Ocean Kayaking on the Mendocino Coast
Is the sea calling you? Beckoning you to kayak and explore Mendocino’s sea caves and rock gardens? The Mendocino Coast is an amazing playground for sea kayaking but not always the friendliest. Make sure that it is the mermaids that are calling you and not the sea sirens.
Ten Commandments of Sea Kayaking the Mendocino Coast
1. Thou shall paddle a sea worthy craft. Learn more about different types of kayaks.
2. Thou shall dress for immersion – Wear a life jacket and wetsuit/drysuit. Ocean water temperatures on the Mendocino Coast are typically in the 52-54 degree range necessitating thermal protection. Wear a life jacket that is clipped/zipped and fitted properly. You will also need a minimum of a 3mm wetsuit. We wear 4/3 or 5/4 surf wetsuits or kayaking specific drysuits with multiple layers of insulation.
3. Thou shall wear a helmet when exploring sea caves and rock gardens.
4. Thou shall have capsize recovery skills and paddle with others who do as well. Capsizes happen in the ocean and most happen when you are not prepared. Make sure that you and your paddling companions know how to get back in or on their kayaks in the event of a capsize. Note – not everyone can scramble on a sit on top kayak. Know before you go!
5. Thou shall be prepared for weather (fog, wind, rogue waves) and emergencies (equipment and medical).
6. Thou shall avoid river mouths during ebb tides (especially Big River and Albion River).
7. Thou shall leave no trace and pick up trash when you see it.
8. Thou shall respect wildlife. In the spring and early summer, avoid areas with nesting birds. Give space to marine mammals especially seals hauled with pups hauled out on rocks. Check out this cool brochure about the animals that live along the coast.
9. Thou shall be courteous to others – surfers, divers, boogie boarders, beach goers, and people fishing.
10. Thou shall exercise good judgement – When in doubt, don’t go out!!!
Little River/Van Damme Beach
Mendocino’s coastline is like Swiss Cheese with blowholes, tunnels, arches, and sea caves. It is fascinating to envision how they were formed and very cool to kayak among them. The sea caves in the Little River Area are the most accessible on the coast. There is a kayak concession is operated from Van Damme State Beach that offers sea cave kayak tours.
Noyo Bay is popular for kayak fishing and for rock garden play (kayaking among rocks and waves). It is not as protected as Little River which makes it great for rock gardening and whitewater of the sea but not as easy for cruising and sea cave exploration. If you see kayakers out playing among the rocks in Noyo Bay, it is most likely Liquid Fusion Kayaking. The Noyo Bay is their regular paddling playground and also where they take people on Whitewater of the Sea Adventures.