Paddle Power: Making the most out of the inter-monsoon season

A paddleboarder rowing early in the morning between Tanjung Bungah and Tanjung Tokong in Penang.

There are actually four seasons in Malaysia, but we do not call them spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Right now, we have entered the first inter-monsoon period of the year.

If you’re the adventurous type, understanding what is in store during this period is helpful.

One of the best features about this season is that in the mornings, you usually get clear skies and hardly any wind.

For those who like playing at sea, this means the waters off the beach are usually calm with gently lapping waves as the sun rises.

It is marvellous for paddlers. They can launch from the beach on waters almost as calm as a lake.

A calm sea is fun for those with a need for speed, who enjoy feeling their watercraft slicing through the water surface with only their muscle power.

The calm is surreal on days with no winds to whip up the sea.The calm is surreal on days with no winds to whip up the sea.

You cannot do it when the surface is rolling and heaving, robbing your momentum.

The reason for the calm mornings is that the earlier north-east monsoon has died down while the upcoming south-west monsoon needs about two months to start.

Without these prevailing winds, we then get breezes created by daily temperature differences between the land and sea.

Remember your Physics and Geography lessons at school: warm air goes up and cool air stays down.

The sea takes longer to heat up than land so when the sun is up, land gets hotter first and makes the air rise, and then cooler air from the sea will rush in to replace it, creating wind.

During the night, the sun is not around to heat things up and therefore, at the crack of dawn, the temperatures on land and at sea find an equilibrium. So the air becomes still.

Go to the beach this weekend at dawn to see it for yourself.

The sea will seem so calm that it will make you sigh. The waves will come ashore so lazily that it will feel unreal.

If you are a paddler, the docile sea will fill your heart with something you cannot explain as you paddle.

Now for the bad news: it tends to rain like crazy in the late afternoons and evenings during inter-monsoon periods in Malaysia!

I’m talking sudden, violent but short thunderstorms.

This kind of deluge can trigger landslides and flashfloods.

There is a perfectly scientific reason for this, and if you forget your Physics and Geography lessons again, just search the net for “convectional rainfall” or “convective precipitation” to refresh your memory.

So if you are an adventurer and your next plan involves activities that will extend late into the day, plan for sudden, bad weather.

If you are camping, study your terrain and read the river’s course for possible surges. Learn from seniors about what to look out for at your prospective campsite to make sure your tent won’t get flooded when the skies open up.

For paddlers specifically, you might want to end your session before 3pm, especially later in this month and next month too.

I had put myself in perilous positions four times, paddling through lightning storms and squalls because I had not learnt to read the weather.

There was nothing worth cherishing from those outdoors memories, and I am only glad that I did not get hit by a lightning bolt.

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StarExtra , Outdoors , kayaking


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