Petaluma couple offers kayak, paddleboard trips on the river

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Paddling takes place year-round in Sonoma County, but in spring its popularity skyrockets and stays aloft into autumn. That’s because paddlesports — sports that require a paddle to move and steer a craft through water — are warm-weather, feel-good outdoor fun and accessible to most fitness levels.

They provide low-impact cardiovascular activity and upper-body exercise that strengthen muscles and engage the core.

Small wonder that paddlesports keep growing in popularity, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Few people know as much about paddlesports as Jeff and Anne Kellogg, who own Petaluma’s Clavey Paddlesports.

They’ve encouraged many to explore the Petaluma River through their kayak and paddleboard classes and rentals.

With more than 50 combined years of kayaking, rafting and stand-up paddleboarding skills, they have experienced first-hand the constant technical evolution of watercraft and other equipment used in paddle-based watersports. The result of that targeted knowledge can be found on a visit to their 2,500-square-foot Petaluma Boulevard store, two blocks from the river.

The store’s many interconnected rooms are jam-packed with boats, boards and a universe of related equipment. Each item has been carefully chosen to do the best job possible for everyone from a long-time paddler to a rank beginner.

“I really like helping beginners who are taking their initial stab,” said Jeff Kellogg. “I want them to get on the water in a boat that can help grow their skills. Helping them get started, that’s what we’re here for.”

He was born in Berkeley but grew up in Redwood City. The outdoors played a big role in his family, but “it wasn’t specific to paddling.”

After high school he worked as an auto machinist until, through a childhood friend, he became involved in whitewater rafting.

“One thing led to another,” Kellogg said. “I quit my job as a machinist and began working in the whitewater industry.”

He returned to school, eventually obtaining a degree in recreation administration (with a minor in business administration) from Humboldt State University. While a student he worked spring weekends as a river guide, and in summers helped craft an outdoor program geared to disadvantaged populations and at-risk youth.

Originally from New Jersey, Anne Kellogg moved to California in her youth. She has a degree in physical education, as well as a teaching credential. She worked in education for a while, and at various times held jobs as a ski instructor and an emergency medical technician.

“Jeff and I literally met on the Rogue River (in Oregon) on a private boating trip,” she said. “He was a river guide.”

They married in 1995, one year after Clavey Paddlesports was formed. The company is named after Clavey Falls, the largest — and the only Class V — rapid on the Tuolumne River.

The store had a modest beginning; its first catalog consisted of a single black-and-white printed page featuring dry bags, ash oars, and Avon Riverboats. Twenty-five years downstream, Clavey’s carries dozens of paddlesport categories and hundreds of products.

A glance at the website catalog shows kayaks, stand-up paddleboards (also known as SUPs), rafts, car racks and trailers, paddles, water trail maps, wetsuits and other apparel, dry boxes, waterproof solar lights that float, camping gear designed for portage … and a lot more.

“We’ve got some obscure and hard-to-find stuff, too,” Jeff Kellogg said. “Someone’s got an oarlock that got bent, we’ve got a replacement. We’ve got trail maps made for rivers with mile-by-mile features, a brief overview of what rapids to expect and possible campsites — essential, but not widely available. Our maps are spot-on accurate.”

Many items sold here are sport-specific. For example, the life jackets carried for kayakers are designed differently than those for paddleboarders. They’re also available for men, women and kids, as well as dogs.

Every so often a major trend comes along in paddlesports. These days it’s kayak fishing. Over the past decade, according to the Outdoor Foundation’s “2018 Outdoor Participation Report,” the number of Americans who take part in kayak fishing has doubled.

“That trend probably got started with a kayaker who liked to fish taking a pole along on a river trip,” Jeff Kellogg said. “And now there are kayaks designed specifically for fishing.”

He pointed to a 12-foot sit-on-top kayak with built-in pedals, the Old Town Topwater 120. It sports three rod holders, onboard rod and tackle storage, and — best thing — the pedals propel, reverse and steer the craft, leaving the angler’s hands free to work a pole and fight a fish.

You can rent paddle craft — kayaks, SUPs, and paddle rafts/oar rigs — for a few hours, one day, or more. In addition, if you’re thinking of buying a particular kayak, Clavey’s has a demo program for a few models that allows you to “test-drive” the craft in the nearby Petaluma River.

Clavey’s kayaking classes also run the gamut, offering instruction in navigation, first aid/CPR, compass/chart reading and more.

Or opt for a Clavey kayak tour. On the Drakes Estero tour, Jeff Kellogg says, “there is so much bird life — egrets, white and brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, osprey, sometimes a bald eagle, along with aquatic creatures — and maybe elk on the hills. It’s beautiful.”

The night-time bioluminescence tour of Tomales Bay, where your paddle makes rivulets of blue light, is another winner.

The Kellogg’s daughter, Raini, a political science major at Humboldt State University, began riding in her father’s kayak as a toddler. She said it’s a sport that welcomes people of most ages, whether they’re young or relatively old.

“I remember going from being a small child in dad’s front hatch,” she said, “to being in a double kayak with one of my parents, and eventually into my own boat. It’s always been a part of my life. A lot of it is intuitive for me.

“But I would encourage people of any age to just go for it,” she said. “Everyone starts somewhere. As long as you’re being safe and staying within your skill level, it’s never a bad idea to be outside and recreate.”

Or, as they say on the Clavey website: “Life is short, get on the water.”

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