PNet/PCom denizens were higher in age when it started compared to the WW or Paddle surf sites. The recent “demographic survey” thread seems to indicate an even older and more geriatric base than before. Is it this site and/or this sport of longboating (or canoeing)? (I personally encounter mostly older group of paddlers in seakayaks and canoes than younger folks in ww or surf.)
When I paddle surf, I always have positive interest by boardies, SUPers or WW folks in the line up. The question is whether this translates into actual engagement/onboarding of newer/younger folks. Do we need higher publicity events like Hobuck Hoedowns (Longboat surf comps) to attract the adrenaline (and usually younger) crowd?
Do we need “team paddlers?” Or is it just futile because the equipment is just too expensive for the younger folk?
Ben Fontenot (seemingly a CD paddler)
The Hurricane Riders (Sterling Kayak proponents)
For any endeavor to sustain, there needs to be onboarding of younger generations. Does it matter? If so, how?
Looking at sea kayaking (probably holds true for canoeing also), the ages definitely skew older. I think a big hold back is the gear intensity of it, which is challenging for younger people who are just starting their careers. You need a large enough house to have storage (especially challenging if you live in a high cost, urban area), a car and rack to carry kayak, the kayak/paddle/skirt, thermal protection in most areas, etc.
A common question I get from younger folks taking kayak classes where I work is about the Oru kayaks, as they get around the storage and transport issues. Unfortunately the local club has had at least 1 incident of a flipped Oru in open water where they found out the hard way about their lack of flotation and bulkheads, and that has caused most trip initiators to say no Orus for open water. I did have a couple in a class who had Orus and we stayed after the class (they used the school’s hardshells for the class) for an hour for them to try paddlefloat and T-rescues in the Orus. Paddlefloat didn’t work, and they could only just barely do a T-rescue (TX format).
White water kayaks/wave skis, and surf kayaks get around some of this through being small enough to often fit inside cars. SUPs also take less gear and are easier to transport (often not requiring special racks), or through inflatables (doesn’t seem to be as much of a performance hit for inflatable SUPs as an inflatable kayak has).
I believe much of Europe gets around some of these challenges through having kayak clubs that own the gear.
OK, I’m going to make a huge generalization that probably isn’t fair, but it’s been my observation. I’m 42. In my experience people younger than myself generally aren’t interested in ANY outdoor activities. I have multiple outdoor hobbies. Whenever I encounter others interested in the same things (in classes, groups, etc) they are usually significantly older than me. On the other hand I get bewildered reactions from younger people. When I mentioned to a younger coworker that I like kayaking, she said, “Why? Can’t you just use a rowing machine at the gym?”
It seems normal for entry level sea kayakers to be older, recruiting younger doesn’t sound too promising - I think seeing older people in sea kayaks give the younger crowd a good model for how they will be able to remain on the water as they too get older. It does take more gear, preparation and patience for sea kayaking, which being older certainly helps with.
I admit to being older but the geriatric label bothers me. When I see the word I envision people 10 years older than me.
The other day my wife was telling me about this “elderly guy” hitting on a 45 year old coworker. Upon further questioning I found out “elderly guy” is the same age as me ! (And my wife is the same age!!)
I think both points are valid, (1) seakayaking is just too expensive a hobby for young folks, and (2) a small minority of Gen X and younger are interested in outdoor sports. For those who do like to participate in things like skiing, mountain biking etc, seakayaking on flat water offers no adrenaline rush.
I think all valid points. I started serious Sea Kayaking about 10 years ago I am 54. When I starting paddling everyone was at least 10 older then I . Reason there kids were out of the house and they had time to paddle on the weekends.
Also the sport is not being promoted at a retail level. I live on the Connecticut Coast about 50 miles from New York City. I can name only 3 Sea Kayak dealers
that stock and promote higher end Sea Kayaking. The sport has just gotten invisible at a retail level. Really Sad.
Young folks seem to gravitate more toward the digital stuff than we oldsters.
In the road bike world I’m seeing more and more people, including older people, do the indoor thing… Peloton or Zwift.
Two things that are strictly speaking unrelated but both are true for younger people.
One is as above, the sheer cost of long boating especially sea kayaking to do it safely. That is equipment plus time and class costs to learn the skills. It is a hard choice to make with your money when you probably will have to pay to store the boat because you are in an apartment that costs as much as a mortgage used to and are knocking don student debt.
