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 Post subject: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 3:46 pm 
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I've had some interesting conversations from a couple of kayak shops and one kayak magazine editor over the past couple of weeks and all have mentioned that kayaking, especially sea kayaking, seems to be on the down swing. One shop owner told me that sales of sea kayaks have been on the decline for the past two to three years with the past year being the leanest (more 12-15 footers have been sold than previous years though). Composite sea kayak sales (16+ feet) are at an all-time low.

I'm getting reports from several people that they did not see nearly as many sea kayakers out on the water in the more remote spots last year. John Dowd mentioned that he generally gets 80-100 or so people landing on his beach on Vargas Island each year but last year he said he noticed fewer than 20!

What's happening to the kayakers? Has the market been saturated? Are people losing interest? Is the economy to blame? What's up?

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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 4:49 pm 
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Interesting... I think the economy probably has a lot to do with dwindling boat sales. Perhaps there has been a bit of a bubble with sea kayaking. For a while there, it seemed like one in ten cars had a roof rack on it, with a kayak. But, when I'd take a close look at many of these kayaks that people were driving around...I wouldn't see any scratches, or signs of any kind of real use :roll: . Almost as if they were the trendy item de jour for a certain crowd, to strap on to the roof of the Prius, while driving to a hot yoga class, or the health food store. I think many of these folk may have had a scare in some rough water, or perhaps realized just what a sizable investment is required, once one starts buying gear.

Bad for the industry, to be sure. But from my perspective...more room out on the water and the camp sites for me :cool


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 4:54 pm 
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lance_randy wrote:
Bad for the industry, to be sure. But from my perspective...more room out on the water and the camp sites for me :cool


Yea, but if kayak retailers and manufacturers can't survive we all lose.

I'd gladly trade more kayakers on the water and at campsites for less powerboaters.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:30 pm 
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From a newbie perspective who started last fall and have been on the water all winter, could there just be more fair weather kayakers now?

Many of the people that I know who paddled before we started indicated that they don't venture out in colder days or in conditions less than ideal. They all said that the first year they paddled a lot but come the second winter the gear gets stored. This is when they find other activities and when it comes time to get the yaks out again they find themselves busy with their new activities.

Another cause could be just getting bored paddling in the same location(s) all the time and or in some cases by themselves. I think this is where getting involved with organized groups helps big time like SISKA which we have recently joined. As Robyn and I were discussing last night after a day on the water with a group of 19 paddlers, it probably was one of the best days we have had so far.

Here's a suggestion and I don't know if some retailers do this or not but maybe when outfitting potential new paddlers they provide a list of local resources for training, organizations, etc.. From there the new paddlers can research what is available to them and hopefully it kick starts a wonderful adventure.

Just my thoughts :)

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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 6:10 pm 
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Excellent thread! We tend to do most of our kayaking in the winter months and mostly because we like being alone out there. We've never really had much interest in going to area's like the broken group for the simple reason that we have heard it can get very crowded.

We have talked to two local outfitters here and a couple other kayakers recently and they all say the same thing, its no longer crowded out there. For the last 2-3 years it has gotten very quite in their opinion. I just assumed it was a case of been there done that for most.. It would seem that is not the only reason..


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:16 pm 
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WaterMark wrote:
lance_randy wrote:
Bad for the industry, to be sure. But from my perspective...more room out on the water and the camp sites for me :cool


Yea, but if kayak retailers and manufacturers can't survive we all lose.

I'd gladly trade more kayakers on the water and at campsites for less powerboaters.



Indeed!


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 7:33 pm 
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Dan_Millsip wrote:
I've had some interesting conversations from a couple of kayak shops and one kayak magazine editor over the past couple of weeks and all have mentioned that kayaking, especially sea kayaking, seems to be on the down swing. One shop owner told me that sales of sea kayaks have been on the decline for the past two to three years with that past year being the leanest (more 12-15 footers have been sold than previous years though). Composite sea kayak sales (16+ feet) are at an all-time low.

