MONTEREY — Kayak enthusiasts say the ocean breeze and mist in your face provides a feeling of normalcy, piece of mind. Even if it’s just for an hour or two, an escape from pandemic worries can come a quarter-mile offshore.
Kayaking off the coast of the Monterey Peninsula has seen a surge in interest since businesses were able to reopen in June. Renting a kayak during the weekend often requires a reservation at Monterey Bay Kayak, which is off Del Monte Boulevard — even though it’s January.
“We have a reservation system for rentals that we didn’t have before,” said Scott Caine, the supervisor of Monterey Bay Kayak. “We just had too many people coming in at once on the weekends.”
Renting a kayak allows individuals to drift out anywhere between a quarter and a half-mile onto Monterey Bay to take in the sea life and briefly feel pandemic free.
The sport is one of the few activities where individuals or families can distance themselves without the fear of their surroundings while breathing some of the cleanest air in the country.
“The hardest part has been telling people that have been coming here for years that you need a reservation on the weekend,” Caine said. “Most are used to coming in and grabbing a kayak.”
The popularity of kayaking is also up at Adventures by the Sea, which has businesses on Cannery Row, Alvarado Street and Stillwater Cove in Pebble Beach.
While the business specializes in different sporting activities, kayaking and paddle boarding have seen a surge in interest during the nearly year-long pandemic.
“Kayaking is a great way to social distance because you are in the water,” Adventures by the Sea tour guide Emily Lazarus said. “Our Pebble Beach location is a great way to see sea life.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, all transactions are held outside in front of their businesses. But that has not kept locals or tourists away from taking in the beauty of the Peninsula.
“This past summer was one of the busiest we’ve had in years,” said Lazarus, who went to high school in Carmel. “That lasted into the holiday season. It’s a nice escape.”
Because kayaking is outdoor recreation, it’s a business that has been able to remain open during the pandemic. But there are restrictions and protocol changes with the equipment.
“We have a real stringent cleaning cycle,” said Caine, who has another location in Moss Landing. “Each piece of equipment has to be cleaned. We’ve tried to keep it to family groups.”
“We make fresh bleach solution each morning for our equipment,” Lazarus said. “When it gets returned, it sits for 24 hours. We have wipes so people can take extra precaution with the paddles.”
Adventures by the Sea does not have a restriction for its numbers when Lazarus conducts a tour. But there is caution before taking a group of kayakers out into the waters.
“It’s based on your comfortability,” Lazarus said. “Most tours are no more than 12. We can do a separate if you’re uncomfortable in a group setting. You can do a single or two-person kayak.”
Those that choose to go off alone are allowed as long as they remain within the buoys in the water, which are no more than a quarter-mile out.
“The buoy marks the perimeter to where you can go,” Lazarus said. “We keep an eye on all paddlers and kayakers through cameras. It’s a great way to do something safe. And get some exercise.”
Tours are two and a half hours at Adventures by the Sea. Single riders have unlimited time and can come back and go out again that same day.
Caine estimates the business is close to its regular numbers. Yet, because of the reservation system put in place, it doesn’t keep track of those who are turned away.
What Caine can claim is that interest has soared in the activity. Individuals of all ages are making their way to the water to get in some exercise and be mask free for a couple of hours.
“Once people get out into the water and away from people and breath the fresh air,” Caine said, “it’s a wonderful thing to be doing during this time.”
Contributed by local news sources