KAYAK for seniors (70 + Brigade)
When I my renewed my acquaintance with kayaking, after more than 50 years of absence
caused by excessive pollution of the river Schelde (I am living in Antwerp, near that river), I found myself in a whole new world.
I always liked to bike and swim and I enjoyed recreational badminton for many years but a knee injury, and some surgery, made an end to the badminton activity. This, and an advertisement of a local kayak club, brought kayaking back in sight.
But not only the boats and the technical side of the kayaking had evolved, and fortunately also the water quality, I also wasn’t young anymore (born in 1943), with all the physical consequences.
- A first problem that did occur was change clothes at departure and arrival of a kayak trip. Everybody solved that problem according to their own discretion but, although I was accustomed to showering and to (un)dress in group with the badminton activity, there was something wrong for me.
Not only it was sometimes (too) cold or (too) much wind, but there was also a lack of privacy eg to outsiders or the other gender.
The solution was, after some searching on the Internet, the kayak fleece poncho . Two fleece blankets sewn to each other, with openings for arms and head, quickly brought a solution.
It is without any doubt important to get dry and warm after a kayak trip. Leaving wet underwear on for whatever reason is a bad idea in our climate conditions, except maybe high summer.
- The transport of the kayak by car introduced me to another problem. Most kayak carriers asked too much effort (and back strain) to put the kayak on the holders, especially when sailing solo .
A solution sometimes used is to purchase a very light kayak but for starting back with the kayak activity I had chosen an “all round” PE kayak of 23 kg ( Dagger Charleston )
a search on the internet presented several solutions:
a very simple backward or lateral support.
I choose to mount a ladder support and a ladder on the rack of my car and it is no problem to load and unload the kayak on my own.
Because it is a “long load” I have to use a front and tail rope to the car in order to stabilize the kayak as recommended by the car manufacturer.
- Training to reenter the kayak was done with (cleaned) club boats in the local swimming pool with a water temperature around 28 degrees. We trained mostly the “cowboy reenter”.
However, a live test in the fall with my own kayak, a Dagger Charleston, gave unexpected problems. The water was a lot colder (15 ° C) than in the pool and cold shock gave rise to hyperventilation. It proved to be totally impossible to climb on to the kayak and swimming to the shore, with support on the kayak, was the only remaining option.
After some research, I decided to repeat the experiment, but now with a neoprene 3mm Long John with additional 3mm neoprene vest. The theory is that, once wet, the water between the neoprene suit and the body is not refreshed with cold water and thus the heat loss is restricted.
Although I had no problem while training to repeatedly climb on to the kayak, in cold water it is quite different. After two failed attempts, I was exhausted and I had to swim to the shore.
The causes are: rapid exhaustion by cold water, unstable kayak through water in the kayak.
For those who can’t train in a swimming pool with the kayak a good indication of your possibility to use a “cowboy reenter” is that you can get out of the swimming pool without using the steps or ladder, just by pulling you up on the side. In swimming pool conditions (water around 28°C) you must be able to do this several times in a row. In colder water it will be (a lot) less, even with a dry or wet suit.
While I like kayaking solo, also on some bigger water, I can’t always rely on help from other kayakers.
To solve this problem I found a solution developed by solo kayakers , on expeditions and so on, and that was the use of floats or kayak outriggers (sponsons). I opted for retractable fixed floats.
Normally folded at the stern, they are easy to unfold and they lock automatically
After my experiences in cold water ( below 21°C) I no longer believe in manual inflatable equipment .
Also my paddle float is a fixed model
With the sponsons deployed I found it very easy to get back on the kayak and I even can use the kayak as a sit on top.
It is recommended to try the rescue techniques with your own boat loaded for a trip and in similar circumstances.
The next step was the purchase of a drysuit. Decisive here was going through reading about “hypothermia”, and even more important, “cold shock” (Cold shock can occur from 21°C when not trained)
The main rule is: use the clothes recommended for the water temperature and, if older or not trained, don’t make concessions on this.
This means for me that I nearly always have to wear a dry suit when kayaking. I have to look for cloudy weather in summertime to plan a trip. Air temperature is seldom a problem but continuous sunshine is.
If one have to deal with someone in cardiac arrest, eg by cold shock, the decision whether or not to resuscitate has to been taken taken. Not allowing resuscitation currently belongs to the patients’ rights here in Belgium and I am wearing a registered “dog tag” that mentions that I don’t want to be resuscitated or intubated. The reason for this decision is that only 15% of the people who had resuscitation from cardiac arrest survive and 10% has permanent brain (neurological) damage and / or long rehabilitation.