I'm getting reports from several people that they did not see nearly as many sea kayakers out on the water in the more remote spots last year. John Dowd mentioned that he generally gets 80-100 or so people landing on his beach on Vargas Island each year but last year he said he noticed fewer than 20!

What's happening to the kayakers? Has the market been saturated? Are people losing interest? Is the economy to blame? What's up?


In outdoor retail/rec in general, the trend for several years has been towards shorter duration, sometimes higher intensity "done in a day" recreation. So a dayhike or a trail run instead of an overnight or longer backpacking trip. Bouldering or wall climbing instead of a multiday alpine climb.

The classic sea kayaking market has been a "mature" (read: saturated) one for a while. The only real growth areas have been daytrippers (witness the 12-15 footers), SOTs, and fishing kayaks, which are cheaper than motor boats to purchase and run, offer a new experience in fishing, and sometimes can take fisherman places powerboats can't. Stand up paddleboarding is also big, with the offer of a complete body workout in a couple of hours.

There seem to been a variety of factors contributing to the shorter trip trend. As folks have families, the logistics of overnighters become more complicated. There's at least one reason that's specific to Canada. We're hitting the point where more Canadian citizens were born elsewhere than in this country. From surveys, my employer knows that many of these folks want to do more in the wilderness, they just don't have the cultural tradition and base training so many Canadian born citizens have - most Canadian born folks have some exposure of canoeing, sleeping in a tent, etc. from summer camp, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, or their own parents.

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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:19 pm 
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I see 3 factors:

-Economy for sure.

-Demography with baby boomers getting older and new immigrants not as interested in the great outdoor.

-Trends are always changing the landscape of the outdoor industry, I remember there was a time in the 80's when windsurfing boards were seen on roof rack everywhere. Since then kite sailing has pretty well eliminated windsurfing.

I think that regular seakayaking has peaked a while back but now there is a new kind, a more performance type of seakaying on the rise along with the greenland rolling. The success of the San Francisco symposium might be an indication where seakayaking is heading. I also noticed the other day at ORS that there is a whole new fleet of Sterling performance seakayaks. I assume there is a market for it.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Sun Mar 04, 2012 8:50 pm 
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Great thread and great comments for sure. This discussion is pretty serendipitous for me, but more on that in a minute.

Yes, kayaking has a problem, in that the sport is so predominantly white, middle-aged, and middle class -- not that I have anything against such folk, being one myself. But the relative scarcity of young folk and the overwhelming scarcity of non-white folk is a cause for concern for a number of reasons.

First, we all rely on builders and retailers to provide us with boats and related toys, and they need a diverse customer base. Second, our clubs and volunteer infrastructure rely on the energy and dynamism that thrives best in a diverse community. And finally, the parks and protected areas that we love rely on broad-based political support for their continued existence. Without a diverse array of voters lining up to voice concern over environmental issues, the future of things like the marine trail system is less secure.

But things can change. It used to be that if you tramped around the North Shore mountains, you saw nothing but white hikers. Nowadays on the popular trails you will encounter a fair share of young Asian kids out for the day. That's a good sign in a city that has such a large Asian population. Or again, two years ago I went back to Banff for the first time in 20 years and was very pleasantly surprised to find that the families camped around me were Filipino and were talking nothing but Tagalog. That bodes well for the park.

And if you look at the youth programs in the city that are likely to get kids outside, they are often very diverse. I know the Marpole scout troop is almost entirely Asian, as is my son's Sea Cadet corps. Both these organizations have a strong outdoor education component in their respective programs. If the new Canadian communities become energized about outdoor recreation, then everyone benefits.

But kayaking still has challenges appealing to both new and young Canadians. First, you can't get away from the fact that it is prohibitively expensive for many people. And it doesn't have the strong tradition that canoeing does in youth programs: scouts and cadets are far likelier to get in a canoe than in a kayak.

What to do? Well it all begins with designing programs that provide access for people. For example, a friend of mine (very active in SKABC) has put on a Big Brothers/Sisters paddle every summer. She has done it with loaned boats and volunteer help. That's a start.

