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Humpback Whale Encounter

During the months of March and April, whales begin their migration North to Alaska along the California coast. This is an optimal time to be able to see a Blue, Humpback or Gray whale right off the coast in Malibu while paddling with us! Although conditions vary during these months due to wind and swell, we often get calm days that allow us this rare opportunity to witness these whales in their natural habitat and migration.

I’ve seen several whales migrating along the coast (a few hundred yards offshore) and I’ve tried to get up close. Whales are surprisingly fast moving in the water and even though I’ve paddled as fast as I could to see them, they always seemed illusive.

One day a few years ago, I had group of 5 paddlers just off shore in the Latigo Beach area of Malibu (Los Angeles County) and I spotted a whale breaching about 500 yards away. I quickly pointed it out to my group as it appeared to be heading in our direction…

As it got closer we saw a second one and then a third Humpback breaching the surface and blowing air out as the whales stayed on their path in our direction. I told my group to remain calm and stop paddling. I turned on my camera to capture this incredible sight as two of the three whales dove down under me simultaneously and swam right under my paddle board… admittedly I was a bit nervous, because these are large mammals and they move so smoothly and quickly through the water. My group was completely excited to have witnessed this and everyone received a copy of my video after the lesson.

The Beauty of Our Downwinder

When stand up paddling was resurrected from its ancient Hawaiian roots, it happened in an unlikely place – Maui. Of all the Hawaiian Islands, Maui is by far the windiest due to the current trade flow that cranks up its north shore to a whopping 25+ knot winds on regular basis. Stand up paddlers have figured out how to use the wind to their advantage and when stand up paddling began its rise in popularity it wasn’t uncommon to see them paddling downwind with the goal of hitting every surf spot along the way.

The concept of launching in one place and ending up in another is not new; it is central to sports like whitewater kayaking, rafting and downhill biking to name just a few. Sometimes, the most fun comes from finding the fastest way to get from A to B. It wasn’t long before more people caught on to the idea of using wind and swells to move along the shoreline. Paddling ‘downwinders’ soon became a popular SUP activity and downwinders today haven’t changed much since those early days.

We here at Paddle Surf Malibu are carrying on the Downwinder concept by offering an intermediate to advanced level Downwinder paddle from Westward Beach to Escondido Beach, Malibu. This is a 4 mile paddle (one way) that challenges your skills by navigating around Point Dume and paddling downwind into Escondido Beach. This is by far the most popular tour amongst our intermediate and advanced paddlers.

Prevailing winds blow side shore along Malibu in the afternoon, so a paddler can go at his or her own pace (from racing to drifting) while the wind and open ocean swell does most of the work. Experienced paddlers will notice a strong similarity to the sport of surfing as they pick up wind swells and connect them with each other. Often the fastest downwind paddler is not necessarily the strongest but the one who reads the wind swells and rides them with the most skill. Our Downwinders are incredibly scenic and we often see seals, dolphins and even whales along the way and are a great experience on any level.

The beauty of our Downwinder is that a paddler is able to ride downwind from north to south in the afternoon, and enjoy the breathtaking landscape of Malibu that is seldom seen. The bottom line is that everybody has fun and can go at his or her own pace with the opportunity to be social or solo.

Meet Chris Kurtz of Paddle Surf Malibu in Malibu – VoyageLA

Meet Chris Kurtz of Paddle Surf Malibu in Malibu — VoyageLA

VOYAGELA STAFF | Published January 20, 2017

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Kurtz.

Chris, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
While surfing alone in Malibu on a November day I happened to look up to see a large Stand up paddler approaching. As he came closer I quickly recognized him as Laird Hamilton (of big wave surfing fame) He was on a stand up paddle board. He said “Aloha” and we began chatting. He began to tell me all about stand up paddling and all of its benefits and advantages to normal surfing. He asked if I had ever tried it, I replied “no, but I wanted to” he then promptly said, “Well, You ARE going to try it today!” and threw me his paddle and said exchange boards with him. I didn’t know what I was doing as he paddled for a wave on my board he yelled back, “Speed is your friend”….

I went home and thought to myself…”If the best guy in the world (in my opinion) is super amped about stand up paddling, there must be something to it”….So I decided to sell all of my regular surfboards and commit to stand up paddling…

Having been a scholarship Swimmer at the University of Tennessee and an Ocean Lifeguard for the City of Del Mar (San Diego area) I decided to teach & share with others what has given me so much joy since that day when I met Laird Hamilton…

I started Paddle Surf Malibu in the Spring of 2014 and have been going strong since…

I guess you could say that chance encounter meeting Laird changed my life!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I started out by building the website www.paddlesurfmalibu.com and gathering up old used stand-up paddle boards and paddles to start the business. I partnered with Groupon, Living Social and Travelzoo to get my name out, but quickly realized those companies take half of the cost of the lessons. However as soon as I launched my site, business boomed. I was able to afford new equipment and could hardly handle the demand. I no longer run promotions with those companies, but occasionally run specials through my social media or website.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the PADDLE SURF MALIBU story. Tell us more about the business.
Paddle Surf Malibu is the premium Stand Up Paddle lesson company. We pride ourselves on customer service and satisfaction. What differentiates us is our amazing photos & videos that we give our customers, the top-of-the-line Laird Hamilton signature Boards we use and our focus on smaller groups to give our customers a safe and amazing experience.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Ironically, growing up as a surfer, I’ve always wanted there to be lots of waves, but, with my stand up paddle lesson business, it’s better to teach in a “waveless” environment. We’ve been fortunate for several calm water days since we started (as seen on our IG @paddlesurfmalibu) We also have been very fortunate to see Dolphins and Seals and even Whales on many occasions.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Paddle Surf Malibu
  • Website: www.paddlesurfmalibu.com
  • Phone: 805-338-6567
  • Email: chris@paddlesurfmalibu.com
  • Instagram: @paddlesurfmalibu.com
  • Facebook: @paddlesurfingmalibu

One of the 16 Coolest Things to do in Los Angeles – FORBES Magazine

Paddle Surf Malibu: 16 Of The Coolest Things To Do In Los Angeles Right Now on FORBES Magazine
Breanna Wilson, CONTRIBUTOR

Tour the Malibu coast by way of stand up paddle board.

Get into the water and experience the Malibu coastline from a different perspective. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced stand-up paddle boarder, Chris from Paddle Surf Malibu is the man to know when it comes to navigating these waters. Be on the lookout for dolphins, they like to tag along on these tours as well.