Can older lady do this?

-- Last Updated: Jan-25-09 12:54 PM EST --

Advice, suggestions, opinions....I'm an older woman whose had some struggles the past 5 years or so and am looking to reinspire myself.
I am a bird watcher, like wildlife and the water. Combine those and I started thinking of slow water paddling small lakes and rivers for access to wildlife and bird watching but frankly am not in the best of health/shape.
I was thinking of an inflatable for weight, with maybe a small trolling motor because right now I don't think I could go very far and would discourage easily. I'm not sure what I'm up against and am hoping for some tips and ideas. Seems most paddlers are quite fit and intense.

Welcome to the group
I tell people one of the great things about kayaking is you can make it anything you want it to be, from bird watching to whitewater to 1,000 mile expeditions.

In our group several of the ladies are over sixty but many decline to say how far over, and the oldest gentleman is 79. Most of our group going to Lake Superior this summer are in the 50-67 age bracket.

While an inflatable may be a good option I wouldn’t spend the money on a trolling motor. With the effort it takes to load, unload and assemble it and the battery you can paddle quite a distance. Also many lakes and streams don’t allow or are too shallow for a motor.

One of the constant pieces of advice you’ll see here is take a class and try lots of boats. The class gives you a chance to try before you buy and to get out with a trained instructor the first few times. They’ll also fill you in on hazards you may never think of otherwise, like strainers and cold water hazards.

Good Luck

I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself.


If money allows
look at the lightweight boats with open cokpits. I think Epic makes a 12 footer in the

I’ll agree with the first poster–you can make kayaking anything you want: exciting, fast-paced fitness paddling, gentle and easy nature-watching or photography, or anything in between. And unlike most river paddling, kayaking on a lake or sheltered bay allows you to go only as far and fast as you want, at your own pace (as my grandfather used to say, don’t go until you’re tired–only go until you’re HALF-tired, cuz you still have to get home!)

Although I often enjoy weeklong trips on the big waters of the upper Great Lakes, I also enjoy easy paddling on waters closer to home. In fact, just last fall my wife and I launched about 9PM one night on a local lake. We paddled out a ways and while we floated there I produced a premixed container of our favorite Martinis (WITH olives, of course), which we sipped while watching the sun go down on one side and a blood-red harvest moon rise on the other. We only went a mile that night, but it was certainly a magical mile …

I agree: take a class or two, test-paddle a few boats at a good shop, and find something suitable for bird-watching and other gentle paddling. A kayak allows you to get into marshes, small rivers, and wildlife sanctuaries more easily and silently than just about anyone on foot, and you can encounter the wildlife in its own environment.

Kayaking is a ‘sport’ suitable for people of all ages and types. One time when our little group–ranging in age from 28 to 70–was returning from another outing on Lake Michigan, an elderly woman enjoying a walk in the park saw us and struck up a conversation. She had a lot of questions and was very curious about adding this new pastime to her long life of interests.

I answered all her questions as best I could, and she finally asked, “Do LADIES paddle kayaks?”

“No,” I replied, pointing to Sue, one of our regular kayakers. “LADIES don’t, but many WOMEN do.”

I ducked to avoid the life jacket which suddenly flew at my head …

Good Luck!


my 2 cts.worth

– Last Updated: Jan-25-09 2:57 PM EST –

hi ....caveat here @ P-Net is test paddle anything you can b4 you go out to buy. for your stated purposes ...a large open cockpit seems to be a requisite(for example: a Current designs kestral or Perception Prodigy)...kayak weight may be a issue..can you push or lift a kayak up onto the top of a vehicle or take it down from there?? Can you carry the boat far? Will you have help loading /unloading?? a poly boat in the 12' range can weigh upwards of 50 pounds, can you lift that? a fiber glass boat in 12' may weigh as little as 35 #'s but is in the $1200-$1500 price range. How much are you willing to spend ?? a poly boat is cheaper and more durable. I used inflatables for a few yrs...prob with them is ...Wind! you go where the wind goes..inflatables are just a big fishing bobber.
Generally speaking, the wider the boat , the more stable, but also takes more effort to paddle since it has to move more water out of the way. A slender 24 " wide boat is faster, easier to paddle but more tippy. on that point, practice will cure the tippy feeling quickly. Since you have internet..use the resources here @ P-Net to research boats.there's a lot of companies making them, and you can spend from $400 to $5000 for a 'yak. another option is to purchase something like a sit-on-top kayak, though they are not the dryest ride. or a native watercraft Ultimate 12 or a Marvel, depends on availability in your area. Do your research and good luck

