It’s been a while since my last real sea kayak expedition. I admit this knowing that I’ll find strength in numbers and I have the largest part of our readership standing beside me talking on their cell phones, covered in drywall dust and Gerber non-sweetened applesauce. Life for me at 35 has pretty much unfolded as everyone older than me said it would: job (granted, a cool one), house and family. I’m still paddling, more than they said I would be, more than I have ever before. But it’s different now.

I used to be able to look back on a year and see the rows of days filled in on my calendar. Silver Islet to Rossport— 10 days. The Trent Severn Waterway— two weeks. A week out and back exploring Tangier, Nova Scotia. I’m on the water as much as ever, but you wouldn’t know it by my calendar. Sea kayaking for me was like a vacation, a getaway. Lately it’s more like going for bike ride or throwing the ball around, something I’d do for a few hours after cutting the grass on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Outfitters all over North America are changing their summer programs from 10-day adventures to weekends, day trips and even half days. The coolest job out there used to be wilderness sea kayak guide, now it’s tour guide. It’s far less romantic, but what can you do? Clients are just too busy and won’t commit to being away for seven days at a time. The horrible irony is, of course, that as a society we’ve never needed a week’s holiday more than we do now. Paddling within Blackberry range is also changing the types of boats on the market. Ten years ago a sea kayak was a sea kayak, roughly 17 feet long and perfect for an extended trip. Today we have specialized fishing kayaks, fitness shells, beach boats and light touring sea kayaks—boats sure to get you out on the water when you can’t get out for long periods of time. Our expedition 17-footers are fine for long trips but these new boats make it easier to get out for a couple hours here and there. Kayaking used to be a way of making distance, these days going kayaking is about making time.

To survive in our mini-adventure culture I’ve learned to be ready to go on a moment’s notice. Everything has to be in one place, mine’s all in one Rubbermaid bin. I have my gear set like a fireman so I can slide down the pole and step into my boots, pull up my bibs and jump onto the moving truck. If you don’t hurry you’ve burned up time you could have spent on the water.

Last week when trout season opened I was rigging my fishing kayak and getting ready to push off. I was about to lock my truck and hide the keys and saw my cell phone on the dash. For a moment, only a quick moment, I thought about sliding it into my radio pocket in case the office needed to reach me. But I didn’t. That would be going just a little too far.


This article originally appeared in Adventure Kayak, Summer 2006. Download our free iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it here. 


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