Friday, May 27, 2016

RETURN TO ANGEL ISLAND

 
The struggle for spirit has replaced the physical, and in his evolution psychologically man’s greatest minds have become aware of the emptiness of material striving. The struggle has become a positive drive toward perfection, all in keeping with his final hope: realization of the kingdom of God within him. – Sigurd Olsen

The day started much like all my other trips. An early morning two-vehicle caravan from Sacramento, along Interstate-80, to Highway 101 and then unloading our kayaks in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge at Horseshoe Bay. Hazy skies and calm seas greeted us along dozens of Marin County Firefighters taking part in a training exercise at the Coast Guard station there. It was a  reminder that some of the wildest sea conditions on the entire West Coast can be found just past that sea wall. The bay is known for steep waves, fast and swirling currents and howling winds blowing through that Golden Gate. On the eastern horizon emerged Angel Island.

In August 1775, across the continent, the American revolution was just beginning. George Washington had just taken command of the Continental Army.  In England, legendary sea Captain Cook had just completed his second voyage around the world and looking out from where we currently were,   Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala had brought his ship, the San Carlos, into San Francisco Bay for the first time.  Every other sea captain like Francis Drake had sailed on past the fog encased bay entrance by the time Ayala stumbled upon the now world-famous bay.
His purpose for the trip along the California coast was to give a detailed account of the area that future Spanish ship captains. Ayala’s pilot, Don Jose’ de Canizares, explored and mapped the bay, while Ayala stayed aboard the San Carlos anchored in a little cove island that now bares his name.  Following a custom then common among Catholic explorers of naming sites for the religious feast days nearest to the time of discovery, he christened Isla de Los Angeles, (Spanish for Island of the Angels).

"This is certainly a fine harbour," Ayala reported "It presents on sight a beautiful fitness, and it has no lack of good drinking water and plenty of firewood and ballast. Its climate, though cold, is altogether healthful and it is free from such troublesome daily fogs as there are at Monterey, since these scarcely come to its mouth and inside there are very clear days"
Ayala and his crew stayed for 45 days along the island exploring, mapping and trading with Indians, only to sail out the bay and NEVER return.

It would be his loss. I mean who hasn't left their heart in San Francisco. Angel Island now part of the California State Parks system is just one of the many gems the Bay Area. This is my second kayaking-camping trip to Angel Island with members of Bayside Adventure Sports, an active Sacramento based outdoors church group. Transformation through recreation in God's creation is the guiding ideal for participants. The group organizes weekly biking, hiking, skiing, and kayaking outings, along with camping and ski trips throughout the year.

"Starting a good tradition," said Brian Hughes, one of the paddlers on the trip,  "Each year is different because of different weather conditions and exploring different parts of the island and the Bay. It's a challenging experience with awesome buddies. It has made me appreciate God's creation and the value of friends."

We caught the "Flood" tide for a free tide directly to the island. Our hearts seemed to pound a little harder as we exited Horseshoe Bay and feel the surge of the ocean. My longtime paddling partner Erik Allen and I traded off taking the lead across the 3-mile stretch as Angel Island loomed ahead of us, getting larger with each stroke.

Last year, Hughes paddled a sit on top kayak and towed a paddle board. This year he has a sleek sky blue touring kayak he is paddling for the second time since he bought it. Ron Bischel missed last year's trip us and is kayaking the bay for the first time. It's an easy paddle till we catch the swell of the rapid waters of Raccoon Straights. It pushes us past Stuart Point and towards the shore of the island. Up the hill through the trees is our campsite.

In an article titled Catching the Late Show in this year's spring issue of Adventure Kayak, writer Charlotte Jacklein says it's a fundamental fact that one of the greatest things you can do with your kayak is to go back-country camping. She wrote, "Day trips are certainly fun and beneficial, but camping out of your kayak exponentially magnifies all the joys of paddling and spending time in nature with friends."

Angel Island is within view of 4.8 million people around the Bay Area and has countless visitors on daily basis hiking Mount Livermore and touring the historic features of the island. But, when the last ferry left and the sun set, the island was pretty much its own world. It became an extra-ordinary back country adventure, offering the solace of any wilderness camp except  it had stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the twinkling lights of San Francisco. That night tired after paddling in the wind around the island we reflected and philosophized about the day's paddle, life and God in tranquility.

