From Back Issues of The Kayak Yak – Our First Four Years
Excerpts from the Kayak Yak, Issue #100, May, 1995
By Joanne Schwartz

Issue #1, July, 1985, was five pages in length and featured an article about a full moon paddle in July during which we encountered a great patch of sparkling green bioluminescence at sea. Ed Gillet presented the slide how about his 4500 mile paddle along the Pacific Coast of South America. In that issue, Doug Schwartz, Bruce Rhymes and I vowed to “spearhead the development of a club through is formative stages.” Yes, Bruce is still a dear friend, living in the mountains of northern California, and, well, Doug and I had no idea then of how our lives and kayaking would unfold (my surname then was Turner).

In issue #2 we printed our list of 22 members. George Glansman asked for a companion to join him on a 15-30 day paddle through the Bahamas. By September we had over 40 members, with whom I have not only been paddling, but I have skied with, traveled abroad with, hiked with and with whom I have become lifelong friends. Yes, later that year we hosted holiday boat parade paddles and a name-the-newsletter contest with Cary Miller and Kaleb Nelson each claiming the Kayak Yak as his own idea. Our first paddling/member couple got married (names withheld because time has taken its toll on that relationship).

In the Spring of 1986 we hosted our first river kayaking course, through the Red Cross. It was my first whitewater experience! Doug Schwartz led a paddling weekend over to Anacapa and Santa Cruz, with six or seven women the only ones to show up. We all had a wonderful time crossing to both islands and being visited by the Easter Bunny on Sunday morning.

Issue #11 in June, 1986, announced the formation of our Ventura chapter. Leslie Middleton initiated what was to become our most active chapter. In later years she moved to Washington DC and hosted Bruce Rhymes and me as we paddled the Virginia coast in our folding Feathercrafts to inaugurate Bruce’s new kayak. By July, 1986, we had our first 100 members and began awarding a complimentary year membership to each member with an even 100 membership number.

In issue #15 we reported that two of our novice paddlers, including member Donna Chambers, were plucked from the water of the Naval Weapons Station in Anaheim Bay for kayaking in the channel leading to the sea. They were then forced to paddle out to sea and do their first surf landing rather than being allowed to re-enter the channel to return to their cars.  The women protested saying they had neither the proper equipment (full flotation and spray skirts) nor the skills to land through the surf. So, predictably, they crashed in the surf, had to walk back five miles and generally had a terrible experience.

In those days I did equipment reviews and safety reviews in almost every issue. That winter we hosted presentations by noted paddler Wayne Haack on equipment, by the Tsunami Rangers on Surfing Extreme Conditions, by member Liebe Grey on Whales, Pinnipeds and Other Big Sea Creatures, and by Ed Gillet again on his South America trip.  Stu Blue was coordinating activities in the Malibu area and June Gesell had taken over as Coordinator of the active Ventura area.

