There is more than just the obvious visual differences between sea and whitewater kayakers.
Each has a different emotional stability, critical in experience. And although I personally question the sanity of those who feel compelled to forge down waterfalls and launch into boulders, perhaps we are no better… floating around in the ocean, far offshore, challenging the winds, tides and currents.
Whitewater kayakers wear helmets keeping brains in and rocks out (good conventional wisdom!). Sea kayakers wear hats, each sea kayaker searching to create his or her own identity – reflecting individual abilities (to outsiders we’re all crazy).
This hat takes on the personality of its wearer, extending an image (a posturing, a projected attitude, carriage and stance, position and rank amongst peers) for all fellow sea kayakers to see. Hats can show involvement in past kayaking symposiums, favourite baseball teams, or even just to boast a symbol of a sport by manufacturer/catalogue supplier. Some, perhaps, can even be stylish, like the wide-brimmed hats made of Gore-Tex. And then there are always the super wide-brimmed hats with different SPF ratings – and these hats float too! Hopefully, when the ‘ole wind blows most people are anchored into their kayaks, lest they be carried off as seen in the old sitcom The Flying Nun. There are still other hats – from the Bimini style (reminiscent of the French Foreign Legion) to the specially designed airflow caps with Neoprene peak, Velcro adjustment and retainer cord.
For years I have been searching for the perfect hat. Of course the word ‘free’ had to be a prerequisite. Well, things got out of hand last year when I started to wear a ‘MAD’ hat. For all of you invested parents who believe in building up your child’s moral character – not to mention cultivating their sense of humour – purchasing a subscription to MAD magazine is the answer! And they’ll send you a ‘free’ hat to boot! Although I tend to lose hats rolling or training in very bad weather, this MAD hat stayed with me all the way. Unfortunately, at 6′ 3” and thinner than most – sometimes towering over others – the hat makes me look rather silly. This painful fact was confirmed in a photograph taken of me on one of the trips last year. Imagine actually volunteering to look silly!
I’ve noticed in my travels that many people avoid this issue altogether and wear no hat at all. They carry hoods for the rain, sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen for the sun, and plenty of water – occasionally pouring it over themselves to offset the sun’s rays beating down on them.
In the ever-growing sport of sea kayaking, I am planning to propose that American Paddlesport sponsor a fashion show, where different manufacturers could display their line of dry suits – both single and two piece, as well as personal flotation devices, thermal heaters, neoprene, fuzzy rubber, Polartec, and boots – full neoprene, semi sneaker with mesh siding, sandals and hats.
Maestro… music please. Hey isn’t that Cindy Crawford walking down the runway? (damn, she’s wearing a MAD hat – how come I don’t look that good).
Yes, it’s been a long winter and I’m looking forward to warm weather – and the sooner the better!