DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
HOOVER’S VALLEY — The class had only been going on for a few minutes before Inks Lake State Park interpreter Sean Jones quizzed the students.
“Do you know which is the front and which is the back of the canoe?” he asked the four people attending the Devil’s Waterhole Canoe Tour and Clinic on July 10.
Mary Ann Crow stepped forward.
“This is the back side,” she said, pointing at the portion of the canoe closest to Jones.
“That’s right,” Jones answered. “And do you know why?”
More quizzing, but Jones went on to explain the reason and more. And just about every Thursday at 1 p.m. behind the park’s store, folks can learn the basics of canoeing. Jones starts with a breakdown of the canoe’s parts and basic tips.
He begins with the canoe on shore, taking a seat in it and explaining how to best keep the craft stable by where you position your body. Then, he picks up a paddle and shows how to do basic strokes, especially for turning.
But, in the end, Jones stressed, canoeing is all about communication between the person in the front (the motor) and the person in the back (the captain.)
“It’s a great exercise in communication,” he explained. “If you’re not talking, you’re not going to go where you want to go.”
The key to going in the right direction comes down to the front person establishing a rhythm and the back person keeping the craft on course.
“It’s as easy as the person in front to go 1-2-3 (switch sides), 1-2-3 (switch sides) and really get a rhythm going,” Jones said. “Then, it’s up to the person in back to steer. I know I’ve seen so many people get out there and head across the lake doing this ‘S’ thing because they don’t have a good rhythm, and they keep overcorrecting with the steering. If you find yourself doing that, the best thing is to stop and start again with a good rhythm.”
Once he completed a little dry land teaching, Jones showed the group the proper way to launch the canoe from shore. And it’s not about getting both people in and then trying to scoot the canoe into the water. Jones showed a much easier and more efficient method.
Out on the water, the group spent several minutes practicing their paddling and steering in a cove behind the park store with Jones and another park staff member watching and offering more advice. But when it appeared everybody had grown comfortable and adept at navigating the craft, Jones led them out for a tour of the nearby Devil’s Waterhole.
The tour and clinic are $12 per adult and $10 for children and Texas State Park Pass holders. The park entrance fee also applies, though it is waived for park pass holders.
Go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/inks-lake or call (512) 793-2223 for more information.