Kayaking to De-stress

Ohio’s recent kayaking boom has created a thriving subculture that may be just the thing to help students fend off college stress.

By Samuel Grom 

Imagine you’ve just finished finals for the semester, and the stress has ruined your mental state. The next day, a friend offers to take you kayaking. At first, when you’re on the water, you don’t understand the appeal. You feel like you’re just sitting and waiting for it to end. Nevertheless, after a few minutes, you can’t help but enjoy the silence. The gentle breeze on your face, the friendliness of the other kayakers that pass by and the incredible view immerses you in the calming atmosphere. You can’t help but relax and forget all about those final exams.   

According to Paddling Magazine, Ohio has nearly 3,000 creeks and rivers and 60,000 lakes and reservoirs open for kayaking leaving no shortage of choices. As the nearest river, the Cuyahoga is likely the best option for The University of Akron students. According to naturalist Richelle Gatto of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Cuyahoga River’s shallowness also makes it one of the safest for both new kayakers and those just looking for good views. 

Infamous for its history of high pollution levels and multiple fires, the Cuyahoga River was just another casualty of the Industrial Revolution. . Thanks to the efforts of locals and federal aid, the river has nearly been restored to its former glory. One of the organizations responsible for its upkeep and that of other rivers, ODNR, in collaboration with local Metroparks systems and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), keeps the waterway free of both natural and manmade debris for the sake of public safety and scenery. 

These organizations don’t stop at keeping things clean, though. The CVNP also provides preventative safety tips, and search–and–rescue operations in worst-case scenarios. ODNR also lends a helping hand in many ways. They provide free kayaking courses and grants to counties to install launch areas (places along rivers designed to make entering them safe and easy). ODNR’s Watercrafts Division is responsible for overseeing and funding much of Ohio’s river maintenance in the public sector. They also handle everything from installing boat ramps to removing hazardous dams and even loaning out life jackets. They are a fantastic resource for new kayakers, especially college students who can’t afford private training.  

“Kayaking is a wonderful way to get away from college stress,” said Gatto. “Going at your own pace is what makes the journey such a breath of fresh air.” 

While the ODNR and the CVNP are excellent resources for new kayakers and crucial for maintaining the river itself, they can’t give you the activity’s most important tool, a kayak. 

“The private sector plays a role in providing accessible rental kayaks. Due to their consistent reception of both local and out-of-state clientele Burning River Adventures is a great option ” according to company owner Moneen McBride. 

“We have gotten people from around 32 other states,” said McBride. 

Burning River Adventures doesn’t stop at giving out kayaks and deploying them at launching areas. They also provide guided trips for those who’d like a staff member to look after them on the river. 

 “They always express some kind of surprise at the river’s beauty,” said McBride regarding client feedback. “Once you’re out on the river, you gain a whole new perspective.” 

 Between the gentleness of the rivers and the services provided by ODNR and CVNP, Ohio has developed a welcoming kayaking culture that can give willing students a chance to find a peaceful break from the college grind. 

Students interested in learning how to get started can find resources on these websites