By Molly Adams, Blunt Youth Radio/Youth Radio
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What’s the New What? This week, our story comes from Maine, where outdoor enthusiasts are enjoying the lingering warm days and going on full moon adventures in the water to wrap up the season. Molly Adams of Blunt Radio reports there’s been a sea change in Maine when it comes to how people are riding the waters.
INTRO: It’s time again to hear what’s in and what’s out from our friends at Youth Radio in the latest installment of their series What’s the New What? This week, our story comes from Maine, where outdoor enthusiasts are enjoying the lingering warm days and going on full moon adventures in the water this week (Sept 14-16) to wrap up the season. But as Molly Adams of Blunt Radio reports, there’s been a sea change in Maine when it comes to HOW people are riding the waters…
SCRIPT: What is the new what? Kayaking is the new canoeing.
The open-hulled canoe is classic Americana. Boy Scouts don’t kayak…they canoe. They even get canoe badges. But lately faster, sleeker, lighter kayaks have overshadowed and outsold the heavy lumbering canoe. And who cares? Well, we Mainers do. Canoes are the Maine paddle-craft! They are part of our history.
KELLOGG: A lot of place names here in Maine, Kennebec, Penobscot, Presumpscot, Machias, they’re river names. That’s Zip Kellogg, the author of “The Whole Paddler’s Catalog.”
KELLOGG: They have names like that because the Native Americans were traveling on these rivers in their canoes mostly. My earliest memory of a canoe is falling out of it. Maybe that's why kayaks sell better. They don't tip as easily. Zip doesn’t think so.
KELLOGG: Um…Personally, I don’t think that’s true because I think the canoe does fine on its own. It’s when people get in it that things start to happen.
You can see how the canoe vs kayak debate gets personal.
But preferences aside, Maine’s top paddling retailer Johnson Outdoors says kayaks are outselling canoes almost three to one.
AX: Water sounds
I went to try out a kayak myself, something I haven't done in a couple years. LL BEAN GUIDE, STEVEN CUSTER: Go ahead and get in there and get your butt as far back in the seat as it will go. MOLLY: All right. (fade down here) AX: Water sounds I’m in the Harraseeket Bay in Freeport, Maine on a kayak tour. I meet Ken and Eric Desmitt there, a father-son pair from Ohio.
ERIC: Yeah. I’d rather go kayaking than canoeing.
MOLLY: Is it ‘cause it’s like, faster? ERIC: It’s easier too.
MOLLY: Now have you ever been canoeing before, Ken?
KEN: Uh, many, many years ago in the Boy Scouts. That’s the problem right there. Kids these days… they learn how to paddle in a kayak not a canoe, like the Boy Scouts did and do. Families are buying three or four kayaks a piece if they can afford it; two small or tandem kayaks for the kids, two for the adults. That’s a big shift from buying one canoe per family. And in Freeport, Maine, LL Bean’s Alice Andrenyak has canoes in stock, they’re just out-numbered.
ALICE: Recreational kayaks are significantly up in sales. This is a me boat, so people who have limited time can go out by themselves.
These “me” boats…in personalized colors like “cloud” and “sunrise”…are taking over, even as canoe sales remain steady.
In a sign of the times, an Old Town, Maine fixture “Old Town Canoes” is now called “Old Town Canoes and Kayaks.”
I feel somewhat wistful about the rise of the kayak. I like canoes. They’re kind of dorky in a slow, sweet way and you can meet a friend in the middle to share a sandwich.
Maybe in a few years, canoes will become an object of nostalgic lust and come back on top, but for now, here in Maine, kayaking is the new canoeing.
Host Back Announce: Molly Adams is a reporter with Blunt Radio in Maine. That story was produced by Youth Radio.
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