VENTURA— The outpouring of enthusiasm for the Ventura Kayak Program wasn’t much of a surprise to Melissa Baffa in 2013.
It was the wide demographic of adventurers joining the first-year voyage which truly astonished the Channel Coast State Parks’ executive director.
“I anticipated large families with small children and some parents with adult children,” Baffa said. “But there were couples on dates showing up. And the biggest surprise was how big it was with the Baby Boomers. They’ve always wanted to try it and now they’ve found a safe way to start.”
Following the prosperous inaugural campaign, Baffa and the rest of the crew of Friends of Channel Coast State Parks will return to scenic Ventura Harbor, April 13 to commence the second year of the program.
“It was fully booked last year,” she said. “The response was tremendous. A lot of people came back and took the class again.”
The excursion will give participants as young as 6 years old—accompanied by an adult— the opportunity to paddle through the harbor on tandem kayaks. Paddlers 12 and older are permitted to ride solo, and the program is open to people of all ages.
“We get everyone outfitted up, their seatbacks are comfortable, everybody launches and we give them an educational tour on the wildlife in the area,” said Baffa, who will be joined by three seasoned California State Park lifeguards in conducting the shore lessons.
Each class includes all required equipment, a supervised water safety lesson and the instructive harbor journey.
“A lot of the goals are the same,” Baffa said of this year’s installment. “We want to introduce participants to the sport in a safe way. There have been people who have always wanted to try it but didn’t know where to start. This is for them.”
The popularity of the two-hour program allowed Baffa and company to extend the lessons to seven months, an increase from last year’s four-month duration which was waylaid due to inclement weather. The seven classes run from April to October, alternating between Saturdays and Sundays. A single class runs participants $50, and a season pass costs $300.
Friends of Channel Coast State Parks, a nonprofit which serves the Channel Coast District of the California State Parks, will offer lessons once a month. The program supports several educational programs in the California State Parks of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, including the Junior Lifeguards, Junior Rangers, and Nature Walk.
“This is about fundraising and outreach—being able to connect with new audiences,” Baffa said. “But it’s not so much of a fundraiser as it is friend-raiser.”
To find out more visit friendsofccsp.org/learn/learn-to-kayak.