Friday, May 02, 2008

Good News?
Bad News?

These 3 magazines arrived in our mail within 2 days of one another (the one on the right is from the American Automobile Association). Notice the common theme? Yes, kayaking. Or, at least, paddling. Thing is, only one of them is a paddling magazine. Is this good or bad news?

Those who sell or rent boats or offer trips involving them will find this wonderful. Ah, the kayak is becoming mainstream. This means more business for them and bottom line, a better bottom line. For them, it ends up being about money.

Outdoor advocates may celebrate that, at last, others will get to enjoy the outdoors. Even exercise folks will welcome the new herd of people who have gotten their butts off the sofa and into a boat. Surely the National Association To Get Everyone Into A Kayak Because It Is Good Fun will be happy with this sign of "progress". So will the National Association Of Manufacturers Of Plastics and Resins. Lots of people will celebrate this economic niche as it grows. Could it be that there is no down side here (remember who is writing this)?

It is spring, the Lake Michigan is not yet up to 40F, and soon young people with new/rented boats will appear at the launch site ready to paddle. Many, sadly, will have had no lessons or experience but will have a recreational boat not meant for the lake, no pfd (or one that is on the back deck) and cotton shirts and shorts that feel good in the relatively warm air. Hey, how wonderful, they are getting involved and contributing to this economic boom. We all know, however, that they are putting themselves at great risk, especially for hypothermia.

In addition, they know nothing of navigation or the rules of the road. Our launch site is busy with large yachts and fisherman constantly leaving and entering the harbor. We have already had complaints of kayakers getting in the way (which is how I got onto the Milwaukee Harbor Safety Committee). These unwashed novices are, at times, a public relations nightmare.

Finally, there will be the elitist snobs who feel the sport is too crowded and that it is already too hard to get a good camp site. There will be the purest who looks down at anyone who is not in a real kayak which, as he or she will know, must be 18 feet or skin on frame or no more than 18 inches wide or be able to carry a piano in the rear hatch. They will look askance at the faulty forward stroke, the not-upright-posture and the arm paddling of the newbies. They will find plenty to criticize.

I know that you (and I) fit into one or another, and possibly more, of the groups I have described. Which group(s) you are in will determine whether this is good or bad news that arrived in my mailbox.

(Off to the Wilderness First Aid course. Back Monday)

Paddle safe...


Anonymous said...

well, i never knew there were so many types of kayaks. thru your blog, i am learning a lot and so is my husband. we do not have a lake michigan, but we have lots of rivers and we see lots of kayakers all of the time. (is kayakers even a word?)when we buy one, you can bet i will find a way to get in touch with you!

DaveO said...

I'm sure you read the article in USA today about this very subject. My neighbor just bought a rec boat at a big box sporting goods, hell it was Cabela's, might as well get that out there, and stopped over to ask me how to 'operate' the thing. I think I feel a related post coming on. Great thoughts! I think I fall into the 18' snob category...;)

Silbs said...

Suzette: Bring that boat up here and paddle with us.

Daveo: You ain't no snob. In fact, when I met you at Canoecopia I was impressed with the plain and simple crown you were wearing :)

canoelover said...

Too many snobs in the world, Dick. Thanks for not being one of them.

It's not just kayaks -- I personally know guitar and mandolin snobs, car snobs, food snobs, beer and wine snobs (don't get me started).

The sad thing is that in my experience, the snobs don't enjoy the activity as much as the enthusiastic beginner. The snobs pick apart the deck fittings on a kayak. The beginners just paddle the damned things and enjoy it. :-)

Good to see you around Rutabaga again! DB

Silbs said...

Thank you! 'Baga's attitude toward the sport and their employees is heartening in this dog-eat-dog world of us. Now then, where can I buy some time on the water?