The honking horn of a ferry boat announces its departure. Three more honks by other boats overpower the white noise of the city. Soon, four ferries start getting out of their terminals in rear gear in a well-orchestrated routine. A sightseeing boat loaded with tourists rushes by while a helicopter is flying over it. I manoeuvre my small kayak to avoid being flipped over by the waves. It is rush hour on the Hudson River in New York City which we are kayaking to take in the Manhattan skyline.
We are amongst a small group of New Yorkers who conquer the river on a weekly basis, as a work-out by kayak or stand up paddle (SUP) boards. Guided by Julieta Gismondi, one of the Atlantic SUPergirls who recently linked the Pier 84 in Manhattan to Miami in about four months on a SUP, we learn about the ins and outs of kayaking on the Hudson River. We are enjoying a priceless view on the Manhattan skyline. Our kayak smoothly slides through the water and despite the high traffic on the river, it all feels peaceful and quiet.
“The popularity of these stand-up paddleboards keeps growing” Eric Stiller, the charismatic owner of the Manhattan Kayak Company, explains. Eric himself is a true kayak fanatic. Passionately, he tells us about the time when together with Tony Brown, he attempted to circumnavigate Australia in a kayak. After covering half the distance (about 4,000 miles in four months), and biking back on his own to his departure point through the heart of the continent island, he came back to his hometown. He started the Manhattan Kayak Company shortly after, thanks to the opening of the Chelsea Piers, the multi-million-dollar sports complex in the heart of Manhattan, about 20 years ago.
In the shade of the Intrepid aircraft carrier, turned into a Museum, we are looking at the paddle-boarders and kayakers heading back to the dock at sunset. Beyond being an adventurer and a skilled businessman, Eric is proud of pushing the younger generation in his footsteps and his eyes are shining when he describes how Julieta and her partner LouAnne Harris geared up for that insane SUP 1,500-mile trip to Miami.
No need to set all the way to Miami to feel like an adventurer: kayaking the Hudson River is a truly unique way of exploring New York City in a fun urban outdoor adventure, enjoying some of the best views on the Manhattan skyline.
Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen (text & photographs)
- The Manhattan Kayak Company is open to non-members for kayak and stand-up paddle (SUP) board tours. Besides the sunset tours they offer many others such as a quiet “After Dark Tour”, “Full Moon by SUP Tour” and hardcore harbor paddling. Check out their website for the tour schedule.
- Eric wrote a book about his crazy kayaking adventure around Australia: Keep Australia on your left, by Eric Stiller.
- Check out this interactive map (quick tutorial) for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!
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