What keeps you sea kayaking?

Greetings all,

Although I have already paddled and I know I enjoy it (including once in a sea kayak on a short guided tour), I am going through a period of hesitation as far as getting further “into” the sport. I want to address the feelings of discouragement and doubt in this post, as well as what keeps you going with the sport.

First of all, there appear to be a number of differences between going on a guided kayaking tour (or simply renting a boat on the local lake) and with owning a boat and gear and going out by one’s self or with clubs/friends. Here is a list off the top of my head simply from reading other posts:

  • Buy lots of stuff, including expensive stuff. There is no proper sea kayak for under $1000 in existence, for example. This not like getting a starter set of golf clubs and playing on any golf course (although it could be frustrating, it’s not dangerous), or buying a cheap guitar and playing the Smoke On The Water riff over and over. It doesn’t seem like there is much of entry level at all in sea kayaking

  • Packing 10-20 items before a trip to the water to be prepared (the typical outdoors type items, but more for being on the water like VHF and other thingies). The Mountaineers in WA have a list of 17 things to bring: There’s a list of 10 overall essentials and then 7 things to bring for a lowish level sea kayaking trip, even for just a handful of hours! Not even talking about all day trips or multi-day which obviously requires plenty of gear similar to camping

  • Hauling the boat to the put-in, including putting it on the roof, securing it, taking it off, and getting it to the water. This one is made harder by the fact that a larger boat is generally considered “better”

  • Put on a drysuit in the parking lot. No tour or even rental requires a dry suit, so this is different. Granted there’s no law to wear a suit, but a group may or may not let you come with them without one, and the water may be cold

  • Do what I imagine is somewhat akin to walking on the moon walking over to the water. Then make sure the dry suit isn’t compromised by standing in the water, and acclimate body to water

  • During the paddle, letting go and enjoying one’s self seems a challenge. Certainly practicing skills is going to allow the ability to let go instead of thinking about everything you’re doing. This is a common pattern in hobbies, but often there isn’t a backdrop of danger danger in other pursuits (although it’s remarkable how easily the mind can think of some dangerous possibility in almost any situation, regardless of preparation)

  • After the paddle, do all the boat hauling in reverse

  • Make sure not to scrape against anything in the environment while wearing the dry suit in order to not break it. Generally, always be a bit worried about ruining the expensive dry suit, which may hang in the mind and be hard to let go of

  • Properly store the drysuit and put products on the gaskets. Rinse it in fresh water (in a bathtub maybe? The thing is huge so that may be the only option I can think of).

  • Store the kayak! Since it needs to be at least 14’ long, and many recommend at least 16’ this is not trivial. I actually have a garage but it’s about 16.5’ in length. My Honda CR-V fits with ~1.5’ to spare. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room, but it maybe could work.

So, with all that being said, what is the fun of kayaking for you that keeps you going with it? And do you ever feel doubt or discouragement about the hobby (like wanting to give it up)? For me, I enjoy the exercise and being out on the water with a unique view of the beautiful surroundings. It’s an adventure going out there and exploring. The fresh sea breeze feels good (although it won’t be felt with a dry suit, lol). I like buying gear to an extent, but I’m not much of a gearhead. I play golf but I don’t buy new clubs often at all. That part doesn’t appeal to me.



This is a good question to ask, @DanielD! I’m happy to give you my answers, and it will be interesting to see other perspectives as well.

As a quick background, I have been kayaking 20 years. I rowed for many years before that and have been sailing for over 30 years. In short, I’m a boat nut. But, I’m pretty far up the learning curve too.

There is no way around the fact that kayaking, especially sea kayaking, is expensive to get into. I sold kayaks for 7 years and this was a frequent complaint. The one upside is that once you have most of the basics, you’re pretty much set (at least for a while!). Also, much of the gear will last a very long time if properly cared for. I do replace my PFD every 4-5 years but I live in Florida where the toll from UV is high. But otherwise I have paddles that are 10+ years old, my drysuit is 10 years old (has had the gaskets replaced once), I had my first kayak for 9 years, one of my current kayaks is going on 8 years. There are plenty of used kayaks, paddles, spray skirts, dry suits etc out there that are perfectly serviceable and will be for many more years.

