Virginia Man Kayaks Length Of Chautauqua Lake

Wes Douglas of Virginia set out on Friday morning to beat the four hour time record of kayaking across Chautauqua Lake. Submitted Photo

Chautauqua Lake may have a new fastest time to kayak from one end of the lake to the other.

A Virginia man, Wes Douglas, decided to test himself Friday and embark on a mission to travel by kayak the length of Chautauqua Lake. Douglas has been kayaking since he was 26. He took a 10-year break but returned to the hobby again last July.

Douglas is connected to the area by his wife Jennifer Siegler Douglas, who lives in Panama half the time.

“It’s a second marriage situation,” Douglas said. “So I live in Virginia and she lives in Panama and we’ll spend one week up there and then one week back here. I’d been in the area before as well but had never been to the lake. One day I wondered if anyone had ever attempted to kayak from one end to the other.”

Douglas discovered that the end-to-end kayak on Chautauqua Lake had been done before by some groups of people, with the record time being around four hours. He decided he wanted to try it solo to see how fast he could do it, with the goal of beating the four-hour time. Ashville General Store was Douglas’s “sponsor” for the trip, giving him a pancake breakfast the day of the trip. Evergreen Outfitters also lent Douglas a boat so he would not have to bring his up from Virginia. The lended boat was longer than Douglas’s boat.

Douglas began his trip across Chautauqua Lake at about 10 a.m. and stopped in Bemus Point for a rest on the way. Submitted Photo

The kayak trip began at about 10 a.m. on Sept. 23. Douglas tracked the time via a stopwatch on his phone that also served to keep him on course and told him the exact time the trip took, and the exact time spent moving. Douglas’s wife drove along the shore with him to their meeting place in Bemus Point where Douglas stopped for a bathroom and drink break. The total time Douglas spent out on the water totaled three hours and twenty-four minutes. The total moving time, or when Douglas was actually paddling was two hours and fifty-nine minutes.

Douglas said that the way the trip panned out was a bit surprising.

“I thought the upper part of the lake would be easier and the lower part would be harder,” Douglas said. “It was actually the other way around because of the wind on Friday and how choppy the water was. It did make me worried for a bit, but the boat I rented was meant to be used in the ocean, and I was moving pretty fast.”

Overall, Douglas said that the kayak trip went pretty well, especially since he met his goal of beating the four hour time mark.

“My goal was to beat the previous fastest time of four hours across the lake,” Douglas said. “I was well ahead of that time. Unless someone else comes forward and proves that they’ve done it faster, I think that’s probably the fastest time anyone’s ever kayaked on the lake. It was fun to do it, and the community seemed to get into it as well.”

Douglas reached the other side of the lake after three hours and twenty-four minutes, accomplishing his goal of beating the four hour mark. Submitted Photo

Some fishermen who were out on the lake on Friday talked to Douglas as he went past, he said, adding to the community feel as he attempted to reach his goal.

Even with the weather causing choppy waters, Douglas was happy with how Friday turned out and said he would do it again.

“I might try again next year with a faster boat,” Douglas said. “I don’t know if I could beat that time again. Obviously it is not a sterile environment and I got lucky this time that a lot of things lined up. I do think it might also be fun to do it as a race every year, including with the rest stop in Bemus Point.”

Douglas thanked everyone involved for helping him reach his goal on Friday.

“I owe a lot to Ashville General Store and Evergreen Outfitters, and my wife,” Douglas said. “She did a lot of the leg work and the logistics. Her living up there helped. She also helped me track my time, so that was a joint thing. I couldn’t have done this by myself.”


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