Have You Tried Kayaking for Fun and Fitness?

I am a recreational fresh water guy.  I like looking at it, floating on it, and more recently, fishing in it. That is one reason that living on a lake (at least part-time) is so pleasurable for me. I have added another water activity to my list of favorite things to do:  kayaking. Have you tried it? I will give you my take on why it is something that all baby boomers should consider for fun and for fitness.

Earlier this summer my wife and I bought two recreational kayaks.  For a kayak, “recreational” usually means that the kayak is designed primarily for cruising around mostly calm waters, such as a lake or gently flowing river. Recreational kayaks are also generally wider and roomier, perfect for boomers who need some stability and extra space for our bodies and stuff.

The kayaks we bought are “sit-in” meaning that there is an opening surrounded by a deck that covers most of your legs and your stuff. Other recreational kayaks are “sit on.”  We wanted sit-in kayaks so that when the weather gets cooler, we will have some protection from wind and spray. We can even attach a spray skirt for more protection. My kayak is also set up for fishing, with rod holders and an anchor trolley system.

These are some of the reasons why I have found kayaking so enjoyable:

1. Kayaking is easy to do.  I can carry and launch my kayak in the water without difficulty.  No elaborate preparations are needed. The learning curve for effective paddling and maneuvering on smooth water is short. The trickiest parts are entering and leaving the kayak from the dock without losing balance. This has taken some practice but I believe my technique has been refined such that it will not be a problem in the future.

2. Kayaking is fun exercise. Lots of baby boomers walk for exercise. I do too. What many of us lack is upper body strength.  Walking doesn’t provide that. The usual cure for this is weight and strength training at the gym. I have done that and it works. The problem is that it is not fun. Kayaking gives you a good upper body workout with varying intensity levels as controlled by you. The payoff for the workout is that you are moving across the water and having a great outdoor experience. You don’t even think about the exercise part while you are paddling in nature.

3. Kayaking connects you to the outdoor environment.  I love to sail, in part because the wind provides a mostly peaceful and environmentally friendly power source. Kayaking takes this experience to the next level. When you are paddling a kayak, you are just inches from the water. You can see, hear and feel everything that is going on around you. The sounds of the water hitting the hull and  the shore, the birds, the fish, turtles, all of it. You are right there in the middle of it and connected to it. If you open your heart and mind to these sounds and sights, there is no room for thinking about the past or future. You are fully engaged in the present moment, which are the only moments we have left. (And you don’t need any wind!)

4. A kayak can take you to new places.  It is relatively easy to transport a kayak. With the right roof rack, you can transport one or two kayaks with almost any vehicle. You can explore lakes and rivers far and near, including shallow water areas that other boats must avoid. If you like to fish or watch birds, a kayak will expand your territory.

5. Anyone can kayak.  My best kayaking experiences have been when my wife and I paddle together. You do not need to be a skilled athlete to be a kayaker. I liked this article about kayaking being the perfect sport for the not so sporty.  Women and men can be athletic equals in a recreational kayak.

Because kayaking has become so popular, you can now buy kayak gear in lots of different stores, even Walmart. If possible, I recommend that you find a local outfitter and rent a kayak for a day to try it out. If you like it, then start shopping for your own kayak. Do not buy the cheapest product. You will want to look for features such as an adjustable foam seat and back, adjustable foot rests, padding for your legs, and maybe a cup holder. Baby boomers definitely need these comfort features!

Do we have any readers who are experienced kayakers and can provide more advice?

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