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Kayak Beach Slide

by ​Wayne Horodowich

In July 2015, I went backpacking probably for the last time in my life. My plan was to join my friend Tom for the first eight days of his two-week trip. I had not been backpacking for about 21 years. As a side note, I just turned 65. Tom is in his 70's. To make a long story short my body told me, in no uncertain terms, that it was no longer willing to carry the pack with all of that equipment and food in it. I want to thank REI for their great return policy, because they took back the new pack, tent and bear vaults.

As a result of that experience I was forced to deal with the reality of body changes and aging. I didn't like it, but I had to accept it. I was happy in the consolation that I was shortly going to be kayak camping and I would be able to float my gear in to my campsites. I wouldn't have to carry it on my back. I could even bring my Dr. Pepper's.

I fully packed my kayak at the launch site in Telegraph Cove, BC. I was heading to my favorite camping spot at Kaikash Creek to base camp and paddle with the resident Orca pods. Most of the time the Orcas just came by the camp, but it is special when you see them from the water. I even saw Humpback whales on this trip.

After the kayak was loaded I used my trustee kayak wheels to roll the boat down the launch ramp and let it slip into the water with little effort. I returned the wheels to my new camper van before I took my paddle and headed down to the kayak and leisurely paddled away from the cove. As I meandered along Vancouver Island to my destination I was thinking about how much gear and food I had with me in the kayak. I estimated the weight of my Solstice GTHV and the weight of my food & gear totaled about one hundred pounds. As I thought about my recent attempt at backpacking again my body felt soooo much better knowing I didn't have to carry all of this gear on my back.

When I arrived at my destination it was at low tide. I looked at the distance I would have to walk over the barnacle-covered rocks to get my gear and kayak above the high tide line. I also thought about how many trips it would take over those barnacles to get the gear out of my kayak so it would be easier to carry my kayak.

Instead I decided to just drag my fully loaded kayak above the high tide line. I love my kayak too much to shred the bottom on the barnacles so I used a technique that would save my kayak's hull and make it easier to slide the kayak up the beach. I call this technique the Beach Slide.

Since I was on Vancouver Island there was an endless supply of driftwood to make this technique possible. I found five old tree limbs that were smoothed down over time by wave action on the beach. I placed the limbs under and in front of my kayak on the shore as if they were rollers. When I could see the kayak would not scrape the rocks or barnacles I began to pull the kayak up the beach. 

When the front log was almost at the half waypoint of the kayak, I stopped pulling and went behind the kayak to retrieve the limbs no longer being used. I then walked up the beach and put them in front of the kayak so I could continue sliding the kayak forward over the driftwood limbs.

I decided to just use five limbs and rotate them as needed. I could have gotten fifteen or twenty limbs and just made a full-length ramp to above the high tide line. Either way works well. The kayak slides fairly easily over the driftwood limbs, especially if you wet them down.

Again, I decided to slide my kayak up the beach, because I did not want to do the numerous round trips over the barnacle-covered rocks. I also didn't want to injure my back trying to carry the fully loaded kayak. I have found this alternative to be the most efficient use of my energy.

As always, remember to tie of your kayak to a secure object even if you think you are above the high tide line. I have retrieved numerous kayaks for folks who thought their kayaks were above the high tide line. The waves generated by some of the passing cruise ships have pulled kayaks off of logs along this section of shoreline.

I used this Beach Slide technique when I launched my kayak for the return trip back to Telegraph Cove. It is easier to slide the kayak back down the beach since it is sloped towards the water. In fact once the kayak started sliding I had to use more energy to stop it than to push it. I would like to say that I used the same limbs for my exit slide, but some other campers came across my stash and used it for their campfire.

One of the reasons I return to this fabulous location is the memory of a past encounter while on the water. I was rafted up with my friends Dick & Judy when a large male decide to surface in front of our kayaks. Thank goodness we had our cameras accessible. We were watching other Orcas in the distance when this big boy visited us. Yes it is a breathtaking experience.

After listening to hundreds and hundreds of paddlers expressing their kayak related injuries I have determined the greatest numbers of injuries in sea kayaking occur getting ones kayak to and from the water and on and off the car. Therefore using kayak wheels and finding methods to ease strains, such as the Beach Slide, are worth exploring if you want to keep you body functional for many more days of paddling.

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