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Are you ready to explore the Channel Islands by kayak?

try kayaking with santa barbara adventure company

There is a significant difference between kayaking inside the breakwater of the Santa Barbara harbor and kayaking out at Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park. We often receive phone calls from people asking how to know if they have the basic skills and are ready for ocean kayaking.

Ocean Kayaking Eligibility

At Santa Barbara Adventure Company, our #1 priority is your safety and comfort on the water. All of our guides are CPR and first aid certified and numerous are Wilderness First Responders, meaning they are specialized in medical training for remote areas. We commonly refer to our tour guides as “risk managers” as they are trained to assess multiple risk factors at once and continually work to ensure client safety. We believe in “challenge by choice” and supporting our clients in pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone for maximum growth potential.

If you are ready to advance your skills and try out ocean kayaking what better of a location than beautiful Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island within the Channel Islands National Park and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. No other area of the park offers as many sea cave kayaking opportunities. With our knowledgeable guides, limitless discovery and personal growth await you!

Basic Kayaking Eligibility

It is recommended that those wishing to kayak be comfortable in the water in the event you fall in. Channel Islands Adventure Company provides personal flotation devices (PFDs) and helmets which we require to be worn while on the water.

For your safety, comfort, and enjoyment on the water, we have the following eligibility criteria, as adapted from the American Canoe Association (ACA). Channel Islands sea cave kayaking tours are open to all individuals who acknowledge the ability to perform the following essential eligibility criteria:

  1. Breathe independently (i.e., not require medical devices to sustain breathing)
  2. Independently maintain sealed airway passages while under water
  3. Independently hold head upright without neck/head support
  4. Manage personal care independently or with assistance of a companion
  5. Manage personal mobility independently or with a reasonable amount of assistance
  6. Follow verbal and/or visual instructions and effectively communicate independently or with assistance of a companion
  7. Independently turn from face-down to face-up and remain floating face up while wearing a properly fitted life jacket
  8. Get in/out or on/off of a kayak independently or with a reasonable amount of assistance
  9. Must have the ability to withstand exposure to the outdoors for a period of 4 hours
  10. Independently get out and from under a capsized kayak
  11. Reenter or remount the kayak following capsize independently or with a reasonable amount of assistance
  12. Maintain a safe body position while attempting skills or activities needed for ocean kayaking and sea cave exploration

Please note that the total weight capacity for a tandem (2-seat) kayak is 450 pounds. The total weight capacity for a single-seat kayak is 300 pounds. Please let us know at the time of booking if anyone in your party is over 230 pounds.

Children ages five to eleven years of age must always ride with a parent or responsible adult at least 18 or older in the kayak. Children 12 years and older can paddle together as long as they are able to paddle under their own power. There must be at least one adult supervisor to take responsibility for all children under the age of 18 in a party.

As a company, we want to help support anyone who wants to explore Santa Cruz Island by kayak. Please call our office to inquire if we can offer adaptive kayaking to meet your specific needs.

Skill Levels

All of our Channel Islands sea caves kayaking tours have recommended skill levels based on the following criteria:


  • Age 5 & older
  • Ability to paddle up to 1.5 miles at roughly 1 mile per hour with rest breaks every 10-15 minutes
  • Beginner tours are recommended for families with children, first-time kayakers, and school/youth groups.


  • Ages 12 and older
  • Ability to paddle up to 3 miles at roughly 1.5 miles per hours with rest breaks every 20-30 minutes
  • Intermediate tours are recommended for those with an active lifestyle who have had previous kayak/canoe experience.


  • Ages 16 and older
  • Ability to paddle for 3-6 hours a day and to paddle up to 7.6 miles round trip at 2-2.5 miles per hour with rest breaks every 30 minutes
  • Ability to paddle long stretches in open water with limited or no access to landing areas for more than 60 minutes
  • Advanced tours are recommended for those who are active kayakers and have had ocean kayaking experience.

Our Channel Island kayaking tours have the following skill level recommendations:

Discovery Sea Cave Kayak Tour (1-1.5 hours of paddling): All levels, beginner to advanced

Adventure Sea Cave Kayak Tour (2.5-3 hours of paddling): All levels, beginner to advanced

Ultimate Sea Cave Kayak Tour (3-4 hours of paddling): Intermediate to advanced levels recommended

Have Questions?

We’d love to discuss how we can support you in getting out to explore Channel Islands National Park. Please review our FAQ’s page or email

One Comment


Hi there. I wanted to let you know what a great website you have. This explanation of what skill level is needed for each activity is fantastic. So many other places I have paddles do not do this and I have found myself and have witnessed others, completely out of their skill level. So I deem this to be the place to go for your invaluable information that you have listed. Thank you!


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