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The magic of kayaking on freezing water

Tamar Charney
Kayaking on a freezing lake

During the summer, cars with kayaks or canoes on top are a common site. But even in the winter – when you'd expect to see skis – you can sometimes spot a kayak on the roof rack. One of those kayak-toting cars of winter is mine.

There's nothing wrong with kayaking in the summer. I do it all the time, though some weekends it's hard to escape the hordes of drunk tubers on the river or the throngs of pontoon boats on the lake.

Winter kayaking is a whole different scene.

The rivers are no longer a recreation spot. They’re just rivers. The cackling of kingfishers and crows replaces the whooping and hollering of humans.

In winter there are different sounds that go along with the swoosh of your paddle through the water. Some days it's the tinkling of ice crystals. Other days it's the crunching the ice makes when you smash into it. There's also the noise the ice along the shore makes as it moves and cracks ... sounds that call to mind lasers and R2D2 more than spa relaxation tapes. 

But mostly it's just silence. Particularly on the days when the snow is floating down.


By flake.

By flake.

These are the paddles when it's easy to pretend you're kayaking some remote stretch of the UP when you're really only miles from downtown. These are the paddles when the conversations with your kayaking buddies reach deep into the remote corners of your inner life. These are the paddles when you become aware of the heat your core can kick out with each stroke. These are the paddles known only to those willing to bundle up in fleece and neoprene.

It's how you explore those watery places in between our cities and towns when snow sticks to your hair but the stress of modern life melts away.

Hey, complain about winter all you want, but you’re missing the magic of paddling when the water teeters between liquid and solid.