The Thrill of Making Waves

By Kelley Phillips

Photo by Justin Moore

Kayaking is something you do on the East Coast, Western Rivers or Boundary Waters. On travel blogs’ lists of places to enjoy water recreation, arid South Central Texas isn’t even in the Top 50—yet. On Saturday, November 11, 2017, hundreds came out to the turquoise blue San Antonio River to attend the San Antonio River Foundation’s River Relay 2017. This event took place on the 8-mile stretch of the San Antonio River south of Downtown called the Mission Reach. It is the country’s largest urban ecological restoration project and a stunning backdrop for a kayak race.

As outdoor recreation gains momentum in San Antonio, the redeveloped Mission Reach of the restored San Antonio River provides an ideal fitness and wellness outlet for locals and visitors alike. Because this hike and bike trail includes a dozen watercraft access points, River Relay 2017 helped people from our city and beyond discover a unique recreation opportunity that the San Antonio River offers—kayaking. From the sidelines, spectators saw sixty-six kayaks gliding down a glassy smooth river. With the steady splash of water as the paddles alternatively dipped into the water, it is surprising that over half of the racers were novices and most of those had never been in a watercraft before.

Photo by Alamo City Photography

“This was my first time to kayak and, admittedly, I was nervous. But anxiety quickly turned to wonder and excitement as we made our way down the river.” said Teresa Maslonka, local San Antonian, “The experience was one of joy even though it’s hard to say exactly why; maybe it was a combination of floating, friends, and the beauty of that perfect misty day… I can’t wait to do it again!”

The San Antonio River Foundation’s vision is to inspire stewardship through providing cultural, educational, ecological and recreational experiences. With over 50 zip codes from three states represented, River Relay 2017 was a catalyst to help shift the perception of the San Antonio River as a channelized waterway running through downtown to a backyard natural paradise.

Photo by Alamo City Photography

“As a novice kayaker, I had to work hard and learn how to paddle my way along the gorgeous San Antonio River. We all felt alive, fresh, healthy and had great sense of gratitude and respect for the river,” remarked Margarita Cabrera of Phoenix, Arizona, “Being able to share this with family and friends made all the difference. I never imagined a kayaking experience to be so transforming–Thank you SARF [San Antonio River Foundation]!”

The full San Antonio River Walk trail map can be found here. Discover your restored San Antonio River!


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Kelley V. Phillips is the San Antonio River Foundation’s Program and Outreach Director. With a Master of Science in Park and Resource Management, she whole heartedly believes in the Foundation’s vision to inspire stewardship and is always looking for opportunities to enhance experiences on our restored San Antonio River. View all posts by Kelley Phillips.