Alaska is a big state and paddling there seems to generate big stories. Bears, whales, otters, sea lions, eagles and seabirds can all be seen on one trip. Tidewater glaciers send bus-size bergs crashing into the sea. Flowers are prolific where wind and poor soil prevent forests from taking hold. There is no one ‘best’ paddling location in the state, and certainly no ‘bad’ kayaking locations. After 15 trips to Alaska I put hundreds of images together in the book Sea Kayaking in Alaska: Ketchikan to Kodiak. Like a selection of pictures showing possible a la carte options at a restaurant, these images give the viewer a sense of the possibilities along the Alaskan coast. I hope these will inspire people to look north for destinations. Once a kayaker has narrowed down their choice, they can search for the available guides, shuttles, rentals, maps and books to start their adventure. There are so many destinations … and so little time.
Choose a year to explore, or an issue from the sub-menu (2009 and 2010 only):
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Purists will no doubt scoff at even considering a sail for a kayak, as the whole point is to paddle. If you want a sailboat, they do make those. But just as they make surf kayaks to fill the role normally played by surfboards, adding a sail to a kayak can add a whole new dimension to the kayaking experience.
A tagging program last year involving a Western Pacific gray whale ended up chronicling one of the most remarkable and unexpected journeys of the natural world. The tagged whale, Flex, surprised observers by travelling 8,586 kilometres from Russia across the Bering Sea to Alaska, then down the Pacific coast off Vancouver Island to eventually have the tag fall off near the coast of Oregon. This year the collaborative program involving the Oregon State University (OSU) Marine Mammal Institute, the Kamchatka Branch of the Pacific Institute of Geography and the International Whaling Commission, has expanded its tagging program.
What’s in a name? Some history apparently, as surveyor Captain George Vancouver came to the British Columbia coastline from Hawaii in 1792 to update Captain James Cook’s charts. Vancouver idolized Cook, and he modeled and later adapted much of his own leadership style after the famous British explorer and cartographer.
We are in Freycinet National Park, a peninsula of green off the East coast of Australia’s southernmost island. The 169-square-kilometre park contains some of the most rugged coastlines found Down Under. Here three metre-high, steel-blue waves crash against granite cliff seashore. Australia’s Nine television network ran a ‘top-100-try-before-you-die’ list. Kayaking Freycinet earned the number four position.
The wrack line was a scattered flotsam of bleached driftwood and tangled mounds of kelp. With each step in the soft sand, swarms of black kelp flies wafted into the salty air. Gray skies hovered above the deserted beach when a solitary shorebird rose from its sandy depression and scampered along the wrack line. A western snowy plover camouflaged within the flotsam sprang after the flurry of insects while they sought refuge in another gnarled ball of kelp.
View from a kayak kindles a life-long love for creatures most people don’t know exist
I’ve written before about how hard it can be to get back from the water into your kayak. Even if your boat is being stabilized by a paddling partner, pulling yourself up onto the stern deck with just your arms (and a well-timed kick) requires quite a lot of upper body strength. The heel hook re-entry is really effective for folks with less arm power because it shifts the emphasis away from raw upper body strength in favor of technique, suppleness and some leg and core strength.
The most satisfying fish meal comes from your own fresh catch. After guiding kayaking expeditions in the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico, my brother Ryan and I have become fairly successful at catching fish from our kayaks. On most expeditions we enjoy one or two fish meals while paddling in the spectacular Gulf of California.