yes you can

I’m a 57 year old female and I very much enjoy quiet paddling on flat water for nature watching and relaxation. I happen to have a sit on top kayak that I use by myself,and it works well for my purposes.

There are many boat options available to you.

Don’t let your age or level of fitness deter you from giving it a try. Paddling is a lot of fun.

For me it lead to trying out new outdoor activities such as hiking and snowshoing and I am all the healthier for it.

I say go for it.

Hope this is helpful.


Me too…

– Last Updated: Jan-25-09 3:26 PM EST –

...paddling is means to the end of being out and seeing things. You might consider a canoe as it may be easier to get in and out of and will allow you to change positions for comfort. An Old Town Pack model may work for you as it is very stable, only 12 feet long, 35 pounds and nearly indestructable if you should drop it. You could paddle it with a single blade or double blade paddle. If you find a used one it would be fairly inexpensive.

One of the great things about paddling is that it is a lifetime can be as laid back as you want. Stay in calm water, close to shore and be relaxed. You will always find help here.

Yes you can!

– Last Updated: Jan-25-09 3:28 PM EST –

If what you want to do is poke around quiet ponds and lazy rivers, you can certainly do that. The paddling part is easy. Dealing with a boat on land is likely to be the more challenging question.

The biggest problem for less-athletic paddlers -- especially females -- tends to be boat weight. Less weight usually costs more money. But if you dread loading/unloading/carrying it, you'll never use it.

The other thing that tends to worry beginners is getting in and out, which tends to be where a lot of folks get wet. Kayaks with large cockpits, sit-on-tops, or pack canoes are some of the options to make this easier.

A few ideas:
Some manufacturers use materials that are lighter than the "standard" polyethylene but less expensive than composites. Hurricane Aqua Sports is one example -- their lightest boat is just over 30 pounds, and there's a small sit-on-top that might work well for you.

A less-expensive sit-on-top option:

If you want something even lighter, there are composite pack canoes that wiegh barely 20 pounds:

A heavier, less expensive pack canoe

Wilderness Systems offers some of its recreational models in a lighter plastic, including the bestselling Pungo 120:

A folder is another possibility:

Or a solo canoe:

There are many others -- this is just a sampler.

Some kayak models come in different sizes to better fit different paddler sizes. I know you're not concerned about performance, but a boat that fits is easier to paddle.

Whatever you get, do get a fairly light paddle that fits you. it makes a huge difference in paddling comfort and ease.

As the other folks said, there's no substitute for time in boats, and a beginner class could be a good thing for you.

Sure You Can
One of the beauties of paddling is that you can match what you do to your physical and mental limits. My wife and I day-paddle, sometimes long runs, sometimes just an hour after supper, depending on our mood. We avoid big open waters, major headlands and heavy weather…

Kayaks are absolutely the bee’s knees for bird and wildlife watching, since they are so quiet. As has been suggested, try to paddle as many boats as you can before deciding what you need. If there is a kayaking or paddling group in your area, approach them to see if they have any events in which the public can see boats, talk with their owners and try them out. A local paddle store will often have a day for trial paddling, and you can often arrange to rent a kayak for a short time, with the rental being applied against the purchase if you like the boat.

An inflatable may be good for your intended use, but remember that it has to be inflated and deflated, rolled, stored, etc. - and they are subject to wind, which can greatly increase the effort needed to hold a course. Other options include plastic or fiberglass, which might be heavier than you want.

