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Mar. 5, 2021 | Friday
Local News
Kayaker braves the elements for wintry rides among ice floes

Gail Kendall
Special to The Lake Report

An adventurous Niagara-on-the-Lake woman has taken embracing winter to a whole new level.

Carla Rienzo headed out on to the water Sunday as she does most days to enjoy a kayak ride amid the ice floes and geese.

Starting her paddle at Smugglers Cove just off the Niagara Parkway, Rienzo begins her journey by disengaging her kayak from atop her car, connecting it to a small wheeled trailer and then with paddles and ice pick in hand, pulls it all down the steep hill to the river.

Wearing a Gore-Tex dry suit and boots, she wades into the icy waters and begins to chip away at the ice in order to clear a path for her kayak.

She dons a spray apron around her waist which will connect to the opening of her kayak once she is seated. This is an important piece of clothing that will assist in keeping water out of the kayak.

Once seated in the “cockpit,” with paddle in hand, she is ready to go.

Rienzo’s course and length of time out is determined by the weather and water conditions.

She explains that on this day she was not able to get much farther than Fort Mississauga due to a massive ice sheet. 

“An enormous field of crushed ice that undulated in the very gentle waves as though breathing. It was as very much alive as I was,” Rienzo says.

“I followed its edge out into the lake then veered back into the Niagara River and meandered in between the ice floes all the way back to Smugglers Cove. The trip back was a slow one due to the always quick speed of the current out in the middle of the river but the reward was the opportunity to slalom between the ice.”

While Sunday was a sunny day with perfect conditions, that may not always be the case. The weather can change in a moment, creating a struggle against strong wind and current to return her safely to her point of departure.

While people watched this lone figure paddle her way from the mouth of the Niagara River into the openness of Lake Ontario, she made the journey look effortless. The backdrop of Fort Niagara, together with the white ice on the blue water, offered the perfect view of a very adventurous woman.

Why does she do it?

“I will take winter paddling over summer. Between the exquisite ice formations (floes, sheets, caves, volcanoes) and the proliferation of waterfowl and wildlife sightings, the electric-white ice up against an often black sky, the aloneness and oneness of being where no one else is, the magic for me is irresistible.”

Rienzo is a relatively new NOTL resident who is passionate about fitness and adventures in any climate.

It is not unusual for her to run or snowshoe the circumference of the Whirlpool Golf Course in Niagara Falls, or cycle many kilometres before hauling her kayak to the Niagara River to begin a journey through the icy water.

She runs a meet up group called the Niagara Adventure Travel Group that includes power walks, snowshoeing, hiking, cycling with visits to local eateries and shops. On occasion Rienzo will hold an event that will teach participants how to attach snowshoes, what style of traction devices to purchase and how to wear them.

And it’s no coincidence that she drives a Honda Fit with the license plate “PHIT.”

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