Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fun with colors

A few years ago I wrote an article for Sea Kayaker Magazine about the psychology of color and how it relates to the color we choose for a kayak... especially the deck. I was interested because after I finished circumnavigating Iceland in a kayak with a yellow deck, I borrowed my then girlfriend's kayak which was identical but for the color (green deck) and felt very insecure on what was a choppy sea but certainly nothing I would normally worry about. I began asking other paddlers what color they preferred and why... and came up with some interesting results, enough to make some generalizations. Then recently I heard Mike from Portland Kayak Company saying he didn't like paddling the "green boat" and it reminded me of my earlier experience... and apparently his feeling about it had been similar to mine at the time.... has anyone else out there had a "color" experience???
So yellow is a "big" color, an "adventurous" color, where red, the color of flight, fright and fight is a more aggressive color. The color red makes not just humans but other animals ready for flight/fight by raising blood pressure and heart rate... dark blue having the opposite effect.


Keith said...


I have a red silhouette, and have never felt afraid despite many days on rough water. I must be a freak!

Michael said...

I just finished re-skining an SOF boat and painted it what I am calling Newborn Walrus Brown. I hope brown doesn't lead to any nasty encounters!

Great to see this blog up, Nigel. Good luck with it!

vanderzwan said...

Hi Nigel,

I paddled kayaks with deck-colors yellow, red, orange, light blue, white and turquoise.
I did not notice any affect of the color on my well-being.

As there is no dark-green-deck in this list, unfortunately I can not conclude anything about this color.

Maybe dark colors makes your kayak less visible for yourself from the cockpit, resulting in a kind of "spaceless"-feeling wich can make someone uncomfortable.

It could also be that there are two type of persons: one looking far away and because of this not noticing the deck very much, next to people more looking at their deck.
Being in bad weather I personally look far-away to avoid sea-sickness.

Could there be some clue here??

But besides this, as you describe, it is well known that colors effect your feelings. But green, next to red (agressive), should make you feel more comfortable because green stands for, as I recall, for something like peace and quietness: Which is opposite your experience with the green deck.

Good luck with your brand-new blog


nigel said...

re Keith... You're not a freak! Red shouldn't make you afraid, instead it could increase your blood pressure and heart rate which better prepares you to cope with the rough days. In fact I've found that it's more likely that people who deliberately choose red as a color for their sea kayak may be more prepared to take on challenges and risks.

nigel said...

Michael... brown really is often a neutral color that is less likely to be seen. One German lady I knew chose brown because it made her virtually invisible when she paddled on the waters of N.Germany, and she felt safer when she thought she attracted less attention. Her perceived safety was with reference to other boaters because she mostly kayaked alone, and wanted to avoid unwelcome attention. With your interest in arctic waters I'd be curious to hear how visible you expect brown to be against the waters you paddle, and against the arctic tundra when you are on land. I have often wondered how much my bright yellow kayak might have attracted the curiosity of polar bears, considering how visible it is from a distance... what are your own expectations regarding "newborn walrus brown"??

nigel said...

Re Rene... I think your comment was spot on... when I paddle a yellow kayak the color creates a huge pool of color around me that is somehow reassuring as a "platform of safety". When I used the green kayak it was essentially invisible against the water, creating the impression I had no "platform of safety"... I felt smaller against the size of the conditions than I would have if I was surrounded by the brighter block of color.

MedicineMan said...

Color-the eyes have it, but only for a moment before the Brodman(s) have it, and that would be where color lingers-in the occipital region-areas 17(ish). As an amateur in the field I suggest some time here:
Taking a color can be much like taking a drug, as alluded to the choice of red/aggression in a kayak color..much akin to a police department painting a holding cell pink to thwart agression (or a cyclist having a pink panel on the back of his jersey so the riders behind him have diminished agressive tendencies to overake and pass.
But the's so distinct from the sea. It is a microcosm in itself-a reassurance that you are not one with the greater ocean that surrounds....all the other colors can meld with the sea but not yellow, it blends only with the Sun.