The Paddler magazine asked 26 world-class sea kayakers two questions, “Which is your favourite location and why?” Adrian Harkin, Barry Shaw, Bill Vonnegut, Christopher Crowhurst and Derek Hairon gave us their answers and more to follow over the next week…
Malin Head, Co. Donegal Rep. of Ireland
“My favourite place to sea kayak is Malin Head, the most northerly tip of the Irish mainland with cliffs and cove beaches washed by Atlantic swell and swept by tides racing to and from the Irish Sea to the east.
“Fantastic scenery befits this remote coastline with caves, arches, stacks, tunnels, cliffs and the Garvan Isles, a rocky offshore archipelago. Wildlife abounds: seabird colonies, seals, otters, dolphin, leaping tuna, minke whale and the occasional orca and breeding ground for basking sharks.
“Offshore (and further north again) lies Inishtrahull and the Torr Rocks. The crossing to ‘the island’ takes careful planning, an exercise that every time satisfyingly tests the sea kayaker’s skills.
“Out there, alone from the rest of the world, the kayaker rests after an arduous sea journey, having battled tidal race, pitting mere mortal wits against the energy and vagaries of a boundless ocean.
“With only the company of lamenting seals and the primeval churring of that ocean wanderer, the tiny storm petrel, calling a mate from nests in stone walls, the sea kayaker can sense the wildness of an island with no boat service, deserted by man for 90 years.”
Anglesey, Wales, United Kingdom
“The South Island of New Zealand certainly offers the expedition paddler a few challenges. The relentless west coast surf and the exposure on the outside of Fiordland have given me memories that will probably stay with me forever.
“The wilderness of Tierra Del Fuego on the southern tip of South America has to be the most remote place I have ever paddled. It’s South Atlantic coastline made me feel incredibly vulnerable as did the channels and passages where day after day we would be alone.
“Yet still after week upon week throughout every year I never become tired of paddling on the Anglesey coastline. Probably the most exciting trip for me is a day around the Stacks with a choice of tidal races to play in. Penrhyn Mawr one day can be a place where beginners would think nothing of passing through and the very next day it can become anything from a challenging playground to somewhere that the most experienced sea kayaker would not even consider venturing.
“My first ever day of kayaking was a trip to the Skerries from Cemlyn Bay on the north coast of Anglesey and I have been completely hooked on sea kayaking ever since. The very next day I was taken on a journey around the Stacks and for me these two trips still have to be the finest kayaking destinations in the world.”
Goat Rock, Sonoma County, California, United States
“I would rate this area number one in the Bay Area for rock gardening play!
“The rock gardens are located just north of the Russian River on California’s Sonoma Coast. There is access to this area nearby at Goat Rock State Park. I recommend launching at the sheltered south beach. There is a one mile paddle north to what I call the ‘entrance to the rock gardens’ which is a double tunnel that then opens to the next two miles of entertainment.
“Beyond the entrance there is at least a full day of fun in this short section of coast. With many of the features located off shore in fairly deep water, access to play spots can be found when conditions are too large for shallower areas where waves could break.”
Nā Pali Coast State Park, Kauai Island, Hawaii, United States
“The Nā Pali Coast State Park runs along the north east edge of the Pacific island of Kauai. We paddled the 16-mile length in August at the end of the tourist season.
“Huge lush green prehistoric volcanic valleys plunge from the wettest peak in the world to the pristine blue Pacific Ocean. The trade winds drove long deep swells that picked us up and we rode them, seemingly for miles.
“Between magically waterfalls and mysterious sea caves, the beauty of untouched landscapes hewn by volcanic eruptions combine with the power of the prevailing ocean conditions to make an amazing day trip the likes of which I have never found anywhere else.”
Les Minquiers, Bailiwick of Jersey
“Living in Jersey means I’m spoilt with so many great sea kayaking locations on my doorstep. My favourite is Les Minquiers, a 12-nautical mile open sea crossing from Jersey. At low tide the reef dries to the size of Jersey but at high tide only a few hundred square yards remain. A few fishermen’s granite huts cling to the islet. To awake in a hut and watch sunrise through the salt encrusted windows is fantastic.
“The trip across is tricky and in the past I’ve had a few epics. At some stage you’ll be six miles from land so you have to cope with feeling very tiny and exposed. For me the best bit is when ocean and horizon merge – and on a calm day pure silence surrounds you. Once at Maîtresse Île, the waters are invariably Caribbean like in colour. You can even use the most southerly toilet in the British Isles. Here I always feel like a visitor, even the seagulls strut about with attitude.”