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Seniors and Paddlesports

Alan Bergman – Although decades older than I, my favorite paddling partner, Phil, is well into octogenarian territory at age 87. He has far more energy and enthusiasm for kayaking than many paddlers far younger than he.  We have spent many years kayaking side-by-side, catching up on each other’s life, discussing local and world current events and sometimes sharing some local gossip.

As many seniors have already discovered, being out on the water in a canoe or kayak, or atop a paddleboard, provides an all-encompassing journey to reinvigorating the body and stimulating the mind. It can be the perfect cure for aging!

As my buddy Phil has aged, he’s very astutely made some necessary kayaking “adjustments” which have allowed him to continue with this highly gratifying, tremendously enjoyable sport. Let’s explore some of the ways and methods that seniors are able to engage in paddle sports well into their golden years.


The key word is LIGHT! Recognition of an active, aging population has prompted some paddle craft manufacturers to produce lighter-weight boats. They are aware that carrying a boat to the water, or even maneuvering it off of a car roof, can be challenging for seniors.

There are now recreational and touring kayaks that are incredibly light and still rugged, such as the Hurricane Santee 120 Sport at only 42 lbs. Canoes have followed suit, like the Kevlar/Carbon Mad River Serenade 13, weighing in at a super-light 30 lbs.

In Phil’s case, he retired his Necky Manitou 16-foot polyethylene kayak, which was a hefty 58 lbs. He replaced it with the Eddyline Samba, which is shorter at 14-foot, made of composite material and significantly lighter at 43 lbs.; making it far easier to get it from his Subaru Outback’s roof to the water.

Lighter weight paddles are the other key piece of the puzzle. Carbon-fiber or wood kayak paddles, and fiberglass standup paddleboard and canoe paddles, lessen the paddling strain and are easier on seniors’ joints and muscles. Some of these weigh as little as 1-2 lbs.


Lifting and removing a boat from a car roof can be strenuous for anyone, but especially so for our aging population.

One solution is to replace traditional J-style roof racks with a set of cradles and slides or rollers. Example systems include the Dock and Glide from Thule or Yakima Hullyrollers. Rather than lifting one’s kayak up and over the hook of the J, the slides or rollers allow the boat to be rolled down over the back of the car roof. Straps in front and back hold the boat in place. Boats slide on and off fairly effortlessly. One tip, just to play it safe, is to place a Thule water slide or large towel or blanket under the kayak at the rear of the car, to protect the car’s finish when sliding the kayak on or off.

Another great help, though a more costly one, is to invest in a Thule Hullavator Pro Lift-Assist. This is a rack system that allows you to load the kayak at waist-level, along the side of your car. Once loaded and strapped into position, struts then lift and carry the kayak to the car’s roof.

Lastly, instead of carrying your boat to and from your favorite body-of-water, consider using a kayak cart. This will eliminate the lifting and burden of hauling it over your shoulder or carrying it with a friend. Many of these carts are light-weight, foldable, and are often strapped down or stored on the boat while paddling.