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Published on August 17, 2021

Kayaking the CapeKayaking the Cape

Summer is here! And so are the best spots for paddling on Cape Cod

There are so many ways to stay active and have a fun on the Cape when warm weather arrives. Swimming in the ocean or kettle ponds is a great way to get moving, but paddling – whether on a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddle board (SUP) – offers a different physical and recreational experience.

The Cape has the advantage of offering a multitude of protected waterways and harbor temperatures that stay relatively warm due to the Gulf Stream. This variety of venues is an excellent way to get outdoors, see the sights and get a good cardiovascular and upper extremity workout.

Good technique means a healthy workout

The key to enjoying paddling is to learn the correct techniques and to carry appropriate safety gear. Without the correct techniques, the upper extremities and torso are at risk for overuse injury. The stroke can be divided into two types: the forward stroke and the backstroke. The forward stroke is commonly used for forward progression and is the most common to cause overuse.

The most efficient way to generate power as well as prevent injury is to shift the strain from the smallest muscles of the hand and arm to the stronger muscles of the trunk and torso. One way to accomplish this is to imagine your pulling forearm is a rope tied to the paddle by the fingers. The pushing forearm should simultaneously push directly in line with your forearm and wrist. The push and pull should be through the elbow. Minimize deviation of the wrist and this will ward off wrist and elbow tendinitis. This will shift stress to the large pectorals and latissimus (chest and back) muscles as well as to the abdominal, low back and hip muscles.

When feathering the paddle, avoid excessive under flexion and extension, which can cause tendinitis in the elbow. Some paddlers actually recommend bracing or taping wrists until this can be properly learned.

While overuse can cause problems, much more severe dangers involve hypothermia and drowning. Always wear appropriate all-weather gear, life preservers and carry necessary safety equipment. Be well-versed in self-rescue and safety before leaving shore.

The hot spots: Where to get your paddle on

The Cape Cod National Seashore, Cape Cod Healthcare’s partners in good health through Healthy Parks, Healthy People, offers ranger-led paddling excursions and is a resource for great independent trips.

National Seashore waterways highlighted by author David Traub as premier paddling destinations include:

Nauset Marsh – Wildlife is the attraction, here. The American golden plover is on display during breeding season from Eastham’s Nauset Beach, accessible from this marsh launching point. With numerous bays and channels to navigate, a wide variety of shorebirds, seagulls and other water fowl are regulars.

Wellfleet Harbor – The Great Island trail is renown for great nature walks, but to fully appreciate the biodiversity of the area, paddling by Great Island is second to none. Terrapin turtles, striped bass and even the occasional coyote make their presence known on and off the peninsula between Wellfleet Harbor and Cape Cod Bay, some of the largest undeveloped stretches on Cape Cod.

Other recommended destinations include:

  • Eel Pond Landing – East Falmouth
  • Nickerson State Park - Brewster
  • Bass River – Dennis/Yarmouth
  • Wequaquet Lake - Barnstable
  • Nauset Marsh - Eastham
  • Pleasant Bay – Harwich/Chatham
  • Herring River – Wellfleet/Truro
  • Wellfleet Harbor – Wellfleet
  • Scorton Creek - Sandwich

As with all sea paddling, timing the tides is key to avoid being stranded by sandbars or shallows on your trip and carrying water, supplies and safety gear is advised.


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