The Last Sea Kayaker

by Nancy Soares on March 17, 2014

A similar photo by Michael Poewrs of this same spot was featured on the cover of the June 1997 issue of Sea Kayaker.

A similar photo of this playspot by TR Michael Powers graced the cover of the June 1997 issue of Sea Kayaker. Pictured: TR’s John Lull and Dave Whalen.

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.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl White March 17, 2014 at 6:57 am

Sea kayaking, however defined, is going to be differently observed and thought about by the Lumpers and by the Splitters. The Splitters, in their own perfect world, would have successful, content-packed ‘zines about (only) rock gardening, tiderace-running, surf-ski racing, exotic foreign touring, non-exotic local (New Jersey) touring, Big Trip Kayaking Caffyn/Freya-style, etc., etc. Sea Kayaker Magazine had to be a Lumper product in order to survive, but it covered just about all the bases pretty well over the decades, all things considered. I share with Nancy and with all longtime readers of SK the sense of loss that we feel when by far the best glue we had holding together our broad and diverse community is now dissolved. Really gonna miss it!


Mark March 17, 2014 at 9:04 am

I also remember reading Sea Kayaker and jumping up and down wondering why it was mostly BORING!
In the late 80’s I was teaching beginning sea kayaking at Sea Trek in Sausalito CA. We followed the Rangers and there latest rock bashing adventure, trying to challenge our selves with storm paddling, surfing and really feeling the excitement of the growing white water sea kayaking community.
Even with the (my opinion) boring sections I have to admit I read it cover to cover and looked forward to the next issue hoping there would be a EXTREME article.
Great times!!


Nancy Soares March 17, 2014 at 9:47 am

Hi guys! Thanks for reading and commenting. I just finished reading my first Adventure Kayak. Loved it! I have to say that while there’s nothing wrong with targeting a small audience as it seems Sea Kayaker did, I found Adventure Kayak refreshing and stimulating. I like ocean swimming and I identify myself as a swimmer with kayaks. I also like to try different things and I’m interested in all paddle sports and all the ways that people can play in and with water. In my experience, they all feed each other and knowledge of one helps you with the others. That said, the Tsunami way is the way I learned to kayak and the content of Adventure Kayak spoke to me more than Sea Kayaker ever did.


Carl White March 17, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Just goes to show you: de gustibus non est disputandum. I’ve been a subscriber to AK for two years now, and have found their best issue to be barely a match for SK at its worst. AK’s breezy, blurb-style, what’s-happening-now delivery really contrasts with the SK gravitas. The most recent issue, though, showed them on their best behavior–as beneficiaries of SK’s demise and inheritors of the SK readership, I think they felt they had to put on a somewhat better show. Let’s hope that spur continues to be felt.

Carl the Crank


Nancy Soares March 18, 2014 at 9:10 am

Just for fun I looked up gravitas. It comes from the Latin gravis, meaning heavy. Four sources later I came up with this definition: heavy, formal, serious. Nothing wrong with heavy, formal and serious except that I think most kayakers agree with Eric that sea kayaking should be FUN not s-e-r-i-o-u-s. As you suggest this is a matter of taste. The problem with heavy is that it can literally bring you down (think gravity, another word that comes from gravis). I don’t know about previous issues of AK but I do know about prose style. A writing exercise I did in graduate school was to take a passage from one author and rewrite it in the style of someone different. I’ll never forget taking Faulkner, king of the run-on sentence, and turning him into Hemingway. It was hilarious and very instructive. I happen to like both Faulkner and Hemingway even though their styles are completely different. I like variety in prose style as long as grammar, punctuation and spelling are correct. Speaking of punctuation, remember e.e. cummings? Once he was on the cusp of change; now he’s old school. I remember when we used to double-space between sentences. Hardly anyone does that anymore. I even find myself using fewer commas because it’s one less keystroke (thinking carpal tunnel here). It’s been interesting to me to observe our language continue to morph as the result of the Internet. Brevity and I suppose a concurrent lightness is the new norm. We’re subject to content shock and what we say must be brief to have effect. My bro-in-law John Soares recently posted on this phenomenon: But getting back to AK, it wasn’t prose style I found favorable in contrast with SK; it was content. It’s occurred to me that gravitas in style can camouflage lack of substance and that a breezy blurb-style can make heavy subjects seem less weighty. Not saying that’s the case here; just making an observation.

