Crazy for Kayaks

By Megan McDonald July 20, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things.

I’m just going to put it out there: I’ve never been much of an outdoor person.  What can I say? I like my air conditioner. (Please tell me some of you can relate!)

But moving to Sarasota and living here for the past five years have changed that a little. Don’t get me wrong: I will never like camping, and—thanks to the fact that I’m the whitest person on the planet (…no, seriously)—I’ll probably never feel a strong urge to spend hour after hour outside in the sun. But there’s something about being so close to the water that’s really appealing even to me, and—especially in the summer—it’s fun to take advantage of that.

A few weeks ago, I went to Savannah with my mom on a mother-daughter road trip. We had a great time and I fell in love with the city and its Southern Gothic charm—with one caveat. There was no nearby ocean. Actually, technically, that’s not true: Tybee Island and the Atlantic are a short drive away, but still: I live in downtown Sarasota, where walking to the bay takes five minutes and getting to the Gulf means a quick jaunt over the Ringling bridge.  I’m officially spoiled by Sarasota’s proximity to large bodies of water.

And you know what? This non-outdoorsy girl’s new favorite thing to do to beat the summer heat is kayak in that water. The first time I ever went, I paddled out into Sarasota Bay and squealed at the sight of a pod of dolphins frolicking past. It was amazing; one of those quintessential Sarasota experiences I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  The second time, one of my closest friends, Tara, and I rented a pair of kayaks and spent a lazy day in the Intercoastal, stopping often to dip our feet into the  warm water and admire the beautiful scenery.

Seeking shade mid-kayak excursion. Please note that this was before I went crashing into some of those mangroves. I never claimed to be good!

This past weekend, my best friend Kate and I took her family kayak and stand-up paddleboard out into the Intercoastal as well, and it was equally fun.  Here’s a funny story, though:  I’ve never paddleboarded. EVER.  (I’m actually about to take lessons; stay tuned for that in my next post.) So I was very proud of myself when I actually managed to stand—and stay—up on the board. Unfortunately, that feeling lasted about two minutes, because I quickly lost my balance and plunged head-first into the Intercoastal, swallowing a large mouthful of salty water as I did. After that, Kate and I switched vessels, I got back in my trusty kayak, confidently paddled over to her family’s dock—and promptly fell in the water again while trying to get out. Pride apparently does come before a fall.

But you know what? Even the falling was fun.

All of this is to say that I think kayaking might be my favorite thing to do, ever. It’s also perhaps the best way to beat the Sarasota summer heat, too (aside from sipping cocktails at an air-conditioned restaurant). Since I don’t actually own a kayak, I usually have to remind myself to take advantage of the summer season and go do it, and because a lot of my friends are teachers, it’s a fun way to spend time with them during their time off.

Do you love kayaking? Do you do it often? Where’s your favorite spot to push off (and then paddle to)? Where do you rent your kayaks, if you do? And don’t forget—next up:  Megan’s adventures in paddleboarding.

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