When looking to go on a paddle boarding adventure, there is no shortage of paddle destinations in Orange County. For the more experienced, you have the challenge of paddling with the waves and meeting the ocean’s unpredictability. For the beginners, you can embrace the calm waters of the bay as you learn to perfect your skills.
Newport’s summer months provide paddle experiences unlike any other with waters full of people swimming and surfing, curious seals saying hello to the people, and a variety of vessels out on the open water. There is definitely no shortage of sites to see in Newport Beach, but did you know that you and your friends also have the opportunity to paddle board at night? At Pirate Coast Paddle, you can navigate Newport Harbor in the evening with a “SUP Glow Night Tour” of the bay.
Co-owners Time Lukei and Mark Oehlman, have mastered the art of the night paddle boarding by utilizing LED lights. These LED lights can be strapped to the boards themselves, lighting up the water underneath the board. Not only does this tour offer a truly unique experience unlike any other, but teleports you to another time and place transforming Newport’s lively boat filled harbor into a peaceful oasis.
Nestled into the alluring Back Bay of Newport Harbor, we sat down with Tim Lukei, co-owner of Pirate Coast Paddle Company, to uncover all there is to know about this enticing opportunity.
Q: Would you mind giving us a little background of Pirate Coast Paddle?
Tim Lukei: It started with me and two of my best friends from high school. We started talking in 2009 but it officially started in 2010. This is our sixth summer and now it’s just two of us. We started with ten boards and now we’re up to about 75 boards. Our mission statement is to provide for the community the best possible paddle experience in California — it’s really that simple!
Q: Can you share with us a little bit about your love of the outdoors with us and why you decided to share it with others?
TL: I grew up here in Newport, love the ocean, and have been surfing and doing anything ocean related for years. When paddle boarding became popular, Mark Oehlman and I had so many people asking us about it. At the time, Newport Beach didn’t have anywhere that you could rent paddle boards. We researched and found out that if we were to start a company we’d be the only one in this area. We had no business experience and didn’t really know what we were doing, but it worked out.
Q: I noticed on your website you support a lot of local charities (Team Kids, Krochet Kids, 31 Bits, Charity Water, Irvine Unified School District, Young Life International and Free Wheelchair Mission). Can you tell us a little more about that?
TL: We just always wanted for this to be a great place for the community and for the revenue and profit that we’ve made to go back into the community, locally and globally. Two things that we’ve always done is say yes to local charities. Specifically, we’ve put on three events called “Paddle for Water,” here at Pirate Coast. We now have four clean water wells all over the continent of Africa that are providing clean water. Those water wells are in different communities, and the wells actually say, “Provided by Pirate Coast Paddle Company.” Hundreds of people now have access to clean water by the events that we’ve been doing here at Pirate Coast.
Q: You’re one of the only paddle companies that offer SUP Glow Night Tours, how did that come about?
TL: We learned about these lights that could be attached to the paddle boards with LEDs that basically illuminate the water underneath. Pirate Coast has always been open during the day, but summer and summer nights are such a great time to be out and experiencing the great weather. We decided to check these lights out and it was such a neat experience to be out on the water paddle boarding at night.
Q: What should people expect from these guided night tours through Newport Harbor?
TL: The tours are really an attraction for locals and tourists. It’s such a unique experience to go out and be on the water at night, but, it’s surprisingly very calm. The wind dies down, the water is super calm — like glass, and it’s actually incredibly peaceful which people don’t expect. There are no boats, there are no people, it’s very quiet and very calm, and so people are always surprised at what a peaceful experience it is. How often do you hear about people getting to go on a lit up paddle board on the water in the evening in Newport Beach? It’s just a very cool, kind of sci-fi yet peaceful, serene experience.
Q:What skill sets are these tours geared towards? How long do the night tours last?
TL: The night tours are really for anyone and everyone. We do give an onshore lesson and have three to four guides every single tour. It is guided, so we’re with people the entire time for safety purposes and to make the experience that much more exciting and full, to feel like they’re on an experience with a group of people. The experience is very social where people get to know each other. Usually, everyone from all over the country participates, as it is a high tourist attraction. Those who sign up for the tour arrive between 7:30 – 7:45 p.m. for check-in and set up, then we do the lesson. You’re on the water about 10 after 8 p.m., then usually back by 9:15 that evening.
Q: What percentage of your customers do you see back at the night classes, or is it more of a one-time thing?
TL: It’s more of a one-time thing because more tourists do it than locals. We do have a lot of locals that do it, but locals tend to do it once and be like, “That was awesome!”
Q: What other Pirate Coast Paddle adventures would you recommend for those interested in some of your other activities or something other than the night paddle tour?
TL: One thing that we offer right now is the Kids Camp. We have about seven sessions every summer for kids. Parents love that because their kids become water safe, super comfortable on paddle boards and it’s super fun experience for the kids. We also have a giant paddle board called a SUP Squatch. It’s basically like a floating water bed. When you step on it, it’s very wobbly but, you literally cannot stop laughing when you’re on it. So, really it’s just a fun way to get a bunch of people out experiencing and laughing, and going in the water. We have a lot of corporate groups and birthday parties that use the larger boards, it’s definitely a really unique thing that we have. We also have “Yoga on the Water,” which is more for people who have paddled several times.
Q: What principles do you hope the kids will have grasped upon completion of camp?
TL: Our hope is that kids fall in love with the ocean. During one of the days at camp, they get to go to the Back Bay Science Center. They learn a ton about all the animals here in Newport Back Bay, Newport Beach and they actually get to have hands on experience in the touch tanks. They also build an appreciation for the water that they have become comfortable with. They are able to paddle board, kayak, swim and play. The camp is focused on helping kids love the ocean while getting an education.
Q: Do you recommend private lessons for beginners? What is your advice for those who have never paddled, but are eager to try it?
TL: I do recommend private lessons for first timers unless they are incredibly athletic and used to the ocean. Other than that, it’s pretty important because the onshore and offshore instruction is guided. You literally go from being decent at paddle boarding (if you rent without lessons) to actually really knowing the proper technique. You become very comfortable knowing where to paddle, where it’s safe and all that good stuff — I highly recommend it. Just come take a lesson and come out and try it. People are so surprised at how fun it is, how peaceful it is and how easy it is. I think it’s one of those things you just have to go do it and just go for it. You’ll love paddle boarding — everyone gets hooked!
Q: Can you expand on the SUP Pass Membership and the benefits of having one?
TL: The SUP pass is basically a punch card with ten hours of paddle boarding. The punch card does not expire and you can show up and paddle as many hours as you want. It saves you some money, not a crazy discount, but it’s definitely more for locals to want to bring their credit card or wallet every time.
Q: What is the best way to sign up for the different Pirate Coast Paddle activities and camps that you offer?
TL: You can visit our website to book your reservation for our different tours and activities, or if you just want to rent and explore on your own, show up. We don’t do reservations for rentals unless there are groups of more than ten. We do a ton of parties and group events and we even have a private area now for special parties that want to book the area.
For daily rentals of small parties, show up in person at Pirate Coast Paddle, 1131 Back Bay Dr in Newport Beach, CA. To view other activities, book a SUP Glow Tour, private lessons or camps, please visit piratecoastpaddle.com.
Photography provided by: foxesandwolves.com