Sea Kayaking: A Great Family Sport

To the youngest of riders, it’s a fantasyland voyage of rainbow-colored critters and rocks shaped like castles. For inquisitive, older children it is an eye-opening journey over tide pools and along cliffs crowded with birds. And for the baby-boomer parents of the 90s, it’s a chance to take the entire family along on an adventure they have been enjoying themselves for years.

Families, young and old, are enjoying sea kayaking together, either with their own boats, or through the growing number of outfitters and tour companies offering day trips throughout the summer.

The sport is sea kayak touring and it has become one of the more popular “soft” adventure activities for the baby-boomer families of the late 90s. Like bicycling in the 70s and 80s, kayak touring is fast becoming one of the more popular family-oriented outdoor activities throughout the United States.

From grandkid to grandpa, whole families are taking to the water in touring sea kayaks to enjoy coastal scenery, marine wildlife and the rhythm of the ocean itself. More manufacturers are designing and producing larger, two-person kayaks and many more retailers are seeing families buying double sea kayaks to compliment the small fleet of singles that mom and dad have been paddling for years. Touring companies are conducting group tours that are comprised entirely of one extended family.

Sea Kayaking: Too Threatening?
It has been a long, slow process for sea kayaking to come to the table of popular family outing activities such as cycling, hiking and even other forms of paddlesports such as canoeing and rafting. When many people hear the term “kayaking,” their minds conjure up images of raging, roaring rapids with frothing waves lashing at boats as they are swept wildly through high-walled canyons of rock. That image and the fact that many who are encouraged to give the sport a try don’t know how to swim, all contribute to a preconceived image that sea kayaking is just too threatening, too intimidating — and way beyond their courage level.

So what is it about kayak touring that continues to lure, and keep, new sea kayakers interested in the sport?

The expanded use of double sea kayaks has helped outfitters encourage the more timid into these larger boats because of their inherent stability and ease of maneuverability. That, coupled with quality instruction by qualified tour operators has contributed to a comforting entry-level experience for a wide range of kayaking first-timers.

The lasting appeal of sea kayaking or kayak touring is undoubtedly the repeated exposure to the elements of the sea. Those sensations one feels while sitting in a small, secure craft right on the water — an arm’s reach away from the undersea world. Kayaks are stable platforms from which paddlers can observe wildlife silently and closely with minimal, if any, disturbance to those creatures. There are no motors to betray advancing crafts, no high profile to betray a stealth-like approach, and for the ecologically conscious kayaker no fuels or oils to pollute the environment.

Teaching your children and their friends the basics of sea kayaking makes for great afternoon adventures.

Kayaking appeals to the senses — the sights and sounds of nature. Sea birds of many species flit along rock outcroppings or launch from their seemingly crowded rookies in a cascading mass of flowing feathers as kayaks glide silently below. Sea Stars and myriad other tidal critters sprinkled along clearwater reefs look like brilliant garden flowers in bloom.

The ocean itself wears a wide wardrobe of colors and textures — from the mirror-like shimmer of a flat calm evening to rolling swells of liquid satin that caress a long stretch of sandy beach. The fluid pulse of the ocean beneath the kayak is a constant reminder of its ever-flowing life.

Security: A Double Sea Kayak
For families with a wide age range of children, these sensations and images excite and entertain at many levels. The security of the double sea kayak enables parents to paddle younger riders along with ease and security while older, stronger kayakers can help extend the family outing to longer crossings and more distant shores without too much effort.

Class and clinics in sea kayaking safety and instruction are offered throughout the country. Some businesses include safety instruction as part of their ongoing programs while other make it part of family days or demonstration kayaking events.

The Trade Association of Paddlesports, whose membership includes manufacturers, retailers and outfitters from around the world, presents several sea kayaking symposia each year, that offers many clinics and demonstrations that are specifically targeted towards family kayaking.

Manufacturers have seen this trend in family kayaking grow to the point that more and more specialized gear — that designed for women and children — are more available and at affordable, budget-conscious prices. There are even three hole kayaks on the market for those really big families!

Whether yours is a family of intrepid individuals who want to explore nearby coastlines in your own kayaks, or a family just getting into the sport via a trip with a touring company, the sport continue to lure entire families into its ranks. The family of the new millennium may well be the family with a kayak for every member of the family.

There are many on-water events throughout the country that have both classroom and on-water safety instruction in sea kayaking. For more information on sea kayaking you can contact your local retailer, tour operator or contact the Trade Association of Paddlesports, 12455 North Wauwatosa Road, Mequon, WI 53097.

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