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Does someone on your list love paddling? Whether kayaking, paddleboarding, or canoeing, paddling enthusiasts are all looking for the same general things. The best gifts for kayakers are the things that they’ll use on every trip. I’ve been paddling various types of boat for several decades now, and I have learned to appreciate the simple things about being on the water. I don’t need a lot of stuff, but the stuff I do have should be high-quality and perfectly suited to the task.
Best Gift Ideas for Water Sports Lovers Reviewed
What to Get Someone Who Likes Kayaking? Or Paddleboarding?
Gift-giving doesn’t need to be an exhausting research project. If you know someone who loves paddlesports, then get them something to do with paddling! But how do you choose the best gifts for kayakers? The first step is to figure out if there’s anything you can do to upgrade their paddling with higher-quality kayak accessories. If there isn’t, then looking for kayaker gift ideas with some outdoorsy flair.
What are the best kayak accessories? Think of things that every paddler needs to have on board, and make sure your paddler has nice examples. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of junk in the world. Cheap heavy paddles weigh you down, and bulky, uncomfortable life jackets suck the fun out of hot summer days. If the special kayaker in your life already has the best of the best gear, focus instead on fun gadgets and gizmos they don’t have. But if they’re still wearing a bright orange five-dollar life vest or lugging around the metal paddle that came with their boat, get something to make their time on the water more comfortable.
If their boat is decked out with the latest and greatest, look to general outdoor and watersports ideas. Waterproof phone cases, water shoes, or even survival bracelets are great starting points.
Great Gift Ideas for Paddlesports Enthusiasts
Waterproof Dry Bags – Earth Pak Roll-Top Dry Bag
If you aren’t sure what sort of accessories the paddler in your life already has, play it safe and get them a dry bag. Good dry bags are hard to find, and I’ve never met a paddler who doesn’t need more of them. Everything goes in dry bags, and if it’s important, it can go in a dry bag inside of another dry bag.
These Earth Pak bags come in various sizes from 10 to 55 liters to suit any paddler with any purpose. Choose a big one for towels, tents, and clothes if out for a camping trip, or pick something smaller for day paddles. It has a fool-proof roll-top closure for maximum water resistance. The smaller bags have a single shoulder strap for easy carrying, while bags 30 liters and over have backpack style shoulder straps. The 55-liter version even includes a waist strap for more comfortable carrying. They can easily be used with any paddlesport, whether kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding; the comfortable shoulder straps make them functional for all other activities near the water too. Eight colors let you get a custom look to match your paddling friend’s craft. As a nice bonus, it comes with a universal cell phone dry bag.
Deck Bag – Gearlab’s Award-Winning Deck Pod
Here’s a purpose-built bag that will quickly become your paddler’s best friend. There are few things more annoying on a kayak than a cluttered deck. This bag is designed to carry the things that must be out and accessible in an easy-to-access yet tidy manner. Specifically, it solves the problem with the storage of an inflatable paddle float, a bilge pump, and a hydration pouch. There’s also a large zippered storage pocket for easy access to snacks, charts, or camera gear. It frees up space in the boat’s hatches or provides a great storage option for boats that don’t have hatches. While it’s mainly designed for sit-in kayaks, it could be used on any sort of vessel.
Comfortable Paddling Seats – Reliancer Padded Kayak/Canoe Backrest Seats, Two-Pack
Nothing is worse than an uncomfortable bum. Some kayaks and nearly every canoe I’ve ever sat in has suffered from miserably uncomfortable seats. These padded seats have high and wide backrests for extra comfort. With the included straps, they can be mounted in pretty much any boat and adjusted to any angle. That means you can spend your whole day out paddling and enjoying the water since there’ll be no sore bums calling you home early.
These seats have an 18-inch high backrest, which is an ideal size for kayaks. They also feature lots of EVA foam padding, covered in a soft neoprene shell. Both seats include a zippered pouch that snaps behind them for a little extra storage, a nice bonus since paddlers are always looking for an easy way to keep snacks and water bottles handy.
Storage Cooler – Perception Splash Tankwell Cooler
If you’re shopping for someone with a sit-on-top kayak, this is one of the niftiest coolers around. It’s specifically designed to fit inside the rear well of their kayak. When not nestled safely there, the back also has backpack-style straps for easy carrying. It has half-inch insulating foam, so it can keep food and drinks cold for an all-day paddle. Its 40-liter capacity will hold 20 cans, accessible with a top zipper. When sat inside the tank well of a kayak, its low-profile design looks sharp and reduces windage. There are four D-rings built into the bag for lashing it down to any kayak.
This is an excellent find if you’re shopping for someone who fishes from their kayak. If you like the looks of the Tankwell Cooler but don’t have a tank well for it, Perception also makes a Splash Bow Bag.
Power Kit – Nocqua Adventure Gear 4.4ah Pro Power Kit
Speaking of fishing from a kayak, here’s a handy item if you’d like to run a fishfinder, GPS, live-well pump, or any other 12-volt device while out on the water. This palm-sized lithium-ion battery pack is perfect for paddlesports since it’s small and waterproof.
This isn’t a plug-and-play option for power onboard, however. The battery pack includes only wire leads and some marine-grade electrical connectors. To use it with a GPS fishfinder or other gadget, you’ll have to hardwire the gizmo to this battery pack. That makes this battery somewhat unique and purpose-built–meaning it’s not for everyone. If you’re just looking for a portable battery bank with USB ports, there are plenty of those available.
The battery pack includes an AC charging cable, power lead, and heat-shrink butt connectors. It can be used in various ways, and you could even use it with a solar panel or other charge sources, as long as they’re all 12-volts.
