Sales of kayaks — along with other outdoor equipment like bikes and camping gear — spiked during the pandemic, so you may need to wait a few months for your boat.
“People are rediscovering how great it is to get outside, even in their own neighborhoods,” said Anton Willis, founder and chief design officer at Oru Kayak, a folding kayak company that experienced a more-than-100-percent increase in sales between 2019 and 2020. “We’re building kayaks as fast as we can. A lot of other companies are in that same boat, no pun intended.”
Pro tip for new paddlers: “People think they’re going to capsize in the water, but usually if you’re going to tip over it happens when you’re getting in or out of the boat,” Mr. Willis said. “Start out easy, somewhere shallow and wave-free, like a floating dock or a gentle, sandy beach.”
Join the sailing community.
Sailing has a reputation for being difficult and expensive, but that’s not necessarily the case. “Sailing can be very affordable and accessible. It’s not just for billionaires at the America’s Cup,” said Bob Ross, president of the Seattle Sailing Club, which teaches sailing lessons and rents boats to its members. “Yacht clubs have sailing schools for kids and adults that are very low cost.”
With sailing, it’s all about joining a community of other sailors. Make it serious and become part of a racing crew or keep it casual and go anchor for lunch in a protected harbor. Most sailors love to share their knowledge and welcome newcomers. You don’t necessarily need experience to crew on a bigger boat. Check bulletin boards or show up at the dock at local sailing clubs — or try the Go Sailing app — to see if anyone needs a crew member.
“You can sign up to be what’s called ‘rail meat’ — that’s somebody who sits on the rail and weighs the boat down as it’s heeling,” said Michael Campbell, a founder of the Universal Sailing Club in Baltimore. “That’s the fastest paced learning environment you’ll find.”
And you don’t need access to the ocean to sail. “There are lakes all over the country and every lake has a small yacht or sailing club that tends to be very approachable,” said John Kettlewell, executive director of Sail Martha’s Vineyard, a sailing nonprofit in Vineyard Haven, Mass. “The term ‘yacht club’ sounds snooty, but they’re usually not.”