Gone Kayaking

I’d like to tell you about my Saturday. It was one of those days that come along and make you feel good to be alive. It was one of those days that make you glad to be doing what you do for a living. It was one of those days that make you happy to know the people that you do. So here it is, my Saturday:

6:00 a.m. my alarm sounds from across the room. I think about whether or not I’m going to ride my bike to work. Deciding against it, I hit the snooze.

6:10 a.m. my alarm sounds from across the room. I think about whether or not I’m going to get up in the next ten minutes. Deciding against it, I hit the snooze.

6:20 a.m. my alarm sounds from across the room. I think about whether or not I’m going to get up in the next ten minutes. Deciding I better, I turn off the alarm. And stare at the popcorn ceiling above my head for the next ten minutes. Getting ready for work is simple; I put on a pair of boardshorts, a tank top and a hat. Now I’m ready.

My drive to work is quick and beautiful. I live uphill from the beach so the drive down offers a stunning view of the wide open ocean and the white sandy beaches of La Jolla Shores. The northern facing limestone cliff face stands out boldly and the water in front of Devil’s Slide looks like a lake.

7:00 a.m. I clock in at Everyday California. Chris Hodson is already there. We started at the company at the same time and used to work the same shift all the time. We’re often buddied up for tours and will spend the whole day taking out tours and moving boats. He’s an ex-army, long-haired Washingtonian with a sense of humor almost as twisted as my own. He is, unfortunately, sick today.

To open, we move boats. Quite a few of them. We load up the back of the truck with eleven orange or ivory 12 ft. 75 lb. kayaks and tie them down tight. The whole time we’re just shooting the shit, talking about a range of topics from welding winery wine tanks to tipping cows and how shitty our tips have been lately. Early morning work with early morning minds wandering through the last vestiges of sleep, the dreamscape of it all settles warmly in my chest while the sand begins to make it’s way onto my body.

It gets everywhere, the sand. I’ve long since stopped caring and have moved past accepting it to embracing it. I take it with me everywhere I go, depositing bits of La Jolla across San Diego.

8:15 a.m. people arrive to check in for their 9:00 a.m. tour. We have to hustle now. Twenty guests have come from all over to paddle a kayak with the Son of Hod and the Duke of Diego. They need wetsuits and they need lifejackets and helmets. Some of them need their hand held a little bit. They need a smiling face and confident attitude to reassure them that they’re going to be safe, that they’re in good hands, that they’re going to have a good time.

8:45 a.m. the Son of Hod finishes getting everyone geared up and ready to head to the beach. I take the first load of boats down to the boat launch. We’re not the only kayak tour company on the street; two other trucks with different colored kayaks pull out behind me, forming a sort of kayak convoy. We all stop at the end of the street, waiting for 9:00 a.m. to tick by. The San Diego Lifeguards make the rules and for whatever reason, they say we can’t be on the beach before 9:00 a.m. At 8:57 a.m. I crane my head around, looking for a red truck on the beach. The coast is clear. Time to deposit the boats.

9:10 a.m. our tour is finally on the water. The surf is almost non-existent. The wind is likewise absent. The visibility is close to 30 ft. In short, it’s an amazing day; perfect you could say. We paddle south towards the seven sea caves, taking a pit stop in front of Dr. Suess’s old house. Below us, hundreds of Leopard Sharks swim along the bottom, perfectly visible. The oohs and the ahhs never get old. The joy and astonishment bring a genuine smile to my face every time. I look over at the Son of Hod, his smile says the same despite being sick.

9:35 a.m. we hit the caves. Cameras are gathering memories and I’m putting my fins on. The Clam awaits. It’s not really a cave, The Clam; it doesn’t terminate. In truth, it’s a small cavern that empties out into a small cove. Regardless of what you call it, it is beautiful inside. The ceiling is about fifteen feet high and the water has eroded shelves that enable Sea Lions to hangout and relax. I swim two kayaks in at a time, watching the swell and stabilizing them so they can take in the amazing surroundings. Little baby Sea Lions look curiously at everybody I swim in, as if I trained them to do so. Hodson will tell you he did.

10:07 a.m as if on cue, The Son of Hod asks me what time it is. Everytime he does, it’s seven after. This is probably the tenth time. It’s starting to creep me out. He tells everyone it’s one of his superpowers. His other one is breathholding. We demonstrate this by diving down 30 ft. to the bottom of the kelp forest to gather sand from the ocean floor. Sinus cavities filled with seawater are a small price to pay for the smiles on the little kids’ faces. They call us mermaids and we correct them: we’re mermen.

