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Inside the new REI Boathouse in Bellevue

Lake Washington is the perfect summertime playground, an ideal spot to relax or have some fun on the water. Now, exploring this Pacific Northwest gem is easier than ever, thanks to the new REI Boathouse at Meydenbauer Bay Park in Bellevue's Meydenbauer Bay.

"REI wanted to have a spot where we could really provide an experience with a low barrier for entry, making it easy for people," explained Erica Elder, Activities Manager for the REI Boathouse. "They can walk in. They can show up not even knowing they want to go on the water that day and they can make it happen. You don't have to have any special gear, you just have to have a willingness to maybe get a little bit wet and have a good time."

In addition to the Meydenbauer Bay location, there's an REI Boathouse at Enatai Beach Park. Both offer stand-up paddle board, canoe and kayak rentals alaong with classes and other outings.

"At Meydenbauer we focus on stand-up paddle boarding because we're in a protected bay. At Enatai we use kayaks and do tours of the Mercer Slough. We'll do sunset and sunrise tours there as well," said Elder.

With it's calm waters, Meydenbauer Bay is the perfect spot to enjoy a little sunshine or take in the sights.

"Bird watching here is fantastic. There's herons around, eagles, osprey, some of those pieces of nature that really do still exist right here, even though were in the heart of a number of residential areas," explained Elder. "That's another fun thing. You can see home of the homes along the water and kind of pick and choose which one you want to have for your future house."

If you prefer peddling to paddling, the REI Boathouse has just the ride for you. They've got peddle-powered Hobie kayaks and stand-up paddle boards available for rent.

"You essentially going to be on a StairMaster on the water...it's the fastest thing we have here to rent," Elder told me.

Of course, I had to try the Hobie SUP for myself. After grabbing a life jacket and getting a brief tutorial from Erica I was out on the water cruising around like a pro. The Hobie is more stable than a typical stand-up paddle board, but here's a word to the wise, if you're planning on taking a ride on this thing, make sure you wear a swimsuit. As I found out firsthand, there's always a chance you make take a swim, whether you want to or not. But hey, taking an unplanned dip in the lake is a refreshing way to end a day at Meydenbauer Bay.




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