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Margo Pellegrino stops in Santa Barbara on her way down the coast.

Margo Pellegrino stops in Santa Barbara on her way down the coast.


Woman Canoes down the Pacific Coast

Local Organizations Host Family Beach Day as a Welcome to Her Arrival in Santa Barbara


On the afternoon of Saturday, September 4, a bright and breezy Goleta Beach saw the arrival of Margo Pellegrino, a 43-year-old outrigger canoe paddler who has been traveling along the Pacific Coast for more than two months. Pellegrino set out from Seattle in her 21-foot outrigger canoe on July 3, headed toward San Diego. The trip is a project of her Blue Frontier Campaign to call attention to the need for healthy oceans.

The trim and tan-skinned paddler showed up in a white tank top around 1:30 p.m. Along with her was June Barnard, Pellegrino’s friend from San Francisco who met her shortly before the Pacific Coast journey and traveled alongside her by truck every day to provide company and support.

Pellegrino started kayaking at about age 12 and has been paddling the outrigger canoe for almost five years. Although she has made several trips along the East Coast and the Gulf Coast, this is her first long and solo journey in the Pacific Ocean, which appears a bit more challenging than paddling the East Coast. As Pellegrino put it: “The water is colder; there’s lots of wind. The conditions are quite gnarly. ” She paddles for six to eight hours during the day and seeks shelter with Barnard near the beach at night. During the last two months they have spent the nights staying with locals, camping in peoples’ backyards, “or even [their] front yards sometimes,” said Pellegrino. They only checked into a hotel once, and that was to celebrate the end of an extra-harsh day after Pellegrino’s crash landing at Long Beach, Washington.

Blue Ocean Sciences, Surfers Without Borders, Santa Barbara High School’s Don’s Net Café, Life Cube Inc. and several other groups hosted a Blue Coast Family Beach Day to welcome Pellegrino’s arrival at Goleta State Beach. About eight to ten kids from nearby schools came to join the event. The programs included Drawing the Ocean You’d like to See, Beach Bingo, and Beach Cleanup. Dan Hanna, local illustrator of the best-selling book The Pout-Pout Fish also made an appearance. The kids used watercolors to paint their ideal ocean image. Strips of crystal blue and sandy gold glittered and flowed on the vast drawing paper. These drawings will be sent to government offices, as one of the goals of the Blue Frontier Campaign is to advance improved ocean policy and seek ocean awareness among legislators for healthier ocean environment.

Erika Terazza, a student from Santa Barbara High School who also works at a student-run social entrepreneurial business called Don’s Net Café, felt inspired by Pellegrino’s adventure. “It’s amazing what she’s done,” said Terazza. “One day I’d like to do that.”

Pellegrino and Barnard are hoping to arrive at San Diego, their final destination, by September 12. There, Pellegrino will be greeted by her supportive family — her husband, Carl, and their two children, 8-year-old Billy and 5-year-old Julia. I asked her if the kids have been missing their mom at sea. “Oh, the missing goes both ways,” she said.

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