Friday, December 5, 2014

Van Damme, the local spot

I've been living on the Mendocino Coast for over a year now, but recently my wife and I moved twenty miles further south, near the town of Little River. We still have easy access to many play spots on one of the most magnificent stretches of coastline in the world. But everyone has their 'local' spot - that place closest to home, that you can revisit time and time again while always having fun. For us, Van Damme is our local spot.

Van Damme State Park is a strip of land just south of the town of Mendocino. It follows Little River from the Pygmy Forest, through Redwood groves, all the way to a well-protected sandy beach. The back entrance to the hiking trails is right down the road from our house; the beach  a little further along that same road. There's plenty of free parking, a gentle surf in all but the biggest seas, and even a beach shower for rinsing off at the end of a paddle. It gets crowded in the summer with tourists and abalone divers, but of the time it's rather peaceful.

Once on the water there are caves and tunnels immediately to the north. The angle of the shore and an outer reef of rocks keeps this area calm most days, often bathtub flat as you pass through long tunnels to emerge into the open sea. Beginners can have the experience of a lifetime within ten minutes of launching their first kayak.

Heading back south passes through the outer rocks, a fun place for advanced paddlers to explore. Pourovers and slots await skilled kayakers, fear level depending upon conditions. There's even a zipper wave on the back side when the swell direction is just right.

Continuing further south, the shoreline opens up with more caves and tunnels, many leading from one protected cove to the next. Emerald green water, lit up by the plentiful afternoon sun, shines through underwater openings and entices one to go just a little further to see what's around the next corner. Mostly it's more rocks to play in and around, but occasionally it's a pocket beach that begs you to take a break and enjoy a lazy lunch on the sand.

I've only gotten in a couple paddles out of Van Damme since our move, and I know there's lots more for me to explore and discover. But I'm looking forward to gaining my local knowledge, and I'm eager to share it with my friends when they visit. Enjoy the little video of one our recent water days:

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