Commentary

August 24, 2012

The water’s fine and the sharks are harmless

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by Linda Welz
452 AMW public affairs
kayaking

I recently took advantage of a local tour offered by the March Outdoor Recreation office. After signing up for the Saturday kayaking trip to the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla, Calif., I began to question my ability to survive, given the number of sharks that had been reported in the area on local newscasts.

My family members seemed excited to be going on the trip and my husband even did some research that said the leopard sharks there, although numerous, were harmless. Apparently, leopard sharks gather at La Jolla Beach every year to help themselves gestate in the warm, calm water. They grow up to seven feet and are timid bottom feeders, not people eaters. Anyway, that’s what his research uncovered.

Satisfied with that information, I buried my apprehension and said a prayer, determined to master my kayak and not become the first person in history to be leopard shark bait.

We had a show time of 6 a.m., Saturday morning, for the long drive to La Jolla. Several other people had signed up to ride in the services van, so the drive was spent getting acquainted with each other. Our driver, Josh, was excellent and had done this trip before so he knew the way and before we knew it, we had arrived.

Once inside the kayaking establishment, we were given a helmet and life vest (which oddly wasn’t covered in that metal mesh that sharks can’t bite through) before meeting outside for a short walk to the beach. There, the La Jolla staff met us with oars and kayaks. Our guides instructed us on how to use the oars and how to maneuver our kayaks through the mild surf and out into the open water.

My 15-year-old daughter spotted her first shark near the shoreline in a few feet of water, which gave her ample incentive to stay inside the kayak. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

We all made it through the waves unscathed and met up with our guides near a buoy.

Staying together like a school of fish, we paddled our way south toward some caves carved out of the rocky shoreline. There, we were greeted by three sea lions that had been interacting with some scuba divers in the area.

One by one, our brave guides (who had put on swim fins and jumped out of their kayaks and into the open water) led our kayaks into the cave so we could look around. It smelled as if the sea lions had used it as an outhouse, but nevertheless was a unique experience. The guides then told us to paddle out through the narrow opening using the receding motion of the next wave to help us.

Once the entire group had experienced the cave, we began our paddle back to where we started.

Along the way, our guides shared some history of an ocean cave used as a seaport-of-sorts for liquor-trafficking during prohibition and stories of cliff-diving tragedies. We also passed an oceanfront home that used to belong to Theodore Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss.

As we floated over the reef below, we spotted several bright orange Garibaldi, the California state fish. A little closer to the buoy, we could see dark shadows swimming slightly beneath the surface. The shadows were actually dark bat rays, which can have a wingspan of 6 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds. We also saw leopard sharks, each with its own unique design.

The two-hour kayaking adventure ended with each of us riding the surf in our kayaks to the shoreline where we turned in our paddles and walked back to the shop before settling in at a local lunch establishment.

The weather was perfect and the water was calm.

I never knew Outdoor Recreation’s tours were so phenomenal! We did all this for less than $10 per person, excluding lunch of course, thanks to the Single Airmen’s Program.

Call Tickets and Tours at 951-655-4123 for information on upcoming trips. We need to use this privilege we have or we may lose it.

I encourage you to sign up for the next tour, especially if it is a kayaking trip. Come on in! The water’s fine and the sharks are harmless!




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