The Top 10 Reasons We Think Paddling is the Fastest Growing Human Powered Sport
by Roxanne and John Parrott
Two summers ago, we attended the Youghiogheny Sojourn. The Yough was named ‘2008 River of the Year.’ On one of the paddling days, Denny Tubbs of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission gave a talk about kayaking and made the claim that, “Paddling is the fastest growing human powered sport.” We decided to check into that claim. It led us to come up with a ‘Top 10 List’ that may capture what we learned and what we know:
1. Paddling is bliss—you can’t answer your cell phone, text, or do email.
2. Paddling is as little or as much exercise as you want to make it.
3. Paddling is as little or as much excitement as you want to experience.
4. Paddling is solitude when you need it.
5. Paddling is community when you seek it.
6. Paddling is a green sport—it requires no gasoline to power it.
7. Paddling is as affordable as you make it—used boats on Craigslist or special order custom boats from your neighborhood outfitter and everything in between.
8. Paddling is a chance to give back and participate in conservation.
9. Paddling is a chance to make a difference by telling others about the sport.
10. Paddling is…the fastest growing human powered sport because of these reasons and more…
In the 1990s and into the early 2000 there were many new kayak designs, materials and manufactures that helped fuel the rapid growth in kayaking and in all paddle-sports. The Marine Manufacturing Association estimates that interest in paddle-sports grew by about 10 percent between 2005 and 2006. The number of people participating in paddle-sports has never been greater and the growth remains steady. Interest in kayaking has increased many fold over the past half dozen years with tens of millions of Americans 16 years of age and older participating in paddling sports. One of the big growth areas in paddle sports has been in the number of women becoming involved in kayaking and canoeing. With new boat designs and materials it does not take “brute strength” to effectively move a boat through the water and this has been a big factor in making the sport more attractive to women. Today almost of the paddle-sports participants are women (~47%). [For more information see the article at this link: http://www.paddlinginstructor.com/articles/businessdevelopment/63-trends-in-human-powered-outdoor-recreation.html]
Enthusiasts, the top 15% of participants have shown major increases in the sport. In 2004 Recreation Kayaking grew over 125.0%, Touring & Sea Kayaking grew more than 166.7% and Whitewater Kayaking over 200.0% in this group. This kind of increase in participation gives weight to the claim that kayaking is the fastest growing human powered sport. This picture of John paddling with our granddaughter, Grace, at Canoe Creek State Park illustrates the family side of this sport. On the Juniata River Sojourn we have seen several 3-generation families participating in the week long trip. While the initial investment in paddle sports can challenge the family budget, once equipped there is very little cost to paddle. Besides the gas to get to the water, launch permits and a little sun screen; there is very little cost to paddle. So you have a sport that is women friendly, family friendly, age friendly, environmentally friendly and gets you in the outdoors. With all this going for it, we are not surprised in the growth of paddle-sports. A lot of online sites discuss some history of the sport such as: http://www.eco-sports.com.my/blog/index.php/2009/01/kayak-canoe-a-brief-history/ Posted on January 12, 2009, that site explains that, “A kayak is a small humanpowered boat. The word “kayak” means “man’s boat” or “hunter’s boat”. The kayak was a very personal craft, built by a man (with the assistance of his wife who would sew the
skins) to fit his measures and for maximum maneuverability. It typically had a covered deck and a cockpit.” There is so much water to paddle in our area. Pennsylvania has established 20 water trails (http://www.fish.state.pa.us/watertrails/trailindex.htm) and has more water to paddle than we can possibly expect to see it all. Some of our favorites are well under an hour to reach and several are even closer. Within a half hour of our home between State College and Port Matilda, we can reach Black Moshannon or Bald Eagle state parks and paddle, paddle, paddle. Putting in near the Sunnyside Paddle Park on Spring Creek in Bellefonte provides another easily accessible site to get on the water. The picture to the right was taken on Bald Eagle Creek below the Milesburg Bridge, near Curtin Village. We often claimthat this is our sycamore tree. It is just a stop along our water journey that has become special to us. As you paddle the Pennsylvania waterways what spots will become special to you?