My First 20 Miler

Iíve been paddling pretty regularly this year, and the last couple of Sundays spent chasing the whale chasers got me thinking I should expand my horizons. I figured I should plan a 20 mile paddle, but I hate round trip affairs. I figured a paddle from Newport to Dana Point might do the trick, but that takes some organizing to have someone to meet you at the end. Today I was just going out to play with my new camera. It was a somewhat muggy morning when I set out and soon I had made it to Big Arch rock, which seemed to be the site of a fishing convention. I couldnít hang out too long, or I was going to get hooked up to somebody. I figured I ought to paddle down past Abalone Point and maybe land on a beach to get ready for my 20 miler. But the beaches past AP were already busy with beachgoers. Iím sure I could have landed, but I always worry about that one kid that wants to catch the pretty boat! Dana Point was very clear and I wondered if I paddled there, could a get a taxi to carry me and my boat home? I think itís a clear case of discrimination that buses have bike racks, but no kayak racks. When I closed in on Main Beach in Laguna, I figured with just a few more miles and with the return trip Iíd hit 20. I looked at the GPS to see how far Iíd come. 6.66 mikes, lucky me! Good thing I didnít paddle another hundredth of a mile and miss that omen! But I was feeling strong and if I turned around in about 3 miles I could stretch this into my longest paddle ever. Like I said, I wasnít planning on 20 miles today and my kayak larder was rather sparse. I had a couple ounces of nuts and beef jerky, a hunk of bread and a pint of juice and plenty of water. Had I planned this trip, I would have brought my new concoction ďPaddle Float or DrownĒ bars, loosely based on an idea from Duane Strosakerís. Theyíre a sleeve of Fig Newtons, deep fat fried and covered in chocolate fondant. Eat one of those on top of the hour and itís guaranteed to keep the hitch in your get along. Alas, bad planning. At about 9 miles, I decided I better start back. Never having done this distance I wasnít sure if I might hit some wall without much food in me. I was south of the Laguna Hotel and the cliffs were covered with houses. I paddled in close wondering if I could beg some food off the homeowners. About 30 feet above me a man was leaning on the rail of his balcony and I shouted up wondering if he could spare any fruit. He nodded and went into the house. Bastard threw a watermelon at me! Now I was wondering if I should land at the Laguna Hotel and get me a nice nutritious burger, but I realized, I didnít bring my wallet. For wont of 4 soggy singles, my burger dream was crushed. I was still feeling strong as I paddled home, past Laguna and up to Abalone Point. There I sat for a while and watched the churning water turn a brilliant green and white as it surged over the outer reef. I wondered what it would be like to be in the middle of that surge. The paddle from AP to Big Arch rock is a long slog and my old haunt just didnít seem to be getting any closer. I was fighting the wind and the chop, but finally made it to the mouth of the harbor. The GPS read 17.2 miles. To make my 20, I did a long victory lap through the harbor and around Balboa Island. 20 miles never getting out of the saddle, a milestone for me.

Mark Sanders

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