Kayaking At The Beach

Dated: 11/21/2017

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Let's go kayaking! Does that sound exciting, or does it bring to mind the iconic scene of the Sesame Street incident where the white-water craft flips instantly into frothy oblivion?

Yes, you can safely kayak without catapulting into the drink. Yes, you can find a kayak that fits you comfortably, or allows you to safely sit on top. And no, it does not require honed biceps and strenuous effort. 

One of the most enjoyable and relaxing means of enjoying our South Walton waterways is by kayak. These sturdy little crafts allow you to slip through shallow water easily, and let you see wildlife both deep in the reeds and marshes as well as 20 feet below you in the clear Gulf. 

If this is your maiden voyage, try to rent or borrow a kayak that feels comfortable--you may need to try out a few different models. Many of them have adjustable seats and foot rests. An ideal spot for a practice run is in one of the dune lakes, such as Western Lake in Grayton. In a foot or so of water, practice sitting in the kayak, work on maneuvering right and left and backwards with the double paddle, and rock back and forth to discover how stable your kayak is. Practice beaching the craft parallel to the shore and easing out, and even falling out (if you want to cool off).

When you feel comfortable, you may feel ready for a trip across one of our dune lakes. Western Lake is again one of the best places for an easy trip. It's wise to wear a life jacket, for peace of mind as well as safety, and throw some essentials in a waterproof bag--sunscreen, water, some cash or card, and your phone. Wear a hat, too, and some shoes like Keen's that protect your feet but work great on the water. If it is windy or the weather could become a problem, stay in the protected areas near the outfall or the dock just east of Red Bar. If the winds are calm you can head east through Grayton State Park, under the 30A bridge, and over to the Watercolor boat house where you can dock and walk to a restaurant for a well-deserved lunch. You'll work off most of the calories on the trip back!

Explore the shore lines of the dune lakes; you may encounter turtles, herons, rays, large fish, osprey, eagles, or otters. A hundred tiny silver fish may jump out of the lake at once, or, as one kayaker saw this spring, you might come across a black bear having a dip! (it ran off as fast as it could claw its way onto solid land).

As you become more comfortable, you will eventually want to kayak in the Gulf. On a calm day you may see dolphin, sea turtles, all kinds of fish, jellyfish, and if you are really lucky, a manatee. One kayaker reported seeing dozens of cannonball jellyfish, harmless white globes about the size of mixing bowls, under her kayak. Another great experience is kayaking on the inter coastal waterway north of 98, where dolphins surface right next to you, and both pelicans and osprey dive for fish so close by they splash you. Another incredible experience is kayaking one of our spring-fed rivers like the Econfina; the water is pure turquoise and you can see 20 feet into the bottom of a crystal-clear icy spring.

By now, it's obvious that I'm hooked on kayaking. I love my Olde Towne Otter, but any kayak will do. My old friend Kitty was a typical nervous, dubious first-time kayaker. I situated her in my Otter, showed her how to paddle, adjusted her seat, and she immediately exclaimed, "I love it! I just love it!" I hadn't even pushed her into Western Lake yet--she was still on the ramp in Grayton.

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Joyce Hogue

Joyce brings to her real estate practice her well-honed communication and analytical skills from three decades of professional health care and education. Her work ethic can be summarized as "going....

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