Getting away from it all locally

Claudia waved and jumped up and down from a small blanched-white beach, the brim of her straw sun hat bouncing. She exclaimed, “Tania, I feel like we’ve landed in Greece!” Claudia is a world traveller so I believe her when she says that this tiny beach, located on a little island at the end of the Saanich Peninsula, could be somewhere in the Greek Islands.

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I like to imagine exploring a far-away land when I’m close to home. I remember doing it when I was a kid whether playing “campsite” in the forest or our Gilligan’s Island-themed game, “head hunters”. No decapitation involved! 😉 It was more like capture the flag. Back then, I could imagine the day away and by the end of it I was spent feeling like I’d been away for an entire week!

Perhaps it’s a good idea to get back into that mindset. After all, don’t we need a break from the daily grind of responsibilities? I know that I can get wrapped up in work. It’s refreshing to go to a pretend Greek island, even if it’s only for half an hour.

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We’re so lucky here on Vancouver Island (vacation land to others who don’t live here) to have such a pristine environment to explore. So often the first thought is to hop in the car for an exploration adventure. Perhaps next time consider renting a paddle board or a kayak and explore the many little islands close by!

Getting prepped on the dock

Patrick was great! He’s the team lead who manages the rentals, maintenance, repairs, and any special projects at the Canoe Cove Pacifica Paddle Sports location. He helped us both times we rented paddle boards here.

He asked me to stand in front of him and raise my right arm up to determine the length of the paddle I should use. Then he tossed me a life jacket.

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Patrick at the end of our day out

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Me and Claudia at the beginning of our excursion

Before we left, Patrick gave us the rundown on safety and important how-to’s like how to stand up and balance on our boards properly, how to hold the paddle, which direction the blade should face for a power stroke, and how to paddle in order to turn or stay straight.

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Me and Claudia testing our boards

Standing on water

Last September, was the first time I’d even tried paddle boarding. I had seen people doing it and wondered how difficult it would be to stand up on the water, but it’s not hard. As long as you keep your feet equal distance between the handle-hole in the middle of the board, you’re golden. Easy for me to say since I’m 5’5, but I imagine the taller you are the more difficult it may be to balance. Even still, if you’re not sure about standing you can kneel or sit and still have a lot of fun that way.

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The boards are fairly light and have a leash with an ankle strap so that you don’t part with your board should you fall off. The boards also have thin rubber padding for traction and comfort.

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_TVP1075This time I did a lot of kneeling because I brought my SLR camera along and didn’t want to risk losing my balance and falling in.

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I don’t recommend bringing such equipment but if you’re planning to bring things that you don’t want to get wet, Pacifica rents out dry bags. The boards also have built-in elastic straps to hold things down. Just be sure to clip the dry bag on (just in case).

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What to watch out for

Various sized boats from large yachts and sailboats to fishing boats and small vessels motored about. They usually slow down around paddle boarders and kayakers (today they did), but I’m sure there are occasions when they don’t. Regardless, even a slow boat can leave a decent sized wake.

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Patrick made sure we knew, when encountering wake, to lower our centre of gravity by getting down on our knees and facing the oncoming swells on a diagonal. There is less chance of losing your balance and falling off the board this way.

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It’s also important, as we found out on this trip, to be mindful of currents which aren’t always obvious when you’re wowed by all the beautiful scenery around you. They can be challenging to paddle against.

What you may see

On my first excursion last September, a few seal moms and pups basked on a nearby rocky island. This time we didn’t see pups, however a few shiny grey “sea sausages”, Claudia likes to call seals, surfaced around us. One lay floating in a kelp bed fairly close to me dozing with its eyes half closed while Claudia, a fair distance away, paddled towards a brightly blanched beach.

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The great thing about paddle boarding at this end of the Saanich Peninsula is that there are lots of little beaches and calm sheltered areas to explore. You may spot purple and orange starfish on the rocks below the water’s surface.

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See the purple starfish?

_TVP1097You’ll definitely see bull kelp reaching up towards the surface from the ocean floor. This stuff grows up to two feet just in one day and up to 80 feet long in total!

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A wooden structure, painted brown and adorned with native art, captured my attention on the shore of this private island.

Our little Greek Isle

Thousands of crushed white seashells lay beneath the glittering surface like pearled treasures. I could hear and feel the crunch as my toes dug into the shoreline. The cold and refreshing water hugged and swished around my calves as I pushed my paddle board up beside Claudia’s.

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This beach was covered in crushed white shells! One day it will likely be a white sand beach.

Swimming back to Pacifica without our boards wasn’t on our agenda so we carefully carried our boards and laid them higher up on the beach away from the lapping water.

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We had learned earlier that the ocean current is very sneaky after Claudia and I brought our boards together to watch a few boats motor by and to pass the camera back and forth.

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We took a few pics, but when it was time to continue, our destination, which seemed only a few paddle strokes away earlier, was now far off in the distance. The current had us drifting towards the ferry channel, not at all where we wanted to go.

Once our boards were secure, our curious natures led us to explore the possibilities of a trail on this forested island rimmed with a few peeling arbutus trees.

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We found a wheel-rutted grassy road which made me wonder what could have created it if not a car.

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We didn’t have too much time left to explore due to being adrift on the current earlier. Gauging by the distance between the island and Pacifica Paddle Sports, we’d need around 20 minutes to get back.

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We managed to get back only 5 minutes late!

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How time flies when you’re having fun. Two hours on the water was so much fun and even took us away to Greece for a bit. Paddle boarding was easier than I imagined and there were some lovely places to explore around Canoe Cove.

The only things missing were some red wine, charcuterie meats, artisan cheese, a baguette and some red grapes. Next time! A good book would have been great too, but heck with a good friend like Claudia, who needs one!

About Pacifica Paddle Sports

Pacifica Paddle Sports originally started up in Victoria back in 1998. In 2009, it moved to the Brentwood Bay location where it transitioned from a retail focus to a rental focus. In 2015, it expanded to the Canoe Cove location beside Swartz Bay which became fully operational in 2016.

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Pacifica Paddle Sports maintains the largest fleet of rental kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards on the West Coast! Not only that, but if you need to store a canoe, kayak or paddle board in a convenient location, they also provide rental spaces.

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Call Patrick at the Canoe Cove location to book a time to go out on the water at 250-665-4548!

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Or if you want to explore Brentwood Bay call 250-665-7411. They even have a Mayne Island location!

For more information visit the Pacifica Paddle Sports website.