Up the Creek with a Paddle

From the Bay

Up the Creek with a Paddle
by Molly Winans, SpinSheet Editor

It’s a new twist on girls’ night. First, guys are invited. Next, it doesn’t involve pink cocktails… well, maybe one after dark. On Tuesday evenings at happy hour time in season, a group of Annapolis women, a couple of token guys, and I go stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) out of Annapolis Canoe and Kayak on Spa Creek in Eastport (ackannapolis.com). Last summer, a mixed group of sailors, power boaters, runners, and other active newcomers showed up each time.

I was the newbie. Maybe practicing yoga helped my balance, but I was surprised to take to paddleboarding immediately. All I had heard about it, besides it being fun, was that it was a good core workout. That, to me, translated into “hard to do.” For those who may be a bit intimidated, know that it’s not that difficult. The boards are sturdier than I would have thought, and our loyal guide, Jaime, gave us solid suggestions for maintaining balance, such as dropping to your knees when wobbled by wake. As long as your knees are strong, it’s an effective method for regaining balance and taking a breather. Our instructor (a rock musician by night, which added to his cool factor) also taught us to paddle with straight arms and use our core muscles to propel us, while making short, efficient strokes rather than overexerting our arms and backs.

What a way to enjoy Annapolis! Even on a short paddle, we greet friends who are out on the water sailing dinghies out of Severn Sailing Association, kayaking or canoeing, buzzing about in inflatables or picnic boats, racing along with our much more competitive SUP counterparts, waving from their boats or docks, all relishing in the relaxing after-work environment on the water. The U.S. Naval Academy band often plays on City Dock on Tuesdays, so we even have a summer evening waterfront soundtrack. Then, if we paddle long or far enough, we may spy a blue heron or see the sun set from the water.

As well as Annapolis Canoe and Kayak, East of Maui of Annapolis offers paddleboarding instruction and rentals (eastofmauiboardshop.com), as does Capital SUP (capitalsup.com), Patuxent Adventure Center in Solomons (paxadventure.com), and many others.

Other popular non-wind-related sailors’ favorite activities are kayaking and canoeing. My personal favorite jaunt is a guided paddle up Parker’s Creek through the American Chestnut Land Trust in Calvert County. If you’re an experienced paddler, don’t let the words “guided” scare you away. The delightful tour up the winding Parker’s Creek, with the shoreline changing as the water turns from brackish to fresh, into an enchanted forest with breathtaking wildlife—bald eagles, herons, and snowy white egrets—can only be enjoyed with a guide, for a $10 suggested donation to the land trust (acltweb.org).

On the Rhode River, just off the mouth of the West River, you will find more than 15 miles of pristine and kayak-friendly shoreline from which the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center or SERC launches its group paddles with guides who are often volunteer scientists who are knowledgeable about the wildlife. SERC’s excursions are generally oriented more for beginners (serc.si.edu).

Lovers of the Eastern Shore must look into Sultana Projects’ paddling schedule. From finding ospreys on the Chester River to bald eagles on the Sassafras River, the Chestertown-based non-profit, known for its flagship the Schooner Sultana, also has a full season of guided paddling tours on tap (sultanaprojects.org).

Find interesting paddling excursions and events at spinsheet.com. If you know of other noteworthy paddling events on the Chesapeake or Potomac, please drop me a line via molly@spinsheet.com. I will gladly share them with SpinSheet and Old Town Crier readers.

This first appeared in the May 2012 SpinSheet and has been updated.

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