As far as packing all of the “stuff” - once you have a system for packing it up and loading and unloading your boat it becomes easy. I transport everything to the car in the ubiquitous blue IKEA bag (the best deal ever at $1.50 a piece!!). I load the boat the same way every time. It becomes second nature and I can do it in my sleep. I feel like I walk the middle as far as how much stuff I bring; not super minimalist as I usually paddle alone, but I’m not prepared for the apocalypse when I paddle close to the shore in warm weather.

I am training for a 300 mile adventure race (the Everglades Challenge) right now and that has added a TON of stuff to my daily gear list. I take it because I am required to, but except for a few small things (I had been avoiding buying a PLB since they are $$$ but since I mostly paddle and sail alone I am glad to have it now) I can’t WAIT to stop taking all of this extra stuff! You do need to tailor what you bring based on the conditions that you expect to encounter but mostly this is common sense, and does take a little bit of experience to determine.

Also, all of my paddling stuff lives together. A lot of the smaller things live in a dedicated dry bag. It takes me all of 3 minutes to round up everything I need including snacks and hydration. I also live on a sailboat so I have NO space - if I can store all of my “stuff” in a reasonable space then everyone can!

Dry suits aren’t that difficult to put on, and they aren’t that fragile, unless you really really abuse them. I love my dry suit (wetsuits are misery for me unless I’m snorkeling) and feel it is worth every penny since I run cold. They also aren’t hard to move around in unless you buy one that is way too small. Do learn how to “burp” the suit once you put it on and then you’ll forget it is there.

I don’t think of paddling as “dangerous”. In reality we are all in far more danger driving to and from our launch sites than we are on the water. Again, get some formal training, be situationally aware, and practice common sense. I have had times that I was concerned on the water but they are few and far between, and I have thousands of hours of water time. I go paddling and sailing to relax! I wouldn’t do it if it stressed me out all the time.

Loading and unloading the kayak - contrary to popular belief, longer kayaks are MUCH easier to load than shorter ones. I have 5 kayaks ranging from 12.5 to 19 feet. They all weigh roughly the same (45-55 lb). The short one is by far the biggest pain to load. The long ones are easy. Get a good roof rack system and figure out an easy way to load the kayak that works for you, your kayak and your vehicle.

I have a unique situation in that I can’t store any of my kayaks where I live except the smallest one (I live on a boat, in a marina). I keep three at a friends house (they are paddlers too). Kind of a hassle but better than not having them (or being stuck with a short boat). If you are limited to 16’, there are a lot of really good kayaks in the 14-15’ range that are extremely capable unless you are planning to do multi week trips.

And yes, I clean my boats (and thoroughly dry and cover the composite ones) every time I paddle. And clean all of my gear. And then clean me. I don’t mind it one bit - as mentioned, all of this stuff is expensive and I would like to have it a long time. It’s just part of the process and I actually enjoy it. If you don’t, this might not be the right hobby. I often tell people who are interested in sailing (another SUPER expensive thing!) or living aboard that it’s a lifestyle, not really a hobby. If you don’t like fixing and fiddling with and cleaning the boat as much as you like sailing it, you might be in the wrong place! I love paddling (and sailing) and find that they give me back much more than I put in.

Really long answer but I hope this gives you some idea of my thought process. Feel free to ask me for clarification on anything!


This is nice to hear. I am doing a 4 session course in April about sea kayaking so that should give me a good foundation if I want to continue pursuing this.

Overall a lovely post. Lots of good and helpful information here that nicely addresses my concerns. I actually haven’t read anything about cleaning the boat every time until you mentioned it. Although if I pay $1500 for a boat there could very well be a natural urge to clean it and pamper it :slight_smile:


What keeps you sea kayaking? … Ibuprofen.


