Skirtless paddling in SoCal

Ok all you SoCal area paddlers . . .
Looks like we have a trip coming up to the coast and are trying to decide if we’re going to take the yaks w/ us.

We have a couple 14’s, Tsunami and Carolina, but no skirts (yet), so we’re not looking for ocean side stuff, more water that we could do w/o skirts.

We’d be traveling between SD and OC.
Open to anything bigger than a small lake.


I paddle in the Sakonnet River (and did so today though it was calm) on a routine basis with my inlaws Wilderness Northstar tandem as well as their old Tsunami 120 and 125’s. This is a tidal estuary subject to big waters and conditions. I paddled in 20 knot winds and 2+ foot white caps when visiting there last week. I don’t know how to roll, I don’t know how to re-entry, I did rescue lessons and I am so tall, inflexible and uncoordinated all I could do was flip the boat. My rescue strategy is remain close to shore. In 17 years of paddling as often as 5x a week I have NEVER flipped a boat or gone over but I always paddled very “stable” boats like the Tsunami and been attentive to conditions going out mostly at dawn when its calm. I have never used a skirt. I definitely find with lessons and weight lifting and time I have gotten better but as time goes by I appreciate the Tsunami more and more. After owning tippy composite boats costing way more I am starting to feel (aside from its obnoxious weight) it may be one of the best kayaks ever built.

It’s only a little slower than say composite boats that we ourselves own but FAR more stable and stolid in its manners. The difference is I live far away from the sea so most of our paddling is flatwater and I have composite boats to get them in and out of the rivers and lakes. No way I would ever want to lug those Tsunamis into those little flatwater passageways, over walls, down slippery ramps like that BUT I would never trust the composite boats on the ocean, too tippy. Our inlaws live ON the water and just keep their boats on the beach so the extra weight doesn’t matter and the fact they are plastic and old means we don’t have to be careful with them!

While in our fiberglass Stellar S12 or S14 in “conditions” you have to paddle very quickly proceeding along like a “raped ape” and never stop going even for a second lest you flip, in 2+ foot white caps with the Tsunami I was very calmly able to stop… and slowly bail the boat with a cut open 1L bottle of tonic water most recently last week. It never fails. Waves were hitting me from the side and the boat is so well designed even then it almost never takes on water, something that even on a river or lake with far smaller stuff is absolutely terrifying in our fiberglass Stellar boats. Not the Tsunami. It’s insane to see just what it can handle and how little skill you need to stay safe in one of those things!

But you have to understand that I was out there in the Tsunamis starting 15-16 years ago when I had no clue what I was doing in conditions just as bad. I was in a lot less “shape”, the kid were so little and I didn’t have time to train and I was fine. There is a limit to everything but as long as you’re not stupid and go out in a small craft advisory in such a seaworthy craft like the Tsunami you’ll probably be fine. Just bring a bail. Cut the bottom off a 1L tonic bottle, and use fishing line to tie its neck to rigging so the huge waves this splendid kayak can face won’t sweep the bail overboard. There is a reason why I know to do that… and I still made it home that time sharing a bail with my wife who lost hers, we just kept passing it back and forth in 2+ foot chop that time. I know of no other boat that is so seaworthy.

As long as you stay close to shore you’ll be good. Enjoy the Tsunamis. They’re not the most fun or responsive boats for “play” or edging to be sure but if the weight doesn’t bother you it will probably be the last kayak you’ll ever need as its combination of stability, comfort and speed make it FAR more capable than people realize.

Am I missing something here?
Traveling between San Diego and Orange Counties or do you mean South Dakota?

If it’s the former don’t bother in my opinion there are no lakes worth paddling in either county YMMV. If you do plan to paddle lakes in the Southwest along the route from South Dakota, check closures. Many national forest areas surrounding good paddling lakes are now closed due to wild fire danger issues.

The Colorado River might be an option but I would not do it this time of year because of extreme heat, and I wouldn’t do it without a spray skirt. I have been told there a lot of closures of the Green and Colorado further upstream this year. Lots of lakes in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado but depends a lot on the rouge you are taking.

I did mean between Diego and Orange. We have something we need to do in SD and then will be traveling up to OC for a few nights before heading back inland to the desert.
Looking at the map I saw some bays and other spots of water that started me wondering . . .

Thanks! I’ll check that out on the map. (Just saw that it’s a river in the NE! Thanks for you input on the Tsunami though.)

The Tsunami is my second boat, the first being a 17’ Perception Sealion which I would be super happy to have on this side of the country and would definitely be on the ocean side. The Tsunami I’m still getting used to.
I’ll have to say the nice round bottom on that Sealion feels way better to me than what I’ve experienced w/ the Tsunami. Of course I also have a history w/ round bottom wood dugouts from time in Central America.
I guess it’s almost like the difference between tight rope and slack line walking. W/ the tight rope you sort of balance over the line, w/ the slack you balance and keep the line under you.

Leave your kayaks home and rent a sit on top to paddle in la jolla cove area. Or take a tour with , I believe they also rent kayaks if you think you have the ability to paddle in small ocean surf. The cove is protected mostly from large swells so the waves are ususally small and manageable for inexperienced paddlers. Large dangerous swells are possible, check before you try to rent.

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Ok, now I’m even more temped to take our own.

Just did some reading on the area and it looks very interesting.

