DC Bucket List Item #8: Paddleboarding on the Potomac River

Paddleboarding in the Potomac River

This weekend during the heat of summer was perfect one for one of my DC bucket list items, paddleboarding on the Potomac River! I didn’t want to go too early in the season, since I didn’t want to risk being damp and chilly all afternoon if we got wet, and H and I wouldn’t have another free weekend before our trip to the Azores. My original idea was to go to the boathouse in Georgetown, where rumor has it if you fall in the water they tell you to go straight to the hospital, but H did some research and found a great spot, Pohick Bay Regional Park.

The Great Paddleboarding Adventure

On an appropriately sunny Saturday in July, we piled our beach towels and sunscreen in the car and drove about half an hour to Pohick Bay Regional Park. Getting in the water on the paddleboard required way more bureaucratic steps than we expected—after moving the car twice, filling out a series of tiny slips of paper, and leaving our shoes and car keys in some sort of dubious beach shack, we made our way to the beach through the families and school groups milling around, where someone pointed us towards two paddleboards. We grabbed our boards and maneuvered them into knee-deep water so we could precariously climb on top of them and start paddling.

what to wear paddleboarding

I stood up and started to navigate past the dock, where motorboats and paddle boats were coming in and out. It took us a few minutes to get the hang of paddleboarding, since H had never been before, and although I went once in Barbados H was the one to tell me that I was holding the paddle backwards. The water was surprisingly calm, except for the occasional wake from a boat. We decided to follow the shore and soon the dock at the park was just a distant speck. I felt like John Smith exploring the wild Virginia forest!

We turned around after half an hour, since we knew we would have to paddle back against the current. The crowds from that morning had dispersed, and we only saw one or two other paddleboarders and a few groups in paddleboats out on the water. Paddling was a little more strenuous on the way back, and at one point a flock of geese took off right near us (I hate geese and I prepared myself to take a defensive stance on my knees and fight them off with my paddle), but it was still pretty easy and relaxing. I felt like I didn’t have to work that hard to propel the paddleboard forward, although my steering skills left something to be desired—thank goodness there was no one to run into. Once we got back to the dock, we were pleasantly tired from paddleboarding and ready to get out of the sun.

Renting paddleboards at Pohick Bay Regional Park

What I Wore

The weather was perfect for paddleboarding—it was a beautiful cloudless day and the water sloshing over my feet kept me cool. Since there was every possibility I would fall in the river, I wore a swimsuit, with quick-drying athletic shorts since I knew I would be clambering on and off of the paddleboard (NOT the shorts I wore to the swimming hole the weekend before, which did not dry quickly), and a baseball cap and sunglasses to protect my face from the sun. I was definitely wishing I had a cute athletic swimsuit, with a sports-bra style top (I ordered one for our trip to the Azores!), but I had to make do with this American flag print bikini, which doesn’t have any weird straps or ruffle details that would be uncomfortable under a life jacket.

Paddleboarding at Pohick Bay Regional Park

This was such a fun Saturday excursion and a great way to get out in nature. I definitely want to go paddleboarding in Georgetown next summer so we can explore DC from the river!

Have you ever been paddleboarding? Do you prefer the ocean or a river/bay? Let me know in the comments!

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