Rock the Boat: High Yield ‘Yaking

Saving for retirement? Here’s the best piece of financial advice: buy a kayak!

“What?” you say. “A new composite kayak and gear costs about $4,000, and I lose $500 as soon as I take it from the dealer’s showroom!”

This is true, but think again. A kayak is not a short-term investment. Nor is it a high- priced piece of frivolous technology that’s obsolete within a year or two. It’s an asset that will give you a positive return on investment to rival any high-yield bond or blue-chip stock market play. If you do the math you’ll see that a kayak pays for itself and then some. Plus, a kayak yields immeasurable rewards that no financial advisor can even dream of offering. 

First, let’s stick with the numbers. In our society, leisure activi- ties invariably cost money. To watch movies, see a sports game, catch a play or buy a magazine, we have to spend money. Have you ever calculated what these pleasures cost you an hour?

For the purpose of comparisons, let’s assume an average entertainment cost at about $12 per hour. That’s on par with movie going. And it’s a low figure given that hourly kayak rentals are in the range of $15 per hour.

At $12 per hour, it takes 333 hours of paddling to recover a $4,000 kayak investment. If you paddle 333 hours in the first year, you’ll recover the cost of your boat. That’s what financial analysts call a 100-percent return on investment. 

Paddling the equivalent of 41 eight-hour days in one year is unrealistic for most people, especially since much of the water in Canada freezes for almost half of the year. But imagine you use your kayak one weekend a month for six months of the year—the warm months—and for just six hours a day. That amounts to 12 hours a month, 72 hours a year.

With leisure costs averaging $12 per hour, you’re getting $864 in value out of your $4,000 kayak investment each year.

That’s a yield of 20 percent—an impressive rate of return! Keep this up for five years— 360 hours of paddling—and your kayak will more than pay for itself.

Just ask your financial advisor if there’s a bond or stock that’s as likely to yield 20 percent. If you’re lucky you might find one, but these investments tend to be risky. Stocks often drop in value, but I’ve sold 10-year-old kayaks for more than the original purchaser paid.

If you do a little market research you’ll see that kayaks are manufactured with products from the petrochemical industry and energy prices have risen dramatically in the last 10 years. In the next decade or so, with the world’s known oil reserves diminish- ing, the upward pressure on energy prices is guaranteed to increase. Therefore the price of kayaks will increase. Over the medium to long term, kayaks are as good as gold. It may even be worth buying a warehouse full of them.

The financial data is solid, but the major benefits of owning a kayak are the intangibles that your accountant will never itemize. All your other investments take the form of investment account numbers or slips of paper in a safe deposit box—hardly any fun at all. And with all the stress of watching your fortunes rise and fall in the markets, you may not even live long enough to cash in!

You’re much better off riding the ups and downs of waves and tides. Every hour of paddling provides physical activity and extends your life. You don’t have to take my word for it. Reports from the U.S. Surgeon General and Health Canada indicate that being active reduces the risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, stroke and colon cancer. 

Physical activity like kayaking also reduces symptoms of anxitey and depression, whcih is more than you an say about day trading. In other words, kayaking will recharge both your physical and mental batteries. Now that’s a solid return on investment. 

Owning and using a kayak is a healthy lifestyle choice and a solid addition to any portfolio. Kayakers don’t have to pay money to sit in a darkened movie theatre and be spoon-fed second-rate commercial creativity. They invest the price of admission in themselves and get into the environment and enjoy it.

And if you’re still not satisfied with all the health benefits and the straight 20-percent return, you might calculate how much the sight of bald eagles and harbour seals is worth. In my mind, that’s priceless! 

Chris Banner works for Seaward Kayaks and manages The Island Outdoor Centre in Ladysmith. B.C. He lives on Thetis Island and often paddles to work. 

akv3i4cover.jpgThis article first appeared in the Fall 2003 issue of Adventure Kayak Magazine. For more great content, subscribe to Adventure Kayak’s print and digital editions here.

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