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Summer is Coming, Grab a Paddle and Hit the Water

By Joe Miller | May 20, 2019 | Healthy Lifestyle

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It’s almost summer, it’s getting hot. There’s only one place you’ll even think about being active, and that’s in the water. For many North Carolinians, the only way to cool off is at the beach or at a local lake. We have beautiful options all across the state.

Picture yourself in a stable canoe or kayak that’s near impossible to flip, on the water that’s cool and calm, and that’s likely not at all far from where you live. And picture doing all this for as little as $5 for an hour. Paddling a canoe or kayak may be about the most accessible activity you had no idea you could do. Here are five facts about paddling that might surprise you:

You can do it near home

Chances are there’s a park near you that has a lake, and odds are that lake offers canoe and/or kayak rentals between mid-May and mid-September. Twelve of North Carolina’s State Parks offer rentals (some starting at just $5 an hour), many municipal and county parks offer rentals as well (single kayak rentals at Greensboro’s watershed lakes (Higgins, Brandt and Townsend) start at $12 an hour.

You don’t need previous experience

Most parks that rent canoes and kayaks do so on waters that are protected and calm safe. At Lake Johnson Park in Raleigh, for instance, no boats with motors exceeding 5 horsepower are allowed on the lake, meaning you won’t need to deal with the wakes of speedboats. If you haven’t a clue, the park staff should be more than happy to show you the basics and set you on your way. Don’t forget to grab a life-jacket for your entire crew!

Getting experience is easy to find (and inexpensive)

If you’re truly uncomfortable about going out on the water with no previous experience, there are lots of opportunities to paddle with someone willing to show you the ropes. North Carolina State Parks, for instance, has beginner-oriented paddle trips coming up in the next month and a half at Hanging Rock, Occoneechee Mountain, Pettigrew, Mayo River, and New River state parks. These beginner-oriented paddle trips are free (river trips may require a small fee for shuttling) and all paddling-related gear — paddles, personal flotation device, and the boat — are provided.

It’s easier than you might think

Learn a couple of quick tricks at the put-in about how to hold the paddle and execute an efficient stroke, and you’ll be surprised how little resistance you get from the water. Basically, it’s a matter of making sure your paddle blade enters at the right angle, and that you remember to push the paddle in addition to pulling it.

It’s good exercise

Among other things, paddling can improve your cardiovascular fitness; improve the muscle strength in your back, arms, shoulders, and chest; improve your core (abs) and leg strength, and minimize the wear and tear on your joints since this is a low-impact activity.

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It’s an especially attractive exercise option for folks with limited mobility; an increasing number of boat put-ins have access devices that help get you and your boat in the water.

Getting started

Where can you find a place to rent a canoe or kayak? Start with your local parks and rec. departments.

Here are a few of the larger parks & recs in the state that offer equipment rentals.

We’ve broken them down by region; click on the appropriate city for details. Get moving and enjoy the summer!

Western North Carolina

Asheville and Buncombe County


Mecklenburg County


Greensboro and Winston-Salem


Raleigh, Cary, and Durham locations to explore.

Eastern North Carolina

New Hanover County / Wilmington and Greenville