You know you are a paddle-head when …

kayak rollI recall back in my San Jose Sharks season-ticket holder days that there was a term that was applied to obsessive hockey fans, the type who considered the Sharks Tank as being their second home, could quote every statistic of every NHL game to the point of inducing sleep, and then went to bed wearing teal pyjamas. They were known as “puck-heads”. It is evident that similar levels of obsession can be diagnosed amongst the paddling community, therefore the equivalent term might be “paddle-head”.  How do you know if you are a paddle-head? After a little analysis, I have determined that the following symptoms might offer a clue:

  1. Your hands are many shades darker than the rest of your body.
  2. You can’t decide whether to vote Tory, Labour or Liberal, but have clearly defined preferences when it comes to Rockpool, Valley or P&H.
  3. Your idea of a fashion boutique is the paddle-wear section at Tiso’s, which you consider to be woefully understocked.
  4. Your wardrobe contains more paddle-wear than “normal” clothing (indeed, you’re not sure what “normal” is any more).
  5. You have often been seen shopping in the supermarket in your thermal underlayer.
  6. When the hairdresser asks if you’re going anywhere special that evening you reply, “Rolling practice”.
  7. You don’t consider the presence of a sea kayak in your living room to be unusual.
  8. Your DVD collection owes more to Justine Curgenven than James Cameron.
  9. You’ve watched “The Kayak Roll” DVD so often, you can recall the background muzak.
  10. Your bathroom, no matter how stylish, will never feature in “Homes and Gardens” as it is permanently bedecked in drying paddle-gear.
  11. Your bath has a permanent rim of salt and grit around it from gear rinsing.
  12. Your gear is never quite dry.
  13. You’re seriously considering a house extension to accommodate a proper rinsing and drying room.
  14. Your asthma inhaler squirts salt water.
  15. 90% of your Facebook friends have a profile picture that contains a kayak.
  16. Learning to roll is your proudest achievement, but your offside needs work.
  17. You can’t look out at the sea without assessing the sea state.
  18. You know the average lunitidal interval for your area.
  19. In the unlikely event that you go away on a non-paddling trip, you still have to review the location for paddling potential.
  20. The name “Gordon Brown” evokes feelings of admiration and respect.
  21. The number of contact lenses lost through rolling practice extends into the teens.
  22. You’ve also lost at least one phone and/or camera to the salty depths.
  23. You haven’t a clue who the latest celebrities are, but you can hold your own discussing kayak models, gelcoat repair, j-bars, roofracks, drysuits and rolling technique.
  24. You’re more often than not wearing a hat in order to hide the salty mess that is your hair.
  25. You consider a kayak with a rudder to be unethical.
  26. You no longer associate a windless day with ideal paddling conditions.
  27. You think neoprene hoods look quite cool actually.
  28. Whether you are struck with illness, bankruptcy, fire or flood, the very first question you ask yourself is, will this interfere with my paddling?
  29. You can determine the vintage of a kayak at 10 paces.
  30. Your idea of a horror flick is video of your failed rolls.
  31. The parts that are of most interest on an OS map are next to the blue bits.
  32. You not only know when to use a skeg, but have probably reassembled one – more than once.
  33. You’ve considered purchasing a norsaq and tuiliq, or perhaps making your own.
  34. You know the difference between a modified crank shaft and a neutral bent shaft.
  35. You consider a key development in the history of the late 20th Century to be the evolution of the Anas Acuta and the Nordkapp.
  36. You assess a kayak by the hardness of its chines.
  37. You’ve spent many hours deliberating over your ideal VHF call sign.
  38. Your browser home page is the Met Office surface pressure chart.
  39. You’re secretly hoping that someone will get you a portable anemometer for Christmas.
  40. You have a kayaking blog but are too busy paddling to keep it fully updated 🙂

I fear that this condition could worsen and that there are even more advanced symptoms that could be documented here, so I would invite anyone who has experienced them to submit their observations. All in the interests of research of course …


  1. Alice says:

    Well done on your top 40! brilliant. I’ll admit I am only some of the way there but don’t hold out hope that it will last another year.
    Love the comments about sun-tanned hands – I suppose it’s related to your latitude, or just a lucky few days on the wet coast.

  2. Other symptoms of being a paddle-head…
    – you barter your time at the local kayak shop to upgrade your kit
    – you beg your wife to name your son Gordon, Nigel, or after a body of water
    – your wife knows that if you skipped out of work early it was to go paddling

  3. pamf says:

    Alice – I drew the line at 40, but there are a few other worrying signs and I sense the list will grow. Yes, you’re probably doomed too by now! As for the hands, they are the most exposed part of a west coast sea kayaker’s body. So, dark brown hands and a milk bottle body are par for the course.

  4. pamf says:

    Jeff – Fabulous idea on item 1 on your list – wish there was a kayak shop near me. As for item 2, I don’t have a son, but I have a cat named after the island of Ailsa Craig. And item 3 – my hubby knows likewise, usually because he’s skipped out of work with me 😉

    Keep ’em coming!

  5. Will says:

    You share, or have shared for a significant period of time, your Kitchen / Hall / Living room, with at least one sea kayak, and humour but don’t quite understand why the in laws make such a fuss about this arrangement which really, is quite normal… …for a ‘paddle head’.


  6. pamf says:

    Indeed, Will. It’s a paddle-head thing, they wouldn’t understand 🙂

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