Musings on the Coast: A Kayak Meditation

By Michael Ray.
By Michael Ray.

This summer I really got into kayaking.  Scratch that, I always have loved kayaking, but this summer I got into it as a balm.  I had had many tense days, marked by tense situations, and I would jam home from work, run to the beach, pull out the kayak and pump into the horizon.

This got me to thinking about kayaking and here are my thoughts:

Kayaking has the same physiological effect as jogging. You can go easy or hard, but if you go hard for 25 minutes, you get the same endorphin high you get from hard jogging. It literally is a calming drug, but self-produced by your own body.  During kayaking, I’ve learned to go hard until I hit it, then I turn back toward the shore and stop. I look. I smile. I am of Laguna. How bad can it be?

When looking at Laguna from about a mile out but low in the water, you see a series of communities set against the hills.  Canyons bisect the communities. Today I counted 12 communities.  I know most of them.

Behind and surrounding the local communities are green belts. The communities are small in comparison.   We have had City Councils for generations that have protected those green belts.   Thank you.

And thank you too to The Irvine Company, which used to own the massive nature preserve separating Laguna from Newport Coast (including Crystal Cove). The company could have pressed to obtain entitlements for thousands more housing units on that land, but instead compromised with a variety of state and local agencies.   The compromise created the preserve.

When paddling yesterday, the waves were particularly steep with short intervals.  Heading into them my kayak would thrust up the waves’ front sides and then slap down on the backs in exhilarating bursts.  That is typical when headed north, meaning usually into the direction of the wind and swells.  But when you turn around and run with the wind and swells, things seems to slow down even though you go faster.  This is because the sensation of speed is related to the wind: headed into it is noisy and seems fast.  But heading with it, the noise drops yet your speed increases.  Also, the kayak surfs with the waves in rolling undulations. It is almost sexual.

Thank you, too, Paul Freeman. In a deal separate from the one mentioned above, you negotiated the purchase of Laguna Canyon’s open space preserve from The Irvine Company.  Then you ran the campaign to raise the money for the purchase. It was a political thing that required a two-thirds majority of the voters.  You got over 80% and we got the open space. Thank you again.

I did not see any dolphins today while kayaking, even though I paddled all the way to Emerald Bay’s north point, then out to sea a good two miles. I did not care.   When returning, the setting sun was behind my back and the rays bounced off thousands of hillside windows.

I do not have other comments to make.  I am beyond politics right now, or personal worries, or imagined closed doors. I am at peace. This is a hard place for me to be as my natural position is at combat, or prepared for combat. Laguna does that to you.

These are my kayaking observations.  They are not earth shaking nor even remotely profound.  They are simple.  Or maybe not.  Maybe we are in the place everyone on Planet Earth seeks: sanctuary.


Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and now lives in Laguna Beach.  He makes a living as a

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