Nancy the Crankier 🙂


Carl White March 18, 2014 at 10:28 am

Interesting articles by John Soares and Mark Schaefer. I think there will be an age bifurcation in reaction to AK’s being the Last Mag Standing in sea kayaking journalism, with older former SK readers less happy with the tone and with the content of AK, and younger readers more accepting. Maybe when AK has fully absorbed the SK readership’s notions about both style and substance, the evolved product will be pleasing to all.

On another note, though, AK has/had an enormous advantage over SK–the financial support of the Sea Kayaking Industry, of the ACA, of Paddle Canada, and, finally, (and I quote) “the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage”. Would that SK had enjoyed those subsidies, it may have been that AK would have been swept up into the maw of SK, rather than vice-versa. In the case of the Industry, the decades of SK “doom and gloom”, that is to say, telling the whole truth about sea kayaking, publishing Cold Shock articles and Deep Trouble books, proved to be too much, and a more smiley-face venue was selected.

Carl the Really Old Crank


Nancy Soares March 18, 2014 at 10:51 am

LOL 😉 But I doubt AK could have been subsumed by SK because AK has the broader audience. I don’t see an article like “Finding Fundy” getting published in SK, for example. Not a lot of touring going on. I never thought of SK as “doom and gloom” though. Just boring, but not always. And everyone seems to enjoy the Deep Trouble books to some extent if only for the same reason the Darwin Awards are so successful: there’s a little rubbernecker in all of us.

Speaking of Darwin, if as you suggest AK is evolving in such a way as to please even Really Old Cranks (hereafter to be referred to as ROC’s) that’s good news. Maybe the most significant thing SK failed to do was that: evolve.


James McCann March 18, 2014 at 9:01 pm

I’ve not only subscribed to Sea Kayaker Magazine for years, but was an occasional contributor. I worked with Chris on my article (June 2013) Storm on Yellowstone Lake and wrote a couple of stories that appeared in the “letters” section, one about lights for night kayaking and one about a duck that adopted me. I’ll miss working with Chris and I’ll miss Sea Kayaker Magazine. Being a touring Sea Kayaker, I loved the stories about places I hope to see some day and frightening stories of mishaps. I still haven’t finished the last issue, so, for me, the magazine isn’t finished yet.


James McCann March 18, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Dear Old Cranks:

Did you know that Chris Cunningham is now with Adventure Kayak Magazine?

One foot in the watery grave Cranker.


Carl White March 19, 2014 at 6:27 am

Hey James, since in my opinion AK has nowhere to go but up, they are lucky to have Chris working for them. If anybody can help them find The Way, it will be Chris. I hope they give him the space to do his thing.


Nancy Soares March 19, 2014 at 7:36 am

Hi James! Welcome to the conversation. I remember all the articles you mentioned, including the one about the duck. That was cool. I think Carl is right and that AK will evolve to include their new touring subscribers. Based on my brief experience their editorial staff seems willing to serve and if people aren’t getting what they want they can speak up. And yes, I did know Chris was on their staff. I think that was another smart move on AK’s part. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself doing another article for them? In my experience, anything’s possible. Thanks for offering us your perspective!


RM Stuart March 19, 2014 at 10:44 am

Thanks for your wonderful blog entry. While SK wasn’t perfect it was one of the few magazines that our sport/hobby/passion had. I look forward to see where AK goes in the future – I hope we continue to see improvements. I will give them this – AK posted a link on their facebook to your blog entry so I wouldn’t have found you otherwise …

Oh and a quick mention to Carl on his AK being the last man standing in sea kayak journalism – may I suggest he check out Ocean Paddler – while it is UK magazine so local wise it slants towards that part of the world – I do enjoy it. A beautifully and well put together magazine. I also enjoy Coast and Kayak out of Vancouver Island. It’s a free magazine and has some nice content.




