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Old 05-12-2008   #21
Hood River, Oregon
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Although I have no numbers to back this up, I think the numbers of kayakers are probably expanding just from how many people you see on the river.

Either way, the industry is still hanging by a thread, as Leland said. Think about how many kayakers there are in the world (not very many). Then consider how many of them actually buy new gear on a regular basis. THEN, think about how many companies there are that are splitting market share. No one if going to have a big enough market to succeed until there are either a buttload more boaters or until a bunch of companies go under.

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Old 05-12-2008   #22
gunnison, Colorado
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I think a good followup to the OP's question would be to ask whether or not current marketing of extreme kayaking could do more to portray the expertise of and precaution taken by those athletes.

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Old 05-12-2008   #23
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Denver, Colorado
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Originally Posted by carvedog View Post
I charged hard when learning to kayak and swam out of almost every major rapid in central Idaho. It is only through the grace of God that I did not die.
I am so thankful that I was not on the river with you. If you were consistently swimming every rapid that is a danger to you and all of those you boat with. If you are swimming every rapid you are over your head.

Personally I've been boating class 3 for the last 2 seasons with 1 swim and that was my second time out. Only now am I really even considering stepping it up to some class 4. I love to hit it hard too but injuries are no fun and you can bet I don't have a death wish, running within your ability level keeps everyone on the river safe. It is OK to push it but develop the skills on lesser runs before jumping straight into the heart of the beast.
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Old 05-12-2008   #24
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Bozeman, Montana
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Originally Posted by kevintee View Post
It is OK to push it but develop the skills on lesser runs before jumping straight into the heart of the beast.
you have a good head on your shoulders dude.
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Old 05-12-2008   #25
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1983
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Originally Posted by kentford View Post
Here is a follow up question… How welcoming is our sport to a kayaker who simply wants to paddle Class II or easy Class III water? Do people try the sport, but somehow get into water beyond their interest level? Anything we can do to better allow those folks a home in the sport?
The problem with Class II, III paddling is that as you become proficient that starts to be pretty boring. When I first started it was exciting to drive and paddle the Upper Colorado, Waterton, the lower Blue and even the stretch of river below Shoshone. How does someone sustain that excitement without getting into the more "extreme" part of the sport. I went in full bore and kept the excitement alive for a bunch of years by running harder stuff and travelling a ton to be on new rivers. Without doing that I don't think the sport would have had any appeal.
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Old 05-12-2008   #26
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I think this is a great thread, a topic many consider but never talk about. I think the class II-III arena has two target groups, the aspiring paddlers AND the "aging" paddlers. By aging, I mean paddlers who are either getting up there in the years OR have taken on a different direction in the lives since starting to paddle (ie-married, kids, etc).

I think it's okay to maintain the extreme image, but it should also be okay to expand the image of the "watermen", the person who loves being on class II as much as class IV simply because they are on the water. The person who is just as happy pushing rubber with the family as much as paddling the plastic with their usual crew. I think the resources are there for this group, if they choose to look for it. Canoe & Kayak magazine embraces the latter group quite well, but as a whitewater paddler I only pick up one of their issues each year. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion.

I support all levels of paddling for the very reason mentioned earlier, the more support for paddling in general the more the manufacturers stay innovative and hungry. Besides, are we really going to see our beloved whitewater runs choked up by encouraging others to get involved in recreational kayaking?

I think my take on things have changed a bit having a two-year old son. Does this mean I'm going to trade in my whitewater boat for a lake cruiser or canoe? No way in hell! But I am a lot pickier about what runs I consider than I would be otherwise.

I say paddle to the people! Support all levels and types of boating!
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Old 05-12-2008   #27
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Denver, Colorado
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What few simple steps do you suggest we do to better welcome newcomers?

I think that kayaking festivals have been a great way of welcoming newcomers thus far, as well as hanging out at play parks. You get people of all skill levels sharing knowledge and passion of the sport.

As far as toning down the extreme image, that is just retarded. That is what drives people to excel in this sport, plus we get to see what crazy shit people are doing out there. We love to see people pushing the limits, even if we know that we'll never reach that level. Your just weak if you succumb to the peer pressure of running the steeps by current advertising and agggresive boat designs.

I don't think that running an ad of someone running class II will better promote the sport, better promotion by checking our egos and being more helpfull to newbies on and off the water.
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Old 05-12-2008   #28
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West of Boulder, Colorado
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I think your post is interesting. As a canoer, I came into the sport via wilderness tripping about 8 years ago as an alternative to pack backing. Growing up on a lake doing water sports, I was not scared of water and soon got hooked on the thrill of whitewater.

