It goes without saying that the Virginia Middle Peninsula’s many water trails are filled with some of the most beautiful sounds of nature.
Birds. Lapping waves. Soft breezes.
On some days, it’s like escaping into a nature documentary.
That being said, there’s nothing like paddling with some tunes to keep you motivated, too.
Here’s 11 of the best songs to add to your playlist the next time you decide to explore some rural coastal Virginia waters.
No matter what your preferred musical genre, they’re awesome.
1: “Goin’ Up the Country” -Canned Heat
A classic of the counterculture era. A Woodstock staple, it came to represent leaving the society you knew and riding up the dirt roads and back trails of the country to see the real world. A bit of a hippie anthem, maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great way to start your trip.
2: “Society” -Eddie Vedder
Consider it a hippie anthem of the modern generation, “Society” deals with many of the same themes of the aforementioned Canned Heat cut. Written for the Into the Wild film based upon the book and true story of the same name, its softly strummed chords and simple melody make it song for introspection and escape from, you guessed it, society.
3: “Take a Walk” -Passion Pit
This is a fun one. One of the many hit songs from that blissful era of radio-friendly electro pop several years ago, “Take a Walk” simply oozes fun. Its electronic hook and pounding drumbeat make it the perfect motivator to paddle that extra mile. It’s sweet, sugary fun.
4: “Big River” -Johnny Cash
There had to be at least one Johnny Cash song on this list, right? While a number of great selections from the man in black could have gone here, too, but “Big River” took the cake. Cash’s classic “boom chicka boom” style is on full display here with loads of Johnny Cash-esque lyrics about big rivers, making it one of the best bits of country history to add to your paddling list.
5: “The Distance” -Cake
Seen in countless movies and commercials, this song is awesome. The opening verse laid over the thumping bass and eventual guitar riffs just exude cool. The shout-along chorus also is super fun to yell with your friends. A great motivator and all-around sick song, “The Distance” never fails to brighten moods, even on the rainiest of days on the water.
6: “The New Year” -Death Cab for Cutie
An anthemic piece of indie rock history, “The New Year” is the opening track of Death Cab’s masterwork album Transatlanticism. It’s a song about facing change and adapting to it, for good or for bad, a topic that most anyone can relate to. Paddling by its very nature can be very introspective and if you’re looking for that perfect indie gem to get you going, this is the one.
7: “Some Might Say” -Oasis
This Brit-pop gem, depending on how you look at it, is all about silver linings and looking on the bright side of things. The whole song has such a hopeful vibe that makes it impossible not to get into. Super load guitars, bright verses, and an instantly catchy hook all make it a really great bit of 90’s pop for your trek.
8: “Empire Ants” -Gorillaz
This is the kind of song that should be played loud and often. Sectioned almost like two songs, the first several minutes provide couple thoughtful verses over starry instrumentals until at the midway point of the song, it all explodes in an electronic breakdown and turns into something totally unexpected. It is gorgeous in every sense of the word, much like the views while paddling.
9: “Surf Wax America” -Weezer
Paddling isn’t that different from surfing, right? This deep cut from Weezer’s Blue Album sounds like summer. With a little bit of surf rock guitar and then smashing power chords, “Surf Wax America” is a love letter to “the simple life.” Taking your board (or paddleboard!!) to work and living life without a care in the world. It’s cheesy 90s rock fun.
10: “This is It” -Kenny Loggins
Yacht rock is awesome. Often confused with dad rock, yacht rock is all about maxing and relaxing, beverage in hand, preferably on a large boat cruising down the river at exorbitant speeds. If you really think about it, the same principles can be applied here. You know, riding the local creeks, paddling your heart out, water bottle in your lap.
11: “Surf Rider” -The Lively Ones
Regardless of whether you remember this one from the end of Pulp Fiction or just because it’s an awesome surf rock classic, this one you just gotta have. That guitar lick washed out in reverb is just so good. It’s funny how some of the simplest music with the least amount of complicated effects can be the most powerful. Plus, as said earlier, surfing can evoke much of the same feelings as paddling.