Skip to main content

Paddle Your Way to Fitness

Paddle Your Way to Fitness

Exercise while soaking up your natural surroundings

If you’re looking for a fun way to stay fit while enjoying the great outdoors this summer, look no further than your nearest waterway. Paddle sports like kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddle boarding are a relaxing and exhilarating way to immerse yourself in nature’s splendor, and they also help people of all ages and experience levels burn calories, increase stamina, and build strength.

And lucky for us, Washington County and the surrounding region are a paddler’s paradise rich with meandering creeks and rivers and several pristine freshwater lakes.


Pick Your Paddle Sport

Each paddle sport has its own charms, of course. For those who aren’t sure whether they prefer kayaks or canoes, River and Trail Outfitters in Knoxville offers a Park & Paddle package where you can try out as many different canoes and kayaks as you want during a three-hour session on the mellow Shenandoah River. “You might start off with two canoes, and then paddle back and get into two-person kayaks, and then paddle back and get into solo boats,” says Nora Slick, a longtime employee at River and Trail Outfitters. The company also offers rentals and a variety of whitewater rafting, canoeing, and kayaking tours.

Beginning paddlers also may want to consider taking a lesson or two before hitting the water, suggests Greg Mallet-Prevost, owner of Antietam Creek Canoe in Boonsboro. “That way you’ll start off safe and right and shorten that frustrating learning curve of doing things the hard way and having to relearn efficient skills,” says Greg, an American Canoe Association-certified instructor trainer in whitewater canoe and an instructor in river kayak and river rescue. Greg offers canoe and kayak rentals, lessons, and guided tours on Antietam Creek. 



(submitted by River and Trail Outfitters): River and Trail Outfitters in Knoxville offers rentals and a variety of guided whitewater rafting and canoeing and kayaking trips on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers as well as Antietam Creek


Stand Up for Fitness

While kayakers and canoers are no strangers to the region’s waterways, SUP has become hugely popular in recent years, Greg says. And for those who’ve tried SUP, it’s no surprise why. 

Despite the name, you don’t actually have to stand up on the board the whole time, says Valerie Dudash, an ACA-certified SUP instructor and the co-owner of Eagle Aquatics Inc., a Sharpsburg-based business offering SUP, canoe, and kayak instruction and guided trips. “You can be on your knees or you can sit or lie down, so you can move around a whole lot more,” she says. “Plus it’s easy to get on and off the board if you want to swim.” You also can fish from a SUP, or, if you’re up for a challenge, try doing yoga on the board.

While kayaking and canoeing exercise primarily the core and upper body, SUP gives you a complete full-body workout. “If you’re using proper stroke mechanics and upper body mechanics, it’s a fantastic workout,” Valerie says. “And the constant balancing—I don’t think people realize that just standing on the board even for a short period of time will make you feel like you’ve been doing something.” 




(submitted by Garrett County Chamber of Commerce): Picturesque Deep Creek Lake is a perfect spot to try paddle sports like kayaking or SUP. 


Right, Set, Paddle!

For beginning paddlers, gently flowing rivers and lakes are usually the best option for learning the ropes. Valerie recommends honing paddling skills on the lazy stretch of the Potomac River accessible from Princess Street boat ramp in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. In fact, she offers SUP 101 classes there several times a week. 

The 42-acre lake in Greenbrier State Park in Boonsboro is a nearby flatwater option if you have your own boat or board. Or, if you’re up for a two-hour road trip, head west and explore picturesque Deep Creek Lake, the largest man-made lake in Maryland. “The big draw to Deep Creek Lake is, of course, the beautiful scenery, but the cool refreshing water is also a big one.” says Lori Epp, director of marketing for Wisp Resort, which offers kayak, canoe, and SUP rentals on the lake.

Antietam Creek is one of the most popular spots nearby and is suited for experienced paddlers or those with a guide. This class I to II creek features lots of twists and turns, rocks, and some rapids, according to Valerie. “It’s a load of fun,” she adds. “It’s also nice and cool because it’s shaded. And it’s really beautiful.” Only advanced stand-up paddle boarders should attempt Antietam Creek, though, as you can hit rocks and potentially fall, she warns. 




(credit Missy Sheehan): If you’re up for a challenge, try doing yoga on a SUP.


Wherever you go, always check local safety regulations on wearing life jackets or whistles before embarking on a kayak, canoe, or SUP excursion, Valerie advises. 


Plan Your Paddle Trip

Antietam Creek Canoe

19005 Lappans Road, Boonsboro


Deep Creek Lake State Park

898 State Park Road, Swanton


Greenbrier State Park

21843 National Pike, Boonsboro


Eagle Aquatics Inc.



River and Trail Outfitters

604 Valley Road, Knoxville


Wisp Resort

296 Marsh Hill Road, McHenry


View Comments

There are currently no comments.

Add New Comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


Register a new account

Forgot Password

Forgot your password?