My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Sea Kayaking at Refugio State Park

2012/10/16by Donna Hull

Updated 07.01.2013

sea kayaking near Santa Barbara, CA

Sea kayaking at Refugio State Park near Santa Barbara, California

Would you  like to include sea kayaking on your boomer travel adventures? My one and only experience was in a tandem sea kayak with Alan on the calm waters of Wyndham Bay in Southeastern Alaska. That is, until Toyota U.S.A. invited me to go sea kayking at Refugio State Park while on a glamping tour to Santa Barbara, California in the Toyota Venza,

From our glamping headquarters at El Capitan Canyon about 20 miles west of Santa Barbara, it was a short ride in the Venza to Refugio State Park where Al Fimlaid of Santa Barbara Adventure Company would guide us into the water. Of the four participants, I was the only boomer.

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Toyota Venza group gets ready to kayak at Refugio State Park (photo courtesy Toyota U.S.A.)

At Refugio State Park, I stood on the beach watching small waves roll onto the sand. Although palm trees lined the shore giving the beach a peaceful look, this was not the completely calm water of Wyndham Bay.

After we’d signed waivers and donned waterproof jackets and life preservers provided by Santa Barbara Adventure Company—it was too warm for wetsuits—Al instructed our group on the how to’s of sea kayaking. He taught us the correct way to paddle, mentioned tips on maneuvering the sea kayak and most importantly, explained signals for communicating if we needed help. Then, he pulled each kayak into shallow water holiding it still as one by one, we slid into the seat, gained our balance and paddled out of the way. Okay, I admit it. Paddling around in the open ocean intimidated me so I requested a tandem kayak. Thanks Melissa for partnering with this timid boomer adventurer!

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Here we go…sea kayaking in the Pacific Ocean

Al led the group out into the ocean before turning parallel to the coast. When one of the kaykers spotted a splash farther out in the water, we paddled over to investigate. Sure enough, dolphins were swimming by. Unfortunately, they were going too quickly in the opposite direction, so we turned around and headed back along the coast.

Soon, an inquisitive sea lion bobbed his head out of the water to check us out. Keeping a safe distance, he became a peripheral part of the group as we paddled along the coast.

Every so often, we clustered the sea kayaks together to listen to a history of the Chumash Indians, who inhabited the area before the Spanish arrived. During a nature lesson, Al pointed to a large bed of sea kelp and said, “Have you tasted sea kelp? Break off one of the tips and give it a try.” It tasted chewy and not as salty as I expected.  According to Livestrong.com, a British study found “kelp contains more iron than red meat, more fiber than a prune and more calcium than cheese.” Should we add sea kelp to our boomer healthy eating regime?

After three hours of exploring, it was time to paddle back to shore. Exiting the kayak with stiff legs proved to be the hardest part of the experience. Would I do this again? You bet. And, next time, I’ll have the confidence to paddle all by myself.

Have you been sea kayaking at Refugio State Park? Post a comment to share your experience. I’m looking forward to doing this again!

Disclosure: Toyota U.S.A. provided this travel experience but the opinions are my own.


A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of New Mexico Backroads Weekend Adventure.

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