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Kayak Popularity Paddles Ahead of Canoes
If you’re a trendsetter in the Land O’ Lakes, than chances are you’ve already got a kayak. According to Larry Showler, who co-owns Frontenac Outfitters with his wife Christine, there are a number of reasons for the explosion in kayaking popularity.
“With a little instruction, people can have a very positive experience the first time out,” notes Showler, who adds that kayaks are more stable than canoes. “Other than doing Pilates and aerobics, it’s one of the best work-outs.” According to Showler, the sport is also more accessible to women. “Many women have difficulty carrying a canoe. A kayak they can handle on and off the car, and they can use it without anyone around to help them. “He also noted over the years that women often pick up kayaking technique faster than men. “When we teach courses here, we tend to do most of our course corrections with hips and knees. A lot of kayaking is counter-intuitive. The women do the hip thing way better than men, and kayaking is all technique.”
Showler, who has kayaked around Ontario, as well as New Zealand and Central America, also feels that the price of gas and environmental awareness is turning many power boaters towards the more eco-friendly sport. “It’s zero dollars a litre for life, no gas, no storage, no oil. It also has little environmental impact. Working with nature not against it” noted Showler. “You go screaming down a lake on a Sea Doo or in a bass boat and nature hides from you. We go right up beside loons.”
One of the many kayakers who has given up his powerboat for what Showler describes as the rhythmic stroke of the kayak, is Don Flemming. “I wasn’t power boating but I wasn’t happy about buzzing down the lake at full throttle and seeing nothing,” said Flemming. After trying the sport for the first time with his brother, Flemming decided to park his powerboat for one year. “I sold the powerboat the next summer and have never regretted it.”
Since then, Flemming has dipped his paddle in lakes across Ontario, beginning with Lake Opinicon where his cottage is. He has also paddled the Bay of Fundy around Grand Manan Island, Fundy National Park and Five Islands, Nova Scotia, as well as the Northumberland Strait and lakes in Quebec.
“In the summer of 2007 myself and my two regular paddling buddies paddled the entire length of the Rideau Canal.” When he first got into kayaking, Flemming was looking for a distraction from his high stress job. “Kayaking was the solution. I also enjoy photography and wanted to combine the two,” explained Flemming. “The romance of finding that deserted beach or in the middle of nowhere that is only reachable by kayak or sighting a whale from a kayak, that’s incredible.”
Flemming is continuing to plan future kayaking adventures. “My wife and I are going to Hawaii this year and I plan to paddle on Kauai. My future paddling will include Frontenac Provincial Park as well as continued exploration of the east coast in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick,” said Flemming. “I’d also like to go to Vancouver Island and Belize, but that is a whole different story.
Paddling to areas where you have to fly means the use of a boat you are not familiar with. According to Showler, there are a few basic things people should know if they decide to make a kayak investment. “There are three types of kayaks. Recreational kayaks are short, wide, lower cost, simplistic and almost always poly. They price from around $700. to $1000. Day touring kayaks are more like the hybrid bike, kind of in the middle. They tend to offer a mid-range price performance point,” said Showler.
He has found that many people are now choosing the third option, sea kayaks. “These offer the highest level of performance, price, fit and safety. Sea kayaks move the most efficiently. They have a higher level of safety. The recreational kayaks are for more subtle users. Although kayaking is quickly learned, it can take years to perfect your stroke. Kayaking has a very quick learning curve, but a very long one. We are certified instructors and we teach a full range of kayak courses and we have people who come back year after year,” said Shower.
For more information on kayaking in the many lakes and rivers of the Frontenacs, the folks at Frontenac Outfitters will be happy to help. Give them a call at 613-376-6220 or visit their website www.frontenacoutfitters.ca
For more information on where you can dip your paddles in the area, visit the Land O’ Lakes Tourist Association website at
* This article was written by Anthony S.C. Hampton and originally appeared in the newspapers Frontenac This Week and the Napanee Guide. It was reprinted with Hampton’s permission and he can be reached by his email address at [email protected] .