You have obviously read and remembered the entire scope of paddling.
For myself:
Before I became a paddler, I was a kid who loved outdoors.
Then I became a walker of long distances around my neighborhood.
Then I became a runner , and a hunter, and a camper.
As I aged over the decades, my back and legs didn’t function as well so I became a paddler.
Along that journey, I bought what I could afford and did what time allowed.
There is an underlying theme.
The vehicle and venue have been secondary.
When I can only sit and feel, I’ll still be out there every chance I get.


It adds a measure of peace and serenity to me. I love the outdoors and being in a sea kayak gets my soul closer to it, until you try it and gain some measure of confidence, you will not know the feeling, because it is easy to let apprehension pull at you.


There are two expensive sports in which I participate – sea kayaking and skiing (alpine & Nordic). Both require a significant initial investment. A season’s ski pass is expensive, but I am now at the age where the ski areas around here provide essentially free passes. So at this point, having gathered the necessary equipment, both activities have become relatively cheap and are healthy. When I die, I’ll be in great shape.

Where you live makes a big difference. We live within walking distance of our local lake (110 mile circumference), so I can put the kayak and related gear on a cart and get to a decent launch point. Other launch locations on the lake are a short drive. Further, there other lakes in the area.

We also cross the border to Vancouver Island waters to kayak, at most for 2 weeks per year. This is somewhat expensive in comparison, requiring a (less than) 10 hour drive. We typically stay at a lodge or with friends. However, as a vacation, it is not prohibitive.

Our 3 kayaks are composite and each at 17+ feet. I occasionally buy a used kayak and sell one of the others. With careful shopping, this is not an added expense. New kayaks are not in my price range.

I have maintained my dry suit over ~10 years, replacing neck and wrist seals as needed, but have just purchased a new one. I use the dry suit mostly on the ocean and for rolling practice on our local lake. The lake water may get to the mid 70’s (Fahrenheit) and then I might use a wet suit with dry top for rolling practice. Otherwise, if just tripping, I stay relatively close to shore and may wear lighter clothing.

Paddles can be quite expensive. Buying a relatively cheap fiberglass paddle for starters is smart. Then, as your experience accrues, you may want a more expensive carbon version which will be significantly lighter. Then your original paddle becomes a spare. I have the usual navigational equipment.

As for the actual paddling, I love it. Being immersed in (what is left of) nature is meditative and peaceful. In spring and fall, there are few other boats on our lake so there is little traffic. Also the assorted waterbirds migrate through at those times (more easy to find in spring). Being retired, I can pick my days. As to the gear, I am not a gear aficionado but repair it as needed, perhaps add a keel strip, mess with the seat back, upgrade the rigging, fix the skeg etc. I enjoy that too.

My back hasn’t worked well since I was about 25, and I’m 35 now! Probably has something to do with long hours at the computer… also I have some physical issues that don’t cripple me by any measure but just make things a little more challenging.

Starting to get the feeling I’d be the youngin’ at most kayaking outings or meetups. I’m a bit used to it with golf although that sport has made a real effort to attract younger folks in recent years as well. Not sure about kayaking on that front.

Fair concerns.
I’ve been paddling for over 40 years; 27 of them in a sea kayak, and am a L-4 ACA instructor. I stay with the sport mostly because of the peace I find on the water, the trips I can and do take, the terrific people I meet. Yes, it’s a pretty expensive hobby. Yes there’s some caution that needs to be exercised. Still, I love it and won’t give it up till I’m just too old and decrepit to continue.

Nope; I don’t get discouraged. I view the activity as something to strive to continually improve. Sure I’m an instructor; but the learning is ongoing. As far as loading, unloading, cleaning…. It’s simply part of the game: and why not make a game of it. I’ll agree with you that the dry suit is a pita sometimes. The gasket eats my neck alive, but….part of it. Dry suits are more durable than you might give it credit for. Mine is 14 years old and is just fine. I’ve replaced gaskets a couple times but do it over the winter season and it’s not an issue. I store my 17’ boats from the garage ceiling, suspended in something called a “Harken Hoister”. Works like a charm.

