Sunday, July 21, 2019

Choosing your first kayak? Watch this video

Dan Arbuckle introduces a review of five entry-level kayaks

Some longtime paddlers may look down their noses when they see....

...entry-level boats from big box stores. It’s an easy call if you’ve been paddling for years and invested a large sum in a kayak that’s fit for almost any body of water. But there’s another point of view, as a new YouTube video explains. And it’s notable for several reasons.

First, it was created by Dan Arbuckle, who owns the Headwaters Kayak Shop in Lodi. Dan is well known in Northern California kayaking circles as an entrepreneur paddler who’s very active in the community. He’s also as sharply attuned to social media as anyone I know in the watersports biz. Which is where YouTube comes in.
One of Dan’s latest YouTube videos is “5 Kayaks Under $300:Are They Worth It?” On the day I found it, the video had more than 58,000 hits. The following day, up to more than 64,000. As of this writing, it’s closing in on 125,000 hits – after only a month online. That’s extraordinary for a kayak video that doesn’t involve a shark attack or a ride over Niagara Falls. Dan's 28-minute video obviously hit the right note with paddlers.  

Anyone familiar with Headwaters knows that the shop inventory includes some high-end kayaks with price tags of $5,000 or more. (Less expensive but quality boats too.) So you might jump to the conclusion that this video trashes the five budget boats he selected from Dick’s Sporting Goods.

What you find instead is a thoughtful and respectful recognition that many novice paddlers don’t have money to burn, and every kayaker has to start somewhere. Dan approached his conversational reviews of five boats from the standpoint of value and safety: What are the basic features that novice paddlers should look for? What are the design shortcomings to avoid? What water conditions are these boats made for? And importantly, which ones are the most fun to paddle?
Lake Natoma, in Folsom, one of many places suitable for entry-level kayaks

No spoiler alert needed – watch the video yourself, even if you’re way beyond the $300 boat aisle. Dan’s comments are very helpful to beginners and remind the rest of us what paddling should be about – a relaxing and enjoyable pursuit that puts us closer to nature. (Side note: The video quality is darn good and conveys the pleasures of paddling on a quiet lake.)  

And now to the question that’s been nagging: Why the heck would a small businessman promote products he doesn’t sell and send potential customers to the big box discounters? Dan explains in the video:

“Some of my friends and colleagues think I’m nuts for doing these videos...but an independent kayak shop like mine, we’re probably not going to be somebody’s first kayak shop. We’re going to be their next kayak shop…

“If they fall in love with this sport, and I think they will….they’ll come to see me and say, ‘I want a good kayak'….that’s where I come in, with knowledge, expertise, selection…If I’m inspiring you, motivating you to get out on the water, that’s my job, that’s what I’m more excited about than selling the boat.”

© 2019 Glenn Brank