Natural Bridges to Capitola, June 28th 1998.


Russ Pritchet lives Near Half Moon Bay and schedules an occasional BASK trip south of San Francisco Bay. This trip launched from a beach in Santa Cruz that has a large arch close to shore, the namesake of Natural Bridges State Park. I watched the water around this arch from above in the parking lot, then stood in the surf for a long time looking out through it. I became convinced that a launch through there was possible. I would paddle into the opening close to shore, stay on the left side to avoid the shallow rocks, then pause on the other exit. Even large waves were broken by a shelf of shallow rocks on that side and I could wait for a calm window to launch over. When the time came to launch, however, everyone else was queued up one at a time to go straight out from the sandy beach. Russ said he wasn't my mother and I could launch where I wanted, but when my turn came the waves were calm and I simply paddled out where everyone else did. When I get warmed up I'll get more adventurous.

We traveled straight west and did a little rock gardening by traveling between some of the rocks and the shore. Santa Cruz is on a south facing point protecting the northern end of Monterey Bay. As we traveled west the waves became more and more mild. When we turned behind Point Santa Cruz itself and headed towards the Santa Cruz Pier, we met up with Russ's wife Suzy. She had forgotten her PFD, drove downtown to a kayak outfitter, waited for them to open, rented a PFD, launched her boat there and met us out by the point. Then we all headed to the west end of the municipal pier, called Cowel Beach, to land for lunch. We chose a place away from the surfers, boogie- boarders, and swimmers to land. Like the launch, we queued up to land one at a time. I tried to surf a small wave into shore and messed up. My boat was turned to the left and I was trying to reach over my right side to force the boat to turn right and ride straight in. I fell out of my boat in front of all the BASKers in less than one meter of water. I made the Tsunami Ranger's hand sign for STUPED, holding my index finger up to my temple like a gun and shooting myself.

Everywhere we paddled on this trip we saw concrete and engineered rocks lining the shore. In one place we saw a beautiful cave walled up half way with concrete. Apparently the people living on the cliff-tops have spent a lot of time and money attempting to preserve the shoreline that their houses are built on. The result is an ugly stretch of shoreline that you can tell used to be beautiful. By attempting to preserve a snapshot of the shape of the shoreline, they have destroyed much of the beauty that it once had.

There were a few natural stretches left, and one of these had a short rock cliff. The water today was below this shelf and the waves slopped up and reflected off. The water felt reasonably deep, meaning the waves would not break, so I felt safe close to shore. In one place there was a hole in the rock and the waves blasted back out of this occasionally. One at a time most of us paddled up close past this blowhole. I noticed that Suzy was far from shore for this and a few other adventures. Her husband Russ initiated this paddle, and I have heard him say that there is no reason to own a kayak you cannot surf in. I talked to Suzy about this and she admits that she is not the adventurous kayak surfer that Russ is.

Around Soquel Point the water got even milder, although we saw lots of surfers in the water here waiting for a wave to come give them a ride. I was starting to get warmed up to do some more adventurous rock gardening or surfing, but soon the trip was over. We landed next to the Capitola Beach pier. Like the surfers I waited a while hoping to get at least a fun ride to shore but after a few minutes I gave up and made a safe and non-embarrassing landing with virtually no waves.


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All text and images Copyright © 1998 by Mike Higgins / contact