I learned to canoe whitewater with a friend with no professional instruction. I would not recommend this approach for most people. We made mistakes that made us stronger, but would have turned off most beginners. We then met other folks with the same interest and more experience. Their mentoring helped us become better paddlers and also provided us a crew for safer paddling.

In terms of welcoming beginners, I am noticing from this website,,,, CWWA, and Pouder paddlers that there are a lot of beginners entering the sport. I am also noticing people wanting to be in other crafts like; rafts, canoes, dorys, and duckies etc. Somehow they are finding their way into the sport besides all of the gnar kayaking marketing and stigma. I don’t have the data, but from the number of paddlers that I am seeing on the river (Class III/IV-), I would think the sport is growing? However, maybe not as fast as the paddling businesses, instructors and kayaking specific companies would like for them to profit and grow their businesses?

I have offered and continue to offer my friends the opportunity to get in to a solo or tandem canoe; a few have accepted and have enjoyed it. However, I think even with professional instruction, guiding a solo craft in moving water is scary for most people without a burning desire to paddle, especially if they are scared of water. Kind of like rock climbing to me, I don’t like heights, so I don’t climb.

Also, the entry cost into the sport is prohibitive. You have lessons, boats, paddles, PFD, helmets, safety gear, and clothing costs. And you really need a team of people to do with safely.

In terms of growth, whitewater is a finite resource. I enjoy, encourage and want to help new paddlers that have a genuine interest. However, I don’t understand why anyone would want to market and grow the sport for the sake of growth, like skiing for example? The only benefit I see in growing the sport is to gain a larger lobbying contingency to save our rivers and creeks and for gear manufactures to make reasonable profits to stay in business and develop innovative equipment. Other then that, too much growth leads to over crowded rivers, governmental management, fees, permits, environmental damage, and over used resources.
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Old 05-12-2008   #29
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Boulder, Colorado
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Honestly, I don't see any problems in this area at all. Interestingly enough, I had the opposite problem when I started. I got hooked up with some great guys, but they were permanent class II boaters, and I quickly got the point where I was ready to step it up and they were content floating around on easy II/III.

I can think of 2 great resources in Colorado for this kind of boater. Eddyflower has a forum that's oriented more towards paddlers that like easier runs and seem to have people coordinating trips on a fairly regular basis. Then CWWA offers free trips during the season that are perfect for the class II/III kayaker.

From my perspective it's not an issue. I remember starting out and going to a CKS event and the staff was offering up a lot of ideas for how to get going with some easy trips.

Originally Posted by kentford View Post
Great comments everyone. Thanks for the thoughts.

Here is a follow up question… How welcoming is our sport to a kayaker who simply wants to paddle Class II or easy Class III water? Do people try the sport, but somehow get into water beyond their interest level? Anything we can do to better allow those folks a home in the sport?
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Old 05-12-2008   #30
Denver, Colorado
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Tboner said it best... "so why are the 1% of the 10% become the ambassadors of the sport? i think it's b/c sex sells... you know, that beautiful girl is like a class V drop. selling the unattainable.. the taboo."

Honestly, I'm not really sure if the "extreme image" scares away or entices people. But, I do think what Tboner said is so true. I also think that most people will make their own way into the sport. Kayaking has a natural appeal to some people and not others. Asking the question of whether or not an extreme image is hurtful to the sport would take time and money to research. Anything else would just be speculation.

I also think that there is already a more "family" type of marketing happening in this sport. Jackson Kayak was the first company to market to the family and also to build a boat for the young ones. Smart idea. Jackson went from nothing to the #1 WW kayak company in 5 years based on the "fun, friendly, family" concept. With that being said I will say that their enormous growth has a lot to do with many other factors as well, but that is another topic for discussion.

If we compare this sport to the skiing industry then the missing link to growth is obvious... a resort. In the ski industry the resort markets to the family and the manufacturers market to the existing customer. And, it's pretty easy to market to a family living in the midwest when you can say to them, "come stay, eat, shop and ski together as a family at our ski resort. We even offer affordable packages." The kayak industry does not and most likely will never have that factor. Since kayaking doesn't have mega resorts to pump millions of dollars into marketing campaigns then the marketing responsibility falls onto the kayak maunfacturers to promote the sport. That isn't easy considering that most of the leading kayak companies are a bit cash poor and their marketing dollars are spent on the already existing customers.

So, who then can spend the marketing dollars on grabbing new customers?

I personally think that right now the responsibility of grabbing new customers lands squarely onto the shoulders of the kayak shops, kayak instructors and the ambassadors of the sport. If somebody is interested in the sport they will find their way to a shop or ask a boater questions at the take-out, etc. So, It is important for these folks to properly educate the newcomers about the sport. I also think that since this sport is so small that every kayaker could and should be some sort of an ambassador.


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