Kayaking, Canoeing, Paddle Boarding Making Big Splash Locally
4 July 2012
By Mary Ann Thomas
A surfer dude on the Allegheny River? You betcha.
Harrison resident Ian Smith started his SurfSUP Adventures
outfitting business last year. He offers stand-up paddle boarding
on what looks like an oversize surfboard on the Allegheny River
and other waterways.
"Right now, it's something new for people to try," said the
26-year-old Smith, who has a finance degree from Penn State.
"As opposed to kayaking, you get a surfer feel. It really connects
you with the water.
You can take the boards down rapids or paddle flat bodies of water
-- the diversity is amazing," he said.
Stand-up paddle boarding is among the latest trends in water
paddling that is surfacing on local waterways. Interest in
kayaking and other types of water recreation continues to grow.
"During Memorial Day weekend, you could not drive through
Leechburg, Vandergrift, Avonmore and Apollo without seeing a kayak
or a canoe on someone's car roof or truck," said Neill Andritz,
owner of River's Edge Canoe and Kayak rental in Gilpin.
The 100 parking spaces at the Roaring Run Trail in Kiski Township
fill up on the weekend with a number of vehicles carrying kayaks,
while the River's Edge reports a 20 percent increase in kayak
rentals from last year.
"When I canoed this river 25 years ago, people thought I was
crazy," said Rich Dixon, mayor of Apollo and vice president of
Roaring Run Watershed Association.
Now, with a $42,000 kayak and canoe launch installed last year,
the Kiski River is attracting not only outfitters such as the
River's Edge but area residents and Pittsburghers, who bring their
Heck, they're bringing their own kayak parties, according to
Water sports up -- way up
From 2010 to 2011, recreational kayaking saw the largest increase
compared to a number of outdoor activities at 27 percent,
according to the Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report
2012 by the nonprofit Outdoor Foundation in Boulder, Colo.
During that same time period, kayaking was followed by bow hunting
(up 19 percent), Stand-Up Paddling (18 percent), telemarking
skiing (15 percent) and trail running (9 percent).
"I think it will continue to trend upward," Andritz said.
"Kayaking is an easy sport to learn, and it can be relaxing and
But it can also provide an adreniline jolt on white water.
Local outfitters in the Alle-Kiski Valley cater mainly to
flat-water lovers and light rapids -- whether it's in a kayak,
canoe, rowboat or a stand-up paddle board.
"The desire to go out on the water is increasing, and ever year we
are providing more services to more people," said Jon Lucadamo,
projects director for Venture Outdoors, a Pittsburgh nonprofit
that offers kayak and other water adventures on Pittsburgh's North
Shore, North Park lake, and recently, the riverfront park in
Last year, Venture Outdoors provided kayak rental services to
about 14,000 patrons at its North Shore location.
Lucadamo credits the growing popularity of kayaking to several
factors: Kayaking generally is a safe way to travel on the water,
kayaks are user- and beginner-friendly, and it offers high
visibility as an increasing number of people are spending time on
And local people are responding.
"The presence of L.L. Bean and two REI stores in the region is a
real indicator of outdoor recreation health in the region and
citizens' desire to participate," he said.
Trying to tap tourism -- and money
While kayaking and water recreation are trending upward, Apollo
Mayor Rich Dixon is trying to figure out a way to tap it to bring
in some of those recreation dollars to his town.
Already, the Roaring Run Trail that starts in Apollo and meanders
along the Kiski River in Kiski Township attracts much more than
the group's estimated 25,000 annual visitors, according to Dixon.
And more could come.
"You can come to Apollo if you don't want to drive all the way to
the mountains," he said. "We have the trail and water."
The group is planning a hiking/biking trailhead with another
parking lot at the Apollo-North Apollo border.
Dixon would like to see another kayak launch in town.
"I would like to work on a launch so people could get out of their
kayaks and frequent the restaurants and stores," he said.
"We want to tap into this resource to benefit the local businesses
and to draw people to Apollo with: "We have a trail and the
river," Dixon said.
Taking the idea further, Dixon said that Apollo "is an ideal
location for someone who is retiring and wants to remain active."
Gateway Newspapers Staff reporter Mary Ann Thomas can be reached
via e-mail or at 412-782-2121 x1510.