My favorite activity is backcountry paddling/tripping. Remote is good. ‘Sure there’s an element of risk; there is in most everything. Education, prudence, skill obviates the risk as much as possible I guess. All I can say in addition is go for it. I doubt you’ll find a sport that’s better.


You are a youngster and please don’t take this wrong, however whether you ever paddle a kayak or not, it is time figure a way to begin working on core muscle exercises. I’m not talking trying to become a Herculean figure, but simply toning for your lifelong well being. As you indicate you spend lots of times seated in front of a computer like most of us these days, it will pay huge dividends in paddling and general life. Like most activities, the hardest part is getting started. There are lots of physical therapists with easy YouTube videos you can do at home. Find one you like and try to get into a core exercise routine every second or third day. Good luck!

PS - You are 6 years younger than I was when I started paddling about 26 years ago. Younger paddlers such as yourself who learn technique (rather than muscle) can do amazing things with a kayak after a couple seasons.


I love the outdoors, hiking, bicycling and camping. Had back issues until.I figured out how to sit properly, then my knees wore out. Stopped everything else after I bought a 9 ft rec boat and worked my way up to a 17.5 ft kayak. Always loved the water. I do understand why many consider kayaking expensive, because there was a time when I couldn’t afford to but a $1,500 boat or a carbon paddle and a $100 first PFD, now $150 PFD seemed out of the question. Then I kept upgrading, and the old models could be used by family members or friends.

Family and friends have power boats. When I think about how much it cost for boats, registration, repairs, maintenance, and gas, I feel this is cheap. I wore out a $49 seat pad and am getting ready to replace the bungees. I’ve been all over the upper Chesapeake many times over. I paddled further on one trip than I traveled on my son-in-law’s power boat. These boats will take you ANYWHERE!

I initially had no problems carrying my kayak and never enjoyed loading and unloading kayaks, but I don’t have to mess with trailers. Once the initial investment is made, it only costs to get the boats to the water. I use fat to power my kayak. I gained 6 or 7 lbs of free fuel since I stopped in October.

I always push to go further and faster on each nsuccessive trip. I agree that I wouldn’t call it fun, but it’s exciting, and challenging and I still enjoy the freedom. The pain is tolerable and worth it. My big fear is the day my activity causes more wear and tear so I can’t physically do it anymore. That’s my only fear. I’ve seen so much, but not as much as so many members. What I’ve seen has been good. All y’all keep sending pictures and you’re going to make me go for more. I don’t forsee anything making me stop. This is going to be a good year.

1 Like

I just got into sea kayaking (and kayaking in general) last year. Here are the best answers I can give you.

For me, the enjoyment comes from the challenge. From learning new skills, and pushing my limits. Being out in the elements and testing myself against one of the greatest powers on the planet (the ocean) is exhilarating. Plus, it’s really cool when a seal pops its head up to check me out. For me, I haven’t found anything that would make me want to give it up.

For the points you listed, I think I addressed them all below.

  • You can find adequate sea kayaks under $1000, if you shop for used boats. Both myself and my girlfriend have Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 kayaks. They were both used, in decent shape, and I didn’t pay more than $600 for either of them. In December I saw a used Dagger Stratos 14.5L listed locally for $400. It sold before I could contact the seller. On Facebook marketplace I see lots of decent sea kayaks in the ballpark of $1000, +/- a few hundred. You just need to be patient and look for the deals. As for other equipment, it does get expensive. Figure out what you NEED, and buy the best quality that fits within your budget.

*You don’t have to pack 20+ things before every trip if you keep most of it already packed. Just make sure you charge the VHF radio the day before you go out and toss it in the bag when it’s charged. The rest, unless it’s wet and needs to dry, doesn’t need to get unpacked.

*Loading and strapping down the kayak, then unloading it at your destination is a bit of a chore, that doesn’t take long once you get the hang of it. My 16.5 foot Wilderness Systems Tsunami is easier to load than my 12 foot recreational kayak. I lift the rear of the kayak into the J cradle, then lift the front. The length is actually a benefit with loading this way, because I’m loading it onto my minivan, and I’m short.

