• We apologize for the somewhat convoluted sign-up process. Due to ever-more sophisticated attacks by chatbots, we had to increase our filtering in order to weed out AI while letting humans through. It's a nuisance, but a necessary one in order to keep the level of discourse on the forums authentic and useful. From the actual humans using WCP, thanks for your understanding!

Where have all the sea kayakers gone?

re/ Recreational Paddlers
A main factor...the Economy.
Perhaps another factor that no one has mentioned...
Really poor spring (early summer) weather 2 years in a row. Let's face it, the vast majority of rec paddlers are 'Fair Weather' paddlers.

Talking with the owner of a well known Kayak shop in the area...he said his retail sales were down last year, but rentals were equal if not marginally better!
Also...talking with a well-known area kayak tour company owner...their bookings for this year are already better than last year!

Also...
I make the annual Whale-watching paddle every mid-August to Robson Bight (Johnstone Strait)...the last 3 years has been crazy busy with paddlers up there...recreational and commercial.

The other thing I have noticed over the last couple/few years...the tremendous amount of vehicles going through town with kayaks on their roofs, in transit going to/coming from North or West Island.
 
Not sure how others feel but the double whammy effect of UV sunrays while being on the water has caused me to be crepuscular in my kayaking . Not sure if the years of solar exposure have caught up with me or the thinning ozone is more of a serious problem than before or a combination of the two . In any case I don't go out as often as I used to .
 
Redcedar said:
....Not sure if the years of solar exposure have caught up with me or the thinning ozone is more of a serious problem than before or a combination of the two . In any case I don't go out as often as I used to ....

I recommend this sort of protection:
 

Attachments

  • P1030258.jpg
    P1030258.jpg
    211 KB · Views: 5,592
I'm a member of the Olympic Peninsula Paddlers based in Pt Angeles. Over 10+ years our core group of paddlers have remained active, but as we're graying, there has not been as much interest from younger paddlers. Part of that may be due to the popularity of SUPs and board surfing. Both probably attract a younger market than sea kayaks and offer a cheaper option to get on the water. While I don't mind less competition for the marine campsites on our trips,
it's always good to see a new kayaker with a passion for the sport.
 
Isn't it partly that last summer the weather was crap? I had several weekend trips (backpacking, paddling) cancelled due to the weather. When we went down to the west coast for a holiday we had 3 nice days sprinkled in 10 days, and that was better than the weeks prior. I did get one longer trip in over Labour Day weekend but even then got pummelled by a storm one day. I bet if we get a long dry summer, the numbers will snap back.
 
Very interesting thread

Being a member of the Vancouver Kayak Club (whitewater) who originally started out as a full fledged sea kayaker I can say that this side of the sport seems to appeal to the younger demographic (early 20's) a bit more than sea kayaking.

My switch to the short boat was mostly for social reasons. For safety reasons a whitewater paddler never paddles alone and i think that mindset lends itself to groups and clubs. Personally i was finding it difficult to find paddling partners for seakayaking but in whitewater if there's water there is people wanting to go waiting for a friend to go with.

another big reason for my switch was cost. a new boat is 1/4 the cost of a seakayak and the training is much much less. I took my first WW course with the VKC for $100. My seakayaking courses have totaled in the thousands. Now i know you dont need to do all the training but with the solo nature of seakayaking i felt it better to have the training.

My last thought is the booming SUP (stand up paddleboard) market. I think this sport lends itself to the younger market. less gear, less training, less safety stuff (at least perceived) and it looks cooler than a bunch of oldfolks in kayaks. Most people i see on them have only bathing suits on, no PFD's and a backpack of beer on the bow. It looks and feels "free". there is no stuffing yourself inside a confined cockpit for a day in the sun.


FYI, i still get out in my strip built petrel as much as i can, i have always felt more at home in my seakayak. I dont see myself ever giving it up! The downtrend does not do much for the industry but i cant say i will miss the crowds on the water.

Rob
 
Re: Failure to launch

Perhaps we are missing the boat here?

Perhaps we are too old (collectively) to correctly perceive the problem. I know I am. Sea kayakers seem to be an ageing herd.

Perhaps the issue is youth. Lack of youth, that is. I see very few sea kayakers between the ages of 19 to 38. There aren't enough young adults participating to replace the ageing herd. Sea kayaking is indeed mature. Literally.

Why not? Why aren't younger participants out there? Two words: gratitude and commitment.

At its roots, sea kayaking requires advance planning, coordination and scheduling commitments. It is an investment in time. It doesn't lend itself to last minute decisions and participation. Many young adults eschew that type of commitment. They tend to lean to short-duration, high intensity, instant gratification type hits of activities. They can go to the gym at any moment. No advance commitment, financial or otherwise, need be made. Same for paddle boarding, etc.

Sea kayaking is also about the slow and serene. Its about nature. Sometimes its just plain slogging. It is not a short duration activity constantly generating a high gratitude response for many younger participants.

I think those other factors (weather, equipment, cost, transportation requirements, etc) largely only reduce the number of water trips the others make. People would quickly overcome those hurdles if they truly wanted to be on the water.

Sure hope I view it incorrectly.
 
sushiy said:
Gas price, unstable job market, Facebook and Twitter update on smartphone, and lack of 100% salt waterproof Smartphone.
LOL!!! I'm sure the last two reasons will be resolved in a few months time........
 
I'll suggest its Demographics and Increasing user fees.

Demographics. Where I live there are not now many good employment opportunities. Even the employers that used to be here used to employ people with seniority.The job market is Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan from whence it is a long way to the coast. Average age here is mid 40s.

