Sea kayaking dead?


taking a crash like cycling?

It isn’t.
I’ve seen these conversations come and go over the years.
Speaking selfishly, even if it is, it won’t ever be for me.
There will always be around someone who can build me a new kayak if needed (congrats to those who can build their own).
There will always be someone who can sew me a new sprayskirt.
Paddle, etc.

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“Adaptation” is needed by the boat designer manufacturer and by those of us who are aging and want to stay in the sport.

For Joey, it’s his livelihood (as well as avocation). For me, it’s how long can I keep playing (for my mental/physical wellbeing) and with what equipment to facilitate that. His interest and that of a certain customer base (like me) converges. Hopefully, he and other adaptable boat builders (manufacturers) can keep finding those convergences.



The rush of newer paddlers that I/we saw in the late 80’s thru 2010 or so has decidedly diminished. A whole lot of us have hit our 70’s and other phases of a life have taken over. Still paddling, just less focus on stuff that requires higher end skills.

This is OK for individuals, but quite difficult for businesses and guides. It was also probably somewhat predictable if you stepped back.

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All the new ones wanna stand up


Many people have realized that the ocean is unforgiving and that paddling on it takes some skill.
Meanwhile little plastic kayaks can be paddled in a pond by people with almost no skill.


I view paddle “sports” as another version of cardio in the outdoors, nothing more. I can appreciate things like Olympic style races or very niche things like downwinds in rare spots around the world, but those will never apply to me. Like I’m going burn a week of vacation and drop 5 thousand dollars to paddle in a herd half way around the world with top speed of 6mph to 12. Haha.

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I believe most of the current forum members have been fortunate to experienced the golden age of kayaking. That’s a good thing for many of us, because we either own what we need, or we know exactly what we want. All trends eclipse; change is to be expected.

I entered the bicycling world during the early 1990s, because of the development of better frame geometry, improved drive trains and brakes (I upgraded brake calipers or pads three times within ten year), more vetsatile mountain bike designs with beefier tires that could grip off road tracks, stronger wheels, lighter mass, and more nimble handling. I witnessed the introduction and evolution of front pogo sticks that migrated to shock absorbing rear frames. I recognized the advantage of dampers to smooth out the road, but never adapted to the increased weight, stiction, the cobstant changing rake and trail geometry and the biopacing effect hitting bumps had on the chain ring. I switched to kayaking, then recently returned to bicycling, only to find everything different. I don’t like the changes; however, many of the problems were solved, but nothing was simplified, except dropping the triple chain ring and expanding the rear cassette. Disc brakes improved stopping, but the rim brakes had improved to the point of acceptable and functional simplicity. Anyone starting today can enjoy the benefit of GPS topgraphic mapping and speed/distance readouts that can be transferred to a laptop spreadsheet. For newcomers, they marvel at the simplicity, while laughing at how the old timers resist progress and mock the complexity.

Many of us started paddling in those rugged aluminum canoes that became popular at the end of the 2nd World War. Then came the plastic boats like the Coleman canoes with the reinforced aluninum tube for a spine. Some viewed them as pariahs, while a few still see them as iconic, nostalgic anachronism, the way we might class indigenous tools. Yet is those crude watercraft that caused our obsession. I viewed them as industrial marvels, because my youthful fantasy was considerind whether I could launch a discarded bathtub to explore the opposite shore of the Chesapeake, a 10.75 mile one way trip. You may scoff at the inherent dangers, but isn’t that what spurs adventure - you rarely hear of an “adventure” to seek comfort; you’d buy a ticket on a cruise liner for that. It’s ironic that many of those early boats have long been destroyed from use, while hand crafted wood versions have endured after years of use and care.

Rather than following roads or makeshift trails, I stopped biking in favor of the expansive freedom of exploration that kayaks offered. The new century brought many things to kayaking, especially durablility, comfort, and the consistency of, if not new designs, at least the ability to replicate time-proven designs. My first experience with a kayak in the mid 70s wasn’t nearly as favorable as the stable test ride in a 9.5 ft Perception recreation kayak. That began an obsession that brings me up to today.

The ones who will suffer from the falling trend are the newcomers. We’re invested! My boats will be here and prevail long after my lifetime, and that’s a good thing, especially if I pass on what I’ve learned, pass on the tools to continue that legacy.

If you own a boat that was inherited from a friend or family member, keep it, use it, preserve it, even if it doesn’t suit your kayaking style or physical dimemsions. Maybe you can pass it on to someone else who matter.

We all must stop at some point. Even though we may evemtually need wheels to carry our boat to the launch, we may hobble to the launch on a walker, or succumb to the “hounding” of someone offering to carry your “cross”, it’s a testiment to our resilience and how we persevere. Only dedication and pride of accomplishment could causes us to coldlly brush off help that is kindly offered. Its trait many of us nurture as kids - many may recall with pride, the day our offspring first objected saying, “No, I can do it all by myself!”

Someday, all we’ll have left is fond memories (if we’re fortunate), so don’t put off until tomorrow that trip you want to take today. Don’t lament when you feel kayaking has becone too painful. Find someone to help you in and out of the boat. There’s no shame and should be no regret in that. Pain is but a warning that your opportunity to coach another is closing. If it’s a hard won skill, don’t squander it - pass it on, then you will be able to appreciate, if not participate, in the activity you love. That should be your legacy.

