Helmed by chief pilot Josh Jones, Channel Islands Helicopters soars over the sparkling Pacific during breathtaking tours around Channel Island National Park and Channel Island Marine Sanctuary. Guests load into a luxurious, bright-yellow steed of the sky, zipping out of Oxnard Airport and into the wide skyscape. Floating along a mountain-framed coastline, the sturdy chopper scrapes the clouds as guests peer into the waters below. Depending on the season, whales may frolic in the surf, carousing with sea lions or jubilant dolphin pods that leap out of the waters in hopes of catching a glimpse at the mythical creature known as the whirlybird. Clink glasses of champagne with a loved one or two friends to commemorate a magnificent midair adventure.
The rink at Channel Islands Ice Center is a space for public skating, a classroom for skating school, and a frozen venue for hockey and figure skating. A nonprofit organization operated by the Channel Islands Figure Skating Club and Channel Islands Riptide Hockey Club, the ice center has a stake in varied community endeavors. The center also hosts ballet, tap, and jazz classes designed to complement ice-skating skills and teach students how to evade a would-be attacker with a graceful plié and well-timed pirouette.
Captain Frank has navigated Californian waters for more than 30 years, earning his 100-Ton Captain's license in 1980 and consequently became the youngest person to do so at the time. After working for the next 19 years chartering boats and educating students aboard the Channel Islands Marine Floating Lab, he purchased the 85-foot Ranger 85, the very ship he worked on as a teenager. Along with a sister vessel, the Coral Sea, Captain Frank helms his Ranger 85 to carry visitors on scenic tours around Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary, allowing them to glimpse rare species of animals and stretches of untamed Californian landscapes. On some trips, passengers may even occasionally spot up to five different types of whales. He also embarks on private charters and bookings for groups or special occasions, such as corporate events or graduation parties for the family harbor seal.
For nearly half a century, Channel Islands Harbor's crews have ferried groups through the waters between the Channel Islands to angle for halibut, white sea bass, and other gilled creatures with resounding success. Guests have caught fish of record-breaking size: In 2011, one passenger reeled in a California halibut that weighed more than 67 pounds. Groups depart for day trips or stay overnight aboard boats with galleys and bunks, and can buy fishing tackles and bait directly from the company rather than by setting earthworm traps in their neighbors' lawns.
Channel Islands Sportfishing's crew also ventures out on whale watching excursions to catch glimpses of gray whales, dolphins, seals, and other wildlife. Children are always welcome aboard the company's fleet, which includes 13 vessels.
The rising sun bathes the expanse of turquoise water in a golden glow, and a lone figure breaks its still surface during her morning swim. So begins another day at the Ventura Aquatic Center, where meticulously maintained facilities and engaging programs coax swimmers of all ages into the refreshing depths. A 50-meter competition pool fields the backstrokes of lane swimmers, and a 25-meter recreation pool enables laid-back play sessions. Delighted squeals and giggles drift from the kids’ activity pool, where splashes of water keep little faces smiling and a pair of water slides facilitates high-speed entries. Throughout each day, a crew of American Red Cross–certified lifeguards patrols the premises to ensure the safety of all those frolicking in and around the pools.
Dedicated to educating and entertaining patrons, Ventura Aquatic Center’s seasoned instructors also host group and private swim lessons and water-safety classes. Synchronized-swimming lessons teach pupils the art of tandem movement, and lifeguard training prepares would-be rescuers for real-world rescue situations. Diving and water-polo teams unite players for in-pool athletics, and aquatic summer camps stave off the boredom and nostalgic re-readings of last year’s report cards inherent to the summer months.
Though little known to humans outside of Ventura, Hook's Landing's sailors are notoriously feared in the sea world. That's due in large part to their successful fishing charters, on which they bag hundreds of rockfish, dozens of whitefish, and multiple lobsters with a crew of tour-goers.The charter's guests can keep any legal-size lobster, crab, and fish they find in their professional-grade hoop nets. Hook's Landing snaps memorable shots of the day's catches and encourages guests to cook their catch, instead of nailing it to a board and trying to make it sing.