Aug 09 2016
Canoeing has long been seen as everyman’s — pace, sisters — sport, a “Grandpa takes the kids fishing on Golden Pond” sort of thing. Kayaking, on the other hand, is often depicted as a never‑ending adrenaline high. In countless freesheets and local papers, canoeists are pictured drifting lazily on sunset‑reddened waters, while kayakers are almost invariably snapped in action, frequently poised in mid‑air, halfway down a 20‑foot drop.
The obvious conclusion? You’re either an old duffer — in which case a canoe is the boat for you — or you’re a young athlete, and therefore a natural kayaker. This neat, binary ordering has all the attractions of simplicity, but like many other obvious things, it’s wildly inaccurate. Any paddler who actually looks around her while she’s spending a lazy summer day on Golden Pond will notice a lot of kayakers on the water, few of whom fit the “adrenaline junkie” stereotype. And a quick, informal survey at the local Mallmart will likely reveal plenty of activity around the colorful displays of kayaks and sit‑on‑tops. (I’m not sure if a SOT is a kayak without a deck or decked boat that you sit on, rather than in, but whichever way you look at it, SOTs would appear to be closer to kayaks than canoes.)
The bottom line? Kayaks have shed their extreme sport image and paddled their way into the mainstream of American consciousness. And as I’ve already had occasion to note, this is a very good thing:
Kayaking could be a sport for Everyman (and Everywoman). It ticks all the boxes. It’s inexpensive, quick to learn, and a great deal of fun. … [So d]on’t stand on the sidelines looking on enviously while others have a splashing good time. Take paddle in hand and join the party. It’s never too late to set off on a voyage of discovery.
When I wrote this, I had no idea that it would generate much mail. But it did, and with the permission of the readers whose letters I’ll be quoting, I’m going to pass along a representative sample, beginning at the beginning, with a note on becoming a kayaker… Read more…
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