for a t wo-hour-minimum outing), but also the most serene and memorable.
Owners of kayaks can also choose from among dozens of other spots where
it’s legal to “put in” in Marin (identified at bask.org/trip_planner).
Who kayaks? “Forty percent of our renters are first-time paddlers who just
want to try it out, while 20 percent are members who get unlimited rentals
for $45 a month,” says Sea Trek’s Galen Licht. “We get quite a mix of people,
from teens and young couples to grandparents.” That busts the stereotype
that kayakers are all older folks who couldn’t stay upright on a stand-up
paddleboard (SUP) to save their lives. Plenty of millennials kayak, just as
plenty of baby boomers SUP. But at any age, kayaking is the better choice
for beginners. “It’s a bit easier to learn, and kayaks perform much better
in wind and rough waters,” notes David Wells, who opened 101 Surf Sports
in 2011 in San Rafael. “They’re just more seaworthy.” Kayaks account for
40 percent of rentals at his shop; it’s 60 percent at Sea Trek.
How do you do it? A staff member will give you a few minutes of simple
instruction when you step into a “sit-on-top” kayak — how to hold the
paddle, how to turn (by angling your paddle or shifting your body weight)
and where to explore. And then you’re off. “It’s far easier and safer than
riding a bike,” Galen notes. Sea Trek has a spotless safety record, with
no serious injuries in its history. Eventually some kayakers decide to
advance to a sister sport that demands more skill: paddling a SUP, traditional (sit-inside) kayak or surfski (a high-performance, lightweight
kayak), or rowing, surfing, kayak surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding or
Hawaiian outrigger paddling. All can be enjoyed in Marin waters.
What do you need? Water can spray into the boat and onto your head, so
to be comfortable wear a swimsuit or water-resistant apparel, a cap/hat
and hardy sandals/flip-flops. Bike gloves can provide blister prevention.
But that’s about it, unless you want to spend money.
When is the best time? November is a good time to try kayaking for the
first time, for several reasons. The water is usually calm. From November
to March, the bird population swells in Marin’s bodies of water because
they’re on the Pacific Fly way for migrating birds. Winter months are also
when sea lions visit Richardson Bay. The other seasons have different
personalities. Spring and summer bring higher winds and choppier waves
— dramatic, fun and challenging — and autumn features calmer waters
and warmer temperatures. At any time of year, mornings are always the
best bet because winds usually pick up in the afternoon.
Why do it? Says Richmond customer service rep Elaine Baden, a kayaker
who launches often from 101 Surf Sports, “Being on the water calms me,
makes me whole and gives me as much or as little of a workout as I need
each time.” Mill Valley accountant Michael Vipham, a frequent kayaker
at Sea Trek, echoes that enthusiasm: “I can paddle for an hour or two in
the morning and still have the day in front of me, or spend all day exploring the bay. I’ve had seals following me and pelicans diving all around
me. It’s a great escape and a unique way to get fresh air and exercise.” m
Sea Trek, Sausalito, seatrek.com; 101 Surf Sports, San Rafael, 101surf
sports.com; Blue Waters Kayaking, Inverness, bluewaterskayaking.com
This page: The launching
area at Sea Trek. Opposite
from top left: A day on the
water; lots of kayaks; Bob
Licht; stowing the gear.