 "Fellowship and strenuous fun, " said Hughes, "It is a major part of my social and faith connection.  Without it, I wouldn't have much going on that gets me revved up. We had one less person this year, but was still good"

Paddling guru Sigurd Olson knew about paddling and camping together and how it can lead to deeper understanding of our relationships with each other, nature and ourselves when he wrote "There have been countless campfires, each one different, but some so blended into their backgrounds that it is hard for them to emerge. But I have found that when I catch even a glimmer of their almost forgotten light in the eyes of some friend who has shared them with me, they begin to flame once more. Those old fires have strange and wonderful powers. Even their memories make life the adventure it was meant to be."



We hiked to the top of the 788-foot Mount Livermore  he island tallest point on the island the next day before paddling back to Horseshoe Bay. It was a few days away on land and sea that recharged are lives and souls till we all can paddle and camp together again. Ayala may have never returned, but I'm looking forward to more paddling trips with the guys to the little bay island for many years to come.

 Click on the following links for past stories about kayaking in San Francisco Bay and visiting Angel Island in Outside Adventure to the Max.

 PADDLING SAN FRANCISCO BAY : VIDEO BLOG
Angel Island
Under the Golden Gate

Friday, May 20, 2016

OVER THE BOW: PADDELFEST SANTA CRUZ

PHOTO BY TOM GOMES
When asking Dan Crandall about 30th Annual Santa Cruz Paddlefest, this past March his eyes lit and  a big smiled came across his face. "I had a great time at Santa Cruz, when there was big water like that." said Crandall, "It was a beautiful wave." Santa Cruz Paddlefest is the largest and oldest continuously held surf kayak competition. Paddle surfers from around the world gather one weekend every year at Santa Cruz, California's famous Steamer Lane surf break.

Current Adventures Kayak School & Trips owner and founder, Dan Crandall is no stranger to Paddlefest and surfing the epic big waves with fellow US and International kayak, wave ski and SUP surfers. "It's been 28-years straight for me." said Crandall, "I have five or six times between that. The waves are world class stuff."

And just like the paddle surfer, the waves and waves and waves showed up providing a heart pumping overhead-plus-sized surf that moved around from middle peak to the slot, and back again, depending on the tides and swell. “We could not have asked for better conditions for our event,” told event organizer Mathew Hoff to KION-TV “It was amazing.”

“Number one, I’d rather be patient and take a Middle Peak wave than anything else,” said Crandall before his run to Canoe & Kayak Magazine writer Paul McHugh, “I’ll look for a medium-size wave, one with shoulder that will hold up, so I can run it down the line. Much as I love big drops, the biggest ones are folding over and dying off quicker today. Long run-outs, that’s what I want.”
Crandall, won the Open international Class final against a strong field of great kayak surfers, including the current World Champion Jack Barker from England, the former World Champion Darren Mastervibe Bason from Australia and local star Zack Boyd from Aptos, California. Here is how McHugh described Crandall's winning rides in Canoe & Kayak Magazine Online.

Crandall positioned himself outside of Middle Peak on surfer’s left, and when a big ‘un came along, he committed to a slashing right cut across beneath the pitching crest. It was a distinctive Crandall move, quite familiar from contests past, demanding equal parts of boldness and the fast hull speed of an old-school boat. However, it also was the exact opposite of his announced strategy. His big wave did hold up, though, and he was able to sashay back and forth with mild cutbacks in the pocket all the way to the judges’ stand. That bagged him a score of 22.

Crandall went for his second wave. It was a mirror of his first. Big, bold, and starting off with a cut across under the lip. He made his section, then let the pocket catch up to him, whereupon he performed his customary side-to-side wallowing until he passed the judges’ stand. Score: 23. His heat plan might’ve been in tatters, but maybe that was a good thing.  

Sea kayaker and photographer Tom Gomes was able to capture Crandall's run to glory offering us a taste of the event.  Check out Gomes on Facebook for more stunning kayaking and outdoor images.