The final option is a stitch-and-glue built or strip-built boat. The S&G designs are easy to build, very light and quite inexpensive, providing you have the interest to make your own boat, or know someone who enjoys this sort of project. Our kayaks are 17’, 25’ beam, 40 lb. S&G sea kayaks, and I allow about 70-80 hours labour and $500 in materials to complete one. Check the classifieds here, and any local “Boats for Sale” listings; you can often pick up a SW&G kayak for less than the cost of the materials…

One of the smaller Eddyline models, Skylark or Sandpiper.

Other lightweight pack canoes


as with the placidboatworks canoes previously mentioned, these companies build canoe models which are very light, some well under 20 lbs, and which can be paddled like a kayak, with a double bladed paddle. But depending on your height, agility and strength, even a lightweight boat might be difficult to get on/off the roof of a vehicle, In that case, consider the thule hullavator or a trailer. And I heartily agree that you should invest in a lighter weight paddle.

Good stuff
Thank you all for the thoughts and links. I did take a short afternoon kayaking class once a long time ago, what I remember is not liking any kind of closed cockpit and it being hard on the shoulders.

Some good thoughts here;

Weight is a huge issue. I used to drag 40 lb bags of compost and mulch around but now that has gotten difficult (bad back and poor shape) and I have switched from 40 lb bags of sunflower seed bags to 20 lbs. I don’t really have a convenient place for a trailer. The roof of the car, hm.

So I was leaning toward inflatable’s, like maybe a sevylor colorado but the comment about set up rings true. After watching a video of set up on you tube of a sevylor I’m willing to keep an open mind.

Money isn’t such a huge issue if whatever I purchase were to be “it”. Thats the rub. The initial investment of something like a Sevylor is half the price of a canoe or kayak so if it didn’t work out I could probably sell it for something on craigslist.

Trying different models at rentals is a good idea - but do most liveries really have that kind of variety?

I have followed some of the links provided and there are some possibilities. I did google a few recommendations and got totally sidetracked on You Tube. Not being a big you tube person I had no idea so many people posted video’s of their kayaks. Quite a few “gear heads” have made some fun to watch electric mods, with one really innovative hand trailer to water gizmo that looked like it was made out of an aluminum ladder?.

I found myself tending to be drawn to kayak/canoe’s with more of a fishing angle (ha!) though they do tend to be heavier so weight does seem to be biggest issue.

Like the Old Town Pack recommended - there is a fishing version that is mostly a different seat which appealed to me far more than kneeling in a canoe (actually its not that it doesn’t appeal, my knees just won’t do it).

In the interest of sharing - not really a paddle boat suitable for this forum perhaps but I think its cool innovation is going on all the time, this I thought was pretty neat, (I can see nature photographers liking this as well as fisherman, actually he lists birding on his 2 page website - if he actually gets it past experimental out to retail.)

I’m wondering just what “older” is…

– Last Updated: Jan-25-09 6:49 PM EST –

..I'm assuming around senior citizen (65+). We have quite a few people in this age group paddling in our club. The 40-65 age bracket is very well represented.

I feel for you regarding the weak back as I have one too. I can tell you that as the owner of an Advanced Element Advanced Frame inflatable I've never had a problem with wind and it paddles great (this isn't a blow up boat). It's a very stable and easy to use framed inflatable and I highly recommend it if you are indeed looking for an inflatable.

However you won't get any back relief from tugging your inflatable boat out of the car (I even have cargo rack which fits on the rear bumper of my Jeep which makes things easier), inflating it with the hand pump, using it and then deflating and putting it back in the car, then cleaning it folding later, etc, etc. After doing all that my back pretty much felt lousy and it wasn't from the paddling.

