Trail News

The Ultimate List of Holiday Gift Ideas for Paddlers (beyond dry bags and water shoes)

wooden kayak ornament hanging from a Christmas tree branch
November 18, 2021

If you Google “gift ideas for kayakers” you’ll likely pull up multiple lists of stuff.  Many of the lists overlap with the typical suggestions like dry bags, paddle leashes, and water shoes.  But suppose the gung-ho paddler in your life has all that stuff.  Now what?  That’s where this list comes in.  We’ve rounded up a list of paddle-themed getaways, as well as vouchers for cool paddling experiences, that stretch across coastal Virginia’s water trails.  And yes, this list does include some of the stuff, but it’s stuff that can help take a paddler to the next level – beyond the dry bags and the water shoes.

1. Gift Card to a Paddle-In Restaurant

a pint of beer sitting on a table in the sunshine, overlooking a marina with sailboats

As soon as the water warms up enough in the spring, the paddler in your life is going to be itching to get out on the water for a new adventure.  We recently compiled a list of waterfront attractions that welcome paddlers to visit.  How cool would it be to present your loved one with a gift card to one of these spots?  Paddling with a specific destination in mind is always fun, but when lunch is covered, it’s even better!  Find that list here.

2. Kayak cooler

If dining out wouldn’t appeal to your loved one, but a picnic would be perfect, they’re definitely going to need a kayak or paddleboard cooler!  While there are all kinds of models out on the market, something with a soft frame is handy for stuffing in hatches, such as IceMule or Rtic coolers.

3. Sticker, t-shirt, or other souvenir

Did you go on a cool paddling adventure last year to someplace special?  Maybe you booked an ecotour, had a fabulous time, and forgot to buy a t-shirt from their shop.  Or did you stay in one of the adorable rural towns in coastal Virginia to go paddling?  Grab a sticker or a water bottle from one of the town’s souvenir shops as a stocking stuffer.  This is a great way to support small businesses and shop locally this season.

4. Book a “Paddle-cation”

a google map showing marked water trails and attractions along Virginia's Oyster TrailSurprise your loved one with a weekend getaway – all booked for some epic paddling trips!  With charming bed & breakfasts and cool glamping-style bungalows, there seems to be endless options along the water trails.  One of the super handy tools on our trail maps is the legend, where you can open a map layer that shows all the recommended lodging along the Virginia Oyster Trail, directly on top of the layer with all the water trails.  This allows you to plan where you’re going to stay AND where you plan to paddle!  If glamping is more your style, be sure to look for suggestions in our post about “paddle-glamping.”

5. Hire a Certified Ecotour Guide

logo for the Virginia ecotour guide programIf you’re new to paddling, or just want to try something new with a bit of local knowledge and expertise, contact one of Virginia’s certified ecotour guides!  Many will issue a voucher for a future tour when the weather is warmer again.  From oyster farm tours and winery visits to historical kayak tours and barrier island boat tours, there are so many ways in which to explore Virginia’s water trails.  Visit our list of tour guides and tour companies for more information.  This is also a great way to support local, small businesses.  

6. On-the-water gadgets

Lots of people completely unplug and enjoy the tranquility of kayaking, but there are still plenty of paddlers that prefer to stay plugged in, whether it be for music, navigational apps, or bird identification guides.  If the person you’re buying for doesn’t like to completely unplug on the water, it might worth purchasing a power bank or portable charger – bonus points if one is solar powered!  And even if they typically bring a phone while paddling, they may not want to pull it out to take photos and video in fear of getting it wet, so a waterproof action camera would also make a great gift, complete with various kayak mounting accessories.

7. Annual Pass to Virginia State Parks or other public land resource 

logo for Virginia State parksSome of Virginia’s water trails start, end, or pass by some beautiful state parks – Westmoreland, Belle Isle, Kiptopeke, and more!  If the paddler in your life likes to frequent any of these areas, an annual pass is a must.  They can be purchased online or at any Virginia State Park.  Fees vary for the use of county boat ramps across the region.  In some counties, an annual permit is required to park at a public landing (like in Accomack County).  And speaking of the Eastern shore, another pass that could be of interest is the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge annual pass –  perfect for any Eastern shore paddler!  

8. Voucher for a Paddling Skills Course

logo for the American Canoe AssociationIs your loved one looking to perfect their roll?  Or maybe they’re just starting out and want to learn some basic paddling and self-rescue skills.  Whatever their skill level, the American Canoe Association has a searchable database of certified instructors and courses happening in your area.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, be sure to contact some of the local outfitters for additional options.

9. “Load-Assist” Kayak Transport Accessories

Maybe you’re not a hard-core paddler, but that special someone in your life IS becoming hard-core.  You know, that person that always wants to go kayaking, but your heart isn’t in it all the time to go with them?  Now that person wants to try solo paddling but they need help loading and transporting their ‘yak by themselves.  The solution is simple, as there are tons of products on the market that can help.  For example, this Thule Hullavator Pro is perfect for getting that heavy boat on top of a tall car.  If that’s out of your price range, the Yakima BoatLoader is a slightly more affordable version.  On the other hand, maybe the paddler you’re purchasing for has no problem loading and transporting their kayak, but their favorite place to launch is 500 yards from the parking area.  In that case, it would totally be worth it to purchase them some kind of kayak cart such as the models that come from WheelEez.

10. Safety First!

If you, yourself, are not a paddler, that’s okay, but you want to make sure the paddler in your life stays as safe as possible when they’re out on the water.  There are countless ideas on items to keep someone safe on the water.  A bilge pump/paddle float combo is perfect for someone that may need to perform self-rescues.  A portable, waterproof VHF radio is a great idea since many beautiful paddling locations do not have the best cell phone reception.  VHF radios can be purchased for as little as $50 and can mean the difference between life and death in some situations!  For the adventurous paddler that goes out after dark, an all-around white light is a necessity.  And if cold water paddling is something they’re interested in, investing in a wetsuit or drysuit is a necessity.  And if it’s stocking stuffers you’re looking for, sunscreen and UV-protective clothing is always appreciated by any paddler, from novice to expert.

So get out there or online and find the perfect gift for all the paddling-enthusiasts in your life!  Happy water trails and happy holidays!

About the Author: Laura Scharle lives on the Eastern shore of Maryland and is a frequent paddler in coastal Virginia. She is a Virginia certified ecotour guide and is an independent marketing contractor with a focus in ecotourism and heritage tourism. Laura can be reached through our Eastern Shore ecotour guide listings.