Some places you just don’t want to fall in the water. I’ve never paddled anywhere this is more true than Ano Nuevo. The tiny island and rocky coves are havens for many types of sea birds, sea otters, elephant seals, sea lions and their big gray friends.
The state park is between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. There’s a famous right barrel that peels along the south-facing cove. Local surfers are not fans of standup paddling and it’s a fairly long walk to the beach with a paddleboard. But on the right day, it’s an amazing spot for touring.
Though you can’t land on the island because it’s a conservation area, it is worth a paddle around to check out the abandoned house and buildings. In the 1800s and through the early 1900s, a successful dairy was run on the island. Now, little grows on the rocky shores except baby sea lions.
If you’ve never paddled in the ocean, this is probably not the place to start. Even if you have paddled in the ocean, the Central California coast can be an unnerving and unpredictable destination. I would recommend going only on days with small surf and low wind.
There are dangers other than current, swell and wind. The area is well known as an elephant seal and sea lion rookery. As you get close to the island, the sea lions will charge into the water and come check you out. They bark, show their teeth and splash. They seem really curious. It’s pretty surreal to see a 500-pound marine mammal swim under your board, let alone being surrounded by dozens or hundreds of them.
Great white sharks frequent the area. I think that’s one reason I wanted to go there. As my brother and I paddled out last fall, we really didn’t know what to expect. Neither of us have ever thought of sharks as a danger— especially when standup paddling— but more of a curiosity or an attraction. Of course, we didn’t see any. But if you’re looking to paddle where there is a major wildlife presence, Ano Nuevo is definitely awesome.
South Tahoe Standup Paddle is gearing up for the busy season. The shop’s floor just got a fresh coat of paint. New gear will begin trickling in at the beginning of May. Registration for Race the Lake of the Sky is open and our lodging partner Inn by the Lake is beginning to fill up. Check out RacetheLakeoftheSky.com for more information. As always, please feel free to share your paddling stories, comments or questions on our Facebook page or by emailing me at Dylan@southtahoesup.com.