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Sunday, December 22, 2019

That other, more peaceful paddling season

Holiday decorations adorn trees over a Lake Natoma bayou

If you missed Winter Solstice, it occurred here at 8:19 p.m. on Dec. 21...

...and it’s easy to overlook the shortest daylight period of the year. Yet it’s auspicious for several reasons, not the least of which is that it officially kicks off my Other Paddling Season. No big sales at Macy’s or one-hour specials on Amazon to commemorate this season, but it's special all the same. 

By December, many kayakers have packed away their paddles, but they are missing a great opportunity to discover peace and quiet on the water. (Or salt water thrills, more on that later.) Northern California has dozens of lakes that are just right for gentle winter paddling. Mine happens to be Lake Natoma, near the town of Folsom.

"Is that mallard crashing our holiday party again this year?" (Click on photo to spot the culprit more easily)
And so I made the pilgrimage to Natoma last Saturday to usher in the Winter Solstice.  It was a gray day with mild temps and no rain – a perfect Solstice paddle. No crowds on the

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Choosing your first kayak? Watch this video

Dan Arbuckle introduces a review of five entry-level kayaks

Some longtime paddlers may look down their noses when they see....

...entry-level boats from big box stores. It’s an easy call if you’ve been paddling for years and invested a large sum in a kayak that’s fit for almost any body of water. But there’s another point of view, as a new YouTube video explains. And it’s notable for several reasons.

First, it was created by Dan Arbuckle, who owns the Headwaters Kayak Shop in Lodi. Dan is well known in Northern California kayaking circles as an entrepreneur paddler who’s very active in the community. He’s also as sharply attuned to social media as anyone I know in the watersports biz. Which is where YouTube comes in.

One of Dan’s latest YouTube videos is “5 Kayaks Under $300:Are They Worth It?” On the day I found it, the video had more than 58,000 hits. The following day, up to more than 64,000. As of this writing, it’s closing in on 125,000 hits – after only a month online. That’s extraordinary for a kayak video that doesn’t involve a shark attack or a ride over Niagara Falls. Dan's 28-minute video obviously hit the right note with paddlers.  

Anyone familiar with Headwaters knows that the shop inventory includes some high-end kayaks with price tags of $5,000 or more. (Less expensive but quality boats too.) So you

Monday, September 25, 2017

I've seen the Golden Gate from both sides now

Before a paddle under the fog-draped icon of San Francisco Bay…

 …our leader asked, “What are your goals today?” An easy one for me: “I want to paddle out the Gate – and I would prefer to come back.” As it turned out, that would be the right goal for a kayaker who ended the day feeling nearly as time-worn as the span that symbolizes San Francisco.

Thousands of kayakers have paddled under the Gate, and they’ve done it many thousands of times. I bet all of them remember their first trip. For me, the allure had little to do with kayaking and everything to do with another trip under the Gate in 1943.

It was a clear night. A troop transport ship chugged out of the Bay carrying hundreds of  soldiers. Including a 19-year-old, Blue Ridge Mountain farm boy. He had never traveled 

A paddler's wish comes true: "...and I would prefer to come back"
more than ten miles from home before he volunteered for the Army. Below decks, the heat from jammed bodies was so stifling that men were allowed to sleep on deck. “I could see all the stars in the sky – and then suddenly it all went dark as we passed under