Nancy Soares March 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Wow, RM, thanks so much for commenting, and for your very kind remarks! I hope you’ll check out our website and some of our other posts now you’re here. We’ve got a lot to offer. As I suspected, AK is on top of things since they discovered us and actually linked their page to this post. I had wondered if they knew of our existence…it’s one of those serendipitous things I love about the Internet connection. Now I’ll have to check out their page. I’ll check out the other magazines you mentioned too. And does anyone have anything to say about Canoe & Kayak or Paddler Magazine? I haven’t looked at those publications in years (one can only do so much before content shock sets in).


Tony Moore March 19, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Touring isn’t high up on my list of favorite kayaking activities…surfing and rock-gardening are at the top. That said, I do go touring, but with a twist…I try to get into as much “trouble” as possible. Rocks nearby ? I’m gonna go through em’ ! Piers? I’m under them. Tidal rips? I’m not avoiding them. Breaking waves? I’ll catch a few, rather than paddle outside of them. This means I often have to sprint to keep up with the group (when I am with a group), but I enjoy sprinting. A recent solo tour I took passed by a huge pier ( a quarter mile long and 250 feet wide)…I couldn’t resist, and despite the “restricted area” signs, there was no way I was going to pass up a bit of commando kayaking. It was wonderful, like another world down there, quite dark and cramped, with, I estimate, upwards of 10,000 pilings. I paddled a stroke here and there where possible, but had to do a lot of pushing off the pilings with my hands, that’s how cramped it was under there. At the start, I headed toward the tiny, distant light at the end of the pier, and eventually, I made it through the whole quarter-mile length. I’ll have to check out this Adventure Kayak Magazine…never heard of it before now!


Nancy Soares March 19, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Hi Tony! I just checked out their FB page and sure enough I scrolled down a couple of posts and there we were! With a really nice intro from Virginia the editor. I like these guys. And I love your description of your style of paddling. Thanks for that. Too bad you’ve never paddled with the Rangers – they’re your kind of kayaker. You should come out for the race this year.


Rainer Lang March 19, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I used to enjoy Sea Kayaker Magazine.
Early in my paddling career, I’d go to Barnes & Noble and buy the latest issue. I know, how 20th century?!
After a while the stack of magazines grew, I couldn’t just recycle them, as it was a good magazine. Some interesting articles, and great photography. I didn’t want to wind up with a huge collection, like some people who became archivists of National Geographic, and had boxes in their garage. So I checked Sea Kayaker out at the Library, read, enjoy, return. Much better.

I guess everything has its season…


Nancy Soares March 20, 2014 at 8:12 am

Hi Rainer! Good to hear from you. I know what you mean about the stacks of magazines – when we moved to Oregon we debated what to do with the piles of SK’s. We ended up keeping a few of the latest and recycling the rest. We tried to give them away and found out everyone else had piles of them too. The downside of 20th C magazines. That’s another thing I like about AK – it comes out 4 times a year. I can live with that. In the meantime, my subscription gets me weekly online posts on all kinds of paddling info.

Good on ya for supporting your local library! And yes, change is inevitable. The Buddhists say that change is why we suffer, but paradoxically it’s also why we can enjoy our life. My greatest and most rewarding challenge has been to embrace change and be happy after losing Eric. After that massive shift everything else seems negligible.


John Dowd March 20, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Just to confirm: Sea Kayaker Magazine was targeted squarely at touring kayakers and its strength lay in this narrow focus. It was part of a larger plan to develop sea kayaking by making clear the distinction between kayak touring on the sea and white water kayaking, flatwater racing, kayak surfing, and canoeing, as well as to gain access to, and share, the knowledge that existed among west coast paddlers.

Surveys revealed a majority of touring paddlers were turned off by racing and white water. They mostly did not want to do a sport where they would need to roll (but many were keen to learn), were not particularly interested in acquiring advanced paddling skills and viewed surf with trepidation. Instead they were interested in the freedom aspects offered, going places, neat gear, fishing, learning seamanship skills and protecting the environment. In many ways we were dealing with the backpackers of the sea. The history pieces we ran were there to give a sense of the depth of the activity. It is no wonder therefore that whitewater paddlers found it boring in the same way rock climbers might find a backpacking magazine a bore.

There was of course some crossover but my best guess is that it was no more than 15%. We published Tsunami Ranger articles because they were whacky, fun and showed that rock gardens could be places to play not avoid. Similarly we published pieces on surfing a touring kayak since those skills were frequently needed to get ashore. It was clear however that if our readers thought they had to paddle surf to tour safely we would lose many of them. We avoided articles that advocated tangentially relevant whitewater or flatwater paddle technique.

