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members of Crew 420, however, had been converted to the sport of sea kayaking years ago. The unusual crew consists of former camp staffers who continue to get together long after their summer tenure ended. On this particular weekend in October, they traveled from homes scattered along the California coast to meet old friends and spend a weekend paddling. Every Catalina Island trip starts with a boat ride. On


Friday afternoon, the Venturers boarded the last ferry in Los Angeles, and a palpable sense of excitement suffused the air. Soon the city disappeared in a haze, and the Santa Monica Mountains turned into ragged lines against the pale blue sky. A group of 6-year-olds on a weekend visit shrieked with delight as hundreds of bottlenose dolphins swarmed the boat, jumping in twos and threes in what seemed like a magnificent orchestrated show. The members of Crew 420 simply smiled, eyes bright. Though the ride only takes an hour, Catalina feels as if it’s in the middle of the Pacific. “The great thing about us getting together like


this is we pick up right where we left off,” said Nick Leimbach, a lanky teenager equipped with his mobile phone and plenty of enthusiasm. “I’m excited,” said his friend Chris “Suzu” Suzuki. “I came all the way from San Francisco for this.”


THE CREW’S PLAN was to take off first thing the next morning, paddle about five miles to the western end of the island, and peek around to the windward side. Come evening, they’d camp on a deserted beach, then paddle back to Emerald Bay on Sunday morning. Though it was a seasoned crew, any kayaking trip


has variables—and Catalina Island, subject to the tem- pestuous moods of the ocean, is no exception. Within hours, the swells can grow to more than seven feet tall, high enough for kayakers to lose sight of one another as they dip into troughs; wind and rain can steam- roll across a clear sky within minutes. While Camp Emerald Bay is situated on the sheltered eastern side of the 25-mile island, the western side, the crew’s destina- tion, is much wilder. “Here we’re buffeted by the island,” said Van


Whiting, 26, the sturdy, tanned advisor for Crew 420, over breakfast at Camp Emerald Bay on Saturday morning. “On the other side, there’s nothing between you and Japan.” That morning, however, the sky was auspiciously clear and the water still as satin.


For this urban-dwelling California crew, a weekend spent ocean kayaking seemed like a stretch from their everyday lives—yet it only required an hourlong ferry trip (at left) from Los Angeles to Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Venturers explored the coastline in a pod of easy-to-paddle kayaks.


38 S COUTING ¿ SEPTEMBER•OCTOBER 2012


CHRISTINA GANDOLFO


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