Eccentric False Creek Kayaking

On Friday, May 15, 2020, I took a day off from work. I was feeling really burnt out and needed some time outside and offline. So I called up my good friend and go-to adventure buddy, Jacob Grossbard, and begged him to take me kayaking. That evening, we completed a bucket list item of mine — kayaking in False Creek — something I had dreamed since July 2016 when I visited Vancouver for an official UBC tour. The kayaking was enjoyable for sure, but ended up a little bit more exciting than either of us envisioned…

Kits Beach and Downtown Vancouver just ahead. Photo by Melissa Bernstein.

To start off the trip, I biked to Jacob’s house near 41st and Dunbar. From there, I volunteered to carry the kayak… on my back. Now in true VOC fashion, we affixed the two person Oru kayak to a 1980s external camping backpack frame and some extra voile straps. Jacob attached the two paddles to his bike and we were off, biking over the Dunbar hump to Jericho beach.

I’m having a great time here. I’m glad I had my adventure straps on my Crocs on. Selfie by Jacob Grossbard.

I soon regretted volunteering to carry the kayak, as the weight of the boat on my back, and thus my butt, was quite uncomfortable. Biking down the Dunbar diversion with my arms straight out — so I could allow my helmet to not block my vision — was quite thrilling, I must say.

We soon arrived at Locarno beach and after a few minutes of trying to figure out how to assemble the kayak and getting our gear in dry bags, we departed.

We went north and then east, towards downtown. We passed the Jericho pier where many were people were crabbing, the Jericho Sailing Center, and Jericho Beach. Just past the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, we admired and gossiped about the large homes on Point Grey road, many with at least three stories of full length windows. We passed by cool graffiti and hidden beaches on Point Grey Road, most of which we had never noticed before.

A perfect action shot of Jacob’s face, paddling with perfect form, just off Point Grey Road. Photo by Melissa Bernstein.

Just north of Kitsilano Beach near Hadden Park, we stop paddling and feast on Jacob’s homemade hummus and yummy pita.

Near Hadden Park, you can see where how far we drifted while we ate. Photo from Strava

As we rounded the corner of Vanier Park, we noticed that most other kayakers and SUPs+ (stand-up paddleboarders, and their doggos) had PFDs on. No, not PDFs. PFDs stand for personal flotation devices, aka life jackets. Being the proper prepared youngin’s we are, we didn’t think to bring these important pieces of safety equipment. So as we approached the Canadian Coast Guard station just north west of the Burrard Bridge, we skirted east towards downtown, crossing the channel to avoid getting caught. Later, we learned, that the Coast Guard was the least of our concerns. If you look closely, in the Strava map above, you can see our evasive maneuver from the Coast Guard dock.

Crossing under the Burrard Bridge. Photo by Melissa Bernstein.

At this moment, crossing under the Burrard Bridge on the kayak, I was pleased to officially be entering False Creek by boat.

As we leisurely paddled past Granville Island and under the Granville St. Bridge, we noticed things from the water that we hadn’t before. For example, we noticed a building in Yaletown with a cool painted design.

A closeup of the “cool building” we saw from the water. The building is named “The Charleson” and is on Pacific Street. Photo by Melissa Bernstein.

We also noticed two cool art pieces from the water. The first was a wind-powered bird sculpture that flapped its wings. Doing a bit more research, I learned that the art piece is named Khenko, a Coast Salish name for “heron”.

Khenko art sculpture on the False Creek Seawall. Photo from the City of Vancouver.

The last of the worth-while art sculptures we saw was of the fountain pen, closer to the Cambie St. Bridge.

Photo by Melissa Bernstein.

Now as the sun set, the boat and particularly our feet got quite chilly. Neither of our paddles were truly perfect— Jacob had the smaller whitewater kayaking paddle in the back and mine didn’t have any drip guards. So, quickly our boat filled with drip water and we were sitting in the grimy water of False Creek on the foam pads of the Oru kayak. Nonetheless, we managed to enjoy ourselves as we made our way eastward towards Science World.

Jacob doing an A+ job steering the kayak, with less of his face being blocked by his paddle. Photo by Melissa Bernstein.

