Monday, August 01, 2011

Have We Peaked?
I just taught at three wonderful sea kayak symposiums where I met a lot of wonderful folks and got to say hello to old friends. They were well attended, but there was a feeling that the last one might not enjoy a full boat load of participants. Some of this, I am guessing, is due to the economy and cost of gas. Yet, I wonder if the pool of new folks interested in sea kayaking is ebbing. Sign ups for classes at some of the paddle shops are down and some classes have been cancelled for lack of enrolment. Come to think of it, only 4 of us showed up for the Sunday morning paddle on a near perfect day.
 To be sure, kayaking is growing in popularity. Just look at all the new (mostly plastic) sit on tops, kayaks for fishing and cheap...really cheap...recreational kayaks are selling and showing up on our lakes (sometimes in places they ought not be). When folks hear that I am an instructor they ask all sorts of questions that indicate that, at least to them, kayaking is recreational kayaking. If there is a second place interest, it seems to be in white water paddling.
In fact, when I mention kayaking people often think I am talking about going down the rapids. The point is that few of them think or ask about sea kayaking. Having to tip over and doing a wet exit does not seem to appeal to many even though they will take out a recreational boat, splash one another and getting thoroughly soaked. Perhaps there is little interest in the risk of going out on open waters in conditions.
I don't sell kayaks and I do not make any significant money from teaching (earnings just about = gas costs). I just love doing it. My interest here is in seeing new people enjoying this wonderful sport and learning to do it safely.

Paddle safe...


Ken B said...

I agree that most people are not knowledgeable about sea kayaking and what a joy it can be. And that’s a shame when you consider that most people believe that outdoor recreation has to involve some type of internal combustion engine. Maybe we should consider more ways to reach out to recreational kayakers and a broader circle of sea kayakers who might want to venture onto Lake Michigan but, A. are not sure they would fit in with the Sunday morning group or B. they have other interests or obligations on Sunday mornings. What about rotating the time and location of “the” Sunday morning paddle? Does it always have to be on Sunday? At 9 a.m.? At South Shore marina? Think Cream City Bicycle Club and how they publicize their outings in the newspaper – different venues and trip distances are offered every week. There are lots of great places to paddle in Milwaukee, SE Wisconsin and northern IL. Changing up the routine might help expose sea kayaking to a whole new circle of paddling enthusiasts.

Silbs said...

Excellent post, Ken. I have sent it on to our local club site. Thanks.

steve said...

Here in Israel we are still seeing the sport growing all the time. We have asteady stream of newcomers joining our paddling club. Remember that we have warm weather for a longer time than you and its easy to paddle up to november or decemberas well.In fact when your weather gets too cold to paddle you can always come and paddle with us.

terri said...

Hi Dick,

I met and spoke with you briefly at the DCSKS. This Sunday I hope to join you for the morning paddle. Started taking a few classes last summer and I have only been on Lake Michigan one other time besides the symposium. I know I would appreciate having the location rotated (more southerly).

Silbs said...

Steve, one day you will find me at your front door with paddle in hand.

Terri, I look forward to seeing you this weekend. Glad you're coming to join us.

RussJ said...

I think sea kayaking has a very limited market. $3500 kayak, $500 roof rack, $150 life vest, $1000 dry suit, $400 paddles + $100 tow rope, etc, etc, etc, etc.

With all the initial expenses required to "do it right", I'm not at all surprised that a large number of my paddling cohorts are lawyers, doctors, executives, or government employees.

IMO, most people get involved with sports when they are in their teens and twenties. I don't know many people in that age group who could afford the expense of the sport. I believe that this is one reason why the rec kayak market has expanded as rapidly as it has. People want to paddle, but they want it to be cheap and easy. Not many are interested in the finer points of a proper forward stroke. They don't want a learning curve, they just want to have some fun.

Silbs said...

Excellent points, Russ. For the record, I was in my 60's when I took my first lesson.