Sean Beckwith: Don’t let pricey gear dampen your summer |

Sean Beckwith: Don’t let pricey gear dampen your summer

It seems like all hobbies in Aspen are expensive. Today at the office someone admitted to spending a third of a paycheck on fly-fishing gear. Even a hobby like hiking can get pricey when you start talking about backpacks. The quest to upgrade your gear is never-ending. There are boards for groomers and powder, bikes for the road and the mountain, climbing gear for rocks and ice, boats for floats and fishing. Figuring out the most economical use of extra funds is crucial because you don’t want to be stuck with shoddy equipment or eat out of the bargain bin because you bought unnecessarily nice stuff.

Currently on my radar is something for the water. A raft would be ideal because it’s the best for party floats, which is essentially all I want to do. And while I’m at it, why don’t I just buy one of those water-powered jet packs or a fan boat? Or how about the gondola from “Moonraker”? You know, the traditional Venetian, flat-bottomed boat that’s also a hovercraft. However, it’s been close to 40 years since Roger Moore (R.I.P.) whipped around those canals in the hover gondola and I have yet to see concept model, so I’m not too optimistic.

If I were to offer my car in a trade for even the most modest raft, I’d still have to throw in some cash. So I’m pretty sure the raft route would lead to me eating Totino’s Party Pizzas for a year and getting every possible use out of the raft, including sleeping under it because that kind of purchase would put me on the short road to homelessness.

A new and popular option is paddle boarding. I tried it on North Star for the first time this week and it went poorly. Aside from losing my sunglasses, I was as stable as a puppy on wood floors. I ended up doing the entire float on my knees. I’m not sure what was more uncomfortable: my thighs from kneeling or the people I was with because my swimsuit has belt loops and not a drawstring. (Note to self: Buy non-leather belt or suit with drawstrings.)

I’d like to try it again with a wider board before spending half a paycheck though. The major drawback is it’s hard to drink a beer without stopping. I don’t want to run rapids on a paddleboard. That’s like doing tricks on a Razor Scooter. I just want to lazily coast down the river with a beverage, which puts the SUP route on life support. (I also don’t like the term SUP.)

A kayak seems like fun but I don’t want to end up like Jon Voight in “The Manchurian Candidate,” drowned by some brainwashed lunatic. I know the probability is low and experienced people know how to exit an overturned kayak, but if I have to get instruction on how to get out, I don’t want to get in.

A tube with a couple of beverage holders would be great. The drawback is it doesn’t come with paddles and that can be a problem when attempting to navigate the river. I took a lady friend and her friend out once on a section I’ve floated numerous times and opted to captain the trio of tubes. It was going great until we couldn’t avoid a rock and the only person to flip was my lady friend. She was remarkably cool about it, but I don’t think that relationship lasted more than a month afterward. Anyway, I chose to blame the tube incident rather than do any kind of self-introspection.

The list of suitable watercraft is dwindling. However, there’s one option that I haven’t mentioned. It’s all about the ducky. I’m also well aware I sound like I’m in my mid-50s with that suggestion, but I don’t care. First off, they’re not crazy expensive. You can buy a super nice one but a basic option hits all my minimum standards. It has a paddle, you can fit two people, there is plenty of room for a cooler and you’re not constantly sitting in water.

Having said all this, I’m still dreaming. Peak summer season is here and I only started working doubles last weekend. Any kind of watercraft in my near future is going be borrowed or will resemble something out of “Huckleberry Finn” or “Castaway.”

Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at

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