Too risky for novice? Kayak suggestions

I’d like some advice on the “best” choice of kayak for a NOVICE who is going on some challenging ocean trips to/around the Channel Islands in Southern California. The trips will likely include

  1. oxnard to anacapa (11 miles)

  2. santa rosa and san miguel islands

    Is a Hobie Mirage Revolution a good choice in this regard (my thinking is that the pedal system might allow a novice to keep up with those who are much more experienced, and it’s supposedly reasonably stable in rough seas).

Have you checked with the others?

– Last Updated: Jun-16-08 6:42 AM EST –

Have the more experienced paddlers agreed to this idea? Seems they should be your first stop - these are the folks that'll have to figure out how to right that boat (not a pretty thought given its likely weight) and rescue you in a capsize, as well as manage their paddling pace for someone who would be challenged to keep up.

Personally, if someone proposed the idea of coming along on a trip like that in open water in a pedal-driven SOT I'd go thumbs down, especially with you apparent concern about stability. Too much of a problem in a rescue, but more than that too easily a paddler that may not stay calm if things start to go wrong.

And by the way, it's not about the SOT per se. We do trips into more open water when we are in Maine in the summer and can put together the correct crew, but that correct crew means a majority of people who at least have a good shot at rolling in a capsize, can perform or assist in rescues and won't be overly flummoxed by waves the height of their head. If someone showed up with those capabilities in a SOT it might be unusual for those waters, but it'd be fine for the trip. Granted this stuff is largely due to water temps - even in July it isn't going to be more than 60, maybe 61 degrees. But even with warmer water, it seems that you need to know if your more experienced friends could do a rescue in that boat, and what they would consider as minimums.

And just for talking purposes:
What if you can’t keep up with them?

In the Suwanee River marathon race last year two guys in Hobies were the last ones in and it was well into the night time when they made it.

My advice would be if you have to ask the question; it would be best not to go.



too risky for novice

The words…
“NOVICE” and “challenging ocean trips” should NEVER be in the same sentence.

Has anyone actually …

– Last Updated: Jun-16-08 10:07 AM EST –

Paddled the Mirage? I have not, but I saw some on the lake over the weekend and they were pretty darn fast when paddled by a novice - faster than the paddle-driven kayaks paddled by similar novices...

Being a self-bailing design with easier re-entry on the water than any sit-in, I think a sit on top is not a bad choice. Problematic however if conditions worsen with strong winds and breaking waves from the wrong direction. Regular practice for many hours to make sure the "NOVICE" will have encountered such conditions before. Keep in mind the hands are free in the Mirage and can hold the paddler down in contact with the hull much like thigh straps would in a regular sit on top or the knee braces do in a sit-in. With practice, I think the pedal driven Mirage can be stable enough in rough sea *but only* to the point where bracing with a paddle is not required. If conditions worsen and paddle bracing is needed, I do not think it will be pretty or safe for that matter, unless the paddler switches to thigh straps and hand-paddling with good bracing technique. But can a "NOVICE" do this?

At 28" or so the particular model will probably not go very fast, but on an 11 mile trip I think folks will probably not go very fast anyway, minimizing the advantage faster kayaks have at higher speeds.

I think, if the OP is a good swimmer with a calm head and can clock himself at anything close to 4 mph average speed on a 10 mile trip, this will give a good indication of his ability to follow a group of paddlers in ocean kayaks well.

I've taken my Cobra sit on top in waves and the only real issue with it was in the surf - could not keep-up surfing waves and overturned too easy without thigh straps. In rolling and not braking waves on the ocean I think a SOT will be fine as long as the others are willing to wait as I expect this particular model may be somewhat slower. And the water temps are high!

Check out the link:

The thing seems to generate enough power to be a match for a VERY strong paddler (or two!) with wing blades. But I did not see them race for speed, which is entirely another matter and I suspect the paddler would beat the pedaler there ....

Ive actually paddled

– Last Updated: Jun-16-08 10:15 AM EST –

a Hobie--or I guess peddled--and they are quite fast in comparison with kayaks of similar length and beam--that said I would not use it for an expedition kayak in challenging seas--it is a SOT, not suitable for colder water and my impression is that it would wallow like a pig in anything over 6" chop--I peddled it on a lake in flat mirror like conditons) My advice to you is use an sit inside sea kayak--and practice in less challenging conditions until you can paddle it satisfactorily--means practicing rolls and rescues also--then go out with your buddies and have fun.

Getting on the water is risky
The waters around the Channel Islands can be very hazardous. Swell can be big and wind can build suddenly creating some cold choppy waters, the water is fairly cold. I have not paddled the islands you have mentioned but I have paddled from San Pedro to Catalina and back. I have paddled around Oxnard and it was pretty windy and a weak paddler attempting this crossing would be in trouble pronto if the wind picked up.

depends on the “experienced” paddlers
A lot of this depends on the experienced paddlers going with this person.

As Tsunamichuck said, there can be some serious weather conditions, particularly on the crossing to and between islands. Winds, waves, fog, etc. Also, some issues with shipping. This would not be a crossing I would send a novice off in under any conditions, unless they were with a very skilled guide who are very familiar with the area and who looks very carefully at the conditions/weather report before making the go/no go decision.

On the boat, the novice paddler should do much less challenging paddles in the boat a few times to get a feel for whether it is right for them, well before they take on the challenging open ocean paddle. That would answer a lot of these questions.

