Row, Row, Row Your Kayak

Without Leaving the City of Lynchburg Looking for a new workout… on the water? You don’t have to trek all the way to Smith Mountain

Without Leaving the City of Lynchburg

Looking for a new workout… on the water? You don’t have to trek all the way to Smith Mountain Lake to get your feet wet in the world of kayaking. During the summer, beginners can start with the basics by signing up for lessons at Clemmons Lake in Lynchburg’s Ivy Creek Park. Then, as you gain more experience, you can take your kayaking skills to the James River, Smith Mountain Lake and beyond.

We asked Debbie Hoffbeck, a certified instructor and chief naturalist with Lynchburg Parks and Rec, to tell us why this is an outdoor activity everyone should try.

How did you get into kayaking?

I didn’t start kayaking until later in my life, about 15 years ago. I tried it with a group of friends during a trip to a state park in Pennsylvania and I fell in love. I bought my own boat and joined a kayaking club. Later, I got a chance to work for Lynchburg Parks and Rec and got certified to teach.

What is it about kayaking that got you hooked?

I just love being on the water. To me it’s a very inexpensive way to get out on the water and have some fun. I do a lot of kayaking at Smith Mountain Lake State Park. When you are down there on the water, you can take your time along the edge and enjoy sightseeing the nature around you.

Do you recommend certain ages or fitness levels?

Some people think you have to be super athletic. But kayaking is so easy. I know people who are 75 years old and love it. As long as you love being outdoors and being on the water anyone can do it.

But it’s still a good workout, right?

Oh yes, and it’s a full body workout. You might think it’s all your arms and shoulders. But if you are kayaking the right way, you are rotating your whole core. Because if you use only your shoulder muscles, you would wear out pretty fast. The other thing is you are engaging your legs too by using the foot pegs inside the kayak. You are doing everything.

How can someone get started?

Beginners should sign up for lessons at Clemmons Lake at Ivy Creek Park. We teach classes to children as young as 8 years old starting in 2018. Both myself and my staff are certified by the American Canoe Association (ACA). Then once you know how to do it, you can rent a kayak from May through September. Just check our website for lessons and rentals:

After the beginner level, what would someone’s next step be?

After you get some experience on flat water, James River State Park, about 45 minutes from here, is a great place to go on a really easy river excursion. You can also rent kayaks at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, which I mentioned is one of my favorites. If you go to the ACA website, you can find all kinds of instructors who offer more advanced classes in kayaking.

Any Final Words Of Advice?

I would encourage people to at least try kayaking one time. Just to see if it’s the type of thing they would like to do again. You won’t regret it!

James River Adventures

You can find another local kayaking opportunity in Lynchburg—within view of downtown! James River Adventures opened in 2017 at Riveredge Park in Madison Heights. They offer hourly canoe and kayak rentals which include a safety orientation, personal flotation device, shuttle and more. Book your trip today online at!

Visit to read our feature profile about James River Adventures in the July/August issue of Lynchburg Living.


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