I'd taken a kayaking class through the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center (MAC) when I was still a student back in November 2009 (you can read about it here) and I had such a great time that I thought I'd go back again and again but of course life got in the way. I finally made it back for another class earlier this month and again I think "Man, I need to do this way more often!". Here's where the Center is located:
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You can take classes through UCLA. If you're a student it's $25 for the class I took (Sunset/Full Moon Paddle) but even if you're just a community member it's not that bad - I paid $35 for a 3 hour lesson and that includes wet suit, basics on how to kayak, an orientation to the Marina, etc.
You can rent kayaks for free as a student and about $20/hour if you're not (see complete rental details here). Again, the rental includes wetsuit and life jacket/PFD. We were in the sit-on-top type of kayak but they also have lessons in the sea-kayak which are the ones you sit inside. Parking can be tight at the actual center so check here for info about where else to park (for free at Dock 52!)
I arrived early and enjoyed walking along Fisherman's Wharf and the Ballona Creek. Saw sea lions, egrets, herons, pelicans, cormorants and gulls.
Possibly a young Double-crested CormorantOnce everyone arrived (there were 10 of us plus two instructors) we got into the kayaks and out onto the water. It was as easy as I remember it. Again I was in the back of the kayak but my partner in front was good as keeping a steady pace and I had an easy time following. The class is pretty leisurely because most of the people haven't kayaked before.
We headed into the Marina channel to get our sea legs before moving towards the open ocean. We stopped by the bait dock which is always a great place to see large shorebirds and sea lions because it's an easy meal for them.
A snapped a few shots which wasn't easy to do because I don't have a waterproof camera and was keeping it in a plastic bag in my life jacket pocket just in case it (or I) fell in!
Two Great Blue Herons
Next we headed out towards the breakwater. This time we even went past the breakwater into the ocean which was pretty choppy and a bit scary but I'm really glad we did it. Something I wouldn't do out on my own and definitely worth being a little nervous. The waves don't break out that far but they sometimes look large enough to flip you over. We all managed to stay dry though and after getting tired we headed back into the Marina and made our way back to the MAC.
Throughout the kayak I enjoyed seeing all the wildlife. They let you get pretty close (or come close to you) because kayaking is quiet. Other than the birds mentioned above, I also saw a Black oystercatcher, some Ruddy turnstones, Black-crowned night heron, and a large group of tiny shorebirds (sandpipers of some sort?) that buzzed around our kayaks like little bees (so cool!).
I think next time I'll rent a kayak on my own or with a friend and take more time trying to get some nice photographs and just spending time watching the birds and sea lions. It's an activity I'd definitely recommend.