David Hastings: Paddling to Paradise
David Hastings was born in Evanston, Illinois. He moved around as a child, first to Urbana, IL, then to Newton, MA, where he went to junior high and high school. Since he was a year younger than his peers, before going to college he spent a gap year working in a biochemistry lab and picking grapes in Bordeaux, France.
At Princeton University, he was a chemistry major and did his senior thesis research on geochemistry of tannic waters in the NJ Pine Barrens. After graduation, David spent a year working on radioactive waste disposal at Battelle Labs and a year working on clean air act legislation at Sierra Club in San Francisco.
David moved to Seattle, where he got an MS and Ph.D. in chemical oceanography at the University of Washington. Dr. Hastings worked for 25 years as an educator and researcher in marine geochemistry, studying the history of climate change, the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and doing important early work on microplastics in the coastal environment of Tampa Bay, FL.
What is your hobby?
I love to kayak! Like many others, I have many hobbies, but kayaking is my favorite!
How did you get started with it?
I grew up next to the ocean, learned how to swim at an early age, and started sailing 11-foot Mirror Dinghies at a pre-teen. I loved to play around in a small 13 ft Boston Whaler, but once I got into an ocean kayak, I was hooked.
I have always loved to be in nature, and kayaking is an exceptionally easy way to be in remote and beautiful places. It’s also a great way to see land from a very different perspective.
My first long kayaking trip was a ten-day trip to Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. It was magical!
Tell us what you love about it
First, kayaking gets me out in nature. I love the serenity of being alone, or with one other person, smelling the ocean and looking at the horizon. I have been visited by birds, fish, seals, and even an Orca whale one time!
I also like getting exercise, and kayaking is a good core workout if you are kayaking properly. If not, your arms will get tired too quickly!
Finally, I enjoy spending time with friends and loved ones, since we are on the water together, enjoying nature. It’s quiet and easy to talk while paddling, as if we are walking together.
What types of things/equipment have you spent money on for your hobby?
Between me and my wife, we have more than a few boats, including four ocean kayaks, two river kayaks, a two-person canoe, and a single canoe. I recently bought a nice fiberglass sit-on-top kayak for my wife. I got all these boats used.
It’s nice to be able to invite friends to join me in kayaking. Rather than buy or rent a boat, I can simply lend them a boat. It makes things much easier, especially if they are coming from out of town.
What are some of your favorite places to shop for your hobby?
I usually get my equipment secondhand, since it’s a much better value. There are lots of retired bankers, physicians, dentists, and lawyers who bought a new boat, rarely, if ever, use it, then sell is for half the price.
When I buy new equipment, including paddles, gloves, and other gear, I often go to REI, which is in most large metro areas. We have one in our relatively small college town.
How much money have you invested into it, and how much should a beginner invest to get started?
I started with a used ocean kayak, bought on Craig’s List for $400 with a paddle and PFD.
Next, I bought a used Kevlar kayak from a retired banker, who was not able to paddle anymore for a very good value, with a paddle, PFD, gloves, and more. I bought his wife’s boat as well!
More recently, I bought another very nice, 17.5 ft long ocean kayak from a retired dentist, who had hardly used the boat. There were no scratches at all on the bottom!
Are there any good books for beginners interested in your hobby?
Best book to browse? The Art of Kayaking: Everything You Need to Know About Paddling by Nigel Foster. It’s a detailed and comprehensive kayaking manual by a respected kayaker.
Canoeing & Kayaking Guide to Florida by Johnny Malloy is a good starting book if you live in Florida. If you don’t need a guide, but want a good read, check out: Complex Coast: A Kayak Journey from Vancouver Island to Alaska by David Norwell.
Are there any online videos you recommend to help beginners?
There are a lot of videos on youtube that I like and enjoy and learn from. I especially like the youtube channel “Dancing With The Sea.”
I love Nigel Foster’s approach, evident in his blog on ocean kayaking
The boats he makes are superb!
How has your hobby changed your life?
Kayaking (and canoeing) have changed my life because it’s a relatively easy way to get on the water and enjoy nature. It allows me to spend time with my life partner; what can be better than spending a day in nature with your spouse?
When I am alone, it’s incredibly special. Plain and simple: it makes me feel good.
What advice do you have for others starting out with this hobby?
If price is a concern, borrow or rent a kayak for starters. It’s not hard to find a used kayak on various websites, including Craig’s list, FB marketplace, or boat trader. Often they are less expensive at the end of the season, or in the winter.