Garrapata Big Sur Trip
Big Sur is a fabled destination in California. The great Pacific Ocean comes to a dramatic halt as it reaches sharp rocky cliffs. The Big Sur mountain range butts up right against the coast and is slowly falling into the sea. As you get a look at the coast line, it is full of rocks and waves. These two things are what draws the kayaker in me to this place.
I would never recommend driving with me past Big Sur. I drive very slow along the winding road, mostly because I know I am being terribly unsafe. Not on purpose mind you, but out of my peripheral vision I always catch sight of features that look like they would just be an absolute blast to paddle!
It was the middle of December and that meant either stormy huge swells, or beautiful ‘summer’ weather. Our summer is actually cold and overcast but once fall sets in we get our amazing 70*, swells and offshore winds! And then as winter progresses the swells get bigger!
This trip wasn’t going to be a survival mission. We had a forecast of 1-2 foot @ 11 seconds swell coming from the south west, a strong outgoing tide, and 5-10knots of wind. Which was a forecast for a new excursion, very little weather concerns and only paddler shenanigans to be worried about.
Honestly, I had never seen this section of the coast so calm. On the way to the put in we passed by Monastery Beach, a place infamous for its dumping waves on a steep 45* beach and it was completely flat. The beach at the put in (thankfully) did have some surf which meant we weren’t going to be just paddling. I say this like paddling on a remote gorgeous coastline is boring, but it is always enhanced when there are waves about ;-).
Before we even got into the water we could tell that this trip was going to be something special. Just looking at the waves, no scratch that, the waves were completely see through. I suspect the visibility had to be somewhere around sixty feet. We could see completely down to the bottom where the kelp holdfasts were at. I paddle a lot of my time in Elkhorn Slough or out in deep water in the Bay and I just could not get over the clarity. I spent most of the first hour or so just looking down and vaguely paying attention to where I was going. At least, until we got away form the sandy beach we launched from and into the rock gardens.
This was a Kayak Connection Staff Paddling trip and my first time paddling with everyone. I have worked in the sea kayak guiding industry for five and a half years and the vibe at Kayak Connection was a welcome change. This trip was going to be a great way to learn about the other staff members and plan future trips with them!
I like to be safe out on the water. It means a lot to me that I am not putting myself in situations that are dangerous for myself or for others. I think a lot of this stems from my surfing background. We are all ambassadors out in the water and it is really our job to show that we can have fun while not spoiling it for others. So when I paddle with a new group of people I am always keeping track of who feels comfortable in what situation. I suppose you can call it a bit of being a control freak, but I just think its safe and I blame it on guiding for so long. It is really nice being out on the water with other people that you just don’t have to worry about. I loved being out there and noticing that someone was ‘missing’ aka having fun on the rocks and that someone else had already noticed the same thing and was spotting- awesome feeling.
I am hesitant to use the word ‘unfortunately’ here, Unfortunately the swell was super calm… There were so many features that we found that would have been an absolute blast if the swell had a bit more push behind it. At the same time, there were several places that we would just not had been able to get into if there had been swell. It was for sure a great scouting mission for future rock garden trips, and eventually I had to give up on rock hopping and just enjoy the crystal clear waters. Why force something that is not going to happen and miss out on something that is?
The picture to the right was taken just under the bridge (above). You couldn’t really see the paddler in the cave when you were waiting for your turn to go in, so I turned the camera’s flash on to catch the reflective tape (you can just barely see it). The cave goes in some ways, forking left there is a super low ceiling that had flow coming from it and to the right it wound its ways to a very dark and narrow. We didn’t have lights so we didn’t explore the cave any deeper.
I would be very curious to come back to this section of Big Sur and see what it is like on a swell. I am sure it will be a whole different experience! As far as the day that we were out, you could not ask for a nicer winter day. Hell, I would love to have my summer be anywhere that nice…
I think we only paddled maybe four miles of coast line, at the very most. With the amount of nooks and crannies that we were able to duck into the day went by incredibly fast. I cant imagine how many more places that lie just another quarter mile up the coast! This trip will for sure be something that I do again.