Canoe – Urban Sport of the Week

Each week a member of the USC team tries out a new sport in our offering so you know exactly what to expect. Up this week a full tour of Hamburg… By canoe.  

What is canoeing?

Canoeing has been around for thousands of years and recently became a popular recreational sport because it’s fun, social, a great mood booster and good exercise.  

What can you expect?


Zur Gondel is located in the heart of Hamburg’s Winterhude district. Zur Gondel is also a restaurant – I recommend stocking up on energy here before embarking on your canoe adventure.

The process at Zur Gondel is very simple. We checked in at the reception desk and were led on to the jetty and helped into a canoe. We were handed a map that showed us which parts of the river we could canoe on. At this point some map-reading skills would have come in handy. We picked our route without knowing quite how long it would take us…

How was the workout?


After unwittingly deciding to canoe the entire circumference of Hamburg, we set off on our voyage. At first we found it impossible to canoe in a straight line and kept zig-zagging the width of the river. Fellow canoers took pity on us and suggested we switch positions. After some elegant manoeuvring from Fritzi (see image) we found it easier to paddle. We also found that if we paddled simultaneously we were more likely to go in a straight line.

This helped, and although we didn’t stop zig-zagging completely we instead created a gentle S shape up the river which was much more time-efficient.

Because of these teething problems it took us longer than expected to complete the first quarter of our lap of Hamburg. It was only after we’d canoed for 30 minutes that we realised that our lap of Hamburg would take us 3 – 4 hours instead of the optimistic 2 ours we’d estimated.

Despite the growing realisation that we may have to stay on this canoe forever, it was wonderful paddling down the river. Our voyage took us through tall reeds and lily pads, then amongst green spaces and woods.

After an hour Fritzi found a short cut for us through a narrow canal. This took us through the city of Hamburg itself. We canoed past restaurants and office buildings and a coffee shop where canoes could pull up, hold on to a piece of rope and order a coffee through the window. Genius.

It was a lovely way to see the city of Hamburg. Finally after two hours of canoeing we saw the decking of Zur Gondel in the distance and zig-zagged our way back, genuinely exhausted and quite relieved to be on dry land.    

How did I feel after?

Genuinely exhausted – canoeing is a real workout for your upper arms and shoulders. I also felt very energised; spending time out in the fresh air is a fantastic mood booster. My arms were sore the next day from all the paddling and map-holding.  

Benefits of Canoeing

It’s difficult to be in a bad mood when you’re out on the water in the fresh air It’s a great arm workout – you can burn around 300 calories per hour of canoeing.

It’s very social – many canoe clubs have events and it’s a great way to spend time with a friends.  

Don’t forget to bring…

Some experience of map-reading, water and snacks in case you decide to do a lap of Hamburg.

We canoed in our every day clothes and didn’t need swimwear. Life jackets are provided and are optional.  

Urban Sports Club has several canoe and kayak partners in Germany. Have a look at our website to see what’s on in your area.

And check out Zur Gondel’s website for all their latest news, workshops and events.


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