Half Moon Bay Kayak Co.'s fleet of colorful plastic shells slices through the glimmering waters of Pillar Point Harbor, carrying crews of paddlers past playful harbor seals and chattering pelicans. Co-owners Doug Connor—who has conquered rushing rapids as a member of the United States Wildwater team—and Chris Manchester—who has kayaked along thousands of miles of coastline, including the world's second-largest barrier reef—channel their passion for paddling into a range of kayak and standup-paddleboard rentals, lessons, and tours. With expeditions to locales as far-flung as Honduras and Mexico, Half Moon provides sea explorers with exotic open-water explorations as well as local excursions to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, San Gregorio State Beach, and next-door neighbors' unattended kiddie pools.
The team at Nor Cal Surf Shop encourages customers to bond with their natural surroundings via a gamut of exhilarating outdoor activities such as surfing, kiteboarding, snowboarding, and skateboarding. With more than 300 surfboards and an extensive wetsuit wardrobe, the staff outfits surfers in complete rental packages. Professional instructors on the Nor Cal team also accompany aspiring athletes on various outings to instill proper technique and break performance-inhibiting habits. All lessons are tailored to improve individual performance in natural settings, including skating lessons, which take place behind the Nor Cal Surf Shop on a halfpipe planted by the shop's resident ramp gardener.
Armed with gear from City Kayak, guests paddle past scenic San Francisco sites such as Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and South Beach Harbor during guided or unguided treks. Visitors can navigate their way beneath the Lefty O'Doul drawbridge and catch home-run hits soaring out of the baseball stadium and into McCovey Cove, or advanced paddlers can traverse strong winds and tidal currents en route to Treasure Island. City Kayak also schedules classes, which teach students basic sea-kayaking skills, self-rescue techniques, and how to eskimo roll, an escape maneuver that one could use to avoid the songs of tone-deaf penguins. City Kayak rents out gear such as wetsuits and booties and also sells a collection of kayaks, paddles, and accessories to equip paddlers for future travels.
Richard Bothwell has hiked Mount Kilimanjaro, scaled Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, and surfed the waves of four continents. But perhaps his greatest feat was establishing the Outdoor Adventure Club in 1996, where he leads others in conquering nature's challenges. He and a staff of seasoned outdoors enthusiasts escort visitors of all fitness and experience levels in local excursions and international vacations, all centered on exploring the great outdoors. On the local level, the guides lead rock-climbing classes at Castle Rock State Park in addition to hiking, backpacking, whitewater-rafting, kayaking, and skydiving excursions. International adventure vacations expose folks to surfing in Costa Rica, rafting in Patagonia, and mountaineering in Peru. The expeditions marry the camaraderie of a social club with the expertise of professional guides, who are each trained in emergency wilderness care in case of squirrel attacks.
At San Mateo and Alameda beaches, a look over the watery horizon often shows dotted figures atop surfboards taming the wind and waves. Boardsports' team of certified instructors schools these adventurous participants in kiteboarding, windsurfing, and standup paddleboarding during lessons that leave both beginner and intermediate participants ready for relays with dolphins. Its fully stocked retail shop also provides gear, equipment, and rentals of surfboards, wetsuits, and other supplies to make watertop experiences fun, safe, and stylish.
At the heart of Castro Valley sits Lake Chabot, a 315-acre drinking-water reservoir surrounded by miles of parklands and walking trails. At the marina, Lake Chabot Fishing Outfitters provides a complete assortment of bait and tackle, along with rod and reel rentals, boat rentals, and a café stocked with breakfast and lunch. Depending on the season, anglers can try different fishing methods to track down their desired targets. In the fall through the spring, spoon and fly fishers often reel in hungry trout, and summertime anglers are often successful with catfish, crappies, bluegill, and largemouth bass.