The other is the basic predilection towards being in a situation where there is risk that, at some point, only the individual can manage. Even in a group situation, everyone has to handle their own boat. Not long before the magazine Sea Kayaker closed shop there was an article written by a 20 something who participated in a 4 day sea kayaking class. She realized that everyone else was much older than her, later 40’s the youngest, and that she was far more anxious about being out there than was anyone else in the class. Her response to being on her own in that boat was very different from the rest. There were others who had come on their own, and they were not at all bothered by it. After a couple of days she realized that she was indeed part of a generation that found doing something away from their family or a group of friends was in itself intimidating.
I had to give this young woman kudos for writing this. But I doubt she was very different from her peers.
I am usually the youngest (or close to it) person at any of the sea kayaking symposiums that I have gone to. Having worked in the paddlesports industry for 7 years I definitely saw the skew in ages between people looking for SUPs and rec kayaks, and long boats. There are some exceptions like me but they are rare - one of the people on my recent camping trip is 32 and a very accomplished sea kayaker.
Many if not most of my friends have few to no hobbies of any kind. Granted most of my age group (mid 40s) are in the thick of raising their families now, but most didn’t have any hobbies before they had kids. The ones that did have mostly dropped any extra activities that they used to do. I am single with no kids - I work full time but otherwise all of the rest of my time is devoted to paddling, sailing, maintaining the sailboat, photography, etc. I have always been unusual in that way, especially for my age group. I do get a lot of comments about being “brave” or “adventurous”, and many folks seem envious (in a good way) but few want to (or have the ability to) put time, money and effort into being even moderately accomplished at anything.
I have noticed older folks tend to be sea kayakers…but is that because they are older or I hang out with old retired people?
I went to a Sweetwater kayak symposium. I noticed a lot of the people there were younger. Is that because they were young or because I’m old?
My 40s were all screwed up. Kid stuff took priority. Change of career took time. I sold my sailboat. Single parent stuff took all my spare time. After putting kids to bed. I would roll out plans and do part time construction take off till midnight. A wild single friday night was 7 loads of laundry. (Disappointed guys at work) A hobby back then was a nap in the middle of the day.
There was no time for a hobby as a youngster.
The storage and schleppage aspects of using sea kayaks is a big deterrent. This deters both younger nonhomeowner people as well as seniors, who might have adequate wealth but ability to lift and carry long and/or heavy boats diminishes each year.
Regarding injury potential, that wouldn’t keep young and middle-aged people from sea kayaking in rough stuff, but it definitely deters those whose accumulated knowledge tells them their bodies really do NOT recover as quickly or completely from musculoskeletal damage. This is no different from longtime downhill skiiers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, etc from dialing down the riskier end of their sport.
The US could make sports such as kayaking and rowing much more accessible to ALL ages if there were community places to securely store awkward equipment, and if those places also offered high-quality instruction for a small fee. Some US cities blessed with suitable harbors and beaches do, indeed, have these facilities. But there aren’t many of them, partly for reasons of natural setting, partly due to real or perceived lack of demand, partly due to economics.
Shoot, there are disputes over establishing PICKLEBALL courts, which are small.
Most sports undergo a trendy period, some a longlasting love by a core group when others have dropped out, and most a decline, eventually. Right now, SUPs are still the most popular boatie thing done here, absolutely no doubt about it. Some of the SUPers switched from kayaks. That’s part of the reason for less interest in long boats, though short fat recs still are common.
So really, the OP is asking more than one question, with complex factors involved.
We are not “geriatric”. We are the survivors and just like in Highlander then can be only one.
Onboarding younger generations is challenging. I have been studying our club here in Dallas and the median age has not changed in like 20 years. We are constantly 55+ on average with a big gap between our younger members and the average. What seems to occur is all of our kids are active until the get married an have kids of their own. They go dormant for 15 or so years during school years and all that goes with that, showing up at family events, but until the kids are older and take an interest, or move out we do not see them regularly. So we always have a solid 15-25 participation and 45 plus, but only and a few between 25 and 45 who either never wed or had any kids. IMHO, that seems to be reflected on this site as well. I would call it normal.
