Kayaking is a perfect activity as we get older – it’s low impact and can improve aerobic fitness, strength and flexibility. Every year we are inspired by paddlers in their 70s (and even their 80s!) on our expeditions who keep up with – and often out paddle – people half their age.
Getting older doesn’t have to mean the end of kayaking and camping, it just means you have to be smarter about what you do.
1. Don’t stop kayaking. If you have times of the year you can’t paddle, lift light weight to keep the shoulders and arms strong.
2. Regular stretching. Yoga is also great to assist flexibility and balance, especially key for getting in and out of your kayak. Massage can help too, and Tom recently introduced us to the Thera Cane which is a great self-massager for sore shoulders.
3. Be skilled. Good technique will always trump muscles, age, size, sex and gear. It is important at any age, but more important as we get older. Have a few lessons with a local professional or get some pointers from leaders at your kayaking club. If you are on any of Roaring 40s Kayaking trips, ask our guides for tips, they are always happy to help refine your technique.
4. Go light. Lifting a kayak on and off cars or the beach can put a strain on your body. Light kayaks made of carbon fiberglass material can be worth the investment. You can also look at investing in a mobile vehicle rack that allows you to load kayaks at waist height and lifts it on top of the car electronically. If you regularly move a kayak a distance along land, a kayak cart may also be a great investment to save strain on your body.
5. Good paddle. Invest in a good lightweight paddle. Carbon light materials are more expensive, but worth it. A light paddle will make a big difference on long paddle days.
6. Be comfortable. If you want to paddle for an extended time, you want to feel comfortable. Sit in a kayak before you buy and if possible take it for a test run. Ensure your back is well supported too. A seat with a high back that is strong enough to support your weight is invaluable and adjustable lumbar support on the seat is also helpful. We recommend inflatable cushions (ie. Thermarest seats) which you can sit on and roll up for lumbar support and move around for additional comfort. Find more of Reg's tips on buying a kayak here.
7. Good footwear. Most accidents happen on land, on rocky shores or tripping over tree roots/rocks. Kayaking footwear with good grip off the water on rocks is recommended. When you are on land, take your time and be aware of your surroundings, particularly when carrying kayaks.
8. Update your camping gear. Comfort counts, and "more comfort" counts as one gets older. There is so much amazing lightweight and comfortable camping gear around now to increase your comfort levels. A few tips:
9. Planning. The usual safety planning is as important as you get older as ever. Check the weather, file a float plan with a family member or friend indicating your proposed route and time of return. Take all the required safety equipment: marine radio; cell phone in waterproof case, pfd, whistle, cag, wetsuit or drysuit if paddling in cold conditions; flares; dry bag with spare warm clothes; first aid kit; spare breakdown paddle; hand pump and a repair kit. Spare food and water is also recommended.
10. Live for the now. Injuries or health issues slow us all down from time to time. Live in the moment and rest when you need to.
Cliff Jacobson, who is still whitewater paddling at 77, recently wrote: “Five years ago, I had a heart attack and was out-of-commission (meaning no canoeing or camping trips) for several months. The following year, I paddled 150 miles. Earlier this year, I went to see my cardiologist, who began with, "How are you feeling, Cliff?" I replied: "Well, I was great, doc until I got up this morning and realized I had to come and see you. I forgot I had a heart attack!" The good doctor smiled broadly and said: "Cliff, you're my hero! Keep following your passion...we didn't save your life so you could sit around and watch TV."