Monday, February 11, 2008

Newport to Crystal Cove Paddle

Magnificent paddle today. Absolutely stunning.

I paddled the Valhalla surfski from the Newport Aquatic Center to Crystal Cove. The water was absolute glass this evening. Very little wind, 70 degrees...literally perfect conditions for a February evening. Seals and sea lions competed with dolphins for food...pelicans swooped in for scraps. The only sounds were my paddle's entry and exit and the boat gliding along the water. Talk about being "in the moment"! The German Olympic team is in town training out of the NAC, and watching their form from across the harbor was motivating and invigorating, improving my stroke immediately.

I paddled through Balboa harbor and into the ocean. It took about 40 minutes at an easy to steady pace to reach the end of the jetty. I had planned on just doing my usual loop around Balboa Island and then back to the NAC. However the conditions were so perfect that when I reached the halfway point, the SW corner of Balboa Island, I caught a glimpse of the glassy ocean and couldn't resist. It was too good to be true after the last few week's cold and rainy weather. I was not going to miss an opportunity for some fantastic ocean paddling.

I turned 90 degrees and set course for the open water, just the ocean's horizon in front of me. Once beyond the jetty I made a hairpin turn & paddled south past Corona del Mar beach, where I swim on summer nights. The water was so perfect that I imagined that this must resemble heaven. I could not recall paddling in such ideal conditions in the last several months. Typically I paddle north along the Balboa peninsula out of habit, but after today I will reverse course and spend more time paddling south. It's one of the most beautiful pieces of coastline in the country and now I can't get enough of it.

As I passed each Corona del Mar swim buoy I recalled all the swims I had there with friends, avoiding stingrays(!), last summer. Passing Big Corona and then Little Corona beach, I reached "flat rock" which is known as the turnaround if you want to do a 2.4 mile swim to prepare for an Ironman triathlon. Just behind flat rock is an incredible house called "Portobello" that is up for sale for...$75 million dollars. Cool pad.

Passing the ultramegahouse I continued south to Crystal Cove. Immediately I was reminded of the summer swims again, but now of the runs I would do after the swims. From Big Corona, you run down through Corona del Mar, down PCH, and into Crystal Cove. The south end of Crystal Cove, Reef Point, is usually my turnaround, about 3 miles. Every time I ran last summer, I would look out to the ocean and imagine the view the boats would have of the beach and cliffs...Last summer I was just training for triathlon and ultra running and was not paddling. I was missing out...

...By now I could see El Moro canyon where I had just run 3 hours on Sunday night. On the southern end of Crystal Cove there is a killer breakfast restaurant right on the beach, just past Reef Point. You have to park nearly half a mile away and walk to access the place. It's always packed. The sight of the restaurant marked my turnaround point. One hour and just under 6 miles of paddling. At some point I will have to paddle to breakfast... Not sure why I haven't done that before. The highlights of the paddle home were the sunset over catalina, more dolphins, and glassy conditions through Newport Harbor all the way back to the NAC.

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