*I have no experience with drysuits. I’m still saving for one myself. When the water gets kind of cold here, I wear a wetsuit. It’s far less expensive. Putting it on isn’t that hard. I can’t imagine putting on a drysuit would be any more difficult, probably easier since it’s baggy where a wetsuit fits tight. I do wish I had a drysuit though, because I’d still be out kayaking even this time of year. The water (and air) is too cold for my wetsuit.

*From what I understand about drysuits in my research, they’re like a waterproof windbreaker, and a bit baggy. Not difficult to walk or move in. There’s no acclimating to anything, because it keeps you dry, and your clothes under it keep you warm. Just put the boat in the water, walk into the water however deep you need to to get into the kayak (less than knee deep), and get in. If you are where you need a drysuit, you’ll want a spray skirt. They can be tricky to secure, but again, you get used to it quick. I’d suggest learning to roll and how to wet exit/self rescue. Self rescue in particular is a necessary skill to learn, especially for sea kayaking.

  • I frequently “let go” and enjoy myself on the water. Floating up and over the swells and waves, just relaxing and drifting between periods of paddling and skill development.

*File the boat hauling in reverse under “pay to play.” It only seems a bit more difficult because you’re kind of tired after paddling.

  • Other than staying away from thorns and anything sharp or hot, I don’t think you have much to worry about with damaging your drysuit. It isn’t too fragile of a garment. Lots of people get pushed against rocks and dragged through beach sand while wearing theirs with no issues.

  • Hang it in the shower and hose it off, let it dry, wipe the latex gaskets with 303. Easy peasy. For storage, just don’t keep it bunched up tightly. Probably best to hang it like you would a dress suit.

  • Since adequate kayaks for sea touring can be as short as 14 feet or so, you have options with a 16.5 foot long garage. Even a longer one can fit if you angle it right.

Yes, sea kayaking involves an investment and physical work. No one else can answer for you whether or not it’s worth it to you to make the investment and put in the work, that’s really up to you to decide for yourself. I’d suggest renting and going on a few more guided tours before shelling out the money for all the gear, and then decide if you REALLY want to get your own equipment. Also try and find somewhere that does classes and provides equipment. I don’t know what’s in your area for this, but here in the Northeast LL Bean runs some great classes and provided all of the gear needed for the class.

Just one more thing, if you think packing for the trip, loading, unloading, and carrying your boat to and from the water is a lot of work, just wait until you’re on the water and paddling against wind and current… I have had some days where I could barely get out of my boat I was so tired lol.

1 Like

Facts right there.

Thanks for the thorough post. Yeah it seems like getting a used boat could be the way to go. Maybe not so much the dry suit unless I felt OK with potentially replacing gaskets, and also I’d need to know all the things to look for as far as wear and tear.

I’m taking a 4 session course in April so that should give me a nice foundation. They provide drysuits for the class as well, and also includes an all day Deception Pass outing (a gorgeous location in northern Puget Sound in WA).

It’s just a matter of finding other things to do until April heh.

One of our former members in the sea kayak club was from that part of the world. When he came to Florida he left his drysuit on the west coast so it would be there when he came back there for a visit/business. In Florida you can paddle with less cold weather/water gear. One thing to remember is that this forum is that the physics are constant but the conditions and cultures are all different even though we seem to be in one place here at the forum.

Thirty-five…less Ibuprofen.

Back at that age I was into bicycle riding and raising kids. The magazines were all into Greg Lemond carbon fiber cycles, $3,000 +/-. I was peddling a 23 year old Schwynn Continential (sp?) steel frame at 50# which I paid $129. You don’t have to have the latest, and greatest. But I did notice a difference when I upgraded equipment. Especially on the 60 mile rides.

