep straight down, so I could only touch bottom by hanging over the edge, and couldn't maneuver the shovel at all. Worse, I found that I needed at least a 20 degree angle to get the lip of the shovel under a wheel: when going straight down, I couldn't do anything. The only good news was that, if we looked hard enough, we could just barely see the white highlights of the horse's mane at the bottom of the lake. That was good! The board hadn't been swept away. It was time to think outside of an even bigger box!!

It seemed to me that if we had a giant, heavy hook and could see the board, then I could probably get the hook under the trucks of the board and pull it up by its wheel. Jenn suggested that one hook would turn its hooky side away when being pulled through the water, but if we could get a grappling hook, we'd be set. Maybe an anchor? The local boat store had nothing useful, surprisingly, and the hardware store didn't sell grappling hooks even though we asked nicely. The biggest hooks they did sell were meant to be used to hang bikes from your roof - and they seemed like they actually might work. We bought three! To weigh the hooks down, we bought some 40 degree plumbing joints - the heaviest metal we could get for only $1.25 each, and put one at the top of each hook. Duct tape was used to tape the hooks together and keep them in a grappling hook formation, and neon orange rope to pull the hook back up.

We assembled the grappling hook in the parking lot, then we drove back to the pier.

I'm really excited by how awesome our grappling hook is. It is SERIOUS BUSINESS.

When we got there, the wind had picked up - as we later found out, the wind was actually at 35 km/h (that's a lot!) and was gusting to 65. 5 foot waves were soaking the pier, and me, as I stood on its edge and dropped the hook into the deep. Even so, I felt the board a few times, and once even hooked it! But it detached itself as I pulled it up - the water was just moving too much. Also it was freezing. Jenn left her camera in the car so there's no pictures of this, but if you ever saw the movie "A Perfect Storm" that was basically how it went down.

We drove home and checked the weather, and saw that the wind was to die down in the evening. We were supposed leave for Toronto at 3 pm, but you don't just abandon a board when you're this close. We could extend our trip, leaving just before sunset to get to the pier when the wind was more quiet but there was still light. Our plan was, if we failed tonight, we'd return to the house, sleep for a bit, and drive out at 4 am to try again when the water would hopefully be entirely still: this would leave us enough time to drive back into the city and get Jenn into work Monday morning. With our ACTION PLAN in place, I used some free time to take apart one of those dumb LED fiber optic toys and used it to upgrade the hook to the BOARDFIND MARK II: now with lights shining down! We would be able to see what the hook was seeing. Here's a shot of the upgrade, again facilitated with duct tape and also zip-lock bags, sealed with duct tape:

For Hallowe'en this year I may go as the BOARDFIND MARK II.

Sunset began and we said our goodbyes to my parents, hoping that we wouldn't be back tonight. The waves had calmed some but was still blowing. When we got there, we found that with the sun almost set, the light wasn't enough that we could see the board. We'd have to do it blind. I dropped the hook where I remembered the board being and trolled it back and forth a bit: unfortunately the mounted light wasn't much use below six feet, as it was just too dark. Suddenly, I felt the hook catch on the lip of the board. I pulled it up, but no dice. I figured I'd caught the side, and needed the wheel. So, I dropped it in again, found the board, and this time pulled towards me for a bit before pulling up. It felt like I had something. I pulled up the rope and yes - soon the board's pink wheels were coming into view! We cheered and Jenn hauled her board up on dry land. It was none the worse for wear after its day and a bit in the briny deep. We cheered and hugged and an elderly couple walking by ignored us. Then we posed for VICTORY PHOTOGRAPHS!

Here's a shot of how much rope was used to reach the bottom, which also doubles as a good band photo:

We drove back to Toronto with the board and felt like we were pretty great. When we got home, we took one more shot: the BOARDFIND MARK II in the dark, which faithfully recreates what the skateboard itself and any sea monsters would have seen just before rescue.

Totally awesome!

Anyway that was my weekend!
Tags: solving problems with science, um also grappling hooks
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