Aging gracefully behind the paddle, your thoughts?

Aging gracefully behind the paddle. I was on a hike in the North Cascades in early November and had a conversation with a fellow 62-year-old. We were discussing aging gracefully and how our minds thought we were more physically capable than our bodies actually were in reality. We were acknowledging that we needed to shift our heads to meet our current physical realities. I have spent many years behind the paddle. I started back in 1971 when my Dad and I built our first skin on frame sea kayak. It has been a lifelong passion for me and taken me to the furthest reaches of the wilderness and built friendships that are deep and strong. I am wondering if anyone out there in the digital universe is thinking about the same things and what brilliant insights have you come up with?

Paddle-on Lads


Sorry I can’t be of help to you. I gave up on aging gracefully as lost cause a number of years ago.

I agree with being physically much less capable than I was years ago. But I strongly suspect that I was physically less capable than I remember being even back then.


There was a ten year period in my life that I didn’t paddle much. Weekends were spent at the soccer field with the kids or sitting in the parking lot waiting for a child to get out of basketball practice. I still paddled but just a few days a year- a father’s day family float (upper new river) on the raft or the stars would align and I would take one of the kids out in the canoe on the bluestone or greenbrier river with the spouse shuttling. I refer to that time period as “my dark years” of paddling because I only got out occasionally.

When the kids became more independent, my income also increased and I had more leisure time. So it was only natural I wanted to paddle more. I was ten years older, hadn’t kept an active life style up and was beginning to feel some of the aches and pains from earlier outdoor activities. I knew I couldn’t physically do what I once did.

I made peace with that, by thinking about what I liked about paddlesports. I like how paddling makes me feel and the connection it provides to the natural world. I don’t have to keep up with my younger self to enjoy paddling. My current mantra is simple, “Do as much as you want, for as long as you can”.

So now I am far more likely to be on a class II-III river, rather than a class IV-V stream. Physically I can no longer c1 (kneeling) but still enjoying kayaking. We have an expression, “It’s all good.”

Rather than climbing the ladder of difficulty, I’m gracefully sliding down with style. Perhaps mentoring a few others who are on their way up. I don’t pine for the glory years, right now is a really good time too. Just different than when I was younger.


At 68, my paddling has to do with fitness. I have always been a fast paddler and do as much distance as I have time for. Most of my paddling is solo and I am a poor group paddler, I won’t wait for anyone.


Somewhat like Pete, although NOWHERE near the paddler, I’ve abandoned my efforts in having lovely Grace come abide with me in my canoe -

To do honor or credit
by one’s own precense
in elegant refinement
before obsolescence

behind my warped paddle
and rock-bent old poles
is line I still seek in fathom
in both these scarred-up old hulls


Brilliant insights? I wasn’t paying attention that day and missed the queue for those.
“Paddling” is a really different connotation in my vernacular than it was was even three years ago.
Over last 20 years I paddled enough for leisure fitness and competency that I had stamina and could crank out epic paddle trips humping through the wilderness or cruise paddle the islands for a few days. I could keep up with anyone, but always: preferred to be solo on trips, everything else, building boats, paddles etc. was a means to that solo end.

I last paddle Nov7. It had been 372 days between paddles. It was a few hours of EPIC (which has taken on a different connotation) At 67 I won’t deny there was physical strength decline but I was shooting for
making sure I could still get in the dry suit(room to spare).

Life is Epic indeed I was all ready full time caregiver for my ALZ afflicted spouse and then All of US got 2020’d. This was my first year of being retired x2 as well. That meant EPIC plans. Something else got planned. Glad I was still punk dancing while I was making plans. I can still dance.


I have learned that our egos don’t whither as fast as our bodies do over time, and that can get you injured or worse.
When I was young and (more) foolish, and old age seemed far away, I had thought that I would age gracefully. …But now that I’m over 60 I’m clawing, scratching and fighting as hard as I can to slow the inevitable decline.

That said, it’s our mortality that gives such great meaning to our efforts. I can’t imagine anything more boring than being immortal (everything would be “been there, done that” x infinity) :slight_smile: .

Greg Stamer


With this topic in mind; I love this Hunter S.Thompson quote:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”


Or, as Neil Young sang “It’s better to burn out than to rust out”. Similarly, Kevin Callan has a line in a video saying “I’d rather be the old guy on the porch saying ‘I remember when …’ rather than ‘I wish I had’”.

In my case I’ve been blessed with good health. As of today at 70 everything still works. In some cases better than 10 years ago due to stretching and walking. I’m still able to kneel when I want to in a canoe and I can sit in a kayak for hours now. 5 years ago I’d be hurting in the kayak after 30 - 40 minutes.