User Fees. When I was younger just getting gear was almost prohibitive. I lived without a couch or a kitchen table for many years so I could save to get important stuff like tent and boots. (I never did find that kayak that also folded out into a bed) If I had had to pay the user fees now being demanded to park at launch sites and camp at wilderness campsites, I would never have started. (Strathcona Park is now $10 for a backcountry site that used to be free)
 
I think sludge is on the right track...sea kayaking (traditionally) is not perceived to be a high energy, high excitement, short duration, instant gratification sport. It is a means to relax, enjoy places many never see, and appreciate nature. Most younger people are more about thrills.

However, with the increasing popularity of rough-water paddling representatives like The Hurricane Riders, Neptune's Rangers, etc., I can see that perception changing. Those guys and gals paddle some pretty dynamic and exciting waters that would induce some serious butt-clenching in anyone. I think the challenge is to (responsibly/safely) promote the sport that way. Paddle shops, clubs, and communities can market it that way to attract new blood. We need more YouTube videos, DVDs, TV reality shows, commercials; whatever it takes to get these images out there.

Then during the inevitable "in between" paddling to-and-from the surfing/rock-gardening sessions, those newcomers may come to appreciate the calmer moments; the scenery, the silence, the wildlife...and as they start greying, they may prefer to transition into paddling more serene waters and remote areas.
 
One of the challenges this country is facing is how to deal with the increase in the aging population. If the aging population is out pacing the younger where are they? I agree sea kayaking would draw a more mature crowd, apparently they are finding other activities.

I think it comes down to money, the 12 to 13,000 or so we spent to be completely out fitted right down to the fishing tackle and crab trap is how many holidays to Mexico or Vegas?
 
sludge said:
Why aren't younger participants out there? Two words: gratitude and commitment.

At its roots, sea kayaking requires advance planning, coordination and scheduling commitments. It is an investment in time. It doesn't lend itself to last minute decisions and participation. Many young adults eschew that type of commitment. They tend to lean to short-duration, high intensity, instant gratification type hits of activities. They can go to the gym at any moment. No advance commitment, financial or otherwise, need be made. Same for paddle boarding, etc.

Sea kayaking is also about the slow and serene. Its about nature. Sometimes its just plain slogging. It is not a short duration activity constantly generating a high gratitude response for many younger participants.
Ah yes...the VIDEO GAME generation(s).
Another sport that seems to have taken off is off-road and downhill Mountain Biking.
 
Interesting discussion!! As a retailer and rental shop operator I see two sides and many of you have touched on these points. I have been watching the scene for going on 20 yrs. More than some people, less than others.

1. Interest in paddling is still very strong and maybe even growing. Weather depending, Deep Cove Canoe & Kayak Centre is seeing steady participation even with the lacklustre summers we have had for the past two years. People love getting out on the water for a couple of hours or the day or weekend. Maybe it is demographics and an aging population but I think the trend for longer trips is declining and with it interest in touring kayaks. I'd be curious to know the average age of Vancouver's SKABC? I'm 51 and would guess I would sit somewhere in the middle. Participating in our weekly social events like Women on Water, Thurs nights and our Tuesday nIght race are increasing. And it is an older group of paddlers doing it too. I would guess that our average age for Tuesday Night Race is 45 with several 60 - 70 yr paddlers, and this older age category are the folks who were doing the multi-day trips a few years back. Stand Up Paddling is bringing in the younger generation. There is a small but enthusiastic category who are developing high level paddling skills and who are challenging themselves with kayak surfing and tidal rapid paddling. Areas like the Ambleside Tide Rip in West Vancouver are perfect playgrounds for competent paddlers wanting to hone their skills and intermediates who want to step it up with some guidance from more experienced paddlers. It is an area especially popular with the surf ski crowd. Again these people paddle weekly and will probably do one major trip every year.

2. Retail - Long boat sales are tough. If it weren't for Stand Up Paddling and Surf Ski Paddling I don't think Deep Cove Outdoors could survive as a sea kayak shop alone. Many of you wrote about the sea kayak retail stores surviving and it is tough especially when so many kayakers, just by default, shop at the big box MEC stores based on price, even when specialty shop prices are often competitive. BC Dive and Kayak - Gone, Middleton Boats - Gone, Glenmore Kayaks - Gone. Fortunately for us and other specialty stores like Ecomarine we have been able to distinguish ourselves with quality service and specialty products, but we still need support from the paddling community otherwise your only shopping option will be the Big Box stores. If we don't have the products you want, talk to us. Surf ski paddling has been a area of growth for us, and we have managed to develop a niche market. It makes sense for aging population who want to still paddle but for fitness and fun and are not necessarily interested in doing overnights. The surf ski makes sense too. Light weight and simple. The only limiting factor was the learning curve, but now manufacturers are developing more stable surf skis. For instance, Epic Kayaks has developed a surf ski version of the 18X Sea Kayak that Freya Hoffemeister is currently paddling around South America. The V8 surf ski is only 27 lbs and very stable with a 22" beam. North Van based designer Daryl Remmler of Think Kayaks has come out with The Eze, a 17' x 22" fiberglass sit on top that is lightweight and a ton of fun.

Small boat sales are doing OK but companies like Canadian Tire and Cosco are undercutting the market by selling junk boats like Pelican.

Somebody mentioned the high cost of boats, and yep they are not cheap. But cost of product hasn't hurt the bike worlds where downhill bikes and road bikes can easily be $5000, maybe its just that......how do I put this delicately? Paddlers are more Scottish than other outdoor enthusiasts. As with other products manufacturing is moving to China. Gone from BC are Necky, Current Designs, but still in the Vancouver area there are surviving companies like Sterlings Kayaks in Bellingham, Atlantis in Ladysmith, Seaward in Chemainus and of course Nimbus in Maple Ridge. Buy Local - Shop Small Box!!
 
lilydipper said:
still in the