10:20 a.m. we head in, the tour is done. No waves means no kayak surfing, but everyone had a fantastic time. Chrimas Hodboe is born on the walk back. He’s too big for this blog post, he deserves his own, he’ll take the stage for the next one. He’s full of shenanigans. In fact, he invented them.

10:45 a.m. we start the whole process over again for the 11:00 a.m. tour. Rinse and repeat.

3:10 p.m. Tommy Two Guns walks into the shop. “We’re goin’ clammin’. You comin’?” he asks in his thick Long Island accent. I tell him I’m not sure if I’m off yet. I check with my boss Brian. I’m good to go. I’ve never been clammin’ before and I tell Tommy. “Don’t worry about it. It’s easy, come on,” he says. We head out to his Toyota FJ Cruiser. “We gotta pick up Hageman first, hop in,” he says.

3:15 p.m. Chris Hageman gets in and asks me if I want a beer. I graciously accept and sit in the back and enjoy the show. We’re going to the Silver Strand beach just off of Coronado. The twenty-five minute drive is the best part. Tommy Two Guns and Hageman continue their day-long conversation. It’s like the odd couple. Tommy is a retired NYPD cop. Hageman, well in truth I don’t really know what he does. He surfs, he’s a got a new house up in Encinitas that he’s been working on for a while and he used to work at Everyday California. His controlled tone and attitude are an interesting contrast to Tommy’s New York style. Their conversation spirals through a multitude of subjects, with points being made that are sometimes acknowledged by the other and often argued over. Occasionally my input is asked for in support for some point one is trying to make.

3:40 p.m. we park in the lot by the stretch of beach we’re going to be clammin’ on. I get a quick lesson on how to find a clam and am handed a couple of manure rakes and a bucket. New guy carries the gear. We’re each allowed ten clams, according to our fishing license. We spend the next hour stabbing our manure rakes into the sand in ankle-deep water. When the rake hits a clam, it feels like you hit solid concrete. You reach down and dig up the clam. It is incredibly simple. And weirdly fun.

5:30 p.m. we arrive back at the shop. The boys are finishing up, moving all the boats back inside. I fell asleep on the ride back and Tommy and Hageman gently chide me for it. Before my nap, Tommy went over how to steam the clams and how to make clam chowder. It was a long list of instructions, to which Hageman said, “You get all that Duke? Can you remember that essay Tommy just told you?” I smiled and assured him I did while he and Tommy argued over whether or not to add bacon to the broth.

5:45 p.m. the closing crew and myself walk down the street to Jeff’s Burgers to get a bite to eat. Kayaking all day and moving boats will wipe you out. Food is an immediate concern once you’re done. The camaraderie of the group over a shared bite talking about the shared work of the day is special. Respect flows easily from each person and the small silences as everyone eats says it all. We’re a team. We work together and get shit done. We bring people out on the ocean and give them experiences they will never forget. And then we eat. And then we talk. And we laugh.

6:20 p.m. I head home, stopping off at the grocery store to get supplies. A tall pot, bacon, corn, whipping cream, butter, white wine, yukon potatoes, celery, a white onion and some sourdough loaves leave with me.

7:00 p.m. I start steaming the clams. Sierra comes over and offers to be my kitchen assistant. I overcook the clams. The chowder comes together mostly as planned. It takes longer than I thought it would and the clams are extremely chewy. But it’s good. And I went with Hageman’s advice and added bacon. It was a good call.

It started early. I moved some boats. I kayaked all day. I dug up some clams. I made clam chowder. I spent most of my day in the ocean. Ten years ago I never would have imagined that this Saturday would be a typical day for me. My life has had a strange and twisted route. I’m in a good place now. And I’m excited for the things to come. If you made it this far, I’m thankful. I probably would’ve stopped reading this post early on. I’ll try not to do this too often, but I felt the need to share a beautiful day. I hope you have your own.

-the Duke

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2 thoughts on “Gone Kayaking

  1. If only my words could convey how sincerely proud of you and ALL that you have accomplished! I mean my goodness Thomas! You are a published author who has earned his degree, working your butt off while enjoying yourself! You have come so far and are by far, hands down, my biggest inspirations! If you can go from what you came through and come out the other side as good as you, so can I! By the way, when we come out there in January, I totally want to go clammin’!!!!

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