Safety equipment and safety devices: especially for the solo paddler it is important not to loose the kayak.
That is why I attach myself with a “quick release belt” and a safety rope to the bow of the kayak The rope is long enough to perform a “cowboy reenter”.
However, securing the kayak to the kayaker remains a subject of (worldwide) discussion. Some kayak clubs on the Coast (Australia) do require a safety line between the kayak and kayaker , they also are mentioned in some safety instructions of the U.S. Coast Guard (Kayak Safety Line: Leashing Yourself to a Kayak ). Anyway, it is something that you have to decide for yourself.
The PFD that I purchased has a “tail” between the legs to the front . I experienced that a PFD easily got to high without that tail.
Recently I purchased an automatic life jacket (special for kayak, it is a short version) that also can be worn above the PFD without being in the way for a reenter. I use this combination when kayaking solo on big water.
To solve the problem of lack of pockets I wear a kayak chap (similar of a bike or horsemen chap) with thigh pockets.
That way I can carry with me a couple of handflares, a foldable grappling hook (legal obligation on Belgian sea ), and some first aid tape, even when I become a swimmer.
- I quickly realized that another problem needed a solution. My reasons for not participating in a “city trip” with the kayaks (Ghent, a city with a lot of small open chanels) was mostly based on the fact that it was hard to get out the channels if I had to pee, and then, once disembarked I would be still between the houses in the middle of a city. And, being somewhat older, when I have to go I have to go, there is no time to waist.
Another interesting fact is that in Holland (a neighbored country of mine that I often visit to kayak) one third of the drown men are found with their relief zipper open. A (urgent) pee can be very dangerous.
A very bad solution I saw to often is not to drink when embarking on, or during, a kayak trip. This can lead to fast exhaustion or other discomfort. Eating and drinking while performing a physical exercise has to be taken care of with some knowledge of the subject and can’t be neglected without punishment.
Google gave no practical solutions, also in other languages, because one has to know the right keywords.
But then I found the glider pilots in Germany. They use a solution both for man and woman and their position in a glider, and the pee problems, are resemblant to the kayak.
http://aviation.derosaweb.net/relief/ and http://www.dg-flugzeugbau.de/pinkeln-e.html
However, I only can discuss the solution for men. For the women it is waiting for an “entrepreneurial” lady.
To test, I bought a set of “self-adhesive external catheters” with urine bag 500ml .
For use in a wet suit I don’t us a bag, only a valve. It also works fine but I have to stabilize with a peddlefloat when I have a leg “outside”.
For the moment I use this system now for about a year and I am very pleased with it. It is a great comfort that I don’t have to pay attention to this problem anymore.
Because I have a Peak UK dry suit with an inside leg zipper from ankle to ankle it is no problem to get to the valve of the urine bag. But other manufacturers with another system to enter the dry suit can deliver a custom ankle zipper on request (for example : Kokatat at 51 $ for a 20 cm ankle zipper, price 2013)
I do understand that not only the technical solution is important but perhaps even more important is the psychological and social acceptance.
The German glider pilots have already succeeded but this is clearly also a task for monitors, supervisors and sport organizations, in particular the senior sports guides.
- Another problem is the potential overloading of the wrist joint and the muscles of the forearm. One can try to place the peddle blades parallel instead of under an angle. If the wind is not excessive (above 6 Bf), this can be a good solution.
One also can try right to keep the wrist joints more straight by stretching the fingers of the upper “push hand”. Also the lower wrist joint (pivot point) can be more straight by only holding the peddle between thumb and index finger.
Anyway, using alternating techniques is certainly a plus for fingers, wrist joints and forearm muscles.
Also, the application to the paddle of a “grip” or “taping” as is used for the badminton and tennis racket
has a very good effect on reducing the strength needed to hold the peddle.
I myself have chosen a “Prestige Pro” HEAD taping that I knew from playing badminton.
- The instructor who told me about the wrist technique for the elderly also told me that recognizing and staying in the “comfort” zone was also important for the older kayaker. In the past few months I learned to recognise this “comfort zone” by repeatedly going beyond it and now I start to reconise it. Stay well within your speed capability and don’t let younger and /or stronger kayakers seduce you to go faster or further. Remember that you have to hold on to some reserve in case you are turning over and have to perform a rescue, help somebody or be able to handle whatever event may cross your path. I know now that after a rescue I have to take a break, and I have to take care of eating and drinking from time to time. If I feel tired I do take a rest, land or call it a day.
Enjoy kayaking and stay safe