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Kayaking as you get older

Reg's 10 Top Tips

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.

Here are Reg’s top tips for kayaking and camping as you get older:

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.

Bramble Cove beach relaxing8. 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:

  • Tent: kayaks have plenty of room so treat yourself to a roomy tent. If you are buying a new tent, try it out for size in the store and check it is easy to set up. If you are using a tent that has been stored for a while, check it for leaks before heading out.
  • Sleeping mat: get a good quality inflatable one. Ditch the old super light mat from your youth and go for comfort. We use and recommend Exped mats. These mats pump to 7cm, 9cm or even more and we find are super comfortable. There are other brands that make similar mats, so try them out as well and see what feel best for you. There is also a range of blow up pillows that will increase your sleeping comfort.
  • Sleeping bag:  Make sure your sleeping bag is suitable for the trip. Check the temperature comfort rating to ensure you will be warm enough. Rectangle bags will be more comfortable but heavier (not an issue when kayaking) but not as warm as tapered and mummy bags. In wet climates (like Southwest Tassie) we recommend synthetic as it stays warm if wet. But synthetic is not as warm for weight and volume. A good guide to choosing a sleeping bag is here.
  • Chair: pack one. Relaxing and cooking dinner will be far more comfortable with a back rest. If you choose an Exped chair, they also make a chair kit that will turn your mat into a comfortable lounge chair. (Reg doesn’t go anywhere without his chair kit!). Helinox also makes a great range of comfortable lightweight chairs that will fit in your kayak.

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."

 

May 2019