TRAVELS WITH GREASE AND PADDLE
Monday, December 03, 2007
Bad Vibes, Good Fun
"You gotta be kidding me," announced a heckler as Natcho and I carried our whitewater kayaks towards the stairs descending to Pleasure Point. We had arrived in Santa Cruz and, after a quick peek at the famed break Steamer's Lane, were headed for what I remembered as the mellow longboarding spot south of town.
"You guys aren't going out there?" asked a woman scouting the surf.
Well, yeah, we were thinking about it.
No. Don't go there. Kayakers are not welcomed here. No way. You'll get yelled at, your car might get messed with. (How would they know which vehicle we were in?) They might waterboard you, or tie your paddle around your neck. You might be alright just paddling past everyone and over to the inside break, but who knows, they may still mess with your vehicle.
Depressed, ostracized and feeling quite self-conscious, we slunk back to the Fried Piper and ignominiously left Pleasure Point, boats inside the van and still dressed in paddling gear.
But we couldn't just leave it at that. We've entered surf country, with nice waves and warm sun. Plus, town was abuzz with talk of the huge swell on its way. Forty foot waves 350 miles offshore, headed for town. The surf contest at Mavericks was just announced and big wave riders would soon be descending upon the area. We had to get in at least one surf session.
So we searched town and found a kayak shop and they directed us to Capitola, where we wouldn't get knifed or have the Fried Piper defaced by keys. We paddled out past the pier and played on waves on the inside for a bit, before venturing out to the better break alongside a few longboarders.
"You guys speak English?" asked an older dude.
Yeah, a little bit.
"Big waves are coming."
But aside from that snide comment, people were cool and accommodating and we enjoyed the best rides of the trip. Long, glassy breaking waves that weren't too steep for dropping into.
We've entered a different part California, according to both the road atlas and the vibe on the water.
But our perseverance continues and we are determined to find PLUs in all corners. This proved the case during our time in Inverness, as we were welcomed into a beautiful home at the top of a canyon above Tomales Bay. Nestled in the woods, it is surrounded by pine and madrones and a few prominent snags that are home to Osprey and woodpeckers.
My childhood friend Dude has been caretaking the home for several years and has built tiered garden beds and encouraged a small orchard of plums, olives, apples and more. Also an avid mushroom hunter and harvester, we enjoyed sharing tales of subsistence and comparing Southeast Alaska to coastal California.
During our time there, we also had the pleasure of spending time with Jessica as well as David and Hez. David grew up in the house and now works for the park service as a biologist. He was counting elephant seals the day we were there. His parents moved to the area in the 1970s and now live in DC, where his father, Bill Press, is a political commentator and writer who co-hosted (with Robert Novak) CNN's CrossFire.
Our final night was capped with a dinner of Hog Island oysters, raw and barbecued, and some music making. Dude plays the kora, and it was the most unique jam session of the trip since one with an accordion player at Evergreen State College.
For the next few days, we'll be staying with Natcho's family in San Jose, his sister Eliza, brother-in-law Mike and nephew Dylan, whose link is on the blog. We're off to San Jose State to speak to classes tonight and tomorrow.