Old, well somewhere around 40 years ago it occurred to me that old was about 20 years older than I happened to be at the time (self-centered … yep). That has fit pretty well until recently. I’m trying to hang on to that but may have to dial it back to only 15 years older.

I figure that I’ll keep on keeping on till I can’t.


No deep thoughts from this 65 year old. I’ve been paddling since college. Back in the day I had time but no money. During my career I had money but no time. Now I’m retired and have both, and for now I still have my health.

When I retired I dropped my weight back to college level (my biggest retirement project) and now I bike and paddle more than ever. Watching my parents’ generation grow old I decided that I didn’t want to get COPD and die of congestive heart failure. I could die tomorrow of a stroke but not that.

I look fit, feel fit, and although things will wear out and I need a nap after a 25-mile paddle, I intend to stay active so that I can stay active. If there is a better approach to getting old I’d love to hear about it.


Just passed 72. My lower body is a genetic wreck. Thanks Dad. I ran and hiked as often as I could , as far as I could.
Switched to paddling as the legs worsened. I still walk but not without mechanical help.
My favorite kayak has been a Tarpon 160 which has been perfect for the rivers, lakes, and some salt. I’ve now decided I need a lighter, faster SOT to keep up with my younger friends, and they all are. It is supposed to arrive this week.
And on it goes. Last week I didn’t have time to paddle so I went to a local park and enjoyed watching younger people walk, run, and play with their dogs and kids.


We are supposed to have more limitations now? I must have missed that. I’m 64 years young and paddle almost every weekend. Working on getting back into racing shape and I admit it is a little harder now than 20 years ago, but that was a medical thing that nicked a nerve and blew out my rhythm.

I also climbed back on a bicycle eight or so months ago. Love going as fast as I can on it.

I’ll let you know about slowing down in twenty or thirty years.


I turn 80 next week. I still walk, hike, and paddle in the warm months; then alpine and Nordic ski when the months cool down. Everything I do is slower, but still enjoyable. Luckily I can’t remember how to count higher than 80, so I’ll be stuck at 80 from now on.


No brilliant insight here. I seem to be aligned with Kevburg. I spent time in a hospital with lower back problems at 48, but now in my 60’s I have time to exercise and am in better shape overall but with some signs of wear and tear. I got my lifeguard certification last year and did monthly exams alongside two stars from the high school swim team. Those guys must have gills and passed me twice in 400 yards. The young ladies on the swim team also seemed to enjoy kicking my ass in the pool but that doesn’t bother me. I actually got some complements from “the kids” and it all motivated me to keep training. I’m happy to be able to make modest improvements over time. I really enjoy interacting with folks of all ages at the YMCA and hope we return to a normal society soon.


Here’s what I’ve learned: Don’t start thinking “I’m getting older so I must be getting weaker”. I bicycle (on the road) with an 83 year old superfreak who outruns folks half his age. I’m doing pretty good, myself, at 65 years old. I bike about 500 miles a month but I can’t go as fast as the superfreak when he wants to go fast.


At best we are postponing the inevitable. Years ago it dawned on me that as time passed I needed to do more and more to stay in shape while being less and less capable of doing more. If you graph that out, one line for need and one for capability, the lines will eventually cross and that is the point at which the big decline starts. At 78 my lines crossed a number of years ago and I now find myself refusing to give up but declining nevertheless. The grace that I find comes from enjoying the quiet pleasures of paddling rather than the exciting ones that I used to seek. Toward this end it is now my habit to paddle around a small pond behind my house right after dawn almost every day. I choose the time because it is quiet and peaceful out there. It is a good start for my day. I have made and saved a video of the daily paddle to watch when I can no longer do it. I expect (hope) it will put a smile on my face.



I recently turned 70 and have a few heart issues. That means walking every day and staying in shape is more important than ever before. I will keep going out there.

Now we go slower, fewer miles per day. More layover days. Time for a few naps. Pace is important. I am good for a week if we don’t hurry. For the first time I am contemplating floating some rivers instead of paddling and rowing all the time.


I ended up moving to the 51st state here in the US. The state of Denial suits me quite well. Never been graceful, no time to start now.
In seriousness, I quit paddling for a few reasons, one being the lack of physical benefits compared to other activity. Big on strength training and cardio these days. Enjoy my daily workouts/run, even if my shadow informed me one day that I may “feel like Mercury, look like Lurch.”


Stole my line exactly LOL :laughing: just turned 68.

The first hundred years are the hardest.

My thoughts/attitude at 61, are about the same as if I were 21–Even with more brains, less brawn and a matured set of vintage balls:

No sniveling. Get out there as much as possible, by any means possible. When your number’s up, your number’s up. So git down, git down.
And boogie-oogie-oogie…'Til you just can’t boogie,
no more.