Top 5 reasons to paddle.
Ok these are my thoughts on the subject and are somewhat didactic and maybe even contradictory.

1. Paddling is linear and analog. Very few things are these days. It gives no regard to hurry, or any other timetable other than wind, sun, moon, and stars. Like Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, your watch can be cast aside at the beginning of the journey. Granted you can get digital with GPS, digital watches, ala Doug Adams. But these things serve as needless fetishistic artifacts to an acitivity that defies the improvements of technology. In other words you can digitally track how slow you are moving, but it doesn’t change the fact that the average paddling speed is 3-4 knots unless you are Greg Barton. This brings me to number 2.
2. Speed. Speed is dictated by the first reason to paddle, which is that you go as exactly as fast as the effort put into paddling. Relatively speaking. No more no less. One could try to hurry, but really you can’t. It just can’t be rushed. You can go faster than 3-4 knots for fun, but is it really that much faster? How does 5-6 knots over the arc of a 10 day trip matter? It doesn’t. It typically means you aren’t seeing anything up close. Because Americans drive everywhere we hold no value to the energy spent to get there. Fiduciary effort burnt in fossil fuels just isn’t the same as calorie effort. Ask the nearest person with an SUV who is carrying 20 pounds or more of extra weight but would like to be thinner what that means. So I think overall there is something to be said for getting everywhere under your own power. While this sounds slightly pontificatory, I recognize that I drive to the beach to launch the kayak. And if could move Kalamazoo to the shore of a great lake, I would. But there’s only so much one man can do, or pontificate about.
3. Paddling is geographically specific. In a world where so much can be virtualized without context for location, paddling cannot be virtualized. One cannot Net meeting, phone conference in, or email a paddling experience. It is completely and inescapably linked to location. Also because paddling takes place in an area where people tend not to live (on the surface of the water) it is different than what I look at all day long. The Lake Michigan Shore line is not a great example though where houses along the dunes are the norm rather than the exception and the lake shore experience has been commodified to the extreme by some insipid breed of weasle/monkey hybrid from illinois that resists erradication. But maybe a new ice age might change this.
4. Learning all of the skills necessary to become truly effecient and seaworthy in a kayak is hard. Anything difficult requires effort and determination. Effort and determination take time, and time invested in something difficult reward the individual with a sense of accomplishment and confidence. This sense of accomplishment and confidence can also be thwarted by the sea, and the individual’s own stupidity, which is another post entirely. But for instance being able to stay upright and downwind on an icy 6 foot wave is not something everyone can do, or wants to do, much less repeatedly. Skills are really their own reward.
5. Backpacking is for suckers.


  1. beautifully stated

  2. Sunday May 21, 2006

    Shiawassee River Paddle Event

    Holly to Fenton Canoe/Kayak 7 miles

    a.) Leisure paddlers and families welcome

    b.) Canoes available for rental thru Heavners Canoe Rental onsite that day.


    Registration on site will begin at 10ambut advance registration at a reduced entry fee is preferred.

    Hosted by Head Waters Trails Inc.

    Willi GutmannWilli_H2O @ Yahoo.Com586 – 215 – 6387 cell

  3. Nice pontification. Point 4 is rather relevant to my life right now.

    I ocean paddled every weekend for five years and had a lifetime of incredible experiences – saw a dolphin give birth, have actually had a dolphin play tag with me (or more accurately my boat), have had encounters with sharks and giant rays, been in 10 foot hurricane induced seas and surf and have also discovered the beauty of the silence of the tidewaters.

    Six years ago family planning started, first came my son, two years later my daughter and in ‘05 a surprise package of twins! My paddling had been limited to my birthday gift every year (a day alone at the beach), the occasional early morning/late evening paddle on vacation and hitting the local river for some miles on the weekends.

    Now my son turns six and he’s been asking me to get him out in a boat so we are tandem shopping, I might settle on a WS Pamlico 135T and take him out on the local lakes. He’s at the age where he is learning to write, learning to play baseball, learning, learning, learning and like a typical six-year-old he wants to know/do it all. Like a typical parent who now understands I tell him everything takes two ingredients – time and patience. I think paddling will bring this lesson about so much better than any of the more popular sports and the rewards, of individual accomplishments, of using your own power to get from A to B and see things that no one else will see along the way cannot be as easily accomplished through other experiences.

  4. Enjoyed your entry.

    Though you can stop paddling stillness is nearly impossible.

    The first time I paddled on Lake Superior the surface was textured smooth and billowy and when I looked down thirty feet to the bottom of the lake I saw my shadow weaving through the boulder strewn terrain and at that moment I realised I was flying above it. Been hooked ever since that moment.

    Our trip went quite well today. Met Carrie, a very interesting friend of Dustin’s. We saw a lot of wildlife, drank some beers afterwards and had dinner at Su Casa in Fennville. Damn they’ve got good food there.