Guest post by Jason Self.
When asked recently to describe my best moment on the water this summer, I was stumped. Not because of a lack of exceptional moments, but rather, too many to chose from. You see, recently I made a big move. I quit my job, left my friends and family in the city, packed up my gear and moved to the coast of far Northern California to start fresh. I am a sea kayaker and to me, the rocks, reefs, and surf breaks around Trinidad, California are paradise.
Like most of us, I spent the majority of my time grinding away to save money and squeeze out time for a weekend at the coast, or a week of vacation traveling to a far away destination to complete an expedition, all to satisfy my desire for exploration and adventure in the outdoors. It all began to seem trivial. “Why spend 99% of my time wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else?” I thought. So in December of this year I decided to relocate to my dream sea kayak destination. Now instead of a week long expedition once a year, I live it every single day, and I couldn’t possibly be happier. So picking my best moment this summer was a challenge. Every day is magic.
In April California Gray Whales were thick around Trinidad during their migration North from Baja to Alaska. In a two week period, I encountered twenty six gray whales while sea kayaking. Mostly mother’s with calves, some of them spouting, jumping, and slapping their flukes within twenty feet of my kayak, some appeared directly beneath me. Every single encounter was mind blowing. Nothing is quite as humbling as being made to feel like a tiny insignificant speck of life, looking out over the infinite ocean being dwarfed by massive whales.
In late May, bottom fishing opened in Northern California. With world class ocean fishing now 400 yards from my house, I’ve been able to get out nearly every day. What was once an itch I could only satisfy a few times a year is now a weekly activity.
In June I encountered the first shark I’ve ever seen in ten years of sea kayaking; a small four foot salmon shark just a few feet off the launch beach. This was a pivotal moment for me. Like most children of the 70’s, I saw the movie ‘Jaws’ when I was young, and like most people, it gave me a totally skewed & unrealistic perspective on shark behavior. I’ve been paranoid about them for most of my life. My first encounter was an incredible experience. The salmon shark was docile & friendly (the opposite of Jaws) I was able to paddle close with it for ten minutes before it slipped below the surface and returned to sea. Since then I’ve had two more encounters with sharks, one large thresher, and one great white. In both instances I was fishing from my sea kayak with a stringer full of fish hanging in the water. With both sharks, the moment they saw me they turned tail and swam away as quickly as they could. They were afraid of me! I managed to snap a photo of the salmon shark with my GoPro, and the reaction I received from so many people; “That’s dangerous!”, “You’re crazy!”, “That’s so scary!”, furthered my realization of the bad rap sharks get. I realized society has been fed a load of misinformation about sharks, playing on people’s fears. The more I learned first hand, the less afraid I became. I realized it’s not sharks people are afraid of, but the fear of the unknown, and the media’s portrayal of sharks plays into this fear.
Of course, happiness means nothing unless it’s shared, and my greatest satisfaction comes from introducing these unique experiences to others. Coaching and guiding is my true passion. It gives me the opportunity to show people first hand the immense beauty of the coast and it’s wildlife, and the threats facing it. Seeing people’s faces light up with excitement when encountering a whale, catching a fish, or riding a wave for the first time is what it’s all about for me. Each time I know I’ve helped spark a new passion for someone, my mission has been accomplished.