Learn about Texas’ paddling trails at this book signing with Bob Spain

Bob Spain a canoe along the Luling Zedler Mill Paddling Trail, a 6-mile stretch of the San Marcos River from the U.S. Hwy 90 crossing to the Zedler Mill. File photo by Kelly West/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

It’s tougher than you think to paddle a canoe in a straight line.

I know, because I’ve been trying to perfect the skill (sporadically) for a few months now, with the help of a few friends who are experts. Among them? Bob Spain, a local paddler and paddling instructor who will unveil his new book, “Bob Spain’s Canoeing Guide and Favorite Texas Paddling Trails” (Texas A&M University Press, $26.95) at an event at REI’s downtown location this Thursday.

The book, oriented toward recreational paddlers like me and thoughtfully printed on waterproof paper in case you and the book take an unexpected dip, includes a quick history of paddling and its importance in the fur trade, plus information about different types of boats, tips on how to paddle and illustrations of different strokes. A good chunk is devoted to paddling trails around the state, and it wraps up with a few words on conservation and environmental threats to our rivers and streams.

Of particular interest to me? A section on paddling in a straight line, something Bob’s wife, Joy Emshoff, has been working on with me.

“The main emphasis was to let people know about the paddle trails, but you really need to know more about canoeing before you go out there,” Spain says.

Spain, a certified canoeing instructor, started paddling when he came to Austin around 1980. He says he loves the quiet, stealthy ride a canoe provides, which lets him observe wildlife he otherwise wouldn’t get to see.

“It’s just a way of life to me,” he says.

Spain will speak at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Austin Downtown REI, 601 North Lamar Boulevard. Registration is limited. At 7 p.m., he will sign copies of the book. Registration is not required for the signing and anyone may attend. Both events are free.