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Trailblazing: Paddle into the blue

GET OUTSIDE - SUMMER/FALL 2022

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The Central Coast boasts miles of coastline giving residents easy access to recreational opportunities out on the water. Kayaking gives you time to not only enjoy the summer sunshine from your perch above the sea, it also allows people to see critters like sea otters, harbor seals, and seasonal birds, Central Coast Outdoors co-owner Virginia Flaherty said.

“It’s just so awesome to be out there in the middle of this incredible area full of wildlife that you can see as it swims past you,” Flaherty said. “There are very few places left in California that have an amazing outdoor scenic area, and it’s super unique.”

Before you run to REI to pick up a boat and paddle and hit the water, Flaherty has a few ideas for you to consider.

Morro Bay: a perfect spot for beginners

First, she said beginners or first-time kayakers should join a guided, kayaking tour and go to Morro Bay to start. The trips through Central Coast Outdoors go into the bay so people aren’t dealing with big ocean waves.

“It’s great to do a tour at least to start because you’ll get an overview and a lay of the land. Then they [can] go out and kayak on their own. It’s a great way to start kayaking,” Flaherty said.

Central Coast Outdoors guided tours take people to the back parts of the Morro Bay Estuary, through the channels, and into the dunes by Fairbank Point. If it’s low tide, the group will go north into the harbor, as far north as the Embarcadero areas of the bay.

For those looking to go out on the water without a tour, Flaherty said Tidelands Park, Coleman Park, or the Marina are good launching points. There are several parking lots available and they all have great accessibility, she said.

Shell Beach: for intermediate or advanced kayakers

For those looking for an extra push, or who want to try something new, Flaherty said Shell Beach’s Dinosaur Caves or Vista Del Mar are great open water opportunities.

COURTESY PHOTO BY JOHN FLAHERTY
  • COURTESY PHOTO BY JOHN FLAHERTY

Central Coast Kayaks oversees tours farther south and takes people to see the caves that are only accessible by water. Guides assist in the surf zone launch and will take visitors through grottoes, arches, and kelp forests.

Guided cave tours last about three hours and the company provides all of the equipment as well as a snack and pictures from the day, according to the website. Each person must be able to swim, and the minimum age for these trips is 12 years old.

Regardless of skill, Flaherty said that everyone should check a wind and tides chart—which can be found at tideschart.com or other monitoring websites—before they go out so currents don’t become overbearing. Kayakers should try to go with a buddy, but if not, they should at least let someone know where they’re planning to be and what time they will be back.

“I would just encourage people to get out there. It’s just right there and easily accessible,” Flaherty said.

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