You could say that we were dealing with a mature fairly risk averse and non-competitive population. It was also potentially larger, older and more wealthy than the whitewater, surfing and racing crowd. To lose sight of that demographic was to lose new readers. When Sea Kayaker closed less than 20% of subscribers considered themselves beginners.

Part of my personal agenda with the magazine was to help North American kayaking avoid the disaster that happened in Britain during the sixties and seventies where a self declared ‘elite’ group of paddlers took over what they called canoeing and in the name of enhancing safety (they did not) reduced the number of people paddling to about a tenth. They did this by bureaucratizing the activity and imposing layers of certification. We failed on that count but not through lack of trying.


Nancy Soares March 20, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Thanks for your comment, John. I was wondering when/if you were going to stick your oar in. It’s good to get the backstory – as I said in the post I never really understood what SK was all about until the last issue. Ironic.

So what happened to the readership? Are there simply fewer touring kayakers today than there used to be? Are more newbies taking up the whitewater aspect of sea kayaking? I like the comparison to backpackers, by the way, and it’s occurred to me that there are also fewer of them now than there were back in the 70’s and 80’s when the sport was really taking off. Or maybe that’s just an impression.

One thing’s for sure, few successful businesses manage to get by without changing their mission statement for 30 years. That’s unprecedented in my book! Shows SK did a good job.


John Dowd March 20, 2014 at 4:34 pm

What happened to the readership? The million dollar question. The above guidelines were just for the period I was editor. I’m sure Chris and Michael pondered that one at length. Maybe it was just the effect of the internet taling away advertising revenue or maybe some changes turned off the core readers. It is just speculation at this point. Im sure past readers will have plenty of theories.


Carl White March 20, 2014 at 4:55 pm

At least part of the decline can be seen in the following progression, as pointed out to me recently by an old salt who has been sea kayaking even longer than I have: Small Sailboat>Hobie Cat>Sailboard>Kiteboard>SUP>Whatever’s Next. Our local sea kayaking group is slowly deflating, and I’ve watched an endless stream of people move into then out of active open water paddling. Part of it is thus just brownian motion–the essentially random flux of people in and out of what’s happening now. Part of it is a more sedentary, passive general population, absorbed in e-communication during every waking hour. Part of it is also that sea kayaking only really interests, long-term, a very small group of people drawn specifically to it, who want to keep kayaking for the rest of their active lives. When these factors are added to the torrent of on-line dope available as alternate sources of input on sea kayaking, then the shrinking of the SK audience is understandable. And let’s not underestimate those subsidies I referenced above, that SK did not have access to.


John Lull March 20, 2014 at 7:36 pm

I’m sorry to see Sea Kayaker Magazine go. Even though I haven’t read it much in recent years (sorry about that, I guess I just wasn’t keeping up), for at least a decade or two I devoured every copy. And I have a special fondness for the mag because it was my first exposure to sea kayaking.

I started in whitewater and thought that was the only kind of kayaking there was, then around ’83 I was browsing in REI and saw a Sea Kayaker magazine (must have been one of the first issues) on the rack with a paddler pictured on the cover in a long slim kayak out on the open sea! This immediately got my attention since I lived a couple of miles from SF Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It occurred to me I could paddle out on the ocean and in the Bay, right in my “backyard”, in a kayak! I bought the magazine, then picked up the phone book (no internet back then) and immediately found “Sea Trek” which was just getting started, and where they sold sea kayaks, etc. Within a week my girl friend & I and another friend all bought brand new sea kayaks and that started the whole thing for us.

A few years down the line, Sea Kayaker even published a few of my articles. They did tone them down a bit, but were actually very light on editing my material, which I appreciated.

I guess I’m a generalist when it comes to kayaking. I like all forms of it, from whitewater rivers to surfing to rock gardens to touring to just messing around paddling out on the open sea.


