How to prepare for 25+ kids on the Mystic River?

Twenty-five kids anywhere take preparation, but on the water, it’s all hands on deck. I pulled into the parking lot a bit before the Preston Park and Rec campers arrived and watched the shop unfold in the early morning, just as the slate blue sky surfaced from behind the clouds. I watched the employees quietly take out the inventory and place it in the designated areas. The bikes lined up, and on display, the kayaks carefully moved to the water’s edge, with enough to accommodate a dozen kids. The paddleboards were stacked and ready for use with each camper to be provided with a life jacket.

Show Time

The bus came at 10:00, and the kids stepped off, eager to start the day. Friendly chatter and excitement filled the air as children and backpacks occupied the space. The owner, Jeff, greeted the kids and introduced himself to the camp staff members. Within a few minutes, there were two groups formed: one for paddle boarders and the other for kayakers.

The instructors started the lessons while the employees finished sizing the paddles and life jackets. One employee, Stephen, seamlessly moved about, putting the kayaks in the water, adjusting the velcro cuff section on the paddle boards and assisting with life jackets.

My attention moved to Jasmine, the paddle board instructor who was explaining to the campers the importance of the paddle. “The paddle is like the steering wheel of a car, and if you don’t know how to steer a car, you don’t have control.” She demonstrated various techniques and tips that showed how to stop in the water, make turns, and how to stay calm!

During this time, another employee, Brian, walked around, helping the kids readjust their hands on the paddles and answer questions they had.

The second group received a different lesson on kayak safety. I took my opportunity and paddled out before the groups. I wanted to be on the water to watch them first hand.

What’s Your Favorite Part? Everything!

The paddle boarders reminded me of little ducks all in a row, following their mother down the river. I could hear the instructor giving directions and watched the kids steady themselves as they crossed the river. There were squeals of laughter and smiling faces everywhere. At one point, we were all gathered in a huddled mass, and I asked one of the girls what her favorite part was, and she happily replied, “Everything!”

Jeff took the group under the small bridge into a cove, where the kids had to duck down until they reached the other side. Mudslinging and splashing erupted as the paddlers showed their comfort level. I asked a few campers if this was there first time paddling. Some nodded yes, whereas others had prior experience. Small conversations began, and the laughter continued. Shortly after, I waved goodbye to the group and made my way back to the launching area.

Large Groups and Gatherings Encouraged

Well, I had a great day! I’m sure the campers did too. Adventure Mystic provides a fun, low key, learning environment for both kids and adults. Have you been on a paddle board yet? Did you enjoy it this much?

by Shandon Foley