From the beginning of July to the end of August, the National Park Service runs a program in Jamaica Bay offering kayaking to the public for free.
For over 10 years, NPS has offered paddles multiple times a week, ranging from shorter trips for beginners who have never kayaked before, to longer mileage trips for more advanced paddlers. Jamaica Bay offers a unique experience, since it feels like a vacation in our own backyard. The bay is part of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, so the paddles give an opportunity to see birds, turtles, shrimp, fish, and so much more.
John Daskalakis, a park ranger who is part of the program, describes kayaking as both exercise but also meditative. He says, “When you’re on the water, you’re just doing this simple back and forth. There is something calming about that, even the wind and waves.”
I went kayaking for the first time last summer but went for the first time in Jamaica Bay on Wednesday, July 6. We launched from Riis Landing. The experience is calming yet difficult, in that once you get the hang of how to paddle, it becomes easier and more relaxing. The tour guides are super helpful and will teach you specific ways to improve your kayaking skills to make the experience more enjoyable. The entire morning felt like a mini vacation while being just 10 minutes from my house.
I recommend checking out future paddles, as they will be taking place until the end of August in the areas surrounding Jamaica Bay. Kayaks and paddles are provided. The next paddle from Riis Landing will be Friday, July 23 at 12:30 p.m. NPS also holds paddling for beginners every Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. from the Seaplane Ramp in Floyd Bennett Field. For more information, call the Gateway National Recreation Area at 718-758-3671.
By Isabella Guerriero
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