Uncover the hidden side of the world’s cities on the water.
For many people, ‘canoeing’ conjures up pixel perfect pictures of pure wilderness. Misty lakes, rocky shorelines, old-growth forests. With no sound but the wind and a paddle slicing through the water…
But you don’t necessarily have to head up north for adventure. If you live in the city like I do, there are plenty of opportunities to paddle in your own backyard and explore the city from a totally different perspective. First we take Ghent, then we take Berlin… En route!
Unfolding a city adventure
Where to begin? I bet that nine out of ten cities that pop into your mind are surrounded by water or built around rivers. Check, right? If you want to get out for a quick paddle, it’s even easier to take advantage of the proximity and access that your local city rivers provide.
First up to the test is my hometown, Ghent, where I’ve been living in small apartments, for more than 10 years now. My current apartment is overlooking the cosy city harbour behind the Kouter. Situated in the heart of old Ghent, merely 750 meters away from the three towers that shape the medieval skyline of Ghent. The winding canals in just begs for a boat ride… <3
And that’s where the ONAK comes in handy. Because it’s so much easier to give into temptation, when you don’t have to think about the hassle of renting or transporting a kayak or ordinary canoe. Just pull out the perfectly foldable ONAK canoe from under the death space under your bed, roll it the the waterfront on its big wheels and you’re halfway there. It’s as convenient as a bike!
First-time fun: Boat test & friend fest
Okay, I have to admit… It took me a while to fold the ONAK for the first time with the help of my Dutch friends, that were over for a visit. Shared over-excitement and Babel-like confusion made us spontaneously burst into laughter while prepping the boat, causing many ‘oops’es, ’ loosening buckles and tangled straps. But the fun we had!
As expected, the folds of our brand-new canoe were still pretty stiff. No worries, that’s totally normal. The more you fold them, the more the folding lines start to loosen up. Think of it as getting to know a foldable bike. First-time fun included, but once you’re on a roll, it’s the perfect lightweight solution. Practice makes perfect! Just make sure the bottom is completely flat and the nose is completely tightened. After a quick set-up of 20 minutes, you should be ready to go!
City skylines & solitude
Once we embarked the ONAK and were able to push offshore, we found an urban landscape that instantly outclassed our traditional riverside walk. The excitement of the first paddles – the Titanic was considered unsinkable too, right – soon gave way to a soothening, vast rhythm. The canoe is designed to be the best compromise between stability and speed. Nope, it’s not as stable as that big rentable canoe of 40kg, but it is a lot faster and still pretty stable, even when your beginner friends aren’t 😉
While dealing with the wind, the current, the waves and other people and small animals moving on the water during our 2-hour trip we felt closer to nature in the heart of our city than ever.
True, exploring a glacier bay or a coastal wilderness setting is probably the best you can get – but the medieval skylines of Ghent are so damn beautiful too. I fell in love with them, all over again.
Other hidden waterfront gems
Whether it’s in your own waterfront town, a secondary city like Nantes or Hamburg or a citytrip hotspot like New York or Copenhagen… Nothing beats the thrill that comes from exploring areas of the city that few care to wander. Just pick your personal favorite! The most interesting places along the city river are virtually impossible to access except by water.
An alternate parallel universe seems to wait behind every corner. And the constant motion of your canoe on the water ignites a dreamlike atmosphere. You’ll even get your shot of adrenaline, when taking canoe passes or city weirs. Exploring pur sang!