Paddling the pacific coast

Hey everyone,

I’m new to the board and hope to learn as much as I can from the vets. here’s the story: My buddy and I will be returning from Iraq soon and hope to plan an epic paddling trip from Seattle to San Fran or further south. We want to celebrate surviving two and a half years in Iraq and five years in the US Army just as soon as we leave the service in August '09. How possible is this trip? Please give any advice or suggestions you might have. Those over at have been really helpful and said you guys were great.

I have been paddling for about two years and have done a few extended trips, though nothing extensive in open water. i have surfed up and down the west coast and want to run the whole thing as a tribute to surviving this madness over here. Thanks for any info you can give.


I just returned
home after spending the last 2 months paddling from Crescent City, Ca to Mission Bay San Diego. I can honestly tell you that the water between Crescent City to Santa Barbara is flat out the worst shit I have ever endured. I was solo, but none the less its tuff. If you like, I have all the GPS data, mileage, resupply, extraction points, contacts, paddle shops, sheltered landings, swell info, reef info, and tons of other expedition that I used from this trip. I have what the paddling guides won’t tell you.

Jerry Sparks

Rogue Otters

I can connect you

– Last Updated: Aug-12-08 7:55 PM EST –

I could probably connect you with a Bay Area Sea Kayaker member who has completed the entire US west coast (not in one trip, though - he pieced it together over a matter of years). He could probably provide some advice. If you send me your email address, I will forward your query on to him.

Hit the little email button below my post to send a message to me.

Are you talking
about Mike Higgins? I used alot of of his trip reports for my trip.

where’s the water at
how is the fresh water situation on the pacific coast? Will we be able to readily find water or need to buy one of those insanely expensive desal. pumps?

yup (NM)

You want to get some good marine maps.
They’ll show you where the coastal towns are. You generally won’t be away from civilization for more than a day or two. So you should plan to carry a couple days worth of water and replenish on the way.

It is critical that you do your homework for this trip. It would be a total drag to make it home and then die on vacation! The Pacific is cold (less than 55 degrees) all year round. And rougher than water anywhere else in the country. Even during the summer, swells are typically 6-8 feet and can come from more than one direction at the same time. The shore topography is such that rocky cliffs drop directly into the ocean. The swell bouncing back off the cliffs, meeting with the incoming swell, creates many area of confused seas. It also means there are long stretches with no place to land. Many of your landings will be through fairly big and frequently dumping surf onto rocky shores. The wind and fog can both come up quickly (although not at the same time) and be relentless. Mornings are bad for fog. Afternoons are bad for wind. Get a drysuit and plan on wearing it the whole trip. Get a helmet and plan on wearing it on every landing and launching. Bring a repair kit for your boat. Plan on some cold damp nights. It frequently is in the 40’s at night and often foggy nights and mornings in the summer. Be sure your skills are up to the conditions you are likely to find. This isn’t a trip for learning how to handle a boat in rough water. You want to already have those skills.

Both of the links below are to sites with information about west coast kayaking trips. They both contain useful information.:

The longest
I went with out fresh water source was 4 days, I did have a desalinator and a fresh water filter though. I found that there were plenty of streams to filter from along the way. Total amount of water I carried was 12 liters. One 10 Liter MSR dromedary bag and 2 one liter water bottles. I did start having problems with hydration though. The water conditions, and cold temps kept me from drinking as much as I usually do. Lack of hydration caused me to start getting massive lactic acid build ups in my shoulders. I could of really used some type of camel back.

so you
didn’t have issues with the mouths of the streams being poluted by seawater? I remember paddling on the east coast and having to go miles inland before the fresh water was good enough to filter, in regards to the salt content.

It’s about the tides. If it’s a flood
tide, you can get salt pretty far upstream. If it’s an ebb, it’s much less an issue. Get a tide book, you’ll need it not only for knowing where to find drinking water, but also for knowing where to put your campsite.

The beaches
in Nor Cal for the most part are pretty steep. It was never an issue. The one place it could have been an issue would have been the Klamath River outlet. However, didn’t need water when I came through there.

thanks for doing your duty and glad you survived that cluster-f…

YOu may want to read the account of Verlen Kruger and Steve Landicks account of their 28,000 mile paddle trip which including paddling the pacific from Skagway alaska to cabo san lucus mexico in decked-canoes

The book is called “Ultimate Canoe Challenge” written by Brand Frentz and you can get it on amazon. It has a good description of the pacific paddle portion.

Good luck and welcome home.


Pacific Coast Trip

– Last Updated: Aug-13-08 4:51 PM EST –


You need a dream to keep going and to keep the luck rolling.

My climbing partner and I promised each other that if we survived our second tour in Loas and Viet-Nam, we would buy a new VW van and spend a solid year climbing.

Gary and I did survive, and we did complete that year of climbing. You and your friend will too; and you will complete your Pacfic Coast trip.

I eagerly await the pictures from your trip.

Thank you for continuing to pay the price for all that most of our country takes for granted.

Mike (USAFSS - Airborne North Vietnamese Linguist: Loas and Viet-Nam 1969 and 1970)

Water Filters
Hubby’s friend has this SteriPen he bought at REI. It’s supposed to work using ultraviolet light. You stir it in your water until the light on it goes out.

Oh, and it is pricey, but not really more so than other traditional water filters:


Check out Brian’s web site.
He is a great guy and attempted a couple of hundred miles on the Oregon coast a couple of years ago. (spent a week on a rock as I remember the story)