Pedal vs Paddle

America, and most of the world, craves polarization. Whether it's subconscious or completely knowing, people want to know where you stand on certain things.

Are you Republican or Democrat?
Are you Pro Choice or Pro Life?
Are you pro carbs or anti-carbs?
Are you Baptist, Aetheist or Catholic?
Are you a pedal or paddle kayaker?

As you can see, while we want everyone to be one or the other, if we are answering for ourselves, you might be a third or fourth option which isn't given. I know Libertarians, moderates, Methodists and folks who can enjoy both sides of the pedal vs paddle showdown.

Having a bit of research scientist in me, I did a little experiment over at a few weeks back to see if my hypothesis was correct. I set up a poll and asked if money were no object and you could have any one kayak which one would you choose.

With all the us vs them, pedal vs paddle rhetoric that floats around, I was expecting the paddlers to step up and stay firm. If they truly felt paddle kayaks were "truer to the sport" and pedal yaks were "not even a real kayak" as I had heard, the polls should be widely distributed among Wilderness Systems, Ocean Kayaks and others. I expected the pedal guys with Hobies and Natives to of course choose those. I expected about 15% to be Native and Hobie combined if the rhetoric were to hold true.

It didn't.

41% of the people participating in the poll chose a Hobie with a Mirage drive. Another 16% chose a Native with a propel drive. The comments were valuable as well. So many of them talked about money. "Well, if you're giving me $3,000, I'll take a PA," (Hobie Pro Angler).

57% of the people participating chose to get a kayak with pedals. Interesting.

So what do I make of this?

While we all have ideas around what we think kayaking is, when the rubber meets the road, what actually plays a large part is money. Of course! If I asked 100 middle class folks if they were in favor of raising the taxes on the rich so the tax burden could be lessened on those less fortunate, I'd bet a large pizza that most of them would say yes. But after they answered you explained that rich meant above the poverty line, their tune would change. Anytime you add or take away money from an equation it changes how people feel. By taking money out of the equation in the poll question, die hard paddle for life guys would purchase a Hobie or Native.

It happens everywhere in life. Think about driving down the highway. I see $125K sports cars and think to myself, "I would never spend my money on that!" if I were to ever have that kind of expendable income. But maybe I would. If I won the lottery to the tune of $350 million dollars, would I think about that car differently? Maybe so. Maybe not. But, when the money is neutralized in the situation, I am much less quick to dismiss the idea.

Kayaking isn't that much different. We have become a community of haves and have nots. Some guys use a $99 fish finder, some use nothing, and some have $2,000 units on their kayak. Is one right or wrong? No, but $99 guy usually has an opinion about $2K guy. Notice I said the guy. On the water we often draw conclusions about people based on appearance. A pedal kayak with an 1198 Humminbird, all Daiwa Steez equipment and nice clothes means a guy is unapproachable and a rich snob to many. Is that fair? No. But it happens every day. It's almost a reverse segregation.

Chances are the guy in that "fancy kayak" doesn't look down on someone in a $200 kayak. Almost every single person I know that has a decked out kayak goes out of their way to be friendly. I have had them show me their graph and point exactly where to throw, during a tournament! I have had these same guys show me rock piles and road beds as well. They only ask I don't broadcast it.

It's prejudging. We've all heard don't judge a book by its cover. Do many of us live by it? No, not really. We have a desire to compartmentalize people and things. We want to profile with just a glimpse. Have you ever assumed someone was a certain gender or age while they drive in front of you? Maybe saying something like," Get out of the way grandpa!"? I have. And then I pass them and lo and behold it's a 16 year old, nervous out of their mind with Dad in the passenger seat. Suddenly I have more compassion and empathy for the situation and may even feel a little bad for being upset. Why? What changed? It was because I could relate.

Money can drive a wedge in anything. It's the leading cause of divorce, lost friendships and splitting communities. I'm not convinced we will ever get away from that but we can change how we act publicly.

Money appears to be the reason more people aren't pedaling and are still paddling. This doesn't fit 100% but it does apply more than it doesn't. If given the option to purchase a Hobie Quest for $800 or a Hobie Outback with Mirage drive for $800 (see, neutralizing the money), very few Quests would be sold. Versatility is important but when it costs more, each individual has to decide if it is worth it.