I don’t care what those youngsters do, just so they stay off my lawn
But seriously, we have to recognize there are significant obstacles, as has been mentioned, to the sport of longboating particularly the more advanced aspects, e.g. surfing. While surfing may have the adrenaline rewards younger people are seeking the time investment to acquire the necessary skills is significant. IMO, there are probably more popular adrenaline inducing activities, e.g. mountain biking, that take less time in skill development. Additionally, things like mountain biking can be done about anywhere while sea kayaking is really suited to a limited amount of environments and that becomes even smaller when looking at surfing, rock gardening, etc.
Although, if you get Red Bull to sponsor your Hoedown you might get somewhere.
OK, but you have to find a young person to manage it.
String, when I was young, older people looked old. Now old people look. Not sure why.
I alway wanted to paddle and do so many things in life, but raising a family generally alway took the spare time and money. Now I have the money and I get out on the water because I’m running out of time. I need to make up for lost time.
I see a lot of kids today are adventure seekers. Mt adventure was raising a family. I don’t regret it, and I don’t regret not taking the time for myself. I find it interesting, but it doesn’t matter what age other kayakers are, or whether the sport perpetuates - it will, it ways will. What matters most is that I get out and paddle. Seems that everything I learned, I learned the hard way. If I can help someone figure something out, it makes me feel good.
I love being out on the water and realize that I’m the ONLY person in sight. It’s also intriguing and a magnetic draw to see the flash of paddles in the distance and find the curiosity rising, as you want to intersect and find out who they are. It’s nice to think it all belongs to just you, and equally nice to think you are about to share!
I just noticed this thread. I am a bit blown away by the demographics as the sport (past time?) seems pretty adventurous and fun! At a basic level, paddling a boat around and exploring should appeal to all ages. However, it’s clear that being able to get dressed and hit a trail for a couple hours, with minimal gear and preparation involved, is appealing to people who are juggling work and kids like myself.
We just took the baby on a 1 hour cruise around Elliot Bay today and it feels like it was a lot longer than that! She did pretty well, but there’s a lot of extra stuff to bring, and then to hold her and feed her and all of that adds up.
Promotion appears to be a problem too. Golf managed to break out of being an old white boys club, but it arguably took Tiger Woods to do it. A big reason my younger brother got into golf was because he thought Tiger was cool. Not sure who the cool 'yaker is yet. Plus browsing TV stations I don’t think I’ve ever seen expert kayakers competing in a competition.
Again, I still think kayaking is fun from what I’ve experienced of it, and it seems like an adventure that I want to explore further. On the other hand, if I find myself not being around any fellows on the water in the ballpark of my own age, it could get to where I feel out of place. I think the only way to find out what it’s like is to get out there. The kayaking meetup in Seattle seems active so I plan to check that out. If I remember I’ll report back to this thread later this year
I forgot to mention style. Someone needs to tap a designer to make dry suits look a bit more stylish! Ocean Rodeo Soul does happen to look sleek although I can barely find one online. I think Ocean Rodeo got acquired by Mustang Survival. However the Soul doesn’t seem purchasable on the Mustang website (no add to cart button).
DanielD, speaking from my own circumstances, I’ve enjoyed a wide range of outdoor activities, each one challenging in its own way. Most of those activities follow established roads and trails to some degree. Paddling is a different experience.
While some forms of paddling relies on rivers, there are fewer limitations on kayaks. Waterways can range from raging torrents to placid wetlands teaming with wildlife; tranquil rivers, canals or massive lakes steeped in history; bays and estuaries with thousands of miles of coastline to explore; or depending on your level of skill, a quality sea or touring kayak will enable you to paddle with ocean going boats. As your level of skill increases, you can stay out in conditions that send larger boats back to the docks.
I go places where I rarely see another kayak. When I do see one out in the middle, I know we’re kindred spirits. Despite seeking solitude, I can’t help spending time exchanging information.
I no longer have the balance and stamina to climb over rough terrain. The bike came out of storage after a number of years and I realize my sense of being one with the bike isn’t as keen as it use to be. On the other hand, the water is more forgiving. I feel like my skills have grown during my time away from the water.
I wonder how much goes to what else younger people are doing.
I have been a serial sports person for much of my life, interrupted by time periods when some category of civic engagement completely took over my time. It has been time periods of intense tennis, horse riding/showing, road biking, a couple of years confirming that I really hate jogging. Probably missing something, then kayaking.
Any remaining physical activities are milder than they were 20 or 30 years ago. But I did them pretty seriously then.
I wonder how common this is among younger people though.