Passing under the Cambie Bridge, I was able to snap some pictures of Science World, the first landmark I remember from my UBC visit back in the summer of 2016.

Science World straight ahead! Photo by Melissa Bernstein.

We swiftly dropped anchor (not really) at a public dock just south of Science World. We practically fell out of the boat. When I crawled out of the kayak, I actually fell over because my feet and legs were so stiff and cold from getting wet in the boat. I had to recover for a few minutes while Jacob managed to dump out the water that had accumulated in the bottom of the boat.

I swear I helped. Photo by Melissa Bernstein.

Now, you might be thinking, “Whew, nice!” that sounds like a nice Friday evening kayak. And you’d be right. But at this moment, the rest of our evening took a turn— I’d say for the better.

Only after a few minutes of warming up our feet, an eccentric man who I will refer to as ‘Mike’ approached us with a couple of obnoxiously yellow NoFrills shopping bags. Now Jacob has a slightly different opinion of Mike than I do, but this is my trip report after all, so I shall tell my tale.

Pretty much Mike claimed to have worked for a three-letter-acronym government agency in the status, starting when he was 17. He said he worked in something resembling cybersecurity. He said he inherited five boats from his father, a couple he claimed to be over 100ft yachts. He said had travelled the world and done solo sailing trips for over 40 years. He said he had a home nearby, but liked to live on his boat in the harbor. He said lots of things, many of which I think believing makes this story more interesting.

The thing that spooked me the most was his insistence on showing myself and Jacob his gun collection on his phone camera roll. Now, while I did grow up in the states (or ‘murica as the kids call it these days), I have a strong aversion to guns. Jacob on the other hand was intrigued. As I stood there on the dock in the cold eating the rest of our dinner (snacks), Mike spent a solid 10–15 minutes showing Jacob all of these fancy gun pictures he had gotten to use over the years working for his top secret job.
Edit… Jacob: “I would like to point out that I was trying to extract myself during the 15min slideshow of [Mike's] Google Images gun collection”

In the middle of all this, one of Mike’s buddies and boat neighbour, I’ll call him ‘Sam’, showed up on the dock with his doge named Hot Dog. Sam was quick to share with me how Hot Dog was almost 20 years old — an agile pup who he taught to go down the playground slides earlier that day. Sam lived on a boat he nicknamed the “Messy Vessel”.

If you’re keeping track of relative time on this journey, you can probably imagine that it has gotten quite late. In addition to hearing stories and seeing gun pictures, Mike has convinced Jacob and I to not kayak back to Locarno Beach. He warned us that the VPD (Vancouver Police Department) was out earlier in the day giving out $300+ fines to paddlers not wearing life jackets. So our earlier assumption and maneuvering tactics to avoid the Coast Guard was irrelevant as it was the VPD who patrolled False Creek. We also were very cold and hungry at this point.

We decide to bus back.

On our way to the 84. Photo by Melissa Bernstein.

We stopped to use a port-a-potty near very fertile raised beds and offered to watch this dude’s bike as he used the luxurious loo. When he finished, he pulled out a cigarette and we quickly got sucked into listening him ramble on about Vancouverites drinking beers straight from the can on the public beaches.

Smelled like horse manure — raised garden beds in Olympic Village, right near the luxurious port-a-potty. Photo by Melissa Bernstein.

Thankfully, Sam came to the rescue and we quickly excused ourselves as we have a bus to catch.

Good thing we left when we did, because we had to run to the stop. I waived my paddle eccentrically to slow the 84. The 84 bus only came every 30 minutes that time of night. We awkwardly boarded the bus with the kayak and gear. It was the first time either of us had ridden a bus since the beginning of covid-19 restrictions— about two months.

We got off near my house and lugged the kayak back to my place. We enjoyed drinks and ice cream with maple syrup (really Canadian, eh?) before walking back to Jericho and collecting our bikes and the camping backpack frame that we had locked up hours earlier. At this point, it was definitely past our bedtimes, but screw that, it was the beginning of a long weekend. We went to the Jericho Pier, where people were still crabbing. We enjoyed chocolate (its a vegetable, you know) and gazed at the stars— topping off another eccentric adventure.

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