I've had some interesting conversations from a couple of kayak shops and one kayak magazine editor over the past couple of weeks and all have mentioned that kayaking, especially sea kayaking, seems to be on the down swing. One shop owner told me that sales of sea kayaks have been on the decline for the past two to three years with that past year being the leanest (more 12-15 footers have been sold than previous years though). Composite sea kayak sales (16+ feet) are at an all-time low.
I'm getting reports from several people that they did not see nearly as many sea kayakers out on the water in the more remote spots last year. John Dowd mentioned that he generally gets 80-100 or so people landing on his beach on Vargas Island each year but last year he said he noticed fewer than 20!
What's happening to the kayakers? Has the market been saturated? Are people losing interest? Is the economy to blame? What's up?
In outdoor retail/rec in general, the trend for several years has been towards shorter duration, sometimes higher intensity "done in a day" recreation. So a dayhike or a trail run instead of an overnight or longer backpacking trip. Bouldering or wall climbing instead of a multiday alpine climb.
The classic sea kayaking market has been a "mature" (read: saturated) one for a while. The only real growth areas have been daytrippers (witness the 12-15 footers), SOTs, and fishing kayaks, which are cheaper than motor boats to purchase and run, offer a new experience in fishing, and sometimes can take fisherman places powerboats can't. Stand up paddleboarding is also big, with the offer of a complete body workout in a couple of hours.
There seem to been a variety of factors contributing to the shorter trip trend. As folks have families, the logistics of overnighters become more complicated. There's at least one reason that's specific to Canada. We're hitting the point where more Canadian citizens were born elsewhere than in this country. From surveys, my employer knows that many of these folks want to do more in the wilderness, they just don't have the cultural tradition and base training so many Canadian born citizens have - most Canadian born folks have some exposure of canoeing, sleeping in a tent, etc. from summer camp, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, or their own parents.