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Kayaking the Guadalupe River goes mainstream

By BY MELISSA CROWE - MCROWE@VICAD.COM
June 26, 2014 at 1:26 a.m.
Updated June 27, 2014 at 1:27 a.m.

Gerry Wyant, left, takes Randy Mahoney, center, and Mark Henry on a kayaking trip through Riverside Park on Friday. Wyant, owner of Gerry's Kayaks, takes customers out on the river any day they call to schedule a trip.

IF YOU GO

• Gerry's Kayaks

• Kayak rentals, guided group tours, guided fishing tours

• Make reservations at least a week ahead.

• 361-935-3779

• $20 to $100 per person depending on tour selection and group size

The tour group watched with eager curiosity as Gerry Wyant, the last to push off into the oak-lined Guadalupe River, dug his paddle into the cool, lazy water.

A few days before, he took a group of 19 down the same route, a group of nine on a trip that started near DeWitt County and turned down 24 others looking to paddle the Guadalupe River.

With a rental business taking off and weekend tours filling his appointment book, Wyant, owner of Gerry's Kayaks LLC, is experiencing firsthand how kayaking in the Crossroads is going mainstream.

"This year, it's just been crazy; sales have gone out the roof," Wyant said.

Wyant has lived in the area since 1976 but didn't discover the joys of the river until about four years ago on his 60th birthday.

In a search for low-impact, calorie-burning activities, he and his wife fell in love with kayaking.

"My blood pressure was going up; my weight was going up; I was sitting at a desk all day," Wyant said.

He and his wife's first trip together was in Powderhorn Bay.

"I loved it," Wyant said.

He saw the need for a rental business and set out to make it happen.

In 2011, he had 10 kayaks in his fleet. His setup has more than doubled to include 28 kayaks, fishing gear, life jackets and a wide selection of paddles and other gear. When he's not shuttling paddlers to and fro, he volunteers for mission work in Guatemala and serves with Toastmasters International.

He wouldn't be surprised if kayaking is the No. 1 recreational sport in the country.

"It's fun, and it's quiet," Wyant said. "You get a serene trip down the river. If you go out in a motorboat, it's constant noise and hitting the waves."

The sport's growing popularity is one reason Kay Posey decided to give it a try.

After hearing of and seeing people float down the river, Posey decided to give it a whirl.

"It looked so fun, I just wanted to try it," Posey, 59, of Victoria, said.

By her second lesson with Wyant, she was hooked.

"Every time you go out, you make friends, and I've made friends with Gerry now," Posey said. "It's a good, fun way to meet people."

With 60 around the corner, Posey made it her goal this year to get motivated and active. She looked up kayak rentals online and came across Wyant's business.

"The minute I talked to Gerry, he seemed like a great man to teach me," Posey said.

Confident enough to read the river's flow and maneuver through a log jam, Posey said it's relaxing, enjoyable and something she can do for years to come.

"It's not that easy rowing for two hours, but it's challenging, and it makes me feel good, and I proved to myself that I can do it," she said. "Be happy and have fun: That's my goal in life right now."

The same is true for Wyant.

Although his original plan was to focus on saltwater kayak fishing trips, about 80 percent of his business is from paddlers at Riverside Park.

His next step is to see about opening a livery in the park for people to rent kayaks and spreading the sport with anyone who is interested.

"This is an opportunity where the public can enjoy the river and utilize the assets that Victoria and Riverside Park have to offer," Wyant said. "It's beautiful and fun."

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