Carl White March 21, 2014 at 6:24 am

I was intrigued by John Dowd’s remark above that British kayaking during the 1960s and 1970s suffered a disaster when a self-styled elite took over the activity by bureaucratizing it and adding layers of certification. This resulted, according to John, in the British paddling population being reduced to “about a tenth” of its former strength. This raised two separate questions in my restless mind: A) was anything made compulsory (other than, say, wear a PFD-type compulsion) for somebody who just wanted to go kayaking? If so, what sort of things? Did one have to join some controlling entity?, and B) what is the actual source for the tale of the alleged loss of 90% of the kayaking population? Are there statistics? What do they say? Where can they be found?

I’m always fascinated by assertions of this sort. Recently, we’ve been treated to data showing the health of sea kayaking: This happy-face article is based on a much larger report: I took the trouble to read this entire supporting document, and found that, to be a “participant” in sea kayaking over the course of a year, one must have launched “at least once”. Thus, only once will do just fine, and you’re an active sea kayaker. Statistics like these aren’t really worth a whole lot, unless you have some point to make, or axe to grind.


Bryan Hansel March 22, 2014 at 5:37 pm

I’m glad that you found my article “happy-face.” I’ve heard others level the same criticism that one who only goes kayaking once a year isn’t a real sea kayaker, but that isn’t what this study is about. It’s about participation in sports and not about whether or not participating once or a dozen times makes someone an “active sea kayaker.”

The important part of that study is the trendline. It’s useful for the industry to be able to predict where sports are heading so they can forecast the allocation of dollars. It isn’t about determining how serious those users are, although I’m sure you could drive down into the study further to find that out.

The reason that Sea Kayaker Magazine died, IMHO, has less to do with the user rate and more to do with how stale it had become. It needed a serious editorial change. One of the best issues in the last 10 years occurred when the editor took an extended leave of absence. When I compare Sea Kayaker to Ocean Paddler, Ocean Paddler always felt so fresh whereas Sea Kayaker, even though it had various authors, always had the same voice. All the stories lacked character development, or when it was there it was flat and force, because I don’t think the editor understood character development in fiction and how to apply that to nonfiction — and the forced descriptive prose was difficult to wade through. I’d often find myself skipping boring descriptive prose paragraph after paragraph to get to the action or some slight idea of how the author felt about the scenery — that later two took my there whereas all the forced descriptive prose doesn’t do much. I’d guess it would have won the “most (boringly) descriptive prose in a magazine” award if there was one. All that was in there because it was forced by the editor. When a magazine grows stale, the publisher really needs to change up the editorial staff. That never happened with Sea Kayaker. I think five years ago, they should have let the editor go, hired someone with a fresh outlook and attacked the current market that way. As an example, years ago Canoe & Kayak Magazine “lost” a stale editor who went to Paddler Magazine, which went under shortly after he took command. I’d guess, the only reason that Sea Kayaker lasted as long as it did with the editor is that there had been years of loyal readers from when it still felt fresh.

Just before the last issue, I got my renewal form in the mail and decided that I had had enough of how stale it was. I didn’t renew and my subscription expired on the penultimate issue. I really have no desire to see the last issue. I just have to shrug my shoulders. Not a big loss, IMHO.


Nancy Soares March 23, 2014 at 8:03 am

Thanks so much for your thoughtful and detailed comment, Bryan. And thank you Carl for introducing me to the paddlinglight blog. I’m adding it to my blogroll because I love the idea of going light. I’m always looking for ways to lighten my load in body, mind and spirit. Everybody’s got their own ideas about preparedness, but to me less is more. I think of John Muir…

The coolest thing for me about the comments this post generated is now I’ve got new magazines and blogs to check out. Maybe I’ll do a little research and later this year write something up on what’s available. It sounds to me like there’s a ton of stuff out there, a little something for everyone, and lots of kayakers reading and interacting. Good news! (Out of respect for the sensibilities of the ROC’s I refrain from including the Happy Face emoticon.)