Universal Waterproof Phone Case – Mpow IPX8 Phone Pouch Dry Bag, Two-Pack
Every paddler I know is looking for ways to keep their electronics safe while paddling. We like to have our phones out for photos, which makes it a little challenging. Of course, they are safer staying in a bigger dry bag all the time, but that doesn’t happen when dolphins swim by. These dry bag pouches are an inexpensive insurance policy. Even if you have a “waterproof” phone, it’s never a bad idea to double up on the protection.
These pouches are designed to let you use the touchscreen, but touch ID and fingerprint readers may not work. They’re completely waterproof, however, and can even be safely submerged. They’re also big enough for large-screen phones like the iPhone 12 Max; any phone with a screen size between four and six inches will fit. These bags are transparent front and back, so both cameras should work fine!
Comfortable Life Vest – Onyx MoveVent Dynamic Paddle Life Vest
All paddlers are legally required to have a life vest onboard, and the safest place to have one is to be wearing it. But most life vests are uncomfortable, especially for long trips while paddling. Paddling requires flexibility as you move your arms, shoulders, and torso, making traditional watersports personal floatation devices (PFDs) cumbersome. The Onyx MoveVent is specially designed for paddlers to allow for freedom of movement and airflow on hot days. It’s also designed so that you can sit back in your paddle seat comfortably, without a bulky chunk of lifevest trying to push you out of it.
If you’re looking for the perfect life vest for a paddleboarder, this probably isn’t it. This one is specifically designed to be worn at all times and while sitting down. For SUPs, check out belt-style inflatables like the Onyx Belt Pack.
High-End Paddle – Werner Camano Fiberglass and Carbon Paddle
Do you know a paddler who refuses to move on from their plastic and metal starter paddle? If it’s in your budget, change their lives for the better and get them a real paddle.
Nothing changes your paddling experience more than switching to a lightweight and well-designed paddle. The weight savings alone will reduce shoulder and arm fatigue and increase range. Nice paddles just feel great, and it’s the most significant progression you can make when you want to take your paddling more seriously. Cheap plastic paddles are just that and are best saved for rental kayaks and playing at the beach. If you want to go places, you need a nice one.
I’ve been in love with these Werner paddles for many years now. They are pieces of art–completely functional, lightweight, and not wanting for anything. The Camano fiberglass is a hybrid model representing a fantastic value with it’s lightweight and robust carbon shaft and sleek fiberglass blades. You can get the same design in all carbon fiber if you’d rather.
Werner also makes similar paddles for SUP paddlers, the Session Adjustable. Remember, high-dollar paddles are every paddler’s dream, but it’s essential to get the right size. Check out Werner’s fit guide to find the right one.
Unisex Rash Guard – O’Neill Basic Skins UPF 50+ Long Sleeve Rash Guard
If you’re paddling in warmer waters, rash guards are quickly becoming a must-have item. They’re more reliable than sunblock and more comfortable, too. The best thing about them is the way you can get out of the water and back in again without worrying about toweling off or changing clothes. They dry fast and are the next best thing to going shirtless.
O’Neill’s basic rash guards come in 14 different colors and all of the standard sizes. They’re Skin Cancer Foundation recommended, and since they come from world-renown O’Neill, you know the fit will be just right. It’s made of six-ounce polyester Spandex for maximum breathability to keep the wearer cool and dry. These are also really handy in areas with sea lice or jellyfish! Be sure to carefully check the sizing chart; most people believe that these (like all rash guards) run a little on the small side.
Safety First – Surviveware Waterproof Watersports First Aid Kit
Every paddler should have a first aid kit on board, especially if they’re leaving civilization behind. But traditional kits aren’t built for watersports. Even if their components are sealed in plastic baggies, the cases are leaky cheap plastic or have zips that quickly corrode closed.
This Surviveware first aid kit is exactly what the doctor ordered. It’s IPX7 waterproof, which means it can be submerged for up to 30 minutes! The waterproof zips have oversized handles to make them easy and quick to open, and all of the compartments are labeled. The outer pouch is made from 600D TPU, and it includes a MOLLE compatible system with D-rings that can attach to many different bags and vessels.
Safety Pup – Ruffwear Float Coat
I love paddling with my dog, and my dog loves paddling with me. Together, we’ve been through a few different doggie life vests, but this one is paws-down the top dog. It has built-in floatation all the way around her chest and under her neck, unlike many that include simple webbing straps and large, clunky chunks of foam. When swimming, it looks like it helps her keep her head up perfectly. What I like most is the large handle, which makes it easy to lift her back out of the water after the occasional slip. Or was it a jump? She’ll never tell.
Great Stocking Stuffer Idea – Paracord Bracelet with Emergency Whistle and Compass
Here’s a small and inexpensive idea perfect for any outdoorsy person. These survivalist paracord bracelets feature a compass, whistle, fire starter, and emergency knife. For under ten bucks, you get a pair of them in the color and size of your choosing. Kid’s sizes are available too!
Water shoes are hit-and-miss. There are many cheap ones on the market that work fine if you aren’t going to use them as shoes. Many great hiking shoes claim to work well in the water that just don’t. These Merrells somehow get it right–they work great in the water, they dry quickly without getting gross, and they are very comfortable for long hikes. I’ve taken mine wading across some brutally sharp rocky beaches and hiked up mountain waterfalls. They’ve never let me down.
Great gift ideas for kayakers don’t need to be busting with creativity or originality. Just assess their gear and see what could use an upgrade. If they’re serious about paddling, they’ll appreciate that you took the time to look at their interests with intent. Maybe they’ll even invite you out on the water with them next time!