Beauty & Wellness
Fitness From The Field: Kayaking On The Hudson
The Rural Intelligence region offers a plethora of fitness and healing modalities, but it can be hard to know which is the one that fits your needs, your body type and your schedule. Enter Paula Boyajian, a yoga instructor certified in Interdisciplinary Yoga and Yoga for the Special Child, who has taken on the role of RI’s fitness contributor to sleuth out the details of the many health and wellness options in our area.
Long ago, I kayaked with my then-boyfriend whose sunscreen failed him. Because of his patchy sunburned skin, I jokingly said his Native American name would be “Chief of the Blotchy Sun Nation.” He then dubbed me “Paddles with Joy.” I recount this story because I proudly reclaimed this title while kayaking the Hudson with Atlantic Kayak Tours in Staatsburg, NY.
What It Is
Atlantic Kayak Tours, in Norrie State Park, offers several tours. The “Short Tour” I took covers 3 to 6 miles and takes 2½ to 3 hours depending on water and wind conditions. I arrived early and got fitted to a kayak and life jacket. Our leader, Jack, then circled us up and began orientation. This was informal and fun as he asked us to state our name and favorite breakfast — a nice way to build the convivial atmosphere so important for a harmonious trip.
At this time, it’s made clear that anything you bring must be able to get wet. Not wanting to risk it, I waved good-bye to my beloved camera and phone. One guide, Joe, assured me that he would take pictures that he kindly allowed me to use with this article. I was delighted to be tech-free and before I knew it I was winding around wooden pylons making my way to the river. We paused to find a partner and learn to maneuver around other kayaks, and then down river we went! After a trip that was both exhilarating and soul-soothing, we reformed our circle on land and congratulated each other on a job well done.
MODERATE TO ADVANCED: You must be able to swim since there’s a chance you could fall into the water. Also, this may be named “Short Tour,” but you do paddle for about two-and-a-half hours. You don’t need be an experienced kayaker per se — there were participants who had never stepped into a kayak and the last time I did was almost 15 years ago — but you should be in overall good health, have a moderate degree of flexibility and be able to sit in one position for an hour at a time.
I joked with friends saying that my biceps would soon be like Popeye’s, but I was so wrong to think kayaking is all about arms. As my knuckles began to twinge and a blister develop, I recalled Jack’s instructions to use your whole body, to twist at the waist and push into the foot braces with each stroke. With proper technique, you work your entire body. On the return trip, my movements became smoother, which brings me to other benefits: mind-body connection and coordination.
With 30 years’ experience running kayak tours along the Hudson and a 1:4 ratio of participants to experienced guides/Certified Kayak Instructors, kayakers can paddle worry free, and enjoy their surroundings and the team’s engaging sense of humor. They impart instructions bit-by-bit in easy-to-remember ways (such as this ditty: paddle goes in at your feet and out at your seat). We didn’t waste time on land; we learned while in the water with at least one guide always easy to spot. More importantly, they were always spotting us, giving individual pointers and enthusiastic praise.
Atlantic Kayak Tours has an adorable wooden building in a lovely state park, but the real setting is the Hudson River and its majestic coast with both natural and man-made wonders. At our turnaround point, we took a break and had a chance stretch and swim. There, we spotted a hawk and on the way back we were entertained by jumping fish. Since, for the most part, Mother Nature is the designer, there’s no telling what wildlife or foliage you will come across, but be assured it will be awe inspiring.
I was silly enough to think I would be cold so I wore jeans, but in these warm months, shorts and a tank top or bathing suit are appropriate. Before getting in the kayak, shoes are a must since there are stones, branches and insects everywhere; however, while kayaking, shoes are optional. Sunscreen, bug spray, hat, sunglasses and water are strongly recommended.
Atlantic Kayak Tours
Margaret Lewis Norrie State Park