Discover sea kayaking near D.C.

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of October 17-23, 1996
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Discover sea kayaking near D.C.
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Discover sea kayaking near D.C.
Question: I read in your brief bio that you have spent a lot of time sea kayaking. I have recently graduated from college, where I was active in intercollegiate athletics, and now I would love to get into something new. Kayaking seems like something new and different, but it also seems like rather an expensive sport to just jump into. What do you think would be the best way to introduce myself to this new activity without putting a gigantic strain on my wallet before I'm positive that this is something I enjoy? Any suggestions? Thanks.

Pete Sheffield
Washington, DC
[email protected]

Adventure Adviser: Like any other sport, it's definitely a good idea to test out the waters before forking over big bucks for gear. Lucky for you, the D.C. area is ideal for water sports, thanks to the nearby Potomac and Anacostia rivers, Rock Creek, and Chesapeake Bay.

The best way to get started is to take a full-day introductory course with Alexandria-based Atlantic Canoe and Kayak Company. They'll teach you the basic strokes and rescues, as well as fundamental safety procedures and wind and wave reading. Classes cost $85 per person, including all equipment. If you're hooked after one day on the water, you may want to follow up with an additional half-day stroke or rescue clinic.

Once you feel comfortable enough to brave the Potomac or Chesapeake's open waters sans guide, you'll probably be looking to rent--or, for that matter, buy--a boat of your own. Because of liability issues, many outfitters stopped renting kayaks a few years ago, so your best bet is to head to REI in College Park, one of the area's last holdouts. They'll entrust you with a single kayak for the low cost of $28 for the first day and $14 for each additional day. Plus, if you're planning a weekend trip, they'll throw in the day before and the day after your paddle as pick-up days for free (call 301-982-9681). Beyond the Beltway, try Eastern Mountain Sports in Annapolis. They charge $25 to $30 per boat per day and $40 to $45 for weekends. During the summer they run free, open-to-the-public, on-water clinics. Best of all, the boat launch at Truxton's Park is only a mile from the store. For more details, call EMS at 410-573-1240.

For the thrill of whitewater paddling, I'd recommend taking a rolling clinic with Rockville-based Adventure Schools (301-670-9899). Their offices are closed now for the fall but reopen in January for preseason pool instruction. Leave a message on their machine and they'll send you a catalog of course offerings. A three- to four-hour drive will get you to Riversport School of Paddling in Confluence, Pennsylvania, for one- to five-day courses on the Youghiogheny or Cheat rivers. Classes are tailored to all experience levels and range in price from $110 to $485 per person. Call 800-216-6991.

And finally, bear in mind that a boat of your own requires ample garage space--unless, of course, you're willing to store it for good on the top of your car.

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