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LLING


WHAT KEEPS A GROUP OF CALIFORNIA VENTURERS COMING BACK AGAIN AND AGAIN? KILLERKAYAKING ADVENTURES IN A PACIFIC OCEAN PLAYGROUND.


              


AT HIGH TIDE, SMUGGLER’S COVE doesn’t look like much—just a darkened hole at the base of a cliff on Catalina Island. But at low tide, it turns into an ominous maw. Legend has it that a sailor’s ghost guards a priceless treasure stashed in this cave by a band of ruthless California pirates. In the waning light of an October


afternoon, the members of Venturing Crew 420 hesitated at the entrance to Smuggler’s Cove in a pod of Skittles- colored kayaks. They could barely make out its rear wall, obscured by darkness, and its mouth was just big enough for a single boat. One by one, each paddled to its entrance, ducked, and glided into the cavern on the momentum of the swells. Then came Jake Stephens’ turn. “Don’t go into the vortex. It’ll kill you!”


Jack Daum said mischievously, as Jake, the youngest of the bunch at 18, dipped his paddle into the water. “If you see a bright light, swim toward


it!” J.R. Brolliar said, egging him on. Without hesitation, Jake tilted his head to glide into the cave’s craggy mouth and disappeared into the black. In another few moments, he slid back out again, a grin stretched beneath his crooked baseball cap. Scouts have paddled into Smuggler’s


Cove, and along Catalina’s rugged shores, for decades. They come to Camp Emerald Bay from as far as Korea, Japan, Denmark, and England to see this wild landscape and learn to kayak its waters. Some have never seen the ocean before but leave with an indelible sense of its magnetism. Most of the


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