Staying active
Paddle sports have become even more popular in Pillar Point Harbor as people look for healthy alternatives in the midst of a pandemic. August Howell / Review

It’s no secret Pillar Point Harbor is a good spot for paddle sports. Just ask Dave Buckland, who, at age 81, has been a regular kayaker in the harbor for nearly 15 years.

The El Granada resident says he goes out three days a week on average. In the past several months, Buckland has hardly been alone. He’s observed a surge in paddle sports in the harbor, particularly kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, as locals and tourists alike seek relaxing refuge from the many current concerns.

“With paddling, you can do it tandem or you can do singles,” Buckland said. “Having tandem is useful for couples who come over here to get away from the heat.”

Buckland isn’t the only one who has noticed more people on the water. Businesses in the harbor are feeling the uptick. Rentals at Mavericks Padddesports are up. At Half Moon Bay Kayak Co., rentals have soared as people look for a way to beat the heat. After closing for a month, a spike in harbor business helped secure jobs, according to Chris Manchester, the company’s co-owner.

“Being an outdoor recreation business, we were one of the first ones to be able open from county ordinances of shelter-in-place,” Manchester said. “So that created an influx of people. We happened to have enough kayaks to support that influx, and, so far, we’ve been busier than ever.”

There are several reasons why recreation in Pillar Point Harbor has become so popular recently. During a time of limited entertainment, recreation and exercise options, paddling checks multiple boxes during a pandemic. It’s exercise outside and therefore easy to maintain a safe distance from others.

With corporate retreats axed, more families and couples are renting kayaks at the Half Moon Bay Kayak Co.

Another reason the harbor has become a haven for paddlers is its protected nature, with access to open water for more experienced individuals. Paddling also allows people to go at their own pace, to go as hard or as easy as they want. Take Adam Williams, for example.

Williams, who lives in El Granada, began training for his third Iron Man race by practicing a combination of open-water swimming and stand-up paddleboarding in January. The race, scheduled to take place in Utah in May, was rescheduled for September, then canceled outright due to concerns about the pandemic.

Williams, 42, was still looking for an exercise outlet. In the last month, he gravitated to surfski kayaking, and now goes out three to four times a week. Local residents like Williams who are working remotely can get in a session before work or take a lunch break on the water.

The physical benefits of paddling outdoors are obvious. But Williams and Buckland both referenced how consistent exercise on the water leaves a meditative afterglow.

“It’s a big stress reliever,” Buckland said. “Whether it’s the pandemic or political atmosphere these days, it’s kind of nice to have an extra stress reliever.”

“I joke with my co-workers that this is my ocean therapy,” Williams said of his new passion. “Getting out there, there are no distractions. You just focus on the task.” 

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