As far as SOTs, I think my tsunami is as close to sit-on as I want to get. :joy:

I remember back in the days of rentals, before we started buying our own, we did a trip down in the keys were the guide was loading SOTs onto the boat he was taking us out in, I said “do we have to use those?”
We had been there a bit early and I’d been scanning his racks of nice looking kayaks.
He said it was fine if I wanted to pick one out. So I picked out a nice looking one that I new nothing about, a 14’ w/ a skeg, made by some company that I’d never heard of, Necky.
About 20 years since then and the Tsunami is the closest I’ve come to a SOT. :laughing:

Buy some skirts for your SINKS if you plan on taking them on the open coast. Practice doing self rescues in waves. You sound a bit over confident. The fact that you don’t own skirts for your boats is a bit telling.

. . . tells you that they are newly aquired boats that we don’t have fully kitted out yet?
Let me clarify that a bit more,
I have fully kitted out kayak and gear in Florida.
The current kayaks were aquired out in the SW where we actually are now.
Instead of shipping everything out west we got new stuff as we still go to Florida a couple times a year.
The new gear has been like starting from scratch, new yaks, new paddles, pfds, dry bags, on and on. The skirts have not yet made it to the top of the money bleed list as we are mostly inland here and not WW kayakers.
Hence the reason for asking about skirtless kayaking waters when I started this thread. Not due to skill level, just due to gear level.
If the waters of a cove or bay is protected enough for beginners to paddle w/ SOTs, then I’m comfortable enough to deal w/ a little bailing, or spounging, and I do know enough to check tides, current conditions, forecast, and I even pack a couple vhf radios w/ us in addition to the rest of our safety gear (and know how to use them).
Wet recoveries/ re-entrys, etc. are skills that I will probably never stop perfecting.
So if I seemed over confident I apologize, that was not my intent as I’m fully aware that “over confident” can get you killed.

Just as a clarification, SOTs are not the same as recreational class boats. Recreational class boats are limited in the conditions that they should be taken in due to lack of inherent flotation should they flip. SOTs have inherent flotation and can be appropriate for some pretty big conditions. Almost as extreme conditions as sea kayaks (assuming paddler has skill to match what boat can do).

The sea kayak gets its ability to handle more extreme conditions through using a skirt. SOTs don’t have any gear needed to make them work in conditions. So a sea kayak without a skirt is a boat that should be kept to much mellower conditions than a SOT.

But a sea kayak without a skirt, assuming you know how to self rescue in it (and have any tools you may need, like paddle float), could be used in more extreme conditions than a recreational class kayak.

Bringing this back to SoCal, if you use your boat without skirts and assuming you have knowledge and kit needed to do self rescues, I would stick to places where you are not launching on a beach. If conditions are mellow, you could paddle out a harbor into open ocean or the like. But beaches on ocean are pretty universally going to have surf that you need to launch through. Without a skirt, even a mellow surf will be working on flooding your boat.

La Jolla Cove is a great paddle. Lots of leopard sharks off the beach. Sea lions and garibaldi over by the rocks. But it is a surf launch. I second the suggestion of just renting a SOT that day to get to experience that. Even in boats not as good as yours, it would be a fun experience.

San Diego could be interesting to paddle San Diego Bay or Mission Bay.

In OC, outside of doing surfing there isn’t that much that excites me for paddling.

If you are doing just 1 or 2 paddles during a longer trip, you could rent sea kayaks at Aqua Adventures in Mission Bay. That would save the hassle of carrying your own. That said, most rentals of sea kayaks with skirts are going to require that you have taken a class that had you successfully do a paddlefloat rescue, which you haven’t said if you’ve done or not.

Or consider doing the SoCal thing and renting SUPs or AquaBikes or some other vessel totally different at one place or another…

Reference - here is the American Canoe Association’s info (as translated by Roger Schumann and printed in this book: description of different flat water categories and what vessel is appropriate to use in them:

A sea kayak without skirt they would say would be good for L1 or L2. A SOT can go to L4.

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Thanks for a bunch of great information. I’ll spend some time going over it.
I agree that launching/landing through surf was a big part of what I was wanting to avoid. Not knowing the area and having limited time I was hoping to skip the experimenting w/ what launch sites/ areas are good for the gear we have at the moment.

Again, thank you.

Although it’s possible to find areas where you can safely paddle without a spray skirt, keep in mind that a spray skirt is an essential part of a sea kayak, not an optional accessory. It only takes a few inches of water sloshing about in a sea kayak to make it a lot less stable. If performing an assisted rescue in rough water, you have an excellent chance of swamping your own boat as well.

Our Club paddles primarily in open water. A spray skirt on boats that are equipped to accommodate one, fore and aft floatation, paddle float, pump, basic knowledge of rescues and a wet exit, and of course a properly worn PFD with whistle are required for all on water activities. We are happy to teach skills and safety to anyone who wants to learn.

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I am all in favor of skirtless paddling. When we were younger we did lots of paddling without clothes. Nude backpacking. It is very liberating but requires some sunscreen.

We always had cute girls on paddling trips. Now I am 71 and it is mostly men only trips. Alas. Thanks for the memories.

My wife and I just got matching skirts (yes, they look cute on us). They’re rec/nylon skirts, since we do flatwater small lakes and rivers. When we were skirtless, we had been getting a bit of splash here and there into the boats from a couple of windy lakes, nothing that even needed the bailer. But surprisingly, what made us think it’s time to get the skirts was on the smallest of canals. A sudden 15 minute mad gust tossed us in the canal like we were in a blender. The canal’s concrete walls made the waves bounce and come from all directions so that we culd not predict and adjust for each swell. A bit of an eye opener. :open_mouth: