The first time I attended, maybe four or five years ago, the weather was frankly horrible for boating, with a stiff onshore wind so unrelenting that barely a kayak could stay out on the water. The folks who put on this lovely annual event deserve better – along with all those who want to come out and hone their kayaking skills or get some expert advice on how to invest in a boat that will make them happy for many years to come. It looks like this year may be your best opportunity in a while, so hie thee over to Kingston Point Park on the shores of the glorious Hudson River from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and take advantage of what the experts have to offer.
The Kingston Kayak Festival is designed to be useful to everyone from the merely kayaking-curious to experienced paddlers. The day’s workshops kick off at 10:30 a.m. with “Kayaking 101” (repeated at 11:30 a.m., 1 and 2 p.m.) taught by Steve Wycoff of Katskill Kayak Instruction, and work their way up in difficulty to mastering the Greenland Qajaq Roll, as taught by Heather Lamon of Qajaq USA. Qajaq, incidentally is how those indigenous Inuktitut-speaking people up Greenland way spell the sealskin-covered boat that folks of my elder generation first learned to visualize when we heard the word “kayak,” bobbing merrily amongst the icebergs of Hudson Bay.
But boatmaking technology has come a long way in the past few centuries, and there’s a lot to know before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars on your personal watercraft. For instance, if you’re assuming, as many neophytes do, that you want a kayak with a really big cockpit, so that it’s easy to climb in and out of it, you probably need to think again – along the lines of a kayak being something that you “wear,” and that is infinitely more controllable when your legs and hips are wedged firmly along the insides of the hull. You can find out lots more about the different styles of kayaks and how they’re best-used, as well as what additional gear you’ll need for your adventures afloat, in workshops like “How to Choose a Kayak,” taught at 10:30 a.m. by Joe Warren of Confluence Water Sports, and “How to Choose a Paddle,” taught at 11:30 a.m. by John Falk of Kenco.
If you’re already getting serious about kayak-shopping, this is also a great opportunity to talk to representatives from a variety of manufacturers and see for yourself how their products differ. You might even find a bargain on the boat of your dreams. There will also be a free raffle for a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – what used to be known as a life-preserver vest – and a tee-shirt giveaway for all who sign a pledge to wear their PFD anytime they’re out on the water.
Or maybe you’re just putting a toe in the water at this point, and want to give kayaking a try – under the auspices of somebody who knows what he’s doing. Then by all means, come to Kingston Point on Saturday and put yourself in the capable hands of Steve Noble from the Forsyth Nature Center. He’ll be leading 45-minute kayak tours four times during the course of the day, exploring the amazing waters around the Point where sightings of bald eagles and other charismatic wildlife are not infrequent.
Admission to the Kingston Kayak Festival costs $10 for adults; children age 10 and under get in free, but must be supervised by an adult at all times. All proceeds from ticket sales go toward supporting the City of Kingston Parks and Recreation Department’s outstanding environmental education programs, which have taken a serious financial hit in these troubled times. Tickets can be bought in advance at Kenco, located on Route 28 just west of Kingston, or online at www.forsythnaturecenter.org/nature-programs/36-upcoming-programs/62-kingston-kayak-festival-info.html.
Kingston Point Beach is located at 53 Delaware Avenue in East Kingston. For more information, including driving directions, visit www.kingstonkayakfestival.info or call (845) 338-5021.