I received the last Sea Kayaker magazine with mixed feelings. When Eric was alive I didn’t read Sea Kayaker much – just when there was an article about a place I found intriguing. Eric often railed at what he saw as uninteresting content and that put me off. One of his pet peeves was an issue that featured a photograph of a cow. “Cows???” he would yell, stomping around and waving his arms. “Cows??? What’s that got to do with sea kayaking?!”
The cow was someone’s idea of noteworthy on a kayak trip, but having grown up in Anderson, California where there are lots of cows to Eric they were ubiquitous and boring and don’t belong in a magazine about an exciting sport like sea kayaking. In fact, he cancelled his subscription to another paddling magazine because he found it tedious. On the other hand, Eric did write articles for Sea Kayaker and it was a valuable platform for him. He also subscribed because as a sea kayaker he wanted to keep abreast of what was going on in the industry.
When I read Chris Cunningham’s farewell editorial in the February 2014 issue, I understood the source of Eric’s frustration with the magazine for the first time. Chris quoted founding editor John Dowd in the first issue introducing Sea Kayaker’s mission: “Sea Kayaker is designed to provide a forum for the touring kayaker. It will focus exclusively on subjects of interest to those who take to open water for a day, a week or a month.” Well, duh. No wonder Eric found Sea Kayaker frustrating.
Sea Kayaker was geared toward touring kayakers. Eric was a whitewater sea kayaker, and while he enjoyed going on retreat and the occasional excursion to Baja, he disliked touring. As he said, “I’d rather go for a hike”. His goal was to play in surf, rock gardens, and caves and to get away from the Herberts. Naturally his approach was different from that of the creators of Sea Kayaker. It’s a miracle in a way that any of his articles got printed at all, since his content always had an edge and involved doing a lot of things other people thought were crazy. But when Eric died, Chris wrote a very kind piece in the editorial.
After Eric died I knew that if I continued this blog as he requested I had to stay abreast of the industry too. I started reading every issue of Sea Kayaker cover to cover. Not being a gearhead I’m not very interested in product critiques, but I always read the Lessons Learned sections and because I enjoy travel lit I enjoyed reading about the different kayaking destinations. I also enjoyed reading the Letters. I got the impression that touring sea kayakers while sometimes a bit narrow are generally pretty high level people: intelligent, educated, interested in the world around them and able to appreciate nature. And over the years there were many stunning photographs, not just of cows. Reading the magazine connected me to the greater kayaking world; Sea Kayaker expanded my horizons and I’m grateful.
Reading Sea Kayaker also gave me a sense of continuity with the past. The magazine started in 1983 when the sport was in its infancy at about the same time Eric was formulating his ideas for the inception of the Tsunami Rangers. You might say that Sea Kayaker and the Rangers grew up together. So reading the last issue was bittersweet. I’m glad I had an opportunity to pay more attention to the magazine after Eric died and I’m sorry I won’t be receiving it any more. I think the way they decided to bring an end to the publication by fulfilling incomplete subscriptions with issues of Adventure Kayak is a good one and I will look forward to reading that magazine too. But it’s the end of an era.
Bon voyage to everyone at Sea Kayaker. Thank all of you for your years of hard work on behalf of the sport of sea kayaking. Fare well wherever you fare.