(A fun day on the Inlet. Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Pedal Club)

By Dana Nichols

It’s hard to miss the lively turquoise and lime green paddle boat cruising Rudee Inlet: the vibe is energetic, music is playing, passengers are smiling or dancing — sometimes in matching outfits or costumes — and they’re bicycle-pedaling in order to human-power the large, brightly hued paddle wheel. On the Chesapeake Bay Pedal Club paddleboat, whether it’s rented for a private party or one of the regularly-scheduled public cruises, participants always find a friend, says Kalven Klovas, a retired Navy chief who co-owns the boat with his friend and active duty Navy chief Joe Maloney. Unlike being in a bar, passengers share the unique experience of an hour and 45 minute excursion on the water. “People end up having something in common, whether it’s music, or drinking, or just doing an outdoor activity,” says Klovas. Starting April 21, 2023, the boat will be back in Rudee Inlet five days a week for its third summer season of pedal-powered booze cruising.

Since 2021, the Chesapeake Bay Pedal Club, Hampton Roads’ only pedal cab boat, has introduced an active way to experience Virginia Beach. The 36-foot-long boat is popular with bachelorette parties, birthdays, engagements, office parties, brunch cruises, sunset cruises, and more. There’s a motor, so pedaling isn’t required. “Most parties pedal for fifteen or twenty minutes before they decide to just enjoy the ride,” says Klovas. “Some really motivated groups have pedaled the entire cruise.” Passengers almost always take turns pedaling, since the boat has 10 cycle stations with adjustable resistance levels, as well as space for 10 more to dance or lounge in the seating area up front. 

The cruise makes a loop, first exploring Lake Rudee, then going under the bridge and into Lake Wesley, cruising near Croatan Beach, and then going back toward the nature preserve area and aquarium. Sightings of bald eagles and osprey are common, and they’ve seen sea turtles, dolphins, and even a manatee. 

To participate in this bicycle-powered, BYOB and BYO-eats cruise, guests start by greeting their captain and first mate at the Owl’s Creek Boat Launch near the Virginia Beach Aquarium. They are welcome to bring their own drinks, snacks, and playlist. If it’s a brunch cruise, they might pick up a croissant platter from a local bakery and mimosa fixings. If it’s a sunset cruise, they might grab a charcuterie picnic basket and their favorite merlot. Some groups keep it simple and bring pizza and beer. 

Klovas and Maloney are themselves beer lovers who were inspired by trolley pubs, aka “bike bars,” in cities like Charlotte and Nashville. “We said, well, we’re familiar with boating, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a boat version of a trolley pub?” explains Klovas. “And once this pedal boat idea came about it was just full speed ahead.” The pair have been friends since 2011 when deployed together on the same team in Iraq. Once they had the idea, they found a boat-builder who could customize a paddleboat with bicycle seats, a bathroom, and their signature bright colors. They have built a loyal following in just three seasons thanks to word-of-mouth, and are looking forward to their best summer yet. “More people know about us. I feel like more people are getting out and interested in activities like this too,” says Klovas. Future plans might be to expand with another boat, or cover more area, or both.

Chesapeake Bay Pedal Club public cruises are scheduled five times daily on weekends through the spring, summer, and fall, starting with a brunch cruise at 11am, a lunch cruise at 1pm, and an afternoon cruise at 3 PM; evening sunset cruises are at 5:45 and 7:45pm (the actual time of the sunset, as we know, varies throughout the year). The two evening cruises will also be offered on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. $43 per person (taxes, fees, and gratuity not included); parties of 10 or more are encouraged to reserve a private cruise; private cruises are $700 for up to 20 people. Military and first responder discounts are available. Kids are allowed; keep in mind a height of 54 inches is required in order to reach the pedals; call for kids’ life jacket requirements and details. Owl’s Creek Boat Launch is located at 717 General Booth Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA 23451. 757-932-5390 or book online at www.cbpedalclub.com. Reservations are required.