Friday, February 20, 2009

New York City : Kayaking Hudson River

Amazing day on the water today. An opportunity to once again truly become connected with nature. My understanding of the new water (ocean, estuary)  I've been paddling has become stronger, and I keep finding ways to make paddling in the New York Harbor, Hudson River, East River and Harlem River, fun and enjoyable every time. Each time I stretch my comfort zone that much more, and I am remembering what it felt like to be strong in a kayak once again. My weight has dropped and my training for New York City's kayak championship, called the Mayor's Cup, seems real. Today on the water was one of those remarkable days when you feel a boost in your teaching ability. Pardon the egocentric comment, but the feeling was good in a way that made me realize I was contributing in a positive way to those who choose to try kayaking and/or paddling as a sport.

The weather in New York is different. Being from Auburn, CA, where the Middle Fork and North Fork American rivers flow, I'm used to dry California heat. New York is humid and thunderstorms happen in summer. Today, myself and two new kayakers experienced what can happen in the waters surrounding Manhattan. These two ladies were students at Manhattan Kayak Company and had come to do a North/ South kayak tour. That means paddlers head either North or South depending on the currents. First you head upstream, then down, in either direction as the Hudson is not only a river, but a tidal estuary. My two ladies were in a double kayak as they were training for a huge sea kayak trip to Alaska. We started paddling and went North. It was 1:30, and we needed to paddle against the current no longer than to 3:00 PM so as not to have to come back against tidal current. If we headed South by 3:00 PM, we would get slack tide and not have to work too hard.


The energy of the group was to really go for a nice long paddle and get some good experience and I went out in focus of the moment. We crossed the river and paddled up the New Jersey side. That was their first river crossing and they were excited. This was the 3rd time for both of these ladies in a kayak and they had never paddled out of Manhattan Kayak's backyard. A haze hung over Manhattan as we paddled. Strokes were worked on including the forward, sweep and draw. In addition we practiced connection of strokes and paddling style. The decision was made to no longer use the rudder and the two really needed to start working together, and they did, strongly.

We turned around after probably an hour and a half. We had paddled by many of things characteristic of maritime scenery. Pilings, industrial buildings, barges, boats, parks, and Midtown Manhattan. As we paddled back, it began to sprinkle and felt wonderful. I took the ladies out to the middle of the river to experience being surrounded by enormous amounts of CFS flowing. We floated on top of it all and the weather worsened. A Cruise Ship was close to leaving as we passed it and lightening started to hit. We were very close to getting home at that point, within a mile I would say. There wasn't a place to stop and some critical points needed to be passed, including the Water Taxi Terminal, or Ferry Terminal.

The paddle back to the boathouse was against current; we had been out for enough time for the current to switch directions. We were heading back with a slight current against us and a headwind. The rain was kicking and the power of the Thunder Storm became massive. Various streaks of lightening and powerful sounds of thunder, then the wind really increased. It was at this point that we needed to cross the ferry terminal. We waited it out for a moment for one ferry to pass and we charged hard. It was powerful out there and we put our heads down and are bodies in an aggressive position to face the wind and continue moving forward. Nearing the end of the crossing, the worst of the storm appeared and we were hit by a 50 mile per hour gust. My two ladies were blown back 20 feet easily in that gust; just into the ferry terminal. The gust died a bit and we needed to move though while we had the opportunity. It was there that they continued their assault as a team.


Twenty minutes later were back on the dock with a storm that was calming down. I was happy as any teacher watching two student paddlers improve with leaps and bounds, and while pushed out of their comfort zone as beginners, they had the mental strength to get them through. At the end, they seemed full of joy and excitement. I felt this was a positive day on the water.

Theo from NYC 's Tidal Estuary via New York Harbor... paddlers never stop paddling!
Theo is a whitewater rafting guide for WET River Trips; also a bomber kayak instructor!

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