Another friend, an experienced guide, has done similar work with a schools in Victoria. That too is a start.

In my own case, I have just launched a kayak club at the school I work at. By introducing the kids to the sport, I'm hoping to turn some of them into lifelong paddlers. And since I work in a Vancouver school, a lot of my students are from new Canadian families. Again, that's where it has to start.

So I'm not depressed about the future. I think we face challenges, but that simply means we have to step up and meet them.

Regards,
Andrew


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 7:58 pm 
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Here's a couple thoughts...
#1 seems that in BC, MOST sea/rec kayakers are very recreational in nature and skillset. Maybe they got bored of the available flat water paddles, 'been there done that', without ever progressing into anything bumpy or exposed. Eventually you get bored of the same old.
#2 on the demographic, Canadians vs immigrants...Here's an interesting fact. Recently, thanks to my significant other who is a student at UBC, I became a member of the Varsity Outdoor Club, a very active,extremely outdoorsy and somewhat wacko bunch of skiers,climbers,mountaineers, and yes, kayakers. Very small percentage of that group is Canadian originally. Most tend to be from somewhere in Europe, some Asians, even an American or two. I'd say the ratio of Non-Canadians/Immigrants to Canadians in VOC is probably 5:1 or so.
In VKC, the Vancouver Kayak Club(whitewater), the ratio is closer to 50/50.
#3 On attracting younger people into the sport. Key word is "sport". Skiing is viewed as a sport,same goes for climbing and whitewater kayaking. Sea Kayaking, especially in BC, tends to carry the stigma of being an activity of choice of the older folks who paddle their fiberglass boats in flat water . That stigma is heavily based in reality. For the most part,it just does not excite the younger crowd,who often also don't have the means for buying and transporting a sea kayak.
#4 Compared to many other recreational sports, especially whitewater and even to sea kayaking across the border in Washington, there does not seem to be any real sea kayaking community in lower mainland . It is hard to draw individuals into something on their own.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 8:36 pm 
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I don't know the reason, but I concur with the observation. I paddle Discovery Passage regularly, and I NEVER see other kayakers. NOT ONE.

I suspect the reason is that Discovery Passage is not dead calm water.

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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:44 pm 
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I suspect the economy is the primary factor in the decline, especially considering the comment regarding composite boats declining sales. With a quality FG or composite kayak pushing $3000-$4000 (and the associated gear adding another $1000+) it can be a big financial hit. Before closing the book on the future of sea kayaking, I would like to hear from the rental companies. If they have seen an equally large drop in the number of people renting sea kayaks it may indicate a trend away from sea kayaking. If new paddlers are opting for SUP or rec boats over the longer touring boats, those renters will likely stay with what they enjoy (if they do become buyers). OTOH, if the popularity of the sea kayaks amongst renters is still there, I expect sales of touring boats will improve as the economy improves (if it ever does...)

Overall I haven't seen a ton of high end sea kayaks being unloaded on Craiglist type sites. Certainly not at the heavily discounted prices I would expect if people were leaving the sport in droves.

I'm quite interested in the comments mentioning the scarcity of paddlers in the previously busy locations. That might be a sign that the novelty has begun to wear off. A bit of "been there, done that" mentality. While I don't mind enjoying some solitude, it would be a shame to have the industry shrink significantly. An expanding market means new products and more competitive pricing between manufacturers.

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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 9:51 pm 
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Does this mean I am going to get a great deal on my new Kayak this year? ( if I do go ahead in getting it? )

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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:14 pm 
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My son and I spent a few weeks last summer out in Tofino and the Broken Group. In Late July and August we were amazed at the lack of other kayakers. Even at Hot Springs Cove we had the camp sites to ourselves. A couple of times we saw others paddling the other way but for the most part we chose any beach we felt like stopping at. I had always been led to believe that the summers were kayak magnets and everyone went there for July- September. I was surprised to see so few others. On Clarke Island we saw a couple of groups staying for one night but they all commented on how few people were paddling. I wasn't too distressed though as we had a very nice time picking our favourite camps, with lots of firewood, and our pick of the beach combing treasures.