It doesn’t amaze me that there is a surge of interest in traditional wood paddles following indigenous patterns that are thousands of years old. I personally have no interest in using a wood paddle with the variety of high-end, light, synthetic paddles available today, yet I fully enjoyed the experience of sharing knowledge with several dedicated members who offered different levels of knowledge that made fabricating the paddle possible. Thanks to the many shared images of wall hanger paddles, my paddle now sits in a corner of my room, in plain sight, where the indelible names of the contributors, including minor influences as well as major influences, are etched equally in my mind at the sight of that paddle. One day, I will probably actually trace those names on the back, lest we forget!

Don’t morn the passing of sea kayaking, help preserve it. It only survives as long as we help it survive. In truth, It doesn’t matter to me about trends. I found parts to restore my vintage bike, because its what I like. I listen to 50s through 70s music, because its what I still like, but my true passion is music of the golden age of Bach through Chopin. Yet there is still powerful creativity in the more recent compositions from the minds Shostakovic and Sibelius. Still there is a thread of continuity in the music passed down in mountain songs that carries an even stronger legacy in the simplicity. I loath the lumpy featureless furniture of today, in favor of relicd from the evolutionary peake of furniture creativity. If I can’t find it as a vintage examplebor an antique, I’ll build it. That’s how many forum members approach it - if I can’t find it, I’ll build it. In the process, the result is often an innovation or at least an improvement.

Sea kayaking will endure for as long as there is water. If it no longer becomes viable to manufacture and distribute exotic boats, there will be a resurgence of traditional boats and paddles of wood and boats, whether those bosts are constructed of plywood, wood strips, or frames covered in fabric. People are still making canoes of bent wood, bound by natural fibers, then covered by tree bark and sealed with sap.

Everything is terminal. The resilience we show doesn’t have to end when our bodies begin to fail. That is when we need to coach - that is your legacy. That is how you can continue, by living vicariously.


People like me

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You are completely missing so much of what is wonderful about being on the ocean. But if speed is all that matters this is how it has been for you. Figure that nothing about enjoying nature is a factor for you, speed doesn’t make it easier to see things in the woods either.

The sheer freedom of being out in a boat on the ocean or in the woods on your feet, on your own and able to see and hear where you are… lots of people who can’t do that would be terribly envious. As would a friend l worked with for decades who had a spinal cord injury boogie boarding on a vacation after he retired.


This is what the paddle industry did. When the surfboards became paddle boards , a HUGE portion of paddle industry finally had something new to promote and sell.

Cheaper and acceptable, cause all the cool kids were doing it. Thousands of years the Greenland was around and being used and yet stores didn’t carry them. Paddle companies didn’t make them Stores wanted nothing to do with them.

But within minutes of someone having an idea … Stand up paddles were on every stores shelf . Something to sell where unlike sea kayaks…safety was mostly ignored.

No levels and no stars and no experts to tell them how they should paddle.

Just buy one and do some yoga on a local small pond or lake. No need to feel like you need to learn to roll or …really…learn anything. Simple A salesman’s dream come true . Embraced by the entire industry. Sold by the thousands.


True that! Worse comes to worse, can always take Kaze’s (“Wind”) bones down from the backyard rack and put the skin back on her for a 30lb seakayak!



Personally, it’s a fitness thing because there really isn’t a social scene in paddling. So when my shoulders are wonky, I’ll use a Greenland paddle on an old epic v7. It’s all just time trials against oneself anyway. Numbers wise, I’d think that those rebounder fitness classes with little trampolines has more participation than sea kayaking. It really is a niche sport.

I think you are about 180 degrees off the mark. I don’t think stand up paddling did in seakayaking. For that matter Lilly dippers in rec. kayaks have pretty much killed off canoes. I think the price of buying a good seakayak and the amount of time it takes to be comfortable in actual ocean conditions is more than most people and especially young people can afford. Not to mention most of the US states are have no seas to kayak.

Most casual SUP buyers use them about three times and then they rot in the garage with the other airmattreses . Most of those folks would have never trued seakajaking.


Depends on where you live and how hard you look. At The Chesapeake Paddlers Association we have over 600 members. I started out paddling solo long distance and now I almost always paddle with friends from CPA. In the same area there is Watersedge, a Meetup group with about the same number of members. They go out with small groups pretty much every week in the warmer months. Both groups have winter paddles as well. There are clubs and Meetup groups for all kinds of paddling in many areas.

Both groups have hikes and other social events throughout the year.

I met my wife paddling with CPA.


I paddle because l like being out in nature. So do many of us.

Social part is secondary. Granted social is easier because there are more hands to help carry boats and a shared beer is always pleasant. But the requirement to have a crowd to be able to enjoy things is generational. I am a boomer. I am fine with being out there alone on a lovely sunny day or a lovely foggy one. Younger generations don’t seem to be so equipped.


Sorry…I did sort of get off on a tangent on something that has been on my mind for a long time. Just a note on how the industry changed gears so fast, but never seemed to embrace all the aspects of sea kayaking. I think I’ll just quietly wait in the corner for awhile.


No harm, no foul, just seemed a bit off target.

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Social opportunities are there for those who choose to look, but as @Celia says, solitude can sometimes be quite nice too (even on not-so-lovely days).