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Skirting the Shores

June 06, 1997

Somewhere between the exposed-to-the-elements surfer and the well-protected yachter, lies the psyche of the kayaker. The boat's design allows intimate access to shallow inlets as well as the seaworthiness to face open oceand. The first kayaks were skin-covered boats designed by Eskimos and Aleuts of the arctic. Today, kayaks are used to navigate Orange County's waters in growing numbers.

Differing Designs

Kayaks come in one-person (K1) and two-person (K2) models. Different boats are designed for all types of waters.


Often shorter, it has the most rocker--or curve--in its hull, allowing easy, quick turns around rocks, but offering little stability on a straight path.


These have the least amount of rocker. They travel a straight course with minimal effort and greatest speed, but are the most difficult to turn.


These are built to be both directionally stable and easy to paddle. Most are fiberglass, but there are also plastic, inflatable and folding models.


These models are popular for day-excursions near shore since they require no spray skirt and capsizing is merely a matter of righting the boat and getting back on. Wave skis are models built specially for surfing.


Learning to paddle is easy in calm water. First, sit as far back in the seat as possible, keeping your back straight. Then place hands on the paddle shaft between shoulder-length and extended elbow-length apart. A few starter strokes:


1. Hold paddle with right arm straight in front and left hand at shoulder, elbows tucked in and down. Immerse blade as far forward as possible without leaning forward. Rotate torso to achieve best reach.

2. Pull blade back along boat, keeping it immersed. Opposing arm pushes opposite end of paddle forward, keeping shaft low in the air. This hand should not reach higher than eye level and should not cross your centerline.

3. Once blade moves past your hip, ease off on pulling and lift blade smoothly, bringing shaft to your right shoulder, where your left arm started. Repeat on left until continuous motion is achieved.


Used for turning

1. Extend sweeping arm out in front, holding paddle at throat. Rotate torso to bring blade as far forward as possible.

2. Immerse blade in water and unwind torso, keeping arm straight and holding shaft as close to horizontal as possible.

3. Before blade reaches stern, bend elbow of sweeping arm to pull it up.


With blades set roughly at right angles to each other, feathered paddles create less wind resistance while paddling upwind. One hand stays in a fixed position on the shaft and by wrist movement, puts the blades into the water at the correct angles. However, wrists can suffer tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Getting Out

Beginning paddlers are advised to start out in flat water. California Kayak Friends, an organization of kayak enthusiasts, recommends the following locations:

* Carpinteria State Beach. mild surf and a clean, white beach.

* Channel Islands Harbor. Watch out for strong afternoon winds.

* Oxnard Harbor. Easy ramp entry/exit.

* Lower Tomol Trail. Ocean paddling from Pt. Mugu south to Santa Monica Pier. A two-day trip for experienced paddlers with surf skills.

Where to gear up:

Bayqueen Enterprises

* Ventura Harbor Village, Dock A, Slip 13, Ventura. (805) 642-7753

* Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Weekends, 9 a.m. to sunset.

* Sit-on-top models rented by the hour or by the day. $10 per hour for single kayaks, $15 for doubles. $40 per day for single kayaks and $50 for doubles.

* Deposit required.

* Basic instruction offered.


18605 Devonshire St., Northridge. (818) 831-5555.

* Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Weekends, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* Sit-on-top models rented by the day. Nonmembers of the cooperative store pay $60 for the first day and $30 for each additional day.

* Deposit required.

* Store is stocked with guidebooks and videos.

Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara

* 100 State Street, Santa Barbara. (805) 899-4925.

* Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m to 6 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. at East Beach in Santa Barbara, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. From June 16 to mid-September, the beach location will be open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* Sit-on-top and closed-deck models for rent by the hour with a two-hour minimum. Single kayaks rent for $20 for the first two hours, $5 for each additional hour. Double kayaks are $30 for the first two hours. Maximum $40 per 24-hour period for singles; $50 per 24 hours for doubles. Closed-deck models also available.

* Instruction in sit-on-top models is available in four-hour courses at a cost of $50. Four-hour classes for closed-deck kayaks are $65.

PSSB offers day trips to paddle the Channel Islands.

Sources: The Essential Sea Kayaker by David Seidman, The Coastal Kayaker's Manual by Randel Washburne, George Kulakowski

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