The natural reaction is to defend against your current position. My Facebook feed is filled with political commentary. The problem is, it isn't filled with Republicans or Democrats saying what they have done that is helping people, but rather what the opposite party is doing that they don't agree with. We make ourselves feel better by lowering the opposing party. Kayaking is no different.

Lack of money, jealousy and prejudging cause a lot of class warfare. Paddle kayakers tend to poke fun, tease and even badger pedal kayakers about how they aren't real kayakers. The arguments of whether they should even be allowed in tournaments comes up every year too. It's not fair is heard a lot. Pedal kayakers either tell them they are jealous, try to convince them why it's awesome or just keep their mouths shut. So ask the hard question and really examine yourself for the answer. If I GAVE you a brand new Hobie Pro Angler tomorrow, decked out with whatever electronics you liked, no strings attached, would you feel differently? Oh you don't like the PA? How about a Slayer Propel from Native? Think about it. There will be a few who really aren't interested but only a few. It's a money thing.

Pedal vs Paddle isn't really a debate over what is good for the sport, what the word "kayak" really means, or who is doing it right. I firmly believe it comes down to money at the root of it all. We make ourselves feel better about our current situation by trying to reduce the status of others. Pedals and paddles have their place. So do the people that own them. Be kind on the water. Don't judge. The newbies are watching and learning from our behavior. Is it something we want to continue in the future?

Full disclosure: I have owned pedal and paddle kayaks in the last year. Currently I do not own any pedal kayaks. There are definitely days where one can be better than the other based on conditions but there is never room for hating on someone because they kayak in a different style. Share the water. Make new friends. Be kind.


Raf Yak said...

A mentor told me once; "kayak fishing is a self-discovery experience". I do own a Pro Angler and I don't feel above nor below anybody. I think that the kayak angler community is very friendly and always willing to cooperate with each other and that to me is very inspiring. I really hope people don't feel that kayak fishing is about bling or status as I love to get people involved regardless of what they like or have. Great article!
v/r Inland Yaker

Chris Payne said...

I like that quote. More and more people flock to our sport every day. Ambassadors with a great attitude like yours will keep kayak fishing growing! Thanks for reading!

William Spangler said...

I do not think money is the deciding fator in peddle versus paddle. I could afford any Paddle kayak or Ranger Power Boat I wanted but prefer the Paddle kayak. The Paddle kayak is lighter and has more mobility on the water and here it comes ... in the field of kayks I dont consider a Paddle Boat a Kayak.

William Spangler said...

I need to correct my previous post

"and here it comes ... in the field of kayks I dont consider a Peddle Boat a Kayak."

Artie Melton said...

I believe that at least 2/3 of the time, money is THE deciding factor. Most of the guys I know that kayak regularly would own something different if money wasn't an issue. That's not everyone, but it is a sizable number.
I own what I think will work best for me in the situations I want to kayak fish. I like the light weight and simplicity of a traditional kayak. I have one for open waters, and one for running water. But before I manhandle a 150+ lb pedal kayak/boat, I will put my bass boat in the water and fish from it. It's not that I can't manage it, I just don't want to.
As I've said before, I figure I have another 15 good years left to fish and spend time outdoors with good people. I believe many of them will be in kayaks.

Chris Payne said...

Very often money is the deciding factor. Not always but often. Again, when you ask them what you would have if money weren't a determinant, 57% said a pedal kayak. That says a lot about money being a part of it.

david bauer said...

I can remember when sot first came out( yep I'm old as the hills I was using Hobie stuff before a lot of the guys I yak with with were born ) at the time the SOT were not thought of a Kayak some sort of raft or something. I'm of the opinion pedal or paddle it's just personal preference they both have there place , if you really feel your getting beat up by the pedal guys then by all means buy one, you might have to make other choices but that's how life is
The last time I fished there was no one in a seal covered yak using a harpoon fishing just some guys in plastic boats ...good stuff Chris love reading your blog , BTW I fish out of a OK Trident and a OK Torque for off shore

Chris Payne said...

Thanks David! I've often thought about a Torque for offshore adventures. Maybe some day!