The trend seems to follow lately locally here in Victoria. Two weeks ago we were at Chatham and Discovery Islands for three days and saw "0" kayakers. We had sunshine great tides, and the whole place to ourselves. Last Fall, I spent a few nights on several trips to Darcy, Portland and Portland Islands. Rarely did I encounter a full camp site and usually had the whole place to my self. Last June I went for a tour through the Gulf Islands staying at Wallace, Galiano, Prevost, Portland, South Pender and finally, Saturna before returning to the Swartz Bay terminal for a ride home. We encountered no one at most of the marine campsites except Portland.

I can't explain what is happening either, though it seems every other car has a rack or two on the roof. I too hope that the summer traffic to Ocean River and MEC is enough to keep them going because I do occasionally need gear. I do intend to spend more time on the water with my retirement happening this Spring.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:56 pm 
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I'm surprised to hear about Broken Island Group. Both times I was there you were never out of sight of other kayakers.

I've noticed a big surge in the popularity OC's in the past few years for fitness and racing, especially with a younger demographic. I haven't seen the same interest in fitness kayaking or surf skis, even though it's fantastic exercise, imo.

And over the past year or 2 stand up paddling has been the hot thing. My experience is that it's quite dull compared to kayaking, and not as good a workout (apologies to all the stand up paddlers). But there's huge marketing behind it, and perhaps it's easier to market something where you can put hot nearly-nude bodies on a board. Whereas for kayaking you lose some of the sexiness once you're in a kayak, spray skirt on, drysuit on...


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:08 am 
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This is an interesting thread, especially since I am relatively new to this sport (fall of 2006) and don't have the longer term perspective to note this decline in participation. My wife and I have 3 kayaks, our initial tandem and 2 singles. My single replaced an earlier purchase - so we have purchased four kayaks and sold one. Our initial two purchases were enabled by a bonus from my work place; otherwise the financial layout would have been too daunting. None of the four purchases were brand new, although two were demos from Seaward. The point is that our purchases didn't help any retail vendors.

Our local North Idaho kayak shop went belly up, perhaps 2 years ago. It had struggled historically, despite providing lessons and tours in an attempt to generate kayaking enthusiasm. Among the kayakers I know here, one has just purchased a new kayak, another is looking for two replacement kayaks, and yet another purchased a new kayak about 2 years ago at a 'special' price as an employee of the aforementioned kayak shop.

Among the locals here, rec boats are usual on the big lake. However, some are starting to look longingly at the idea of driving to the coast and kayaking in the salt water e.g. the San Juans or north into the waters around Vancouver Island. This would entail renting a kayak or moving up from their rec boats, perhaps unlikely for some until economic conditions improve.

So at this inland location, I see both signs of decline and seeds for an increase in paddling participation. Like someone else has commented, I see the SUP as a temporary fad much like the windsurfers a few years ago. The latter were quite ubiquitous here at that time and are now a rarity.

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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:40 am 
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Interesting thread- thanks!
Although I've owned a sea kayak(s) for 10 years or so, I don't have much data to add.

A few thoughts:
Kayaks are almost indestructible; they don't 'go away', though some boats may seem 'hopelessly outdated' by now. So the retail situation may be similar to the sailboat business- the marinas are packed full, but few new boats are being sold. Anyway, boats and gear must still be a moneymaker or places like MEC wouldn't be expanding their offerings.

What's the demand for instruction/courses? I find that many are 'booked solid', and quickly. So that is an indicator of interest, I think.

I think of 'kayak camping' aka touring as something a bit different from 'regular' paddling. Is the number of 'day trippers' decreasing?

Anyway, as somebody with kayak camping 'on my list', I'm glad to hear that there are fewer people out there.
Perhaps some folks are 'self-selecting' themselves out of the sport when they realize they don't have the skill to paddle safely, as has been suggested above.

