On our Stand Up Paddle Surfing Forums SouthCounty, or John, as he is in real life put up a post about an SUP board that he had shaped, when I checked this out it turned out that he was based in Irvine, the first stop on my California adventure. A few PM's later and we were meeting up a Newport Aquatic Centre and heading out for a paddle around Balboa Island.
John has been designing and shaping Stand Up Paddle Boards under the name South County Surf and his shapes are definately unconventional, they feature a quad fin set up with a centre fin, to allow you maximun flexibility and they are all wide, which means they are really stable, perfect for beginners and intermediates, but he also has a short 8' 6" that is great for more advanced riders. I had a paddle on this board and it was really stable but turned on a dime. Anyway, back to the paddle.
We started out on a cloudy day from the Newport Aqautic Centre with myself, John and Hiro. John and Hiro's background is in outrigger canoe paddling and the interest in SUP has come from there, as with most Californian's there is a waterman culture and rarely do they do just one water based sport. This is very much a breath of fresh air as all the paddlers I have meet love learning a new sport and the challenges that this presents, alot of people mentioned that it has revitalized their love of the ocean. By definition this has meant that SUPers tend to be more open minded and embracing than people who just practice one sport.
As soon as we rounded the corner we were in the middle of multi million dollar properties with yacht's and gin palace's moored up right out side. Balboa Island is one of the most expensive real estate markets in North America and it is also one of the densest communities in Orange County. Approximately 3,000 residents live on just 0.2 square miles giving it a population density of 17,621 person per square mile, a two-bedroom house with a water view will set you back about $4 million. Some of the houses are enormous, so you can only guess at the value. Two in particular belonged to the Gillette brothers (of the razor company), origonally one plot was split in half by the feuding Gillette brothers with one getting the better bargain, sporting the finest views of the channel. When the other brother built onto his half, he blocked his angry brother's views of the channel. Such are the dramas of the rich and famous !
The sun the decided to make an appearance, and although we were paddling against the tide and with the wind in our faces, it was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday morning. There we a lot of small fishing boats out and as we neared the bridge under the Pacific Coast Highway and we saw one boat catch a really decent sized flat fish, that the locals called Haddock, but not the sort of Haddock that we would recogise in the UK.
Here is a link to the route that we took : http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=1946660 Sadly I was short of time, but given more time I would recommend a paddle right around Balboa Island, as, in the words of John, its a bit like Disney Land, with perfect houses, clean cars and beautiful streets. If you want to see John's boards check out : http://www.southcountysurf.com/ if you want to get in touch with John head over to the Stand Up Paddle Surfing Forums and PM the user SouthCounty.
Thanks to John and Hiro for showing me around.