Grab and Go Canoeing | Canoe Vibes | How to Make Paddling Local

Grab and Go: A New Thought Process

Canoe trips don’t just happen.

My trips may come off as an overnight success. The Instagram post, scattered Snapchat stories, and the resulting trip report on this mediocre attempt at a blog do no justice to the work that goes into the journey. Once you consider the preparation, the full day spent on the water, and the equally long burden of cleaning up and storing the gear, it is usually a two or three-day ordeal.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a very welcomed ordeal I look forward to as a break from reality. I’m all for working hard and selflessly wasting the limited amounts of free time I have for the experience on the water. Between a full-time job, a group of friends rivaling a real life Hank Jr. song, and a disposable income column of my budget that I seem to be in a perpetual game of Hide and Seek with, canoe trips are no gimme.

I’ve noticed that the successful professional canoeists, kayak anglers, and whitewater paddlers hold a distinctive collection of varying trips they stockpile and build on over time. Potentially, their one hit YouTube video or picture that makes it big onto one of the magazine covers is the result of a lot of hard work suffered through a lengthy period of exploration, failure, and development. It’s nowhere near an overnight success; it’s closer to a long-term mindset evolving into a compilation of small successes over time.

It’s not always about the size and scale of the trip, it’s the fact that they got out on the water and took a trip. To take on this long-term mindset without driving yourself, your friends, or your bank account crazy, you have to add some Grab & Go trips into your arsenal.


Grab & Go: A Rapid Media Production

I’m one of those guys that enjoys reading articles. Regardless of the social media post in front of it or the hokey infographics crammed into the middle of it and sucking the life out of the syntax, I like to give most articles a shot all the way through the final period. It’s my scarlet letter; I’m that guy that borrows a magazine and doesn’t give it back for a week. Sorry.

Every year, Rapid Media releases their Paddling Buyer’s Guide. It’s a 200-300 page invitation to skip the articles and quickly flip through the pages looking at all the pictures of new boats, gear, clothing, and accessories hitting the industry at the turn of the next season. I formally RSVP’d NO to that invitation to turn off my brain and stare at the pretty pictures as I settled into the articles and editorials following the masthead.

Before I even saw the first product listing, I was stuck. I hardly made it past the Table of Contents in the Buyer’s Guide before I found an article that would stick with me for the next six months.

Unfortunately, I can’t claim the Grab & Go title as my own. Rapid Media Founder and Publisher Scott MacGregor coined the phrase in his article calling for the action of paddlers to find their Thursday night canoe, kayak, or paddleboard.

Because “our leisure habits are changing and the smaller windows of time we have to play outside must fit between school, overtime, traffic, and daycare drop,” Scott challenges paddlers to use the 300 pages of boat listings provided by manufacturers to find a Grab & Go boat that makes adventure fit “conveniently into our busy lives.”


Grab & Go Paddling: A Family Ordeal

I’m guilty of it too. When I plan canoe trips, I try to make them longer than the Bat Mobile’s Carfax Report. It’s because of this addiction to continuously improve the distance, speed, and unmeasurable beauty of the river which I am paddling that I found myself getting flushed out of perfectly good opportunities to paddle based simply on my real life responsibilities.

If there are 48 hours in a weekend, and I only have commitments for a couple of hours, why am I not getting out for at least a little fraction of the weekend? While a weekend long expedition would be ideal, why does paddling have to be eliminated because I can’t make it on my dream trip? Why not spend the time on a shorter – yet equally entertaining and educational – paddling trip that will not only entertain me but also prepare me for the next big, bad, hairy expedition?

On a mission to get the Grab & Go ball rolling, my Dad and I took off for a quick Sunday morning paddle. Not only did this serve as a fun break from reality, but it was also a means of technique training for the 15 mile Buffalo Bayou Regatta race coming up in a couple of weeks.

Training might not be the right word. It was more coordinating our different roles. As an advanced paddler, he took the lead at the stern in this tandem. My job was simple: follow his directions and provide some power from the bow. As for the distance ahead of us, we were not too worried.

The 11 miles we paddled was uneventful and quick– mostly due to his experience and skill. While I bet I could have found a way to mess that up if I was alone or with my regular bowman, that experiment is an experiment to be tested at another time…

In a barge of a canoe, on seemingly stagnant water, with no extra gear or fancy rigging, we just enjoyed our Grab & Go Sunday morning paddle. You know what? We paddled pretty fast too!


The Circus Comes to Town

Paddling a canoe isn’t crazy, right? It’s not like I was dumpster-diving behind the strip of downtown steakhouses, right? I wasn’t jogging the bayou’s running trails in a speedo. I wasn’t knocking over display cases in Target screaming, “Do it for the Vine!”

Well, I might as well have been.

It turns out Scott was right. In the same article, Scott cites Wenonah Canoes’ Bill Kueper’s on his thoughts that the industry has “been selling people their once-a-year canoes and kayaks, the ones they take on annual trips to the Boundary Waters or the San Juan Islands. Instead, we should be selling them the boats that perform best for the water they can paddle most often.”

People are accustomed to adventure on vacation. People are accustomed to adventure on TV. People have no idea what to do with adventure around their daily lives.

This Grab & Go concept as a part of everyday life is still so foreign to people that on this trip, my Dad and I were looked at as ‘carnies’ at the circus from the passing joggers and dog walkers. I get it; paddling isn’t for everyone. However, in a city of 2.2 million people – million with an M – all having access to the newly renovated 5 mile stretch of sufficient paddling and exploring playground, you would think a paddler or two wouldn’t be uncommon.

We found the opposite to be accurate. The concept of paddling on the bayou was so foreign to people that two different people stopped to take pictures of us.

I’m good looking; I’m not stop-and-take-a-picture-of-him good looking. These weren’t the kind of pictures you stop and take when you see something majestic and want to look back and smile about it later. On the family tree of photo types, these pictures were more closely related to the ones you snap when the man at WalMart forgets to pull the toilet paper from his shoe.

In a city of 2.2 million people, I don’t think that there are no adventurers. However, I do think the lack of a Grab & Go mentality makes the adventurers of the city look down on paddling right in their backyard. It’s looked down on by the general public so much that it is a stop-and-take-a-picture ordeal when someone finally paddles down the dang thing!

Hopefully this mindset plaguing paddlesports changes soon. I’ll start by changing my own.

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canoeing, editorial, tips


Mark Vlaskamp

After four years as Marketing Director for Yak Gear, Mark now partners with creative outdoor brands and pursues the gray area between freelancing and (f)unemployment. Currently, he is floating between Austin and Houston, TX - still searching for new water, cool people, and cheap beer.

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