By Doug Hall ~
Last week I went kayaking in Shark River for the first time. I originally considered going stand-up paddle boarding, but decided that with kayaking you have more balance and control over the water.
I went to Paddle Time Kayaks and rented one for two hours, which turned out to be a perfect time frame. They’re based out of Shark River Hills near John’s Cracker Barrel, and the location is ideal for easy access to the river. Plus, they give you store credit to get lunch at John’s as a customer appreciation gift.
From where you embark, you’re given two options: you can either head towards the Belmar bridge and marina, or you can go further into Shark River Hills in the opposite direction. The instructor Kira didn’t recommend going to the bridge because of strong currents, which immediately made it more tempting to go there; but I chose not to since I didn’t have a group of people with me in case something went wrong.
So I took the latter option and made my way through the Hills, where I realized how easy it is to underestimate the length and distance of the river. It almost felt like an eternity to get to the Marconi Road section of it in Wall Township, though the payoff was well worth it.
Near the Brighton Avenue bridge were about a hundred herons gathered in a flock. It was such a bizarre sight that pictures couldn’t do it justice. Problem is, they were all hanging out on a big mud patch in the middle of the river, and that’s when I noticed how shallow the water was. My paddle could touch the bottom and I ended up getting stuck in the mud for a few minutes.
Overall it was a fun experience, though it got a little strenuous towards the end. Kira said most of her customers rent kayaks for an hour at the most, which is understandable and recommended for those who don’t have a lot of stamina. However, an hour just isn’t enough time to fully explore the extent of the river. Even with two hours, I still couldn’t squeeze in visiting the Belmar marina.
But in a sense, that’s a good thing because it gives you all the more reason to go back. I can’t wait for my next trip.