Building Towards a Kayak Commute

I don’t often get to take the long way to work given my school drop-off responsibilities.  But there I was, on a bright and crisp morning during Spring Break week, crossing the GW bridge with one colleague and on my way to pick up another colleague for a joint bike commute.  Looking out over the Hudson, I thought about how great it would be to cross the river without having to come all the way uptown first.  There must be a way.

And then, it occurred to me.  I can kayak to work!  I’ve seen people out there in kayaks.  It must be possible!  I mentioned this thought to my colleague, and we agreed that we would pursue this goal together.

So many things had to be sorted out, not least of which was the fact that I’d never even been in a kayak before in my life.

But bit by bit, it is all falling in to place.


Bringing home the ORU kayak on my bike.

For starters, where will I get the kayak?  There are really only two choices, folding kayak (kept at home) or full size kayak (parked at a dock).  Given the added cost and inconvenience of a full size kayak, I opted for the folding kayak.  My choice was the ORU kayak.  I placed an order with REI, waited patiently for the back-ordered kayak to arrive at their store in SoHo, and picked it up by bike!

Boardwalk near work.

The boardwalk in Jersey City along the Morris Canal.

Now, where would I put the kayak during the work day?  In the office?  The Hudson isn’t exactly the cleanest waterway, and I’m not sure my colleagues would appreciate a stinky kayak in their midst.  Should I carry it from the water to a safe storage location?  But how?  Presumably my bike will be locked up in Manhattan by whatever pier I launch from.

Wait a minute! There’s a boardwalk near my office.  Maybe I can put hide it under there!  Problem solved.

Under the boardwalk.  My future kayak hiding spot.

Under the boardwalk. My future kayak hiding spot.

The view of the World Trade Center from inside the embayment by Paulus Hook.

The view of the World Trade Center from inside the embayment by Paulus Hook.

Some googling done later on about this site revealed that the rocky beach is actually an official kayak put-in, with not yet fully concrete plans for additional kayak-related facilities.  Who knows, maybe some day we will see hordes of commuters crossing the Hudson daily via kayak.

Now I just had to learn how to actually kayak.  After some lessons at the NY Kayak Club, my colleague and I rented some kayaks and hired an instructor to take us across.  Turns out crossing the Hudson is not so easy.  In addition to the usual kayaking hazards such as current, wind, and waves, we had to contend with multiple ferries, barges, and pleasure boats crossing our path.  Nevertheless, after just 45 minutes of strenuous paddling we managed to make it from Pier 40 to Paulus Hook in Jersey City!

Paddling in the Hudson with Ayelet.

Paddling in the Hudson at Pier 96 with Ayelet.

Lessons with an instructor are great, but what I really needed was some practice paddling.  Luckily, the Manhattan Community Boathouse offers free kayaking every weekend and most weekdays!  Even more luckily, I was able to cajole both my wife and my brother to accompany me for some paddling.

In fact, rather remarkably, I’ve

Paddling in the Hudson at 72nd Street.

Paddling in the Hudson at 72nd Street.

managed to convince them to come out paddling with me TWICE, once at Pier 96 and once at 72nd street.

So now I’ve learned to paddle, I’ve practiced for a few hours on weekends, and I’ve even crossed the Hudson with an instructor.  But can I put all those skills together and actually do this on my own, in my personal kayak?  I’ll answer this and describe some more of the challenges faced on my way to a kayak commute in the next post.  Until then, I leave you with the following picture of the ORU kayak unfolded in our apartment.

The kids get inside the unfolded ORU kayak.

The kids get inside the unfolded ORU kayak.


2 thoughts on “Building Towards a Kayak Commute

  1. Pingback: My First Kayak Commute | The Greenway Commuter

  2. Pingback: Frequently Asked Questions on Kayak Commuting | The Greenway Commuter

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