Not the Hobie …

– Last Updated: Jun-16-08 11:32 AM EST –

You can certainly paddle to those two spots in a SOT. I would recommend a WS Tarpon (16ft) or Heritaqe Expedition if you could find one I would not do it however when you are first starting out. I also would not do it in a peddled Hobie. They do not have enough control for bracing in heavy seas. I'm not anti Hobie or anti-SOT.. I own several SOTs and my first kayak was a Hobie Oddysey which is basically the boat the peddle version was built around.

You want to take some lessons from Southwind Kayaks or Aqua Adventures ... and when you meet the skill requirements try paddling to Santa Rosa or Anapca. If the ocean is calm these are easy trips. If there are wind and waves you would be in big trouble.

I will post some surf videos taken at those two spots so you can get an idea of what you are getting into.

Not quite so…
I see experienced fisherman take them out through small surf here in Lajolla. They are much more seaworthy than they look. But I would not take one out to the Channel Islands.

Last weekend (6-7)
we paddled an outrigger race out of Ventura harbor… we had 5-7’ swells coming in there… and out at the Channel Islands they had Gale warnings going off…

Conditions can change VERY abruptly, and even “experienced” paddlers can land themselves in a huge heap of trouble.

Not to mention, an 11 mile paddle in one venue is nothing like an 11 mile paddle in another. Do you have the endurance to complete the crossing? Will you have an assist vessel or chase boat on hand to rely on?

Is this a privately organized trip? (i.e., is it a bunch of friends?) or is it a trip with an outfitter? If it’s private, how prepared are you friends to fully assist you in rough conditions when they’ve got all they can do to keep themselves upright?

I wouldn’t be out in one further from shore than I would care to swim.

Thank you!
Thanks for all the good advice! I appreciate it.


I paddle those waters
and that is not a “beginner” level trip. A “normal” crossing from Channel Islands Harbor to Anacapa is actually 11.5 NAUTICAL miles which is 13.5 STATUTE miles.

The conditions can change on the water without any warning. I have been out several times when the Coast Guard has made an emergency broadcast to let us know that gale force winds were expected within 20 minutes or less (not in the NOAA forecast).

A better paddle for you would be to go Channel Islands Harbor to Ventura Harbor and back. Pretty much the same distance and it will give you a feel for what is involved. Did it yesterday with some friends in 4 hours in sea kayaks that are much faster than a peddle SOT.

As far as paddling out to San Miguel and Santa Rosa on a Hobie - don’t even consider it. Santa Rosa is 37 NM from Goleta, the closest point. I have two good friends who have done that trip, it it is a challenging trip for an experienced paddler, much less a novice.

A very good friend of mine died from hypothermia induced drowning just off the coast from Channel Islands Harbor - see the article in Dec 07 Sea Kayaker Magazine about it that I wrote. I don’t want to have to write any more such articles. He had been paddling for over 20 years and was familiar with those waters. An off shore wind came up (gale force) and it must have capsized him. His boat was found with a paddle float rigged to his paddle. That has to be a horrible way to die - watching your boat drift away when you were unable to get back in it.

Santa Rosa - "Easy Paddle"
There are a couple of outfitters that will take you out and paddle from Island to Island with you so you can see Santa Rosa from a boat. It’s cheapest if you have a friend with a boat who knows the area. Some of the tours circumnavigate the islands. There are choices with sea caves. It’s better if you go with a recognized outfitter. You can’t land at several places on the Islands according to the rules of the national parks and the outfitters know the rules. The outfitters use sit on tops for many of the tours so you don’t need to be an expert paddler. Google around a bit and you can find lots of options.

Best to get some paddling experience first.

Awesome video!!!
I have to agree with you that it’s possible to paddle to Anacapa on a SOT. I did it about 7 years ago on a Perception Swing.

I would never consider doing it on a Hobie Pedal craft. They don’t handle big water well enough and it comes up without warning frequently enough for it to be a concern to me.

I cringe when I hear of inexperienced paddlers wanting to do it in a more capable sea kayak. On a calm day, the trip is easy except for the last mile and a half through what’s locally known as “the potato patch”, an area known for its clapotis.

and when I said Santa Rosa by SOT I meant take one of the tour boats out to the Island and paddle with an outfitter. No way to paddle out there from the mainland for a novice.

Your friend

– Last Updated: Jun-17-08 10:07 AM EST –

I remember reading this article. Sad story. Also notable however, was that he was of age and abilities where he should not have paddled alone *anywhere*. If I recall, he was in his 80s (or close), had trouble with water re-entry last time he was seen practicing (way back - he did not practice much), wore the wrong size (too big) PFD, asn most importantly - paddled alone in the ocean.

The above circumstances are a recepie for disaster. He did just about everything wrong that he could possibly have done... This article, along with some others should be handed to new paddlers with a boat purchase or rental IMO.

Similarly, I watched a video on utube the other day of some very experienced WW paddlers somewhere in China or the whereabouts - the lead paddler went down a rapind in *HUGE* water. He barely made it out of a hole, talked for the camera that one should have more respect for nature, then he ran a second rapid, got caught in a horrendous hole, rolled a few times and ... never came out of it. Was never found. The rest abandoned the attempt to paddle these waters.

My point - both experienced and unexperienced paddlers are at risk. Experience is only relevant to the difficulty of the conditions. The best paddler in certain waters and will be at more risk than a beginner in others...

After reading some of the responses about the conditions of the OP's crossing, I agree he should not attempt that longer crossing in the Hobbie due to the chance of quick change in conditions and that apparently the yak is not as seaworthy as noted by others (I have no opinion of it myself - never paddled one).