Kayaking with Dolphins in Palos Verdes, CA

This post is sponsored by REI but the content and opinions expressed here are our own.

Jenna, here! Wow. What an incredible day that I have been so looking forward to telling everyone about… I don’t even know where to begin! The title gives the subject away a bit BUT I want to first start things off by saying there so much more to tell about our latest adventure than you might assume!

Born and raised in San Diego, a few hours away from Los Angeles and where we live now, you’d think we had already seen everything Southern California has to offer. Nick and I tend to be outgoing and adventurous while also allowing for plenty of opportunity to be home bodies. When we do venture out, there really isn’t too much we don’t enjoy doing.

We’ve been beach-goers for most of our lives since we’ve dwelled so close to the ocean for so many years. I guess something that comes along with that is as you grow older, it’s just a normal thing you’ve been exposed to that isn’t as exciting as everyone else seems to find it to be. It’s just the ocean or the beach. What’s the big deal? None of that is neccesarily conscious thought, but yes, I absolutely hear everything wrong with that statement but I’m about to tell you a little story about the lesson well-learned that shook me (or us) out of that mentality.

I’ve grown up being an outdoor-loving person. My family camped, hiked, backpacked, and trekked regularly, year-round because in Southern California, you can. Like I mentioned, the beach and being out on the ocean are something that I’m not new to. I grew up running around in REI stores, crawling through tents on display with my big brother, arguing about which fishing pole was cooler, sitting in every collapsible camping chair to determine which one was “mine” and which was “his”, and (sorry Daddy) sitting in every kayak, on every bike and in every sleeping bag that was close enough to the floor that we could wiggle ourselves into. REI has been part of our family since I can remember.

Jump ahead to where I’m at now – 28, married, living in a busy, workaholic-natured city where the bustle is endless and the idea of having to trek to the “west side” is your biggest nightmare. Hiking to the Hollywood sign is the closest to nature anyone around here seems to get. I do miss that part of my life where we’d get out into the woods or mountains, even the desert, and have real silence wrap you up as if an embrace from a long lost friend. That’s part of why we love spending time in Palm Springs. You get an essence of just that, but back to the point – I really felt like we’d seen it all and those tranquil, surprising moments awaited us far away from Los Angeles.

When REI invited Nick and I to participate in one of their many classes, I assumed the kayaking excursion would be fun, and we both decided we’d give it a whirl. Nick had only been kayaking once, which we did the day after we got married a few years ago. Kayaking on the ocean is not the same as kayaking on a river. I’ve done both before, and I remember how intimidating ocean kayaking was for me the first time I went out on the open water with my brother and dad. I thought this would be a great introduction to ocean kayaking, since our many attempts to do so in San Diego with my family never worked with our hectic schedules. Serendipitously, Nick happened to be home from tour this time around, and the class was conveniently scheduled in the morning on a Saturday so that we’d be able to attend and also have full work-days after (if we so chose to)!

Beyond being able to attend, this entire experience with REI completely blew me away. It was far beyond anything that I had imagined it would be. The class size was fairly small so the 3 guides we able to spend some time chatting with each of us in our tandems, tend to those who needed assistance, and also speak to us as a group without anyone struggling to listen. All the gear was provided; we just had to bring ourselves! The location was, in a word, paradise. A quiet, clean beach, tucked away in an area of Los Angeles we’d never been to (can you believe it?) and the waves were nothing to be intimidated by. I still can’t believe the experience we had in this REI class… we found ourselves surrounded by so many sea lions and dolphins that we completely lost count! - Make sure you watch the video!!! -

A real standout aspect of the class that completely caught me off-guard was so much Nick and I enjoyed getting to know the staff. Our 3 guides were immediately like close pals, sharing their life stories, talking about travel, and just letting them tell us the history of the sights and landmarks along the coast as we paddled by. Hearing their stories and points-of-view made me feel like I was seeing the California Coast for the first time all over again. I was reminded how little us natives can come appreciate the gorgeous sights, nature and history all around us – especially when it comes the ocean that I grew up playing in. For these fresh perspectives from their charismatic and knowledgeable guides, I am tremendously grateful.

I felt more comfortable than I thought I would, and I already consider myself pretty darn comfortable ocean kayaking. I totally appreciated that the guides eased each of our tandem kayaks through the waves – both going out and coming back to shore – because I know firsthand how tricky those tasks can be. (Feel free to picture me in your mind, flailing and then flipping after totally miscalculating the break in a wave… I’m really good at that.)

Another thought : You know I must have enjoyed myself thoroughly because I don’t want to end the post… I just want to keep talking about the class! LOL

Now, Nick wants to share with you his thoughts about our REI kayaking class through Palos Verdes.

I’m not the most comfortable & confident human being when it comes to being out in open water. But, the REI guides made me feel at ease, almost coming off as old friends & making the overall experience so much fun. One of our guides was from Seattle, fell in love with Southern CA, moved here, & pointed out that people take living here for granted. She’s right. When Jenna & I were in Palos Verdes, we had no clue that that area even existed. It was such a beautiful, tranquil spot in LA that I never knew was even a thing.

One word: DOLPHINS! So. Many. Dolphins.

It almost felt like we were kayaking in a dolphin sanctuary because there were so many dolphins in one place. We completely lost count halfway through our excursion!

It was really cool that REI incorporated these awesome iconic spots that appeared in movies like The Usual Suspects (one of my favorites) that we could see along the shoreline! I definitely was not expecting our kayaking adventure to be as multi-experiential as it was, but that made it that much more enjoyable for us.

If you’re at all like us, or even just want to break free from the mold of you regular outings, check out your local REI and browse through the classes they have available in your area. This was such a surprising and wonderful adventure for us, and it was right here under our noses the whole time. Let REI help you discover, or even rediscover, the hidden gems around you!

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