Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Travel Tales: Kayaking

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
Over the years I have been lucky enough to visit many attractions in the Los Angeles area. Last year my daughter thought of an amazing activity for us to experience. When we were in North Carolina, we went kayaking in Wrightsville Beach and we loved it. Now we would try kayaking in the Pacific Ocean.

We got up early and drove to Ventura to board the boat that would take us to the Channel Islands. We opted to have a guide since we had been kayaking only once in our lives. The trip was lengthy and we experienced large swells on the ocean. Finally we arrived at the Channel Islands. We made sure we had our water shoes and I had purchased a waterproof camera for the trip. The guides provided wet suits, helmets, Crocs and life jackets for us. Prior to entering the water, the guide went over safety issues. We would be entering caves and we were cautioned if a wave would push us against the wall of the cave, we should swim out of the cave and the guide would get our kayak for us. One person in our group went pale since he could not swim.

Kayaking 22 miles out in the Pacific is an incredible experience. The swells made paddling difficult, but not impossible. When we went in one of the caves, a swell came in and pushed someone's kayak against the wall. We were lucky to be able to get out of the cave without incident. When we paddled to the end of the island, we could see the swells were really high so we had to retrace our route. That was much easier since we were not paddling against the wind. When we returned to the point where we began our journey, our guide asked if anyone wanted to return to land. That was the only chance to do so before we started the second leg of the trip. Half of our party returned and our guide escorted them back to shore.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
We were left with one other kayak containing a couple from Texas. Our guide had told us to hold onto the kelp until he came back. We were waiting for 45 minutes! Holding onto kelp in the cold Pacific Ocean in March is not easy!!! A seal popped up to see what we were doing and finally we decided to just hold the kayaks together. The woman in the other kayak noticed how far from shore we were. I think our guide noticed at the same time. He got back in the water and quickly rejoined us. We wanted to continue our journey and go around some large rocks down the shore. We could see the white caps breaking around the rocks, but our fearless leader said it would be okay. As we were starting, another kayaker paddled up to the guide and and quietly told him something. Our guide told us to stay there and he would be right back. Not again!! We waited and waited. The man from Texas mentioned the water was getting worse, so we decided to return to shore. One of the other guides onshore noticed us coming back and paddled out to us to lead us safely onto the shore.

Later we found out that several kayakers needed emergency help because they had gone around the rocks and could not paddle back against the waves. They were exhausted and our guide had to help them back to shore. That was the same area where we were headed. Extra guides had been on the island and they were able to communicate with all the other guides by using walkie-talkies. In retrospect, one of them should have been sent to be with us since no one in our group had ever been in a kayak in the Pacific. We were very lucky no one was hurt. Once we returned to the island, we hiked up to the cliffs to wait for the boat to depart for Ventura.

While we were hiking, we met a park employee. He asked how we had spent our visit and we told him. He asked if we had a guide for our trip and we said yes. He said that was a good choice on our part because in the past some people who did not have a guide had died in the water.  In our case, half a guide was better than none! Despite the challenges of the experience, kayaking in the Channel Islands was one of the greatest experiences in my life.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

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