I'm not debating panhandling or which items it is 'in more poor taste to panhandle for', be it food, drugs, kayaks, rafts, or mont blanc pens. I equate asking strangers to fund your recreation in poor taste. It isn't ethics as I define them, but taste. If your happy to give $2 to people who cannot 'afford' their kayaks, etc. then get your $2 bill ready because they will line up around the corner.
This young man, not kid, is in graduate school and surely manages to pay for that, rent, food, and some other recreation. He is clearly capable of managing to pay for some recreation. Will you pay for his car and gas to get to his nearest river? How about his PFD, throw bag, dry top, pogues, after boating beer, etc. If you cannot afford your kayak then how can you afford everything else that goes along with it?
Just one old man's judgemental opinion.
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face.