The Paddler magazine asked 26 world-class sea kayakers two questions, “Which is your favourite location and why?” Helen Wilson, James Manke, Jaime Sharp, Jarrod Gunn McQuillan and Jason Self gave us their answers and more to follow over the next week…
Trinidad, California, United States
“The world is a big place, and with so many bodies of water, it’s really difficult to pick a favourite paddling location. My favourite is often the place that I’m in the mood for. This could be somewhere warm and tropical, or somewhere cold and icy. It might be exciting rock gardens, or a calm, quiet lake.
“All that said, two places fall into my ‘mood’ quite frequently. They are Greenland (all of it) and Trinidad, California. Greenland is, simply put, magical. The culture, majestic glacier ice, sea ice and clear Arctic water are all things that contribute to the sense of awe that a paddler experiences in Greenland.
“Equally, Trinidad, California is home to me. It’s where I learned to paddle, and it’s the water that I know the best. I travel over 300 days a year, and it’s always nice to know that Trinidad’s rock gardens, whales and play spots are waiting for me when I return.”
Jordan River British Columbia, Canada
“The west coast of Canada offers some pretty diverse paddling and to narrow down a specific spot if a pretty tough thing to do. For myself personally, I really enjoy surfing and tend to spend most of my time during the winter at Jordan River just down the road from my house.
“If timed right, Jordan River can offer up some big steep long rides which some have claimed rides of up to two minutes in length! It is an ocean point break allowing kayakers to ride big waves then cut out without even getting your head wet! The river itself pushing out heavy flows helps define the shelf and also offers a free ride back to the lineup.
“Flow and swell direction play a key part in timing this magical place. Many paddlers get skunked coming here when forecasts read high. But when it’s good, it’s GOOD. There are definitely dedicated areas for crafts and surf education is a must. Run a circuit if you are at this super busy venue and look out for others. If you don’t have the skills, this is not the best break to practice at.
“Surfers tend to stay right at the point, SUP tend to hug surfers left and kayakers favour deep centre jumping on large swells which forms three defined breaks on the big days with the first set closing out heavy and generally two defined breaks on smaller days which tend to be the classic JR days. Notoriously known for it’s big long steep green waves… for a kayak surf bum there’s not much better than that!”
Photo: Rowan Gloag
Pacific northwest coast, Canada
“Over the years I have paddled the world, from the southern hemisphere to the north, the tropics to the high Arctic and all sorts in between. However, despite coming from one of the most beautiful countries in the world (New Zealand), still the place that sits close to my heart as one of the most spectacular areas to sea kayak in (as well as just be one with nature) is the Pacific northwest of Canada.
“What keeps me coming back? The large expanses of true wilderness packed with wildlife, the sheltered inside passage or the exposed west coast, tranquil paddling with whales to 14 knot currents with waves you can push your surf skills on.
“Then there is the amazing fishing, and copious large marine life; all coupled with stunning scenery and amazing camping areas. Now more than ever with the threat of industrial development, we need to cherish and preserve this magical coast for generations of humans and wildlife to come.”
Jarrod Gunn McQuillan
Brier Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
“A long ridge of basalt bedrock that forms North Mountain stretches along the Bay of Fundy from Cape Blomidon to the western most part of Nova Scotia, Brier Island.
“This offshore island juts out into the mouth of the Bay of Fundy and provides what I think is one of the most dynamic, diverse and beautiful paddling locations in Canada. I remember my first time visiting this Island as a tourist on a whale watching tour and being greeted to a wonderful display of humpback whales.
“The area offers a diversity of sea birds and marine life, bringing out the nature seeker in me. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the significant tidal range at this location and tight passages are what truly bring me to this Island. While this area doesn’t boast the 50 plus foot tidal ranges found in the Upper Bay of Fundy, a healthy 20-feet on springs provides plenty of moving water for a fun filled day.
“I also love the area as there is the opportunity for a full day of playing in tidal races, as there are play spots on both the flooding and ebbing tidal streams. I have found it to be the perfect spot to get away with a group of paddlers to have some fun on and off the water. ”
Northern California, United States
“The far northern California coast is a challenging place for sea kayakers. With hundreds of miles of sheer cliffs and unforgiving boulder strewn beaches, there are very few opportunities for all but the most skilled and brazened paddlers to experience the magnificent beauty it has to offer.
“Trinidad Head is one of very few places that offers protection from the Pacific’s constant onslaught against the shore. Towering sea stacks and offshore reefs provide ample habitat for seals, sea lions, thousands of migrating sea birds, otters, porpoise, whales, and a myriad of other incredible sea creatures. Enormous coast redwood, eucalyptus, cypress, and spruce trees cling to the edges of cliffs, themselves crumbling into the ocean!
“Paddling south from the protected harbour will give you a gradual increase in exposure to north west swell and wind for two to three miles before you get to Moonstone Beach, where a long, sandy, exposed shoreline begins and runs south for 20 miles with several river mouths along the way before you reach the jetties of Humboldt Bay near Eureka and your next opportunity for protection from dumpy beach break landings.
“For those with proper skills and a sense of adventure, paddling north of Trinidad Head will not disappoint. With full exposure to the prevailing north west swell and wind, exploring the miles of cliffs, hidden pocket beaches, coves, sea stacks, arches, caves, offshore reefs, surf breaks, and pour overs is something not to be missed. This stretch of coast is rugged and unforgiving, but for those willing to face its challenges, the rewards are overwhelming.”