Along an Australian riverbank, a baby calf is being born, opening its eyes to the world for the first time. Carolyn “Chick” Dowd floats just 6 feet away and watches silently as the events unfold. At this moment, she discovers for the first time the powerful experiences kayaking can opportune, and plunges headfirst into the sport. Since this moment, Ms. Dowd has worked as an instructor in Thailand, Nova Scotia, and California, where she is also a member of San Francisco's national kayak polo team.
It wasn't just a love for kayaking that led Ms. Dowd to overcome a human's natural tendency to melt in water. When younger, she dreamed of being Julie, the cruise director from Love Boat. To that end, Island Spirit Kayak is the junction of Ms. Dowd's passions; a place that mixes fun activities with the natural surroundings of her hometown, Martha's Vineyard. Here, Ms. Dowd and her team of ACA-certified instructors can lead tours into tranquil waters or more advanced excursions toward the Aquinnah Cliffs, where sunrises paint warm colors across the exposed clay.
From beginners to experts, Ms. Dowd and her crew cater tours to everyone. Before each trip, they help people belly flop out of their comfort zones with a game of kayak ultimate frisbee, during which many feel compelled to jump out of the boat. The staff—which includes a school teacher—also has a soft spot in their hearts for children, welcoming little ones as young as 5 into kayaks.
Jim Ballantyne's passion for windsurfing started in an unexpected place?on Austria's snow-dusted mountain peaks. After growing up in Westfield, Jim left for Europe to pursue a skiing career and subsequently spent his summer days windsurfing on Lake Garda in Italy. Realizing he had more passion for being on the water than on the mountains, he became a windsurfing instructor, surgically implanted a fin on his dorsal side, and moved back to the United States.
Today, Jim and his wife, Pam, continue to organize windsurfing lessons, as well as standup-paddleboard lessons. For experienced riders, they rent gear and a maintain a stock of new and used equipment, which expands to further action sports such as biking and snowboarding.
Steps from Phinney Harbor, visitors to The Paddler's Shop at Rivendell Marine can walk out with their lightweight boards and head straight for the shore. The folks at The Paddler's Shop outfit explorers and shoppers with rentals and purchasable equipment for aquatic recreation, including sturdy, lightweight fiberglass and kevlar kayaks and paddles. They also supply stand-up paddleboards, which are an ideal way for beginners to navigate nearby waterways, since they're lightweight and easy to balance atop.
After choosing your starting point for traversing the waters—be it Aquinnah, where Lobsterville Beach awaits, or Edgartown, the fictional town where its true Amity citizens insist Jaws never happened—you'll be armed with a paddle and a veteran guide certified by the American Canoe Association. A crash course in introductory kayaking techniques will bring everyone up to speed before launch. Safe in your newly aquatic superiority, you and your paddlemates will proceed to smoothly coast through animalistic encounters and engage in educational feeding frenzies of engrossing anecdotes, local history, and more. All necessary equipment is provided, and guests are advised to pack a sack lunch or giant sloppy sandwich to tide them over.
During the summer months, Stephen Fox and Eliza Gilford do their best to ensure that the verdant forests, rippling ponds, and white-sand beaches of Martha's Vineyard constantly echo with the laughter of children. As the owner and camp director, respectively, of Martha's Vineyard Adventure Camp, the duo engages children ages 7-15 in local exploration and education during adventure camps built on a wealth of wilderness activities.
Led by certified and experienced staff members, campers steer mountain bikes along winding trails in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, practice deep-sea fishing in the Vineyard Sound aboard a Coast-Guard-licensed boat, hike through wildlife sanctuaries, and hone kayaking skills in Sengekontacket Pond. Throughout the adventures, counselors keep kids focused on wilderness education, demonstrating ways to appreciate the outdoors without harming the ecosystem or asking the wrong raccoon for its autograph. Staff members also focus on safety; each counselor is CPR, first aid, and lifeguard certified, and is never in charge of more than six campers at a time.
Staff Size: 2?10 people
Average Duration of Services: 2?4 hours
Brands Used: Ocean K, Old Town, Perception, Necky, Wilderness, and Bic.
From Tihonet Pond in Wareham or the sands of Onset Beach, paddlers push off into the beauty of the surrounding wilderness, navigating their kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards across the placid waters. Guided tours of Onset Bay lead kayakers through rivers, islands, hidden coves, and even fishing spots where those with licenses are free to cast their lines. Along the Weweantic and Sippican Rivers, tours present participants with the opportunities to get glimpses of local wildlife such as herons, egrets, and osprey.