My first kayak was a used rec boat I bought from a friend for $250. I put an air bag in the bow which gave me forward floatation and less cockpit water volume. Right after I bought the kayak I spent $1,000 on all those accessories one thinks you need to paddle. Air bag, racks, covers, skirts, paddles, etc. etc. But it opened up new possibilities in adventuring and hanging out with single women. Widowed and single at the time I found that my age group and slightly younger women like to recreate in a group. The ratio was often 8 to 1.

I got into building kayaks. Of course that meant cost for materials, tools, fixtures, etc. Then I built a shop to build the kayak in. What ever it is you can spend a lot of money doing it. You just have to find your “zone”.

PS…our past president of the kayak club just turned 40. We’ve had some 20 year olds in the club, but they all seem to have career moves, family things, and jobs that distract them from kayaking.

1 Like

All of the above gets faster and more manageable with practice and yes, some tools like a cart for the kayak. Best to prep for the first paddle of the season when coming out in a cold climate the day before, just to get all the gear sorted out and ready. But once it is in its appropriate bag or whatever to load into the car it is just routine.
I usually load the boat the day before a paddle, even with the Hullivator.
The dry suit is just clothes, and some periodic gasket treatment. No big deal.

Once you get the routine down and have the skills commensurate with the conditions you are launching into…
I can be well away from land in open water and offshore islands nothing but somewhere to go without a motor that can break or sails to manage. I can be sitting there and have birds literally fly by my head. I can sit near the southern end of an island and listen to the constant sound of crashing waves. In my more skilled days with company, I can float those waves in and out.

It is freedom.


What keeps you sea kayaking?
because I have to,
kind of like breathing,
although, maybe not, I KNOW I will die if I stop breathing.
I’m not sure that I would die if I stop paddling - but I don’t want to test it.


Overstreet, there’s another way to look at it. You just have an expensive hobby as a boat builder. The great part is that you build the boat, then get to use it free. Somebody convinced me to make a paddle, now you gave me a reason to build a boat.

Bicycling was the same. I bought a good bike then upgraded parts as they broke. The real cost was the tools, the wheel building stand, the bike repair stand, but that was my hobby as a bike mechanic, so repairs were free. My only regret was not spending $100 more for my first bike. The same is true with my first kayak, which only cost $225.

What keeps me going? Well, I’ve been paddling canoes since I was a kid, and sea kayaking for 25 years, and it brings me calmness, excitement, awe, and just a good feeling overall.

10 Years ago, I had a medical situation that made all my doctors wonder if I’d ever be able to paddle again, ride a bike, or even drive for a time. I have been able to do all of those things again even though my neurologist would prefer I never got in a kayak or canoe again. Sorry, proved him wrong, gonna paddle as long as I can, just with a few smart precautions.

At least half of my friends have come from kayaking with others. And I met my better half on a club paddle I was leading. Been together for 20 years now.

It has taken me on the best trips of my life like Alaska, British Columbia, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia to name a few. I’ve paddled with whales, seen wildlife and places that I would have never seen doing a lot of other activities, and learned a lot about the world in general.

So to me, spending a few bucks upfront, learning skills, and doing the pre and post paddle chores are nothing in comparison to what it has given me.

1 Like

I have always loved the water. I used to fish and waterski from a power boat. Then got into sailing. Now kayaking. Over the years I learned that one of the things I liked about kayaking is the feeling of being on the water, the feeling of the water interacting with my boat. And I have always loved being in nature, being outdoors, being comfortable on my own out there.

I think kayaking is like any other activity I enjoy engaging in. The hassle is worth it because I enjoy the activity. Photography has a lot of hassle. Lots of equipment, lots of technique, lots of time to get really good shots. But I am willing to do all the rigmarole because I like doing the activity. Or bicycling, or woodworking, etc. If I don’t enjoy the activity, then I don’t like all the hassle. If I do, I find the hassle is just part of what it takes to do what I enjoy.

I agree with others, while at first all the stuff you need and the have to bring can seem like a lot of trouble for uncertain reward, but after you have worked out a routine and lists, and gotten things well organized, it goes pretty smoothly and quickly. Doesn’t seem like much of a price to pay for getting to do what I like.