Hello Jen (@jlr555),
Welcome to REI Conversations! We do not typically offer kayak demos here in the Bay Area, and this is something we'd love to do in the future! For now here are a couple options:
Schedule a virtual outfitting appointment with a REI expert at https://www.rei.com/outfitting . Here you can get 1:1 advice on inflatable kayaks, the differences between them, and other gear -- from the comfort of your home.
We also are now offering small group paddling tours and classes with our local REI guides here in the SF Bay Area. While we do not offer these classes in inflatable kayaks, you could check out some of our favorite paddling spots in the region in a hard kayak and discuss your options with our local guides who can help you determine how you might enjoy the inflatable boat. Check out all of the local tours and classes we offer HERE
If you are really keen to try before you buy, you could check with California Canoe and Kayak (CCK), they have a couple locations around the bay and offer paid demos of some of their boats (not sure if they demo the inflatables).
Hope this helps and wishing you happy paddles!!
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REI + HOKA
More about this event:
Join REI + HOKA to learn the basics in selecting the right footwear for you and your running style. During this virtual event, you will learn the importance of running-specific footwear as well as the differences between road, trail, and all terrain running shoes. HOKA will also share their latest shoe models in each category and help you find the one that is best for you. Whether you're running for fun or training for a marathon, the right running shoes provide the proper foundation for your entire body, can help prevent injuries, and make it far more enjoyable to log those miles. Join our virtual event, and REI + HOKA will help you choose the right pair from the start that will compliment your run. In the meantime, as long as you're running, you're running right.
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Hello @Annie1 Welcome to REI Conversations and congrats on getting your new kayak. Super exciting! There are so many places to explore in the SF Bay, and I encourage you to “know before you go” to ensure that the paddling launch and area you choose is currently open. Also, it’s always a best practice to paddle with others (with safe social distancing 😀 ) and to know the tide, wind, and currents for the area you are headed. Conditions can change rapidly in the Bay. Lastly, dress for the water temp versus the air temp (water is COLD!). First, shout out to @OldGuyot those are some great suggestions! Here are some resources I utilize to help me figure out where to go and what is open. SF Bay Water Trail: a network of designated launching and landing spots, or “trailheads” for small craft. This site has SO many great ideas for paddling all over the Bay Area! Also, there are photos of many of the launch spots. bayareaoutdoors.org : A great site to check for many Bay Area parks and recreation area status and for info on how to recreate responsibly. www.bask.org : Bay Area Sea Kayakers. Another great resource for paddling conditions, locations, and community. If you click on “Trip Planner” you can see a map of the SF Bay with many put-in / launch spots marked. Paddling options I personally like that are close to San Franciscso (I live in the East Bay): Sausalito: Turney Street Boat Ramp—when this is open, you can launch here and turn “left” or “north” and explore the boat house marinas, paddle past seals, and explore Richardson’s Bay. Be mindful of tides, winds, and currents in this area which can change quickly. Also be sure to NOT paddle in the middle of the boat channel, which can get very busy over the weekends. Berkeley: Berkeley Marina—There is a small craft boat launch at the UC Aquatic Center at Berkeley Marina area. From here you can paddle around the marina area, explore the old Berkeley pier, and also head over to Emeryville if the winds are not too strong (recommend paddling early or late to avoid winds here). Oakland Estuary: Estuary Park/ Jack London Aquatic Center: When this are reopens, it’s a pretty easy launch site that gives you water access to Jack London Square, Coast Guard Island, MLK Shoreline, and Alameda. From this launch site, you could paddle all the way around Alameda Island (but I suggest trying smaller sections before doing the whole tour!). Also be aware that the immediate area outside this launch site is a shipping canal, make sure to stay close to the shoreline for safety here. San Francisco: Mission Creek. A good spot for an inflatable because it is often sheltered from the wind and has less currents than other portions of the SF Bay. I hope this helps! Have so much fun out there, and post a photo here and let us know where you went! Haley
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@jbaxter thanks for the additional tips and links! I agree with you, best to get an early start anywhere on Tomales Bay due to the winds! Also, thanks for sharing the info on ETC. Environmental Traveling Companions is one of our local REI Bay Area's grant partners, and they do great work in our region to serve our community. Thanks again! Haley
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Hello @Mostheimer Thanks for your message and congrats on completing your kayak build. Those wooden boats look so beautiful! I think it’s a great idea to start with some training trips in your normal paddling zone. Practice packing your boat with your overnight and safety gear, and then do some of your familiar paddling routes to get used to how your kayak handles when it is fully weighted. Once you feel confident with paddling, turning, bracing, self (and assisted) rescues with weight in your boat, then you can consider overnight adventures. Since you are in the North Bay, you might want to look into Tomales Bay, where there are several beaches that allow only boat-in overnight camping (permits required) Be mindful of wind, tides, and cold water in this area, and consider paddling with others for safety (with proper social distance in mind). If you prefer to practice on fresh water, there are several camping options at Lake Sonoma (reservations required) that could be a good place to “get your feet wet” so to speak. 😁 Be sure to check local listings for most up to date info on open space closures.
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