Kayaking is a sport that doesn't require licensing or extensive lessons like boating or jet skis; yet it provides an opportunity to be on the water. When on a kayak, you aren't even immersed in water. Sandy Sobanski, a Hoboken resident who runs the kayaking in Hoboken, wanted to give people a chance to get outside and enjoy the spectacular view we have on this side of the Hudson.
"Kayaking is very healthy," said Sobanski, "because you are using both sides of your body. You are out on the water breathing the air. It's better than the gym."
Sobanski and other experienced kayakers from the Downtown Boathouse in New York are happy to teach people to kayak. The only requirements necessary are that participants must know how to swim, wear a life jacket, and follow guidelines by the guards. They have had a great response from Hudson County residents. According to Sobanski, they have had lots of the same people return for another shot at it. There have also been groups of residents who have volunteered their time to help out. Sobanski said that helpers are always welcome to help with the sign-up list, the life jackets, or to help watch so that the kayakers are safe on the water.
Sobanski is an experienced athlete. From 1997-2001 she was competing in Dragon Boat racing. On the all women's team, they began competing in the circuit. They raced in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., London, and Seattle. After they won in Queens, NY, the team became eligible for Hong Kong. They won a medal in Hong Kong. From Dragon Boat racing she went on to the New York Outriggers' Club and began racing with them. While she enjoyed the discipline of training for the races, she also liked the quieter solitary rowing needed for kayaking. She also liked the social aspect of the sport without the pressure to win. Kayaking became Sobanski's next obsession.
Building a boathouse
Although Sobanski initially started kayaking on the New York side, as a resident, she thought Hoboken would be a great place to offer it. But the main obstacle was that there was no boathouse in Hoboken. Each time her group offered lessons in Hoboken, they had to tow the boats across river from Manhattan. She thought a boathouse in Hudson County would give more people the chance to relax on the water and try the sport.
Sobanski brought her proposal to the mayor's office. They were enthusiastic about the idea. She thought that Hoboken Cove by the Tea Building would be the perfect location because of the tides and the protected area of beach. They asked Sobanski if she had any ideas for the design of the building. After studying old pictures of boathouses that used to exist in the area, she came up with a sketch of a building that looked similar in design to the former houses, but was designed with kayakers' needs in mind.
She thought the storage area for the boats could be attractive yet functional. She also wants the boathouse to be a place where people can meet, enjoy the view, and experience the water, even if they don't want to go out on a boat. For now, she still must bring the boats from Manhattan, but if all goes well, The Hoboken Cove Boathouse could be open as early as next summer.
Fun for everyone
Kayaking can be a challenging sport if you push yourself for time, or can be a relaxing activity if you just paddle around. "We have people that bring toddlers or babies," said Sobanski. "It can also be very relaxing for older people."
Sobanski said she has an older woman originally from Italy who comes every time it is offered. Sobanski takes her out in a double kayak and the woman serenades her in Italian while she paddles. Before the program started, Sobanski would go to the park and move a lot of rocks from the man-made ramp. People were often curious and would ask what she was doing.
Sobanski said people came up to her to say, "Thank you for what you are doing. Thank you for this."
The Hoboken Cove Boathouse will be offering free Kayaking on Saturday, July 30, and Sunday, Aug. 14 and 28, from 12 to 4 p.m., weather permitting. For more information, please visit: www.hobokencoveboathouse.org. or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org