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Try a new outdoor sport

Many of us are set in our ways, so taking up a new sport may seem a daunting prospect. But summer is an ideal time to get outside, get active and try something new, all while seeing the beauty that Buffalo has to offer.

Fortunately, getting involved in a new activity doesn’t mean you have to put your body through the physical stress of a high-intensity sport like soccer, or the financial stress of costly equipment like hockey. So if you’ve been curious: yes, there is a new sport for you, regardless of your age, walk of life or interests.

Give fly fishing a try

It’s likely you’ve seen someone fly fishing, as they stood knee- or waist-deep in the water, casting a line. For many, it’s the definition of tranquility. Fly fishing differs from more traditional fishing mainly due to the technique and the bait. Mastering the cast and learning to tie flies is all part of the process.

“Fly fishing is extremely active and gives you a reason to be outside,” said Adam Schroeder, store manager for Orvis at the Eastern Hills Mall. “It’s something you can do whether you’re 10 years old or 90 years old. It’s ever-evolving and incredibly fun.”

Western New York is also a great region for it.

“We want to show people that within a 40-minute drive, we have one of the best freshwater fisheries in the world,” Schroeder said. “We’re really well-known for our steelhead and salmon. Thousands of anglers journey here from all across the country and world to vacation and fish in our backyard.”

Fly fishing is also a great way to de-stress, said Drew Nisbet, fishing manager at Orvis.

“One of the most relaxing parts is standing there, allowing the water to rush past you,” Nisbet said. “It’s almost a metaphor, the water washing away anxiety. It’s a very cleansing activity.”

And it’s an activity that has an “ever-growing community,” Schroeder said. The Orvis store offers free fly fishing courses to help ease people into the sport, and Schroeder said between 200 and 400 people participate each year, many of whom stick with it.

The cost to start fly fishing is relatively low. Nisbet said a few hundred dollars covers all the basic equipment. After learning the basics and getting the gear, new fly fishers could become more involved by joining one of the local chapters of two international fly fishing groups, the Federation of Fly Fishers or Trout Unlimited. Both organizations have minimal membership fees.

For more information, visit the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation or Orvis’ online learning portal.

“I’ve been fly fishing for 22 years and I still feel like there’s so much to explore, and it’s exciting,” said Schroeder.

Yoga on the water, anyone?

In recent years, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) has taken off in popularity. And Western New York’s many waterways and rental spots give access to everyone, from newbies to experts.
Nancy Maisano, owner of Longboards Paddle Co. (multiple locations in WNY), said her company has the biggest fleet of kayaks and paddleboards in the area at its several locations.

“It’s a really fun community and paddleboarding has a very cool factor attached to it,” Maisano said. “And yet, it’s super accessible. It’s something almost anyone can do. Are you going to fall in the water? Yeah. But it’s very playful and fun, and most people who try the first time are very surprised at how sturdy they are. You can actually get up there and feel like you’re very grounded on the water.”

Paddleboard activities attract everyone from enthusiasts to companies looking for corporate team building. While some people buy their own paddleboards, the majority of customers opt to rent equipment. Renting is also a great way to test out the sport.

An ancillary to paddleboarding is SUP yoga, and Maisano says it’s her company’s biggest draw.

“It’s very relaxing,” she said. “It’s really about getting comfortable on the board and comfortable with your body. And it’s just so gorgeous at the Outer Harbor with the sun setting and when the silos are lit up, and you think, ‘Am I really in Buffalo?’ You can take a vacation in your own backyard. It’s an incredible experience. Everybody comes off the water friends.”

Find more information at Longboardsbeach.com.

See the city on a bike

If water’s not your thing, then stay on solid ground and get around on two wheels. Biking is a low-impact sport that’s also accessible to everyone. GObike Buffalo is a local advocacy group that champions bicycling, and according to Thea Hassan, communication director, Buffalo is great for biking.

“Biking is the new golf; it’s super trendy,” Hassan said. “Buffalo in general is a good place to bike. It’s incredibly flat and we have pretty good weather for the majority of the year. Anyone of any ability can ride a bike.”

If biking solo isn’t your thing, Hassan said there are plenty of options.

“There’s basically a (group) ride every single day of the week throughout the biking season. Group rides can have anywhere between 10 and a couple thousand people. It’s not only for recreation and exercise, but also to connect with the community. It’s a way to get out and learn about our city, and to exercise.”

One such opportunity is Slow Roll Buffalo, part of GObike’s annual programming. Every Monday from May through October, a couple thousand people get together and ride through the city at a slow pace.

“It’s a great way to learn how to ride with a group,” Hassan said. “We have riders from as young as 8 to 98 years old. It really is for everybody.”

You can rent or buy a bike to get started. Purchase price ranges from a few hundred dollars (or less, if you buy used) to thousands of dollars, depending on what you’re looking for. Bikers should also purchase a helmet, lock and patch kit for flat tires.

Hassan said the City of Buffalo is undergoing a plan to have 300 miles of bike lanes by 2030.

“It’s changing the tapestry of the entire city,” she said. “Research shows riding a bike is a great way to move your body and it’s a great way to really experience Buffalo and the world in general.”

To find routes, Hassan recommends the Google Maps app or Gobikebuffalo.org.

Run (or walk) a 5K

Hundreds of 5Ks are available to run every year, and unlike a half or full marathon, they’re do-able by runners of every level. Some 5K races are even open to walkers and those pushing strollers.
You can find a 5K in the WNY area almost every day of the summer; many benefit local charities and/or incorporate fun themes (the Mustache March, Superhero Race or Gay 5K, for example).

A comprehensive list of 5K races is available at BuffaloRunners.com. Here are a few upcoming notables:

Insane Inflatable 5K – Saturday, July 15; Knox Farm State Park, Aurora. This 5K is a little different. Participants run, but they also climb, slide and bounce their way through huge inflatable obstacles.

Dirty Girl Mud Run – Saturday, July 15; Area 51 Motocross, Batavia. This race is exactly what it sounds like: a ladies-only run where the participants get more than a little dirty as they conquer the muddy obstacles.

Buffalo Zombie Mud Run – Saturday, Sept. 16; The Great Pumpkin Farm, Clarence. Ah, zombies. Who doesn’t love them? In this race, participants will do the usual – get through a 5K race and several obstacles – all while navigating zombie-infested terrain. Note: Some of the zombies chase you. Have fun!

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