Whether you’re new to paddling or a local, Ladybird Lake in Austin, Texas is the place to be! From awesome paddling destinations to lake parties, it has it all. From the difference between boats to what to wear, here is your complete guide to stand-up paddleboarding in Austin!
Canoe, Kayak, or Paddleboard?
At the Texas Rowing Center, we have three different rental options: canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs). All are great options but are suited for different occasions, so here is how to pick which to rent!
Canoes come in one size and fit up to three adults or two adults and two children. Canoes sit the highest off the water, are the most stable, and stay driest. They are also the best option for small children as they can sit in the bottom of the boat protected from the water. Each paddler has a one-sided oar. With two paddlers you can each row one side, or alternate back and forth between the two. Canoes are perfect for families, beginners, or people who want to enjoy the water without getting too wet!
Kayaks are available for one or two people and are the option in between paddle boards and canoes. Kayak paddles are two-sided allowing you to go back and forth between left and right paddling. If you are in a double kayak, practice syncing up your paddle timing with your partner to make the boat the smoothest. Kayaks are closer to the water than canoes so prepare to get wet! If you have belongings you want to keep dry, we recommend leaving them on land. However, if you have items you don’t mind getting wet, there is space on the back of the kayak to store belongings such as clothing, shoes, fishing equipment, or a cooler. Overall, kayaks are typically faster and more stable than paddleboards. They are perfect for beginners and experienced paddlers alike and can accommodate various activities including fishing!
3. Stand-Up Paddleboards
Paddleboards are the most popular option and a staple on Ladybird Lake! Paddleboards have a bungee that can hold a small number of items such as shoes and cover-ups. These are the closest boats to the water, so prepare to get wet! You can typically fit one adult and a small child or dog on one board. Paddles are adjustable and a Texas Rowing Employee will help ensure it’s the perfect size for your height. To start, most beginners prefer to paddle sitting down or on their knees but are standing in no time! Once you park your paddleboard you can lie down and relax or sit down on your board. Overall, stand-up paddleboards are perfect for people who want to be right on the water and have the option to stand, lay down, or even do yoga!
What to Wear
When you are paddling, prepare to get wet! People wear a variety of things on the lake, but the most popular are swimsuits and other athletic clothing. You want to be comfortable and able to move as paddling can be a workout! Canoes and kayaks have the most room to store extra clothes and shoes, and paddleboards have limited room. If you don’t want your items getting wet, we recommend leaving them in your car or at the picnic tables at the dock.
What to Bring?
Texas Rowing Center provides life jackets and paddles. We also have communal sunscreen and a vending machine with water and Gatorade. To make your paddling experience the best possible, here are a few things we recommended bringing:
Even on cloudy days, the lake gets sunny! We also have communal sunscreen if you forget.
Protect your eyes with a pair of sunglasses! However, be prepared for the possibility of losing them in the water and leave your nicest pair at home.
We recommend bringing a cover-up if you want to protect yourself from the sun while on the lake. We also have Texas Rowing Center tank tops available for purchase!
4. Water bottle
If there’s one thing we know about Texas, it’s HOT! Reusable water bottles can be refilled at our water stations, and plastic bottles can be purchased in our vending machines.
5. Dry Bags
If you plan on bringing your phone or camera on the water, be sure to bring a dry bag to keep it protected. We also have Texas Rowing Center dry bags available for purchase at the front desk!
6. Life Jacket
Texas law requires children under the age of 14 to wear a life vest at all times when paddling in Austin. If you are over the age of 14 you are required to bring a life vest on board, but wearing it is optional. We strongly recommend wearing your life vest if you are not a strong swimmer. Life vests are provided to all customers as part of your rental and we also have child and doggy life vests!
7. Other popular items: waterproof speakers, coolers, and snacks!
Before You Arrive
All our boards are served on a first-come, first-served basis so there’s no need to make a reservation! To speed up the check-in process, print and fill out our waiver ahead of time. No printer? No problem – we also provide waivers at the dock.
Where to Paddle
Whether you want to travel a shorter distance or are up for a longer journey, there are a few popular paddle destinations right around our dock!
1. Redbud Island
Redbud island is located about 2500 meters west of our dock. On your paddle there you will enjoy views of homes on the south shore, the University of Texas Women’s Rowing boathouse, and a rope swing. People often walk around the small island with their dogs and enjoy the view. This area of Ladybird Lake is relatively calmer but takes longer to get to, so is perfect for kayakers or more experienced paddlers looking to enjoy nature.
2. Party Island
Party Island is located about 500 meters east of our dock. This “island” is where up to hundreds of paddlers will congregate on the lake to park their boards for hours and socialize with other paddlers. There is even sometimes music performed by a live DJ during the summertime! The water here is much shallower so you can stand up and walk around. As it is relatively close to our dock it is the perfect place for all paddlers to travel to. It is the ideal destination for social paddlers looking for a party!
3. Barkin’ Springs
If you go south of Party Island about 750 meters, you will come to the free side of Barton Springs, coined Barkin’ Springs due to the large presence of dogs. On your way there you can enjoy lots of nature including many turtles. If you are up for a longer paddle, this location is a must-visit!
4. The Stevie Ray Vaughan Statue
This statue of a famous Austin musician is located about 1800 meters east of our dock. Located right in front of the Long Center lawn, you will see many Austinites along the shore sunbathing and playing with their dogs. On your way here you will pass Party Island and the Graffiti bridge, the perfect backdrop for a paddling pic!
What to do with your belongings
All paddlers will be provided with a small plastic box that is perfect for storing keys, phones, wallets, or other small items. These boxes will be stored behind the front desk and monitored by employees. Larger bags can also be stored behind the front desk. Any clothing or shoes you don’t want to bring on the water can be left on the picnic tables on the dock. We recommended leaving all valuables locked in your car while you paddle.
Canoes have the most room to bring clothes, shoes, coolers, etc. on the water. Kayaks have a smaller area in the back that can typically fit a single small cooler, a few articles of clothing, or shoes. Stand-up paddleboards have a small area at the front and a bungee cord that hold belongings on your board.
How to Rent
No reservations are necessary to rent a stand-up paddleboard (SUP), kayak, or canoe at the Texas Rowing Center. We operate on a first-come, first-served basis. With our fleet of over 500 boats, we have the shortest wait times on the water during peak times. We accept cash, checks, and all major credit cards.
Kids and Dogs
Dogs under 50 lbs are welcome to come with you on your SUP! To read the latest on the Lady Bird Lake water safety for your pets, visit https://www.austintexas.gov/page/algae. Kids of all ages are allowed on stand-up paddleboards or in kayaks and canoes when accompanied by an adult. Kids ages 8-15 are allowed on their own SUP if a parent is with them. Kids ages 16 and older can rent their own paddleboard, kayak, or canoe. We have both doggy and child life vests available.
To park at the Texas Rowing Center, there are spots located on the street behind us (Stephen F. Austin Drive). This street is metered from 8:30am to 6:00pm during weekdays. Parking here is free on weekends and holidays! If parking on this street is full, there is additional parking in the lot under Mopac Bridge (about a 5-minute walk west of the Texas Rowing Center). During weekends you can also park at the Austin High School parking lot across the street!
We can’t wait to see you down at the dock and are here to make sure you have the best experience possible. Have additional questions? Drop a comment below or message us on Instagram at @texasrowingcenter!