In A City Of Car-Bound Commuters, This Austin Man Uses A Kayak To Get To Work

Jun 8, 2017

Every morning hundreds of thousands of people traverse Austin's congested roads to get to work. Most of them have probably thought: There’s got to be a better way.

This is the story of one man who found it.

Jason Dzubinski, the chief operating officer of Westlake Dermatology in West Lake Hills, lives on the north side of Lake Austin. “As the crow flies, where I work is actually really close,” he says early one morning standing by the lake’s edge before he begins his commute. 

There’s just one problem: His work is across the water.  For years, Dzubinski drove.

Credit Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

With traffic, he says, it took about an hour to reach a place that was only a few miles away. Then it took another hour to get home.

“For a long time, I was thinking about how I could overcome that,” he says. “I considered swimming, but the lake kind of smells.”

Then, six months ago, he bought an inflatable kayak.

Now, two days a week at around 7:30 a.m., he walks to a park near his home, inflates the kayak and puts it in the water.

“There’s a certain amount of peacefulness in the morning,” he says, “when the water is like glass and you can hear the birds.”

He rows to the other side of the lake in about 10 minutes, deflates the kayak and stuffs it in his backpack. Then he begins a long hike through some of the city’s most desirable lakeside neighborhoods, clad in a rash guard shirt, a wide-brimmed hat and black compression socks.

There are no sidewalks, so he sticks to the shoulder of the road, passing well-tended lawns, the occasional dog and a few people who wave or stare quizzically.

Dzubinski says his commute has struck a chord with people.

Credit Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

“I'll [usually] post something on Facebook and maybe I’ll get like nine or 10 likes," he says. "But whenever I post about my commute ... it really spikes [to] 40 or 50 people.”

“I think there’s something universal about our hatred of traffic,” he adds.

Credit Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Since beginning this routine, Dzubinksi says he’s gotten in better shape, become more relaxed and had more energy for his two kids when he gets home from work.

Before you go out and buy your own kayak, there are a few things to consider. For one, Dzubinksi has a job that lets him wash and change his clothes when he gets there. Also, he hasn’t tried this in the summer. But he seems ready to.

Sometimes he puts on headphones and listens to Bob Dylan and Neil Young while he hikes.

When asked if any song resonates especially with his commute, he says Young's "Heart of Gold."

"Because it’s about searching and, I think, ultimately that’s what this commute is – searching to find peace.”

Credit Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

As he gains elevation on his uphill hike toward the office, the houses become fancier.

Near the top of the hill, neighborhood streets give way to houses that could almost be called estates.

“I kind of like walking through this neighborhood and dreaming about one day owning a house like this many decades down the line,” Dzubinski says. “It’s good to have goals.”

Eventually, the sound of fast-moving cars becomes audible. Dzubinski nears the road he would be on if he were driving.

Credit Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

He races across the street and into his office parking lot an hour and a half after his trip started. That's 30 minutes longer than it would have taken by car, but, he says, he's better prepared to start the day.

When he started doing this a lot of his colleague thought he was crazy, he says. “But I don’t think it’s any more crazy than sitting in a car for two hours a day.” 

Credit Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT