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North Hills Monthly

Kayaking Offers Low-impact Exercise, Opportunity to Connect with Nature

Jun 30, 2019 12:21PM ● By Kathleen Ganster

Cathy Kentzel enjoys kayaking with friends and family—and even her pets—but she also appreciates kayaking alone.

“It’s a peaceful time that provides a different prospective and environment,” said the owner of The Barnard House bed-and-breakfast in Emlenton, PA.

A kayaker for over 26 years, Kentzel is quick to point out the advantages of the sport.

“Recreation is one of Pennsylvania’s best assets. Folks travel to Pennsylvania to enjoy the many rivers, lakes and streams. Kayaking is a safe and fun activity that takes minimal skill unless you are a thrill seeker and prefer whitewater,” she said.

For those not in the know, kayaking is a boating sport similar to canoeing, but the kayak sits lower in the water and kayakers use a double-sided paddle. There are various types of kayaking including whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking and river or lake kayaking. Additionally, there are various types of kayaks including single and double kayaks and sit-on-top and inflatable versions.

Kentzel, a former Pittsburgh resident now living in Emlenton Borough, doesn’t have to travel far to enjoy kayaking.

“The Allegheny (River) flows past our door, so most often we kayak on this body of water,” she said. “But there are so many areas in northwestern Pennsylvania. Lakes are the best place to start since there is no current.”

Kentzel and her family own a B & B, so she recognizes the benefits that kayaking brings to the economy. “Communities along rivers are feeling the economic impact as folks travel and experience kayaking, biking and hiking,” she said.

According to Samone Riddle, communications manager for Venture Outdoors and Kayak Pittsburgh, kayaking is a sport and culture that has been steadily growing for the past few years. “More and more people are trying kayaking for the first time as well as purchasing their own kayaks,” she said.

One reason for the popularity of kayaking is that it appeals to all skill levels.

“Similar to biking, kayaking can be as intense or as relaxing as you make it, so it is both accessible and adventurous,” Riddle said.

Kayak Pittsburgh offers locations on the North Shore, North Park and the Aspinwall Riverfront Park, making it easy for people who want to try kayaking for the first time to find help.

“You’ll be fitted with a PFD (personal flotation device), a paddle, and be given a quick how-to. You'll be paddling along the water in no time,” said Riddle.

L.L. Bean, Inc. has also seen an increase in kayakers in the last few years. Outdoor Program and Outreach Coordinator Macy Bethge explained the appeal of the sport.

“One of the reasons that I think kayaking has grown so much and continues to grow is because it is accessible to just about anyone,” she said. “I see solo kayakers, tandem kayakers, families, people young and old. Kayaking is a low-impact activity, so it is a great form of exercise.”

Bethge suggest that beginners take a class if they’re first dipping into the sport.

“We recommend getting started by getting out on the water, and the easiest way to do that is by taking a class with experienced instructors who can get you comfortable. Our Kayaking Discovery Course is a great way to learn basic paddling techniques and safety skills,” she said.

Both Kayak Pittsburgh and L.L. Bean offer meetups, public trips and groups and other gatherings which are a great way to exercise and socialize.

“Sojourns are great to meet new folks with the same love of kayaking,” Kentzel said.

It is a sport that Kentzel loves. “The exposure and benefits of being with nature are life-changing,” she said.

For more information on Kayak Pittsburgh and Venture Outdoors including classes, groups and meetups, visit More information about L.L. Bean can be found at The Barnard House can be reached at