While Mark Twain never set foot in an Emotion Spitfire kayak, he and Lewisburg’s John Ryan do share a pair of passions — writing and rivers.
Actually, in Ryan’s case, it is more the English language than writing. His pursuit of a degree in English led him out of his urban comfort zone to central Pennsylvania.
And on a crash course with Susquehanna — both of them.
“I chose Susquehanna (University) for its English department and education program,” said the Brooklyn-born and Philadelphia-raised 30-year old. “I spent the summer in Selinsgrove between my junior and senior year. I needed some entertainment. The river was close — and gorgeous.”
It was love at first sight.
“The beauty and expansiveness of the Susquehanna lured me into a path of curiosity. I got my first exposure to the river via boating, however the nooks of shallow water beckoned for a different type of boat,” he recalled. “I began to experiment with kayaking and found a very personable way to explore the river.”
Ryan graduated from Susquehanna in 2004 with a degree in English and a “bounty” of education classes. However, instead of returning to the urban lifestyle he lived previously, Ryan decided to stick around the Susquehanna Valley.
“Although I knew I wanted to teach, I also knew I didn’t want to be in the classroom — a great contradiction for an educator,” Ryan said.
He was offered a job running an after-school program in Lewisburg. He decided to complete his master’s segree in Education at Bucknell. Over time, he found a unique way to merge his desire to educate and his passion for the local river.
“I found an incredible niche within the community that allows me to educate, explore and expose the beauty of the Susquehanna,” said Ryan. “My simple goal was never to wear a tie to work. My ultimate goal became providing the opportunity for anyone to explore the Susquehanna.”
And so was born These Guys’ Kayak, a business he started four years ago out of Lewisburg.
“These Guys’ Kayak offers individual, small-group and large-group rentals or tours,” he said. “Most importantly, we provide transporation of the kayaks and equipment, including drop-off at the launch point and pick-up at the docking spot, no matter how small the group.”
But These Guys’ Kayak offers another dynamic that makes it especially unique — structured kayaking camps for kids and families.
“My master’s degree is in curriculum and instruction of education — specifically writing curriculum and instruction for out-of-school programs such as after-school and summer camps,” Ryan said. “The curriculums include physical, social and individual development through a plethora of activities and engaging tasks (while kayaking) such as scavenger hunts, kayaking tag, fishing from a kayak, exploring for crayfish and other underwater critters and, of course, direct instruction on how to kayak properly.”
Kids camps are for children of all ages and skill sets, shooting for at least six kids in a camp. These Guys’ Kayak charges $100 for each child and $75 for each additional family member. The four-day camp (typically Monday through Thursday) goes from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and focuses each day on a different stretch of the Susquehanna. The first day typically runs from Watsontown to Milton, then Milton to Lewisburg, Lewisburg to Chillisquaque and then one additional stretch depending on the water levels.
For Ryan, who will be offering a free hands-on kayaking lesson at the CAMO Outdoorsman Expo 1 p.m. Saturday near New Columbia, the area offers numerous opportunities for great kayaking.
“The most ideal part of the Susquehanna depends on what you want as a participant. Personally, I like to anchor my kayak and sit in an ideal fishing spot, cast from the kayak and hopefully tangle with a fish,” he said.
Away from the Susquehanna, Ryan’s favorite location to launch a kayak is easy — the Penns Creek.
“From rapids to reclusive holes, Penns Creek provides everything — particularly delicious trout,” he said.
These Guys’ Kayak continues to find ways to branch out. Ryan created an affiliation with the Sunsational Campground in Weikert and his staff is becoming certified to instruct the new kayaking merit badge for the Boy Scouts organization.
With so much going on here in the Susquehanna Valley, does Ryan still have time to think about the city life he left behind?
“Sure. I love baseball and football,” he said. “Just not the lack of scenery.”
Twain couldn’t have said it better himself.
For more information about These Guys’ Kayak, go to www.theseguyskayak.com. For more on the upcoming kayaking demonstration and CAMO Outdoorsman Expo, go to www.portannwesleyan.org. Email comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org