We polled local experts for their favorite ways to dive into the city's baby blues. Here are five great ways to take the plunge.
The quickest way to enjoy Chattanooga's waterways is to jump in with both feet, literally. With its long season and easy access, it's easy to open water swim in Chattanooga, says McCallie School Aquatics Director Stan Corcoran. But the Tennessee River's swift currents can deliver you miles from your launch point. Be smart, says Corcoran. Build up to swimming a mile with ease. Swim with a group, wear a bright cap, bring along boat support and head out during early morning hours, when traffic is light. "It's fun for a couple to go out together - one on a kayak and one in the water - they can support each other, then switch out."
The coastal stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) craze has moved inland. A cross between surfing and Venetian gondola poling, this new sport is fun, affordable and "an awesome workout for the core," says Jessica Ewart, a SUP yoga instructor. Two rental and sales shops have done brisk business this summer and paddleboard yoga classes at Big Ridge Marina - where you paddle out to the river for floating downward dog - regularly sell out.
From sit-on-top kayaks to dragon boat races, the city offers at least a dozen ways to paddle and play. Beginners can launch their inaugural expedition on an Outdoor Chattanooga downtown kayak cruise. "It's very relaxing," says Sandy James, a 55-year-old worker's comp analyst for US Express. "And it's not so challenging that I couldn't keep up." Chattanooga Nature Center in Lookout Valley offers canoe rentals, and Lookout Mountain Rowing Club offers lessons through July 30. Located next to the Boathouse Restaurant on Amnicola Highway, the club's $200 course fee includes a first- year membership.
A new boat may not be as far off as you imagined. A new boat at Erwin Marine starts at about $200 per month, with a 12-year purchase plan, says Deal. Lakeshore or Harbor Lights marinas rent runabouts and pontoons for $250 to $300 per day. Before buying, consider your favorite uses and the size of the crowd you'll be bringing. A Coast Guard Auxiliary boating safety course is recommended.
A sea turtle compared to the motorboat's rabbit fish, these lumbering rafts serve as diving platform, noodle-battle proving ground and floating sunset café. Basics include a wraparound safety rail, comfy waterproof benches, Bimini-top, boat ladder and life vests. Marinas and classified sections are often good sources for used boats, suggests SunTracker Party Hut owner Gina Lewis, a Chattanooga nurse. Optional extras include refrigerators and built-in toilets.