Nancy Soares March 22, 2014 at 4:49 pm

I checked out the paddlinglight blog. The editor, Bryan Hansel, has this to say about SK: “I think the magazine folded because it was stale. It needed a fresh, new editor to stir up the editorial content. Instead, it was the same story, in the same forced voice, in issue after issue after issue. The only reason that I kept subscribing to it was because of the kayak reviews, but just before it folded, I decided that I had read the exact same thing over and over in issue after issue; that it lacked value. I didn’t renew.” This reinforces my thought that SK simply failed to evolve. The magazine would have had to change to stay in existence, but that would have meant abandoning the original mission. I suppose under the circumstances its demise was inevitable. Regardless, I know a lot of people who are sea kayaking with no intention to quit. And new people are coming into the sport all the time – I know this from my FB friends who are instructors. Other magazines will serve these people, but SK will always be remembered as one of the first.


Carl White March 23, 2014 at 7:09 am

Bryan’s Paddlinglight article generated some interesting comments, and I encourage others to read both his article, those comments, and the underlying study. Here’s Bryan on how good the numbers are:

“The way these participation reports work is by self reporting, so the person answering the questions reports that they participated in sea kayaking if they believe they participated in sea kayaking. The sample size was 42,363, which would give a high level of accuracy even if some people were considered wrong by any likely definition that we could come up with. You can read the methodology in the report.

So, to answer your questions: if you think the day you take your Assateague counts as sea kayaking, it does. These reports also count the number of days in which people participated in outdoor activities, but I didn’t want to get into that because the data isn’t readily available by sport.”

Some commenters say that sea kayaking is growing; some say (John Dowd, for instance) that it’s shrinking. Despite the study, there are no real data, just hints and suggestions. For those of us who are currently active sea kayakers–people who paddle, who read about paddling, who maybe post, who have decided that sea kayaking is something they’ll be doing for decades to come–it doesn’t matter; we’ll just go kayaking, whether anybody else is out there or not. But I believe SK died because of the reasons I stated above, as other print media are dying everywhere. AK will do quite well for quite some time to come, in that their non-subsidized chief competitor is gone. I wish AK well, and hope for the best.


Dirk July 22, 2016 at 12:55 am

Hi Nancy. I realise this discussion is old but would like to say that the demise of SK probably has a real lot to do with the general downturn in print media.
I found SK amazing when I first started paddling but then got bored with it’s apparent focus on sedate paddling and the articulate yet also flat narrative style of many contributors. The reviews were technically good but with none of the boats lived-in, thrashed, sailed, surfed, etc.. I found it less helpful than I’d hoped. I was also hoping for more “how-to” articles which I possibly missed out on because they had probably all been done over the years. I think SK did a great job for years and maybe just ran out of steam (or fresh material). I also wonder if the editor maybe hit one of life’s “flat spots” and needed a fresh start. Interestingly, a lot of great kayaking blogs seem to have gone offline as their owners have perhaps grown older or run out of new frontiers to cross. I’ll bet they still paddle though. My paddling buddies and I are lucky in that we have a nice coastal are to paddle in with plenty of opportunity to mess about in surf and rough, broken water. The fact that we have that means I don’t need to get bored. If I were stuck with only paddling flat water I may have just drifted away 🙂


Nancy Soares July 24, 2016 at 8:46 am

Hey, Dirk, it’s always great to get comments on old posts. At least I know people are still reading! I’m sure you’re right about the downturn in print media. The advent of the Internet has totally changed the way we get our information, and I’m sure many print magazines have gone under, yet there are still many, many out there and they seem to be surviving pretty well.

I also agree with you 100% on your assessment of SK. I’m sure when it first came out it was a huge asset to the kayaking community, and remained so for many people over the years. But they did seem to get kind of stuck in that flat narrative style, like the flat waters they portrayed in their photos and articles. There is NOTHING wrong with flat water, but by sticking to their focus on sedate paddling, as you put it, they got stuck in a pretty narrow groove and as the sport expanded they did not seem to be able or willing to expand with it. That of course, would explain running out of fresh material – I think they needed to expand their horizons if they wanted to stay relevant. I am interested to hear you say that many kayaking blogs have gone offline. I often wonder how long this one will keep going but somehow I still keep getting new material and just when I think I’m at a loss for my next post stuff will come up for another two or three articles. I am very thankful for that. But then again, I’m kind of all over the place when it comes to copy. I’ll write about anything if I can relate it to paddling. And luckily Adventure Kayak Magazinel appears to be thriving, and I am really enjoying that publication. You can check out the follow up piece to this article I wrote regarding AK at this link: Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It’s good to hear from you 🙂


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