Over the Bow is a feature from Outside Adventure to the Max, telling the story behind the image. If you have a great picture with a great story, submit it to us at nickayak@gmail.com

Friday, May 6, 2016

TEXTING SAGE: AN INTERVIEW WITH SAGE DONNELLY


"This is a moment I’ve been dreaming of since before I can remember,” Sage Donnelly told the crowd on the Ottawa River after winning the 2015 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships. The 15-year-old kayaking phenom has a knack of dreaming big and creating remarkable memories. Along with winning the ICF title, she has won the 2013 GoPro Mountain Games, her hometown Reno River Festival and placed at the GoPro Games’ Steep Creek Championship the past two years and was voted in as Canoe & Kayak’s 2014 Female Paddler of the Year. She has been picking up steam ever since. The Carson City, Nevada paddler, competes in both freestyle and slalom kayaking events and is now vying for a spot on the US Olympic Team all while living with type 1 diabetes. 
“It makes it harder," Sage told Canoe and Kayak Magazine, "But, I take it as it comes and just kind of work with it.” Sage is connected to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, an organization seeking a cure for type 1 diabetes and providing support for those living with the condition.
“I do try to show that I don’t let things stop me, and I hope that inspires others to not let things stop them from achieving their goals,” Sage told Canoe & Kayak Magazine,  “My big motto is ‘Never give up on your dreams. You can become anything you want to.’”
An Outside Adventure to the Max favorite, we had a chance to get in a few questions with Sage about her busy year. 

OAM: It has been a big year for you. Trying to make the Olympic Team and getting a driver's license. What is next?
SAGE: I still have a super busy year ahead of me! I'm currently flying back to Oklahoma City, from LA where I was doing a diabetes commercial. Next up, I have the second Olympic Trials in Oklahoma City. I then drive to Colorado where I have three Freestyle and Creek Racing Competitions. Right after I'm finished in Colorado, I head to Poland for Jr./U23 Slalom World Championships in July. I will probably stay in Europe through August competing in slalom across the continent. 

OAM: You have had a young start. Do your remember your first time in kayak? 
SAGE: I don't remember exactly my first time in a kayak because my parents pretty much raised me on a river. I was put into the front of a two person boat with my dad in the back when I was two-years-old and started running rivers in my own boat when I was 4-years-old.  So, all of my early memories are of me in a boat or around the water. 

OAM: Young people seem to have little fear Are you fearless?
SAGE: I'm definitely not fearless. Since I've been doing this for 10 years I have developed a very good sense of my ability. However, I still do get scared, but when I do, I always try to work through it. I always break whatever I'm doing down into smaller steps and take into consideration what the consequences are.

OAM: How have you overcome your health issues thyroid disease and celiac disease and why doesn't it hold you back? 
SAGE: Well, along with Celiac and Thyroid Disease, I also have Type One Diabetes, which I would say is the hardest to manage. It's always a constant struggle of trying to keep my blood sugar levels balanced while training. I was diagnosed when I was 3-years-old, so honestly, it's just part of my life. Yes, it is a pain to have to do extra stuff to take care of myself, but I just take it as it comes and no matter what, never let it stop me from achieving my dreams.

OAM: Is it hard to be normal teenager doing what you do? 
SAGE:  I have no sense of what being a normal teenager is. Haha! I've been home schooled all my life and I travel around in a van competing over 9 months out of the year.  But I do still hang out with my friends and am super lucky to be able to do what I love with my friends all the time! 

OAM: How do you go to school?  
SAGE: My mom and dad are teachers, but I do all the work myself with them checking and helping when needed. I do all normal subjects that any kid my age would do and I'm currently doing college books for a curriculum. I'm also going to test out of high school when I get home from my summer travels and start online college classes.

OAM: Who are your influences? 
SAGE: I have so many amazing role models to look up to in the kayaking community, but I would have to say my biggest are Claire O'Hara, Adriene Levknecht, Jessica Fox, Rush Sturges, Nouria Abou-Newman.

OAM: Your home is Carson City. But where do you like to kayak most? 
SAGE: I would have to say my favorite places to kayak are the North Fork of the Payette River (Upper, Middle, and Lower 5 sections), the Ottawa River, and the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC! 

OAM: In whitewater kayaking you are an up and coming star, but do your get a little star struck paddling with some of the greats?  How does that feel? 
 SAGE: I get star struck quite often actually. It just incredible to be able to boat and compete against all of the people that I used to watch when I was younger and think "I want to do what they're doing someday" and to be coming up to that level and be around them and talking to them is just really awesome and inspiring!