Sometimes you kayak solo. Other times you go out for a day paddle with buddies. Almost every paddler I know has gone on some sort of expedition—for a week, month, even a year. Today I want to discuss the benefits of going on a sea kayaking retreat with your best paddling friends.
A retreat is an act of withdrawing from society for a time to regroup and refocus. A retreat encourages us to go back to our original intent, recharge our batteries, renew friendships, share kayaking adventure, relax in nature, and discuss the future.
In late summer or fall, the Tsunami Rangers cloister in a beautiful coastal location for a week of physical, mental, and spiritual retreat. We have been retreating like this for 25 years. It’s done separately from our other kayaking activities and trips. We have a few places we have been to over and over, and occasionally we’ll try a new place.
Our first retreat was in 1985 in a secret location in southern Oregon. We have returned to this place numerous times, and know it like the back of our hand. Nowadays we schedule our retreat in Oregon every three to five years; partially so we don’t tire of this sacred site, and partially so we remember it and keep it close to our hearts. Since I moved to Oregon three years ago, it takes me only a couple of hours to join my mates at the most beautiful and rugged coastline in the world (all right, among the most beautiful and rugged).
Big Sur in central California has been one of our favorite retreat locations. In our early years, we explored small chunks of north, central, and southern Big Sur until we saw it all. Last summer, after a hiatus of nearly 20 years, we retreated back to Big Sur (to read about it, click on https://tsunamirangers.com/2010/09/02/big-sur-sea-kayaking/). We had a great time and will return to beautiful Big Sur in a few years. I highly recommend it as a place for a splendid retreat with lots to do and very few people on the water.
We have enjoyed exploring and playing on the remote Lost Coast and in grand Mendocino country, two of our favorite retreat destinations. On the Lost Coast we traveled from camp to camp, but on the Mendocino Coast we settle on one or two good camps and play among the rock gardens and sea caves. We sometimes have “beach days,” when we all do our thing. An example: on one retreat on the Mendocino coast, while Jim Kakuk and Misha Dynnikov went abalone diving out of their kayaks, and Dave Whalen and Dennis Kuhr discussed how to save the world, and Michael Powers meditated on the fog and sun, John Lull and I spent the day on our bellies looking for agates on the beach. We all had a really good time being with our friends and doing what we wanted.
Since most of us live near or in the San Francisco Bay Area, which we paddle regularly, we never retreat there. No Angel Island; no San Mateo coast; no Santa Cruz coast. Although we had a retreat on the Point Tomales to Point Reyes coast years ago, generally we like to get far away from nearby familiar haunts and see something different.
So we found ourselves rejuvenating on a retreat to the Channel Islands, sharing our campground with a tribe of Chumash who had canoed across the channel from the mainland, when on Day 4, which happened to be September 11th, 2001, the world flipped upside down. As everyone on the planet watched the attack unfold on TV, we remained isolated and protected on our little island. We explored the myriad sea caves, hiked to the top of the island, and went skin diving. When we returned to civilization a few days later, we entered a strange new land. Everything was different after that. I was grateful that we were spared the direct trauma of that terrible event.
From time to time we roam far afield. A few years ago we made the long haul up to Cape Flattery, Washington, which was a completely new adventure for most of us. We explored here and there, paddled around a small island and through sea caves, dipped into a freshwater pool, went surfing and fishing, and spent a lot of time recounting exploits and planning the future. We mostly just delighted in the splendor of this magnificent place. Someday we will return and discover new niches on the wild Washington coast. And north of Washington lies Vancouver Island, which appeals to us, so we plan to retreat there in the future.
I have also been dreaming of a retreat to the sea cliffs of Molokai, and hope to gather my little sea tribe there, while we can still do it, as it will not be a cake walk and will require detailed planning. See, these cliffs are 2,000 feet high, the highest sea cliffs in the world, and I reckon the most beautiful. For some reason I am strongly drawn to this nexus of power, and feel I must go there, establish an outpost, and share the magical experience with my blood brothers and sisters. Someday….
Have you been on a sea kayaking retreat? Please share what you gained from the experience by placing a comment below this post. I would love to hear about special retreat places you know about and/or would like to visit. Also, I’m keen on knowing what people do on their retreats. Do you paddle to a new camp every day? Party? Engage in deep conversation?