Go to any river, pond, or lake and you can see a kayak or canoe at least some time during the week. The popularity of paddling and rowing has grown almost exponentially in recent year and I don't see any reason for this growth to stop. In fact, the economy may keep the growth booming. Some people consider small paddled craft to be toys. Nothing wrong with that. Recreation is one of the attributes of kayaks and canoes but there are viable reasons why a kayak may be an good alternate choice to an expensive powered boat. Since I've enjoyed watercraft and paddling for more than 50 years I can give you some good reasons to consider a kayak or canoe.
The most obvious thing that jumps out at you is that paddling is fun. It doesn't matter what activity you enjoy--running rapids, romping near a lake shore or playing in the surf--it's fun. Fun is limited only by your imagination and spirit.
You can fish in a kayak or use the boat to find remote areas to land and fish from shore. I do both. Both ways present logistic challenges, but when you conquer those challenges a new world of fishing opens up. I am certain I sometimes have an advantage over bass boats speeding here and there while I quietly work shorelines, coves, and underwater structure. Paddling speed is ideal for trolling. I've caught fish from perch size to seven feet long in my kayak, or on shore because of the kayak.
I'm a long distance marathon paddler and still compete in select races so this is my favorite activity. I love to paddle for mile after mile and explore. The scenery and variety of wildlife is incredible. I have literally explored a quiet cove filled with deer, armadillos, raccoons, skunks, opossums, ringtailed cats, turkey and other animals while bass boats roar by in the lake proper. Wilderness conditions that few people ever see are accessible along some river trails--and no bass boats at all.
I've been designing and building boats for more than 50 years. This doesn't mean I haven't had large powered boats because I have. I've spent a lot of money on them. I use paddled or rowed boats by choice. Sometimes I'll consider buying another powered boat but the negatives and positives--for me--always land on the paddled boat side. I'm not necessarily talking about small boats only. I paddle boats from eight feet to 24 feet long. I can spend days out on the water if necessary. But what about the cost of paddling versus powered boats?
16 foot jon boat with 20 horsepower motor: I looked at one yesterday--$5 thousand.
Lund 1625 Rebel XL with 60 Hp motor: $15 thousand.
2012 Ranger Z Comanche bass boat: MSRP $72 thousand (wow!) (wow!) (and wow!).
Add operating costs to the above.
You can get into a kayak or canoe for $100 on up. I saw one at Academy for $150 that would be perfect for my grandson. In fact, I'll buy it for him because I can't build one that cheap. Cheap plastic boats are fine. They open up paddling for millions of people who otherwise would not consider it. Less than $500 can set up any weekend recreational paddler. More avid paddlers and fisherman can spend from one to two thousand dollars for a great setup. I design and build small boats. $3 thousand can put you into some of the best kayaks I have available. Do some people spend more than this? Sure. The sky's the limit when it comes to fancy wood composite boats like I build. Five to $10 thousand is a good average for custom built wood composite boats. I know one that went for $20 thousand. An unusual boat for sure but some people have a lot of money.
A little bittersweet here. You can store, transport, and launch kayaks and canoes easier than big boats. It might take a little longer to launch and reload with a kayak. Big boats can back up on a boat ramp and be off and gone while a paddler is still dragging stuff out and putting it in the boat. A dedicated dolly or trailer makes sense for some of the larger fishing kayaks. You can carry a small boat down to shoreline anywhere.
Paddling is a good low impact exercise. Done right you exercise your entire body. Even older people (like me!) can paddle nicely.
There you go. Six good reasons for owning a kayak and I've barely touched the surface.
Gerald is an outdoor sportsman who travels by land or water through mountain forest, rocky foothills, and shifting sand dunes. In his spare time he designs and builds wood composite kayaks, canoes and paddles. Gerald still competes in select marathon races every year.