Zach Schwitzky: The New Yorker who kayaks to work

03:27 - Source: CNN
Man commutes to work in Manhattan by kayak

Story highlights

New York entrepreneur kayaks to work from Hoboken, New Jersey to Manhattan

Commute takes 45 minutes and is "very peaceful," says Zach Schwitzky

CNN  — 

For many of us the morning commute can be a dreaded necessity, featuring gridlocked traffic and a troubling proximity to strangers.

But for Zach Schwitzky, it’s a blissful escape from the nonstop hustle of New York city life. In fact, it’s a moment he relishes each day, since the entrepreneur makes his trip into Manhattan via a rather unusual method – by kayak.

“There’s not a lot of places in New York City where you can truly be by yourself and not hear anything, not feel there’s people around,” Schwitzky told CNN.

“The mornings are beautiful, especially at this time of year. If I leave early enough it’s foggy and sort of looks like Gotham – you’ve got the sun rising and the city appearing through the fog. It’s the perfect way to start the day.”

Practical solution

Living in Hoboken, New Jersey, the other side of the Hudson river to Manhattan, Schwitzky kayaks across the water in around 20 minutes.

He arrives at Pier 66, West 26th street, where he stores his kayak at the Marina and walks the rest of the way to work – all in all, it’s a 45 minute commute.

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Until his business moved further across town, Schwitzky wheeled the canoe ten blocks there on a dolly – “I’d get some looks from people wondering what a guy was doing pulling a 12-foot boat through the streets of Manhattan.”

The idea came to Schwitzky and a friend after a late night wait at Port Authority’s bus terminal – the pair were fed up with their daily schlep by boat, bus or car to the office.

Now after four years commuting by kayak, it feels so logical to the New Jerseyan that other means of crossing the river “certainly don’t compare.”

“It doesn’t cost us anything, we can come and go as we please. The hours we keep it’s difficult to get work outs in, so this doubled as great exercise,” said Schwitzky, CEO of video analytics firm Limbik.

His friend has since moved to Florida, so as far as he knows he’s the only person to paddle to work in Manhattan.

“It’s great to be outdoors – we say half-jokingly it’s sort of New York City’s version of nature, peace and quiet. Then as sort of a cherry on top, there’s no carbon footprint.”

Carbon-free commute

Transportation is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases in the US, second only to the electricity sector.

Its impact is increasing – according to the Environmental Protection Agency, population growth and rising demand for travel have meant that transport emissions have gone up 17% since 1990.

But small changes as individuals can make a big difference collectively. A 2015 study by the Institute of Transport Development Policy found that if urban bicycle use reached the levels of cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, the sector’s CO2 emissions could be cut by 11% by 2050 – saving the global economy US$24 trillion.

Together with his enjoyment of getting out on the water, the environmental benefit was an added bonus to Schwitzky’s choice.

“When you have these big problems, they seem insurmountable and nobody wants to do anything because they think they can’t make a difference. But if everybody did a little bit, collectively that’s going to amount to a whole lot.”

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The canoe commuter insists the process is “really hassle-free,” and aside from getting pulled over late one evening by a confused NYPD boat, sirens wailing, he has never had any uncomfortable moments on the water.

“I’ve never tipped over, never come close. So I always feel very safe out there and obviously being the smallest out there you just stay out of everybody’s way.”

“Being out there, especially at night, is probably the best part about this whole thing. You don’t hear anything and besides the moon or the lights of the city it’s not bright, there’s nobody around, it’s very peaceful. It’s the best way to end the day.”