Magazine article Sunset

Ocean Kayaking; You Should Have Lessons First. You Can Rent. You Can Join a Tour

Magazine article Sunset

Ocean Kayaking; You Should Have Lessons First. You Can Rent. You Can Join a Tour

Article excerpt

Ocean kayaking

Cruising in sleek-bowed, shallow-draft ocean kayaks is a sport that's coming on strong in northern California's bays and coastal waters. Longer and more stable than whitewater kayaks, these molded fiberglass boats are designed to cover long stretches of salt water with minimal effort. They're great for paddling by the shore, poking around a harbor, and getting close to birds and other wildlife.

Fall is a fine time to try ocean kayaking: days are usually sunny and fog-free, and less windy than in summer.

Two ocean kayak centers offering instruction, rentals, tours, and sales have recently opened on Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay. Other companies specialize in guided tours. And a few outdoor supply stores now have ocean kayak rentals (see page 50).

On a guided tour, you can cruise along San Francisco's waterfront, take an overnight paddle to Angel Island, or join an exhilarating 2-hour tour on the Mendocino coast.

First, learning how

You don't have to be a rafter or sailboat enthusiast to try kayaking--but experts insist that you shouldn't go out on your own without a lesson that covers basic skills and self-rescue techniques.

In the lesson, you'll most likely be teamed with another student in a double-cockpit kayak with rudder; or you may start in a single kayak. Prepare to get wet: you'll be shown how to capsize the boat and climb back in. You'll also learn how to judge waves, tides, currents, and wind.

A snug-fitting spray skirt keeps you dry during the class tour--typically a cruise around the local harbor, close to piers, fishing boats, and curious sea life. On a recent class tour in Monterey Bay, we cruised close to a Steller's sea lion basking on a rock and we paddled by sea otters, who playfully dove underneath our group to emerge only a few feet away.

Signing up for an ocean kayak class or tour

These operators will teach you the basics, often as part of an easy guided tour. Prices include kayak, paddle, and life jacket. Write or call for reservations.

Bluewaters Ocean Kayak Tours, 425 Cascade Dr., Fairfax 94930; (415) 457-9983 or 456-8956. No lessons as such, but first hour of tour includes basic instruction. Day tours ($25) to Angel Island, the San Francisco waterfront, and the south Bay. Overnight camping tours ($50, including two meals) to Angel Island. Or float in the moonlight on a full-moon tour on the Bay ($25). Call for hours and directions.

Force 10 Ocean White Water Tours, Box 167, Elk 95432; (707) 877-3505. Lesson fees: $30 for 1 hour, $25 each additional hour. Force 10 offers a guided 2-hour tour ($50) along the rugged Mendocino coast: clad in wet suits and helmets provided for warmth and protection, you and your guide paddle through massive rock arches to secluded beaches and the dark recesses of hidden caves. You'll get intimate views of bird life, seals, sea lions, and possibly sea otters. Elk is 17 miles south of Mendocino on State Highway 1.

Sea Trek, Schoonmaker Point, foot of Spring St., Sausalito 94965; (415) 332-4457. The only ocean kayak school on San Francisco Bay, Sea Trek holds 3-hour classes ($25) at 10 and 2 most Saturdays and Sundays. Paddling and self-rescue techniques are taught on the calm waters of Richardson Bay. Wet suits can be rented for $3. Hours: 10 to 6 Wednesdays through Sundays.

If you want to better your beginning skills, you can sign up for intermediate lessons ($150) this spring that include three days learning rough-water paddling and surfing techniques and a tour from Muir Beach to Sausalito. …

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