By Land & By River: Sea Kayaking

by Kara Kelly, 2016 Sierra Nevada Americorps Partner

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm day by the water in San Francisco.

No, I am not writing the introduction to a fictional novel. San Francisco on Saturday, June 18th was phenomenally beautiful, clear and without the usually mild, pushy breeze. It was perfect for a day on the water with new friends and TRT supporters.

Sea kayaking launch
Getting fitted into boats before our launch

On the morning of the 18th, we parked at the National Seashore right below the famous Ghirardelli Square and found our guides from California Canoe and Kayak getting ready to start unloading. Within minutes the first few participants arrived, filled with excitement and gratitude for the beautiful day we were going to have on the water. There were familiar faces from prior events and first time participants who were encouraged by friends, family, and “50% off registration!” codes on Facebook to see what this event was all about.

After gathering everyone around piles of well-sorted PFDs (personal flotation devices – sometimes known as “life jackets”), splash jackets, and spray skirts, we encouraged everyone to tan safely and apply multiple layers of sunscreen. We paired up, some with new companions, others with friends, and sorted ourselves into double sea kayaks that were lined up on the beach. I was delighted to be switched into the kayak with the snack bag in the back compartment. Much to my satisfaction later on the water, I found a role of Keebler Elves chocolate cookies that really took my blood sugar to a new level.

We squirmed to fit our skirts onto the edge of the cockpits, learned about safety

Kayaking selfie!

procedures, had a hilariously straight forward paddle talk and were soon off on our way, carefully dodging the swimmers from the nearby swim club. My partner, Tara, was an expert paddler and gracefully ignored my inability to keep our kayak straight as I learned how to steer with the pedals on the inside of the boat.

Our guides were great at communicating, keeping us together and providing for a safe route from waypoint to waypoint. We passed, what I will ignorantly call, a giant sail boat roundup and many day cruises and yachts headed out past the bridge. It was a fun day to be on the water, especially as someone who had never had the opportunity to see the bay and bridge from such an intimate perspective.

We reached a windbreak right before the bridge and were given the option to stay back with a guide or head towards the rougher, windier waters of the south end of the bridge to embrace a much grander view. The majority of the group opted to take the flipping risk and head for the bridge. There were hoots and laughter as we all battled the wind and big waves that dropped the front of our kayaks like little rocks on a big pond. I attempted to take pictures, steer (poorly) and continue to paddle in the mix of all the commotion. Upon reflection, I should not consider this for a future career.

Celebrating the arrival to the Golden Gate Bridge

Happily, it was a major success as no one flipped and everyone left with smiles and future sore ab muscles. We regrouped and let the current carry us back to the beach with some wiggling around fishing lines closely sunken by the pier.

The picnic was set up on our arrival. We dropped our damp gear, made sandos and small talk, and tried to avoid some of the most daring and aggressive seagulls I have ever encountered. Many of the participants expressed gratitude for the Trust and the event’s success, some hoping to join at future dates throughout the Summer.

Many, many (many) thanks are deserved for Rebecca Stievater, the coordinator of By Land and By River and prior Paddle to the Sea fundraisers. Her work, along with the rest of the TRT team, has provided incredible exposure to the both the beauty and issues facing the Tuolumne and the many people and partners working to protect, restore and build community along its banks.