When I was up in Barkley Sound in my (small, wooden) sailboat during the summer about 10 years ago, my tranquility was constantly interrupted by gaggles of noisy sea kayakers paddling past! (Disconcerting when one is taking a bath in the cockpit...)
Kayakers were everywhere; I couldn't find an unoccupied spot to put the dinghy ashore and go for a walk.

Fewer paddlers=less impact=fewer regulations. Capitalism can take care of itself.

As for the 'danger' that we won't have 'improved products' for paddling- I'm not really worried. I did a lot of happy hiking and backpacking in the 70s-80s without a portable espresso machine or lycra clothes, and some great canoe trips without carbon fiber gear.

John


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 9:57 am 
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Interesting discussion. I'll add a prairie perspective. It certainly looks to me like the recreational kayaks are doing very well, and I can only hope that some of those folks decide to learn how to kayak properly and eventually migrate into more sea-worthy craft as their skills improve.

Here in the land of the "Saskaboom" where the economy seems to be doing pretty well, our local canoe & kayak club saw a 35% reduction in numbers last year after over a decade of steady growth. I'm not sure of the reason, but weather could have been a factor. Also, changes in the rental policies were certainly a factor, as well as not enough volunteers to plan trips which the novices are looking for. However, I wonder if it also suffered to some degree from the same phenomenon that you folks have described in BC.

Cheers,
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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:33 am 
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During the summer months we do a lot of day trips in the South Gulf Islands simply because we have such easy access, we rarely see other kayakers on the water. Occasionally we'll see one in the distance. The only time we run into any is in areas where there are rentals like Ladysmith or Sylva Bay. Outside of these areas its mostly power and sail boats.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:53 am 
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The economics of kayaking has become a significant issue on a personal level in recent years, while I have all the kayaking and camping gear I need for most situations I find that I just cannot justify the cost of transporting my kayak by ferry (I have to take 2 ferries to get to Vancouver Island) and the price of gas continuing to escalate ($1.70 per liter predicted for summer 2012!!) I now keep my travels very much to a localized radius.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:25 am 
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re/ Recreational Paddlers
A main factor...the Economy.
Perhaps another factor that no one has mentioned...
Really poor spring (early summer) weather 2 years in a row. Let's face it, the vast majority of rec paddlers are 'Fair Weather' paddlers.

Talking with the owner of a well known Kayak shop in the area...he said his retail sales were down last year, but rentals were equal if not marginally better!
Also...talking with a well-known area kayak tour company owner...their bookings for this year are already better than last year!

Also...
I make the annual Whale-watching paddle every mid-August to Robson Bight (Johnstone Strait)...the last 3 years has been crazy busy with paddlers up there...recreational and commercial.

The other thing I have noticed over the last couple/few years...the tremendous amount of vehicles going through town with kayaks on their roofs, in transit going to/coming from North or West Island.

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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 4:27 pm 
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Not sure how others feel but the double whammy effect of UV sunrays while being on the water has caused me to be crepuscular in my kayaking . Not sure if the years of solar exposure have caught up with me or the thinning ozone is more of a serious problem than before or a combination of the two . In any case I don't go out as often as I used to .


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 5:37 pm 
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Redcedar wrote:
....Not sure if the years of solar exposure have caught up with me or the thinning ozone is more of a serious problem than before or a combination of the two . In any case I don't go out as often as I used to ....


I recommend this sort of protection:


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:07 pm 
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I'm a member of the Olympic Peninsula Paddlers based in Pt Angeles. Over 10+ years our core group of paddlers have remained active, but as we're graying, there has not been as much interest from younger paddlers. Part of that may be due to the popularity of SUPs and board surfing. Both probably attract a younger market than sea kayaks and offer a cheaper option to get on the water. While I don't mind less competition for the marine campsites on our trips,
it's always good to see a new kayaker with a passion for the sport.


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 Post subject: Re: Where have all the sea kayakers gone?
Unread postPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:41 pm 
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Gas price, unstable job market, Facebook and Twitter update on smartphone, and lack of 100% salt waterproof Smartphone.

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