The boathouse at Alder Creek Kayak's Southeast Portland location is a modest affair just north of OMSI, where an intrepid day paddler can rent a kayak or board by the hour, or sign up for guided group tours. Courtney and Alison tried their hands at stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, respectively.
I LEARNED ABOUT stand-up paddleboarding when I saw Jennifer Aniston doing it in some trashy tabloid, frolicking in a tropical clime on the wave of the future. I, too, wanted to grab life by the board and paddle around standing up stalk-straight—no more hunching for this girl! I, too, would incorporate more posture into my water sports! I had to get on that board.
After Alison and I got hooked up with our rentals, I lugged the relatively easy-to-carry SUP board down to the dock below the eastside of the Hawthorne Bridge. [Editor's note: To take up transport on a surfboard-like flotation device, one must adopt the lingo. Like a total toolwad, you must call this perfectly peaceful activity SUP. Do not let this loathsome acronym dissuade you from enjoying it.] After launch, it was a quick learning curve from a kneeling position to standing, then BOOM! There I was, Jennifer Anistoning all over the Willamette. (Stars... they're just like me!) Balancing was simple, and even with a barrage of intermittent waves from speedboats, Alison and I kept pace with each other on our jaunt to Ross Island, but it's easy to see how a kayak could go far faster than a board.
Ideally, it would be a fun trip to paddle out to Oaks Park for the day, picnic, and then make one's way back to the boathouse to return the gear. But without a kayak buddy, lugging any sort of gear with you on a board might be difficult without fear of it getting wet. Also, a pro tip: Watch a beginner SUP video about good paddle-stroke form so your IT bands aren't screaming the next day. It's way more about core than arm strength. Lesson learned. COURTNEY FERGUSON
IT'S BEEN YEARS since I set butt in a kayak, but there was nothing to it—a minor "what am I doing??" when I first plopped into the water that was quickly replaced by total enthusiasm. Seeing the Marquam Bridge from below inspires those head-clearing feelings of smallness and insignificance that you usually have to head to the beach or the mountains to get. Plus, there's tons of great birdlife near Ross Island, including a pair of bickering blue herons and BABY DUCKLINGS! My total lack of upper body strength (or any kind of strength, really) was, surprisingly, not a problem; the river's current is gentle enough that beginners really can't get in too much trouble, even when those dickhead jetskiiers [see "EXTREME! ACTION! JERK! SPORTS!"] fly by, throwing up waves. I wasn't even sore the next day. A+, would kayak again. ALISON HALLETT
Alder Creek, 1515 SE Water, call to reserve rentals 285-1819, SUP and kayak rentals $25 for two hours/$35 for four hours/$50 for 24 hours, aldercreek.com