Sea Kayak in Catalonia
The Mediterranean is a great place for an introduction to sea kayaking. And the Catalan coasts provide beauty spots, spectacular cliffs, caves, minute inlets, etc. accessible only by sea kayak.
Sea kayaking is a sport which does not require a special degree of fitness, as we can start paddling in calm seas without much effort. If we take our time and the weather is good we can enjoy the surrounding area without tiring ourselves. Although, if that is our wish, a kayak excursion can also be strenuous, depending on the paddling rhythm, type of gear, duration, state of the sea, weather, etc.
It is important to realise that a sea kayak is different to that used in interior waterways (rivers): Our craft is longer (4-5 metres), more stable and, thanks to its bulkheads, practically unsinkable. Built-in hatches provide great interior loading capacity. And ease of use means that we can cruise for hours in comfort.
To enjoy sea kayaking we must maintain maximum safety precautions. Knowledge of the changeable medium we are in (sea state and weather forecast), knowledge of the vessel (kayak) and knowledge of rescue and self-rescue techniques (eskimo roll) are basic to the practise of this sport. And we must always consume energy-rich foods and drink during our excursions.
We should also take into account the daily sea breeze regime of the Catalan coast: Gentle wind from sea to land during the central hours, followed by land to sea breeze until sundown. This is why the first and last hours of the day provide the calmest paddling conditions; an important point to bear in mind when planning a route.
Once we have assimilated these concepts we are ready to plan our first sea kayak excursion. A 2 to 4 hour tour will allow us to cover a considerable distance (5-10 miles) with little effort, reach places inaccessible by land, enjoy crystal waters, literally touch the rocks on the coast, enter marine caves, etc.
The Catalan coasts allow sea kayaking from virtually any access point (hundreds of miles of beaches, dozens of sport marinas). If we don’t have our own kayak there are several companies which provide rental for paddling on our own (if we are experienced) or guided excursions (recommended). Two example outfitters are Riumar (in Vilanova i la Geltrú) and Kayaking Costa Brava (in L’Escala). Here we can hire or buy gear and join group kayak outings along the coast. The excursions vary in length from one morning, to one day or a week-end, depending on our level of experience, and always guided by a specialised leader.
If we use our own kayak we can launch from any beach, with no associated red-tape or the need to request a permit. Practically all beaches can be reached by car up to the sand line. We can also start our excursions from the marinas.
In general the best area for sea kayaking is the Costa Brava (the northern third of the Catalan coast), due to its rockiness, abundance of caves, spectacular cliffs, small coves for resting, etc. Ideal paddling sites are: Northwards from Blanes, around Tossa de Mar, the Medes islands from L’Estartit, Aiguablava, from Roses to Cadaqués, etc. Any point of the Costa Brava is appropriate for launching; we will always find beaches on our way, and the beauty of the scenery is unmatched. Only in the more abrupt stretches (Cap de Creus and Cap de Begur) should we take more care as there are fewer resting points.
The Central Coast (north and south of Barcelona) is very sandy with long beaches. Only to the south will we find interesting sites for kayaking, like El Garraf, Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú, where small but scenic rocky formations break up an otherwise monotonous coastline.
To the south, we have the Costa Daurada (the southern third of Catalonia) where long beaches are interrupted by cliffs and solitary inlets, specially in Torremdembarra, Tamarit (Punta de la Mora) and L’Ametla de Mar.
In all these areas we’ll be able to sample Mediterranean cuisine thanks to the many beach restaurants (in Summer) and get our strength back for the return trip.
Once at sea we will discover scenery “for our eyes only”, specially on the following stretches of coast:
Cap de Creus – Cadaqués-Roses
Les Illes Medes i la Foradada (L’Estartit)
Aigua Blava a Llafranc
Calella de Palafrugell – Palamós
Tossa de Mar – Blanes
El Garraf – Sitges
Sitges – Vilanova i la Geltrú
Torredembarra – Punta de la Mora
Sant Jordi d’Alfama – L’Ametlla de Mar
In conclusion, Catalonia is a paradise for an introduction to the sport, or to experiment new sea kayak sensations thanks to a Mediterranean coast of great variety and beauty.