BY BROOKE WILLIAMS
Since reopening for another season during Memorial Day weekend, Art Coolbaugh has noticed an increase in business at Susquehanna Kayak & Canoe Rentals.
“People are ready to get out, that’s for sure,” he said.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been looking to outdoor activities not only as a way to get out of the house responsibly, but to support their physical and mental health.
After being “penned up for so long” under the statewide stay-at-home order, Coolbaugh said getting out on the water can be just what people need.
“I think for a healthy mind and a healthy body, it’s probably one of the best activities you can do right now,” he said.
Besides the fact that it’s an activity compliant with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, it provides local recreation, which people who have needed to cancel summer trips outside of the area can appreciate.
“You can still actually get outside and enjoy yourself just a couple miles from home,” he said.
Coolbaugh opened the Falls Twp. business in 2007. It was a slow start, but over the years, the business grew as kayaking gained popularity.
Customers can rent kayaks (including tandems) and canoes for use on the Susquehanna River. Coolbaugh offers guided trips, but people could also make their own plans. Either way, Susquehanna Kayak transports customers and their watercrafts to the river launch point.
He also operates a second rental location at Frances Slocum State Park in Wyoming, which offers kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, pedal boats, and rowboats (with and without a motor) for Frances Slocum Lake.
This year, both locations have fishing kayaks available for rent as well.
Susquehanna Kayak runs a number of events throughout the season and all events scheduled through mid-June have already sold out, Coolbaugh said.
It’s already an established practice at both locations to disinfect life vests and paddles after each use. With COVID-19, staff members have begun disinfecting watercrafts in between uses, too.
They’ve also been separating groups for transportation to the launch point and disinfecting van seats in between trips. Customers need to wear masks while traveling with staff members.
Coolbaugh typically holds his Kayaking 101 class in May, but the coronavirus threw off this year’s schedule. Still, renters can expect a briefing on safety measures, how to paddle and more before going out on the water.
For beginners, he recommends paddling on a lake first before trying out a body of water with a current. A shorter guided trip is available for new paddlers, and he said 99% of the time, people enjoy it so much that they want to come back.
Coolbaugh also owns Ardee’s Foodrinkery next door, which complements the rental business since people often want to eat and have a drink after their time on the water.
With some state restrictions now lifted on restaurants and bars, Ardee’s recently resumed dine-in services.
Visit kayaktheriver.com or Susquehanna Kayak’s Facebook page for details of upcoming events and other updates.