Are you ready for summer? Are you ready for kayaking? Have you thought about doing any excursions this summer? Do you know where you want to paddle?
Life is short and life is busy. We don’t have time to waste time, having a bad time. When we plan a weekend outing, we want it to be perfect. And when we plan a kayaking trip with a rental company, we want it to be amazing. One of the worse feelings in the world is when you realize 10 minutes into your 3-hour kayak paddle that you feel like you’re sitting on cedar fence with a boat that smells like your daughter's soccer shoes. It’s at that moment when we start thinking, maybe we should have gone with the other company. Don't make that mistake. Here are a few question I recommend asking before your next kayak excursion.
Venue: Think this through. Is the kayak venue the place where you want to spend the next 2 - 3 hours of your life. If you like being out on larger bodies of water then you might enjoy paddling on Lake Erie or one of Northeast Ohio’s amazing man-made lakes like LaDue Reservoir. If you want to explore and see a change of scenery as you paddle, then I would recommend the twisting turns of the Upper Scenic Cuyahoga River.
The key is to make sure you know what you are getting into. When you make your reservation, take the time to ask the rental company, “what will I see on this trip?” If the rental company loves their little chunk of the world as much as we do, then they will be happy to tell you about the Bald Eagle’s nest, or the beaver damn and the flowers that are in bloom. Northeast Ohio has some amazing places to paddle. So make sure to ask the questions about what to expect on your trip. You need to know whether your going to be spending your entire day paddling through some old industrial rust belt area or whether you are going to be submerged in serenity of a forgotten forest.
Brand of Boats: The second thing I ask is “what brand of boats are
we going to be paddling in today?” Now I don’t want to get into a big discussion about which kayak brands are better than others. That would be like saying the Ford F-150 is better than a Chevy 1500 or that chocolate is better than vanilla (which it is). But I do want to point out is that you want to listen to the answer. If the person answers your question with a one-word answer of if they are not sure what kind of boats they have, then that is a pretty good indicator that you might not want to paddle with them. On the other hand, if the person gets excited and says something like “oh, you will be paddling in the Wilderness System Aspire 105 kayak which has a seat you can customize for comfort, a drop down skeg and it can turn on a dime”, then that’s the company you want to paddle with. If they take pride in their equipment and want to share information with you about their boats, then there is a good chance they have a decent fleet of rentals.
Cleanliness: The third and most imptortant thing I ask other rental companies is “how do you clean your boats or life jackets between uses”. If they say something like “we don’t, or we just wipe them down”. Red flag, red flag, red flag. Rental kayaks and lifejackets should be cleaned after every use. Didn’t everyone see the I-team’s investigative reporting on hotels and what housekeeping was really doing with your glasses. Disgusting! If a boat, lifejacket or paddle is going from one person to the next person, there’s a problem. At a minimum, rental gear should be cleaned with an eco-friendly biodegradable cleaning spray. I get really grossed out when I can literally smell the combination of Tropicana sunscreen and sweat on the back of a kayak seat. That’s totally gross and unacceptable. Ask the question when you make your reservation. If they can’t give you a solid answer, then pick a different company.
In summary: Recreational experiences cost money. Don’t waste your time, energy and money on an experience that you will remember for the wrong reasons. Ask a few simple questions when you call and find a company that will give you the excursion you deserve.
C’ya on the water.
Doug Hershman is the Outdoor Education Manager for a large non-profit origination in Cuyahoga County which serves children with mental health and behavioral challenges. He is also one of the owners of Breakaway Excursions located just east of Aurora in the Village of Mantua. Breakaway Excursions is a reputable kayak rental company serving outdoor enthusiasts, families, groups and businesses in Northeast, Ohio. Breakaway Excursions has kayak rentals at three awesome locations to serve your paddling needs; LaDue Reservoir South, LaDue Boathouse and the Upper Scenic Cuyahoga River. Come out and make memories.