Relax, have fun and enjoy the water this summer with a wide variety of activities.

A lake is a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature, wrote Henry David Thoreau in Walden. “It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”

As summer approaches, revelers and hobbyists alike are beginning to dream about heading to the lake. There’s something magical about water in general, and lakes somehow personify relaxation. When you’re on a lake, life is good.

While Thoreau was perfectly content to gaze at his lake of choice, Walden Pond, lakes are also a great place to get in some outdoor recreation when the heat is on. Popular activities include both motorized sports, such as waterskiing and jet skiing, and non-motorized sports, like canoeing and pedal boating.

Here are a few activities to consider when heading to the lake:

Kayaking

Sit-on-top kayaks are good if you want a casual ride where you can easily jump in and out. If you’re planning to cover some serious distance, a traditional sea kayak will be more satisfying. New to kayaking? You may want to take a lesson. It will speed up the time in which it takes to become proficient. If your strokes are inefficient, you’ll make yourself more tired than you need to be. Knowing how to properly sit in the kayak can be the difference between having lower back pain and being pain-free.

Standup paddle boarding

This sport has become immensely popular in recent years, taking off around 2010. It’s a great core workout, as you have to balance on the board and propel yourself. It’s also easy for a beginner to pick up. You can go out on a calm lake and never really get wet if you choose not to.

Wakesurfing

A relatively new sport, wakesurfing involves surfing on a short board behind a boat that’s constantly making a wave. It’s slower than water-skiing. Only certain types of boats can be safely used for wakesurfing, so do your research before trying this activity.

Jet skiing

Jet skis are popular but controversial. If this is your watercraft of choice, be sensitive to rules and distance from the shore, and always be careful about human-powered watercraft and how close you get to them.

No matter what sport you choose, you need to know something about the lake you’re visiting. Some lakes can have weather changes and be dangerous, with waves picking up in a short amount of time.

To learn more about a particular lake, look for a guided tour. This can give you some insight into any wildlife you see, along with the history of the area. Learning more about the culture and geology of the lake might enhance your appreciation even more.

Remember that as there are more and more demands on our natural resources, including lakes, many places are crowded. Different people are out there for different reasons. If you’re zipping around in a speed boat, it might not be the most courteous thing for the guy who’s trying to watch waterfowl from his kayak. Just be mindful of your surroundings and respectful of everyone else out on the water.

Above all, don’t forget to enjoy the majesty that is the lake. After all, it’s a landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.

Peter Grubb is the founder
 of ROW Adventures, based
in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, that operates in four states and more than 20 countries. Travel + Leisure magazine readers named ROW Adventures the Top Tour Operator in the world in 2012, and the company has also received accolades from National Geographic Traveler, Outside and many others.