click to enlarge

Doug Schwartz & Mary Lynch
Easter Weekend 1986

By December, 1986, we were requesting our first membership renewals. The Yak had swollen to eight pages and was generally quite newsy. Author Linda Daniel visited from Seattle to present her book, Kayak Cookery, to groups in Orange and Ventura counties. I led a Thanksgiving trip to La Bufadora and Todos Santos island, a fine chance for me to paddle out to the island and back in one day, in a whitewater kayak. People told me that one couldn’t paddle one any distance at sea, but it seemed to me that it should be possible (whitewater kayaks were longer back then). One couple fell in love on that trip and lived together for several years (again names withheld as the relationship no longer exists).
In Issue #18, February, 1987, we initiated our Locator Ads in the Yak and nine companies advertised: kayak manufacturer Alaskan Kayaks, Sports LTD, Sea Kayaks South (Wayne Marsula’s home based retail, instruction and tour business), Open Passage (a similar business of Rob Robinson), Wave Master (wave skis), NONA (canoe, kayak and surf ski manufacturer), Powerglide Water Sports (by Ed Gillet and Katie Kampe in San Diego, later to become Southwest Sea Kayaks), Tru-Roo (wave ski retailers, Barbara and Rick Nelson, later to become AusSport ) and Ocean Kayak of Malibu (by designer and manufacturer Tim Niemier). The Yak also listed 18 events that month, kayak cartoons provided by Tim Hoffman, and a safety articles dealing with dehydration and with the difficulties whitewater paddlers have doing sea touring.
In the May, 1987, Issue #20, we added lots of Locator advertisers including retailer Dana Book and Navigation, manufacturer Mariner Kayaks, retailer Long Beach Water Sports, manufacturer Valhalla Surf Ski, Laurie’s Leasing, Patagonia’s Cheap Sports, Matlack Wind Surfing, Merv Larson Designs (wave and surf skis), Monterey Bay Kayaks, and the Wave Ski Warehouse (formerly Wave Master). The southern California kayak scene was quite active.
July 1987 events included paddling with disabled paddlers hosted by member Ron Bass, a boating safety seminar at the OC Harbor Patrol Office and a wave-ski surf contest hosted by Tru-Roo at the Huntington Pier which Doug and I entered on a double ski. By October we had a total of 300 members who had joined since the beginning, and 24 current Locator advertisers. New ones included Natural Designs (manufacturer of the Polaris II kayak), Concorde Surf Skis, Ultra Marine (Baja kayak tours), manufacturer Current Designs, Adventure Boats, and Ridercraft (manufacturers of a soft foam wave ski).  By November our activities list had grown considerably with Doug Schwartz hosting a whitewater Paddler’s Surf Day as well as Rock Gardens paddle and an Ocean Whitewater clinic. Wayne Marsula hosted a rolling clinic, the Tsunami Rangers did a Rock Gardens slide show, Keith Keillor hosted a Tri-Aquathon, Connie Axelrod presented slides of a trip to British Columbia, Ed Gillet showed slides of kayaking in Baja and I presented slides of my kayaking along the south China coast, in Cobras, Pangolins and Kayaks.
1988 brought lots of news and fun too. We adopted our first CKF logo, designed by member Jerry Esten. We discussed participating in the American Dragon Boat Association events and in the Surfrider Foundation activities, and protection of the Bolsa Chica wetlands. I hosted my first CKF Trip Leadership seminar and member Dale Murphy spotted a deer swimming out and around Point Dume (the truth!). We added Robert Forster, RPT, retailer Sierra South in Kernville, Alex Oppedyk (an independent kayak instructor) as Locator advertisers. Jerry Esten had just produced a set of CKF banners for public events (on display at our 2007 Fest!). Doug and I were starting to design the 1988 CKF Paddlefest to be held in June. Donna Chambers coordinated the 60+ volunteers who would help out and Bruce Rhymes constructed booths and sign boards.  As no club members came forward to continue that tradition in 1989 - it was a great lot of work - Doug and I continued the event through Southwind Kayak Center as Paddle Sports Expo, which continues annually. 
Back then it seems that there were many more Grey whales passing along our coastline, close to shore, so the club hosted a wealth of wale watching trips. In 1988 we also had our first emblem jackets produced, colorful Tyvek garments of which only a few probably survive (I wore one to the 2007 Fest).  Bob Miles and Terry Holben helped with the design. In March of 1988 we welcomed Power Stroke (makers of a swim fin), Tsunami Products (maker of the X-1 Rocket boat and other designs), Black Dolphin Kayak Company (Cord Prettyman’s lessons) and Paddle Power (by Sydney B., a new store, not yet open), Mountain Affair (a little shop in Laguna) and the Newport Aquatic Center, and Southwind Sports Resource (offering lessons and trips, later to become Southwind Kayak Center). I hosted a Woman’s Surf Day attended by 16 women. Dana Carpenter hosted a whitewater weekend.  Lots of members went up to the Santa Cruz Surf Contest, several placing quite well in 1988. And about 30 of us attended the Port Townsend Sea Kayak Symposium in Washington.
Member Craig Bluell hosted an Upper Newport Bay cleanup, member Bernie Crampton hosted paddling days on Lake Perris and I conducted a “CKF Needs to Know” survey of our members. By the end of the year we welcomed more Locator advertisers, bringing the total for that issue to 34, a fine bell-weather of the vitality of our sport. New resources included AusSport (retailer of wave skis), REI, Sew Sporty (clothing manufacturer), Speed Enterprises (surf skis), Santa Barbara Watersports, Seawater Kayaking, Sea Trek (by lesson and tour provider Bob Licht, in Sausalito), Newport Harbor Skiff Rentals, the UCSB Ocean Kayaking Program and Bike N Hike in Montecito (by Mark Olson, later to become Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara).
1988 was a very active paddling year. Stu Blue hosted a Catalina Island trip, documented with a video still (?) in our library. Wayne Marsula hosted slide shows at his home as well as at his Thanksgiving campouts in Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja. Doug and I hosted the first ever cleanup of every beach, including inside every cave, of Anacapa Island, bringing back 12 cubic yards of trash to the mainland. Don Morris, CKF member and Archaeologist for the Channel Islands National Park, joined us and helped catalog our finds. The strangest was “the world’s largest” collection of tennis balls in all stages of decomposition. Doug and I also led a trip from Point Conception to San Miguel Island and throughout the northern Channel Islands chain back to Anacapa and the mainland, again with Don from the NPS and some fine paddlers from San Francisco, as well as another CKF member.
We began our Goodies Listings of article copies, books and videos available to members. In one Summer month we gained 49 new members; we ended the year having gathered over 600 members since our inception. Members were paddling to far-flung destinations (Bruce Rhymes had returned from a solo trip on Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands). We made decals and bumper stickers and continued to sell our CKF Tyvek jackets. Phil Rosen began keeping our calendar of events organized and active. Ellen Feeney became our San Diego coordinator and we formed a short-lived Coordinator’s Council. No one wanted to have meetings – we all wanted to paddle instead.
Issue #36, November 1988, marked a very happy time for me. Phil Rosen began compiling the entire Kayak Yak, relieving me of that great amount of work. The Yak took several new formats as Phil updated our look and added his special pizzaz including photographs. He undertook this responsibility in addition to leading many trips to Catalina and to the Colorado River and conducting his annual Polar Bear paddle on January 1.

Yes, there’s lots more CKF history to document, but it will have to wait until I sit on a beautiful beach sipping my mango-papaya juice someday, back issues of the Kayak Yak in hand. Many more members contributed to CKF during these first four years. I do not intend here to ignore any of their efforts, but offer just enough detail to give current members a flavor of CKF’s early years. 

More CKF History