Reporter's Notebook: Bitten by a water bug

June 06, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • Danny Hough, an instructor at Orange Coast College, has been hosting kayaking tours in Newport Beach for the past seven years.
Danny Hough, an instructor at Orange Coast College, has… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

I've never had a good relationship with the sea, or really any large body of water where I could drown.

But then I heard about the Moonlight Kayaking tours offered at the Newport Aquatic Center in Newport Beach.

I can't tread water, but at 23 I figured I'd give water activities one more shot. What could possibly go wrong with kayaking in the Back Bay on Memorial Day weekend? At least I'll have a lifejacket on, right?

By day, Danny Hough is a kayak instructor at Orange Coast College, but at night he moonlights as a tour guide, leading paddlers around the bay and residential areas.

It all started in 2005 when he needed to schedule make-up classes for his students. The only time he had was at night.

"UC Irvine then asked me to do one of their moonlight paddles and I told myself, 'Why am I not doing this on my own?'" Hough said. "From that point on, I started scheduling them on my own."


Hough began arranging classes in the Back Bay independently and eventually formed an agreement with the Newport Aquatic Center, he said.

He has seen shooting stars, dolphins and bobcats during his nighttime trips. During one winter, a resident decorated their house with lavish Christmas lights and brought out a snow machine.

Back to the Saturday before Memorial Day, Hough assured the 43 guests — including me — that we would be fine and that the paddle wouldn't be too demanding.

After his brief rundown on the do's and don'ts — do keep your body straight, don't tilt your head from side to side — he told us to grab a kayak and set off.

This is when I started to get nervous.

I needed to take my mind off the stress that was slowly building. I needed to find someone else who was new at kayaking.

I chatted with a couple from San Bernardino County who were staying at the Newport Dunes. They were looking for a weekend activity and stumbled upon Moonlight Kayaking.

Anne Robb and Chris Rutt had gone kayaking before, but this was their first time cruising at night.

"My parents had sailboats and that's fun and all, but they're constantly messing with the rigging," Robb said. "It's nice to just get out on the water and relax a little bit."

Talking to them didn't aid my miniature dilemma. I proceeded to talk to a few more folks — but they were of course seasoned kayakers, much to my chagrin.

I gave up on looking for another novice and started to tell myself, "Nothing bad is going to happen."

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