The inflatable itself weighs around 38lbs, which is pretty lightweight but the act of inflating/deflating is really hard on the back and a GIANT pain in the butt! If you don't have to have an inflatable I'd pass. Nowadays I inflate my inflatable ONCE, leave it inflated and use it like any hardshell. It's primary purpose is for paddling small, twisty streams, narrow low rivers, etc because it's so maneuverable

Now I have a 50lb P&H Capella 160 16' plastic sea kayak. I have a Trailex SUT-200 aluminum trailer to transport it (very lightweight) and with the use of a dolly to move the kayak around I find life much easier. The trailer itself is so light I can just drag it around with the kayak on it. When not attached to the car the kayak stays on the trailer, which is quite handy. With the help of my dolly, I just slide the kayak on and off the trailer and then attach the trailer to my Jeep. You say you don't have much space for a trailer but my trailer isn't any bigger than the kayak. If you have room for a kayak you have room for the trailer.

We aren't talking about a huge boat trailer here. IMO that's the best way to deal with moving the kayak around, especially if you don't have someone to help with putting it up and off a car top.

As for the kayak itself..The lightest kayak you'll find will be a composite (fiberglass, kevlar, carbonfiber, etc, etc). Plastic is a bit heavier but will take a hit from rocks, gravel, etc and that's why I prefer it. I tend to hit a lot of rocks when I paddle. With plastic when I hear that scrap or bang I just shrug while my composite owning friends are freaking out.

As for the act of paddling itself. Well, can't see why you can't do it the way you'd like. I've seen people (mostly those interested in fishing) with foot paddle set ups in sit-on-top fishing kayaks. They like this so they can leave their hands free for fishing. Photographers like this too. If it works for you then give it a shot. No one will look down on you, trust me. Paddlers are a very open minded bunch it seems. Just do some research and check out as many boats as you can before you plunge in. If you go to a good reputable kayak dealer then you'll be able to take out demo boats and check them out personally. Just communicate to the dealer what you want and they can set you up with the type of boat you are looking for.

Simple is best
One thing you will find out about canoes and kayaks is that they have been around for tens of thousands of years, and a simple design, that is light and easy to cary works great for fishing or touring. That is what they were invented for. All the junk accessories add-ons, propulsion stuff, is really not something you need.

Blowing up inflatables
I admit that the set up and pumping in the video was a bit daunting looking as they were bending over A LOT and bending over tends to really hurt after a short bit - is there no way to do the electric/cigarette lighter pump or is that really almost as much a PIA in the end?

Now that I’ve been sitting here all afternoon/night surfing this stuff I realize it would be rather dumb to run out and buy a small motor set up right off the bat so maybe I won’t need it. But if I ever figure out what to buy I do want it to be able to have a small motor. I’m only going to get older after all. I like having options.


– Last Updated: Jan-25-09 9:28 PM EST –

Problem with motors is that they add weight and complexity..both of which you don't want. I'd sooner get a boat with a foot paddle than a motor. I'm thinking like a Hobie:

I've seen these and they seem to be what you are looking for. Get a Trailex SUT-200S trailer and you are good to go.

As for blowing up an inflatable..You want a double action pump for that. That means it works when you pump it both down and up. You set it to inflate so it blows air in when you pump. To get air out you set it to deflate and it sucks the air out when you pump. The fastest way to do this is with a hand pump that you push up and down. You can also use a bellows style footpump (I take one of these in the boat when I paddle "just in case"). The bellows pump is easier on the back but not as fast so you wind up exerting as much effort in the end. After I inflated my kayak I was sore in the back and I'm in pretty good shape, but my back is a bit weak and blowing up the boat didn't help it.

Electric pumps won't cut it. They just don't push in enough air or they push in too much. It's just not recommended to use one. To be honest, I found the inflatable to be one giant pain to work with. The boat itself is nice but I'll replace it with a small hardshell rec boat when the time comes.

Now that I have the trailer I inflate it once, top it off once in awhile and basically throw it on the trailer and strap it down when I want to go to small streams, twisty rivers, etc. Most times I use my sea kayak but it's rather long so the inflatable does come in handy for when I need a smaller craft.

