Kayaking 2006, Year in Review

Wow, what a kayaking year it has been! I am always impressed by those people who keep track of every paddle and calculate their mileage on the water for the year. I donít think Iíll ever be that disciplined, so I think Iíll settle for recapping the year instead. At the beginning of the year, I had been paddling for 3 years. But those three years combined could not compare to the experiences Iíve had this last year. This January, I resolved to get out on the water more, to get in good enough shape to take some classes and move beyond being just a casual paddler. Along the way, I got to experience more things then I ever would have imagined.

By March, I had been kayaking often enough to think I could tag along with the Orange County crew on a paddle to Laguna, only the second time Iíd ever paddled with a group. I chose a good day, as Duane was using this paddle to take pictures for his article in Sea Kayaker magazine. I got to horn in on the group photo that appeared in the magazine and become a celebrity in my own mind. Only the first of my appearances in the magazine for the year I mind you! On the trip down, I didn't set any speed records, but I donít think I was too much of a burden on the group. We had a nice, uneventful landing on the beach at Cameo cove. I felt good heading out for the trip home, but had a little trouble in the waves going out and ended up in the soup. Everybody was very concerned for the new guy and that combined with my own indecision led to a neat carnage photo. My waterlogged boat was rudely deposited on the shore and a 3 foot crack in the bow labeled me with the moniker ďSeam SplitterĒ.

Photo by Duane Strosaker

Not too long after that paddle, the San Diego kayak symposium came up and I headed down south for my first kayaking instruction outside of books. I had a great bracing class with the Body-Boat-Blade folks and a forward stroke class with Fiona Apple, uh, I mean Whitehead and her assistant for the day, Jen. The symposium was my first introduction to the camaraderie and willingness to share knowledge that seems inherent in the kayaking community.

Me off Dana Point with the OC crew. Photo by Duane Strosaker

I continued to paddle regularly and in June with my increased confidence, I abandoned my usual trek along the shoreline to head out off the coast a few miles. The Blue Whales were in town and I was hoping to maybe get a chance to see one spout. I hung out there over an hour and was just about to head back in when I heard a giant Ďwhoooshí next to me. It was a Blue Whale close enough to throw a stick at and boy did it set my adrenalin pumping! I watched it spout several more times as it swam by and feeling very small decided to call it a day. That encounter spurred me to join Duane on a paddle a couple weeks later down in Dana Point to look for more whales. I still think that was my most incredible day in a kayak. We saw seals, a sunfish, an armada of dolphins and were treated to the most amazing display from the Blue Whales. I was getting pretty tuckered out on that paddle chasing the group as they sprinted from one sighting to the next. I was about ready to tell them to let me rest and go off on there own, but if I had, I would have missed the kind of event many people can only dream about experiencing. Paddling with the group pushed me to go beyond where I could will myself to go on my own and Iím glad it did. Not too long after that, I made my longest paddle to date, 20 miles down past Laguna and back.

Points Pelican, Reef, Abalone and Dana

Through the summer, I continued to make the group paddles and with another bracing class with Jen, continued to feel more confident in the water. I was also starting to realize my fixation with Big Arch Rock! As a stop over or destination of almost all my paddles, I realized how much I enjoyed just hanging out there as the waves come in to crash on the rocks. Sitting behind BAR helped me improve my bracing as I dealt with the churn and congruent flow that comes through the arch. The cove behind BAR was my stop over as I waited for the sun to go down on my Full Moon Paddle. Iíve spent some exciting hours battling the swells that sweep in through the arch with only minor scratches and scrapes as a Consequence. Most of my unintended time spent upside down in a kayak has been in the water here and itís provided a lot of entertainment. Even got to capsize inside the arch, no small achievement.

O.C. crew enjoying the rocks off Corona del Mar

One of the projects from this summer Iím pretty happy with has been my electric bilge pump. I surmised correctly, that if I was going to improve my kayaking skills, I was going to be spending a lot of time with a water-logged kayak. It seemed a good idea to enlist a little technology to save me from the time and labor of pumping out my kayak, when I could be putting my time to better use. I spent a lot of time on the internet researching how to install it and got a lot of good information. As far as I know, Iím the first and only person who has used an electronic bilge switch to power their kayak bilge pump and it seems to be working pretty good.

Here you can see three of my projects this year: My Greenland paddle, my camera cradle and my pump working in the background.
If only I'd found the body floating under the helmet!

My whale encounters earlier also led to a couple other interests for me to pursue. My first solo encounter left me with only a rather pathetically grainy picture to prove my cetaceous sighting. Worse yet, on my most incredible day in a kayak, I ran out of film in my camera just as I was privileged to one of the greatest natural displays I could ever hope to see. Proud of my acknowledged modest whale photo, I thought Iíd try to make a website to talk about my kayaking exploits and mad at losing the chance for some great pictures, I invested in a waterproof digital camera. My new interest in kayak photography led me to design the SandMarks Camera Craddle to take better photos. Duane convinced me to send in my invention to Sea Kayaker magazine and it was featured in their ďTipsĒ section leading to the second photo of me in Sea Kayaker, albeit with my head cropped off! Beggars canít be choosers. With my new website, I had an excuse to spend hours and hours and hours editing pictures and fussing with my website, but itís been a whole lot of fun seeing where in the world people have come to visit my site. I hope it has provided some entertainment.

Elk coast at night

In August Kristi and I camped at the KOA in Manchester Beach, CA. We took a kayak tour with the guides from Force Ten, a company started by Steve Sinclair, a legend in extreme kayaking. We kayaked the water off the Elk coast and explored the amazing rock formations, gliding through sea caves and arches. We paddled home through some lumpy water and landed just ahead of the Tsunami Rangers who made Elk the site of one of their yearly get togethers. Got to get a picture of me with Mike Powers, another kayaking legend.

I participated in several more skills sessions over the summer, took a rolling class with Jen and spent a lot of time in the churning water of BAR. Then I heard about John Petersenís Traditional Arctic Kayak Symposium in October and thought that might be a fun thing to check out. I knew really nothing about traditional kayaking other than seeing an occasional Greenland paddle, but thought it might be fun if only to get into the waters of San Simeon. It turned out to be a great and inspiring adventure. Three days of camping and meeting nice people and getting exposed to a different side of kayaking. I had a great time, took a lot of photos a few of which have made it to other websites across the world. When I got home, I was inspired to make my own Greenland paddle and I still think Iíd like to build a SOF kayak, maybe sometime in ought seven.

Letís see, was that all I did this year? Well I tried to make an epic Waipio Valley paddle in Hawaii for my 50th Bíday, but had to settle for just a brief paddle out of Keokea. I spent a day checking out Steve Brown and Co. rock gardening and spent a lot of time running into the OC paddlers as I went about my solo paddles. I had fun at Wayneís BBQ paddle and all the weekend romps. Surfing at Cabrillo was great and led to a neat photo of Duane that may be my next entry into Sea Kayaker magazine. A pretty exciting year chocked full of kayaking fun. I canít wait for next year!

Beautiful, but windy, Keokea

Mark Sanders