Flatwater Fantasyland

Kayaks serve as the classroom of discovery

By Mike Savicki


Tracy Tripp knows the local waters in a way that most people never will. Her passion is kayaking, and from the cockpit of her bright red sea kayak, Tripp regularly explores the hundreds of miles of creeks, coves and channels that comprise Lake Norman and its surrounding waterways. Kayakers see the world differently, she says, and for an increasing number of area enthusiasts like Tripp, kayaking is a rewarding way to get outdoors, discover nature and explore the area in a singularly unique and meaningful way every month of the year.


“I have found that most people are fascinated by the kayak,” says Tracy Tripp, a Mooresville resident and Community Coordinator for the Catawba Riverkeeper, a Charlotte-based non-profit advocacy group that works to protect and enhance the waterways of the Catawba River Basin. “No matter who you are, the sight of a kayak on the water will make you stop and stare. Kids think of Eskimos in the cold waters of Alaska, and adults think of kayaks as solitary vehicles that slowly carry people away to some unseen and unknown beautiful destination.”


In her role as a fundraiser, spokesperson and expedition leader, Tripp spends her time educating individuals and groups on topics such as water quality and environmental sustainability. Her kayak doubles as her classroom.


Tracy Tripp explains, “I can give all types of talks, but it isn’t until I take people out on the water that it all starts to make sense. Having sailed, hiked and primarily paddled the entire Catawba River Basin, I can take you anywhere and show you great whitewater, great flatwater and…incredibly beautiful natural locations for groups of kayakers and naturalists to experience.”


Tripp says kayakers have more access to wildlife than all other types of boaters. “By being closer to the water, you are exposed to the complex and exciting natural environment. The kayak can go far upstream where no other boat will, and, depending where you paddle, you can see blue heron, many species of duck, deer and black bear without ever disturbing them. You can see egret, osprey and eagles fish from the air. Even the species that tend to hide during the day may follow in the shadow of your kayak,” she offers.


A shared passion

Tracy Tripp is not alone in her passion. Scott Lundy relocated to Davidson in 2009, after five years in Charlotte, in order to reduce his commute to Lowe’s corporate headquarters in Mooresville and to be closer to the water. He says kayaking in his back yard was a logical offshoot of the move.


“I started kayaking with a group of friends and absolutely cherish the experience of being on the water,” Scott Lundy shares. “I just love being outdoors and find kayaking to be so relaxing. When I moved to Davidson Landing, it seemed right to paddle the areas where only a kayak could go.”


Both Tracy Tripp and Scott Lundy agree that kayaking at the right time of day can lead to a world of discovery. “You will definitely see the most wildlife if you put in either early in the morning or from dawn to dusk,” offers Tracy Tripp. “I have seen deer swim across to different islands and beaver swim out just to give you a warning that you are getting a bit too close for their liking.”


“Being aware of boat traffic and hugging the shoreline is also important,” adds Scott Lundy. “The main channels of Lake Norman are tough, but with five hundred miles of shoreline, I know that there are great areas if you look.”


Getting started

Another Lake Norman kayaker is Zack Alsentzer, a sales specialist in camping, paddling and cycling at REI’s Northlake Mall location. He believes kayaking is a shared activity that spans generations. Alsentzer offers, “I have had grandfathers come in with their sons and grandsons and all tell me they want to kayak together. It’s a question of getting them in the correct boat and fitting them to paddles that will allow them to perform most efficiently.”


Alsentzer, who first learned the sport twenty-five years ago on a lake outside of Madison, Wisconsin, says most of the area kayakers he introduces to the sport are novices and recreational enthusiasts eager to learn. He explains, “Since kayaking is still growing around here, most of what I see is people wanting to get into the sport. They have either gone once or twice with a friend or returned from a vacation at a resort that had kayaks for their guests. They come to us once they are hooked.”


He adds, “It is really a sport that has a different meaning for everyone. I have always believed that kayaking is a quiet, meditative experience where you move under your own power. The times I like to go are the seasons when the masses aren’t on the lake.  We just put in and spend time on the water. To me, it’s not so much where you go as it is just being out there spending time on the water.”


Tracy Tripp agrees. She concludes, “Kayaking is a proven activity that leads to individual epiphanies. With just the paddle and a boat, you are in charge of your own destiny. You can go out for even two hours and come back a very different person.”


This article was originally published in the November 2010 edition of Currents Magazine.