Gardner takes her message to the waters of Newport Harbor

Instead of walking with Newport Beach residents, Mayor Nancy Gardner decided to share her love of paddling with them by taking a paddling trip around the city's waters Saturday morning.

"So much of what we talk about on the walks and what we do involves the harbor," she said. "And, yet, it never seems like we really celebrate it in a casual way."

Gardner, who has been paddling for a little over a year, was joined by about 20 Newport Beach residents on the 3.75 mile-long trip that included China Cove Beach, Bayside Beach and Little Balboa Island.

"I find myself disliking cold weather," she said. "I don't get in the water to surf at all during the winter. It's just too unpleasant. With paddling, I can enjoy the ocean and the harbor any time of year and not be worried about what the temperature is."

Before the trip, Gardner said paddling would be different than a walk because there won't be as much stopping and talking involved.

"It'll probably be more of paddling," she said. "My thought is, people will come up and paddle with me and chat, so even more important is that they'll be meeting other neighbors and have interesting comments."

Gardner said part of the trip's purpose was to spread awareness about safety in water sports.

"People who paddle more than occasionally are fine," she said. "No one is paddling in front of boats and waving at them. But I saw some renters who knew nothing and they were spread five across just chatting away and a boat was right behind them. I think if we encourage the people who rent boards how to create areas and spread education, they'll be safer."

Ian Cairns, head coach of the U.S. Standup Paddle team, said he thinks there is a lot of promotion that paddling needs.

"I've found standup paddling to be incredible fitness and a great sport," he said before joining Gardner. "I think the more times we can get out there and promote a positive outlook for standup paddling will be good. Events like this get more people involved and might get them interested in the U.S. team, which will make it stronger."

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