Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kayaking Van Damme Sea Caves

The Mendocino coast is such a spectacular area to explore with many possible paddle destinations. I only had a couple of days to explore the coast and Van Damme was a must paddle on my list. Though my time was limited, my time on the water was incredible and I can't wait to go back but I think I would need at least a week to do all the paddling and exploring I'd like.

Van Damme State Park boasts a campground and easily accessible beach which is in a protected area. Sea caves, arches, coves and secluded passages await kayakers.This makes a great spot for beginners or novice kayakers new to the ocean. If interested in more challenging conditions it's always best to get instruction from experienced outfitters and instructors. The ocean is awe inspiring and powerful and conditions can change in the blink of an eye.  There are several outfitters in the area including Liquid Fusion Kayaking who have a great reputation for their instruction and guided tours. There is also Kayak Mendocino that guides tours for beginners right from the beach at Van Damme.

We arrived a couple hours after low tide which was a little under 3 ft. at 12:04. It would be best to paddle here at or as close to low tide as possible to be able to get into the caves and paddle through arches safely. We launched from the beach which is less than a hundred feet or so from the parking lot and headed north. We entered the closest passageway and found three caves. We could hear the surf plow into one of the caves which made a deafening sound when it reached the end of the cave. We left that passageway and continued northwest along the shore where we soon discovered a tunnel large enough and safe enough for us to enter. I was able to capture a decent video of this particular area.

We stayed within the reefs just offshore and paddled south to do more exploring. It's amazing the houses that are built on the edge of cliffs. We explored many passages and discovered more caves that could be explored at low tide. A couple of us paddled up to an arch, climbed out of our boats and took some pictures. The wind started to come up from the northwest and we decided to head in. I could have spent the entire day there exploring but was satisfied that I got a taste of the Mendocino coast.

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