Paddling instead of motor
If you start off paddling just short distances and increasing the distance each time you could build up the stamina to paddle longer distances. The oldest person I paddle with is 85 years old. When I first started paddling I couldn’t keep up with him. After paddling for a while, I can now keep up with him and it’s not because he slowed down. I’m a whole lot younger than he is. He’s always telling me he just can’t hang out with all those old people in the retirement community where he & his wife live. If he’s not paddling, he is hiking. Not bad for a two time cancer survivor.

Have faith, encourage yourself, and be positive that you can do it and you will. To me it’s not about how fast you go or how far. Its about relaxing and enjoying every moment and every beautiful thing God put on this earth to see. KK

Be Safe - Have Fun
In that order … but don’t forget the fun part.

Some people on here will downgrade “recreational” boats, but something like the Prodigy (I think that’s what Perception calls their 10 footer) sounds like it would fit your needs. I have the 9.5 foot Swifty and find it excellent for birdwatching. DON’T get a motor. That will defeat your purpose of floating up on nature with an element of surprise. Just know your limits … and the limits of whatever boat you buy. As for trying different boats: You ware right in thinking a lot of rental places don’t have much variety. Look into any kayak festivals, symposiums or boat demos near you. That can be a good way to try a lot of different boats and talk to other people about their likes and dislikes.

another thought…

– Last Updated: Jan-25-09 11:21 PM EST –


One suggestion I always make to any new boater, and which I have not seen mentioned in this thread yet ( I hope I didn't miss it ), is to join a local club. If you can find a local canoe club they are a great wealth of information and resources. The club in my area has been great about helping new paddlers like yourself figure out what they need and how to get it done. They are great about letting new paddlers tag along and paddle tandem with someone more experienced. One lady a few years ago started out with no boat the first year or two and ended up not only buying her own solo canoe and learning to paddle it very well, but also served as the club Vice-President for several years. Another great thing about clubs is that you get to meet a lot of great people. You might be able to find some great paddling partners who would be willing to help with the lifting, inflating, or other boating related chores. Paddling with a group of even two or three people makes the whole experience easier, safer, and hopefully more enjoyable. As everyone here has stated, we think you can do it, but a club might be a big help.

Hey LittleRed ( great post ), back me up here, please!

Oops, I almost forgot to add this stuff.
Click on this link:

This document should help you through the process of searching for a boat. You can use this for new or used boats, at a paddling shop or not. It was originally developed and distributed by the Paddlin' Shop in Madison, WI. When you ask someone what canoe you should buy, these are some of the questions they should ask and the answer they will need to help you find the boat that's right for you. You seem to have a pretty good idea of what your needs are, but this document could still be helpful.

There are about 24 questions/criteria to fill out, a then a ten point system to "test paddling", followed by a table to log your impression of each boat you test paddle based on a list of criteria. The document is just 5 pages long.

I have found this a very helpful way for newbies to begin their boat shopping experience.

You might also benefit from reading:

I put together these two documents because I was getting so many questions like the one above about which boat a new paddler should buy. There are a lot of issues involved in the boat buying process. These documents help to identify some of those issues and hopefully simplify the process somewhat.



Motor Thoughts.
Have you thought out what would happen if you had a trolling motor and your battery conked out while you were out in some marsh? Those weedy, shallow areas where the birds and wildlife usually hang out could present a problem for a motor.

I think it would be best to work on strengthening the weak muscles so you can count on them to get you there and back first. Once you have achieved that goal, then feel free to go to a trolling motor if you wish. I would try to get involved with a paddling group that may be able to help you decide on a boat and if this activity would be do-able.

My wife and I are in our 50’s and regularly (weather permitting) paddle our tandem canoe. Take a look at the Wenonah canoe website, . They have a very informative site that will explain the differences in design and function. I would look for a canoe that has plenty of glide so you will go further with each stroke. Take note of the weight differences between construction materials and their corresponding prices. You can find solo canoes that weigh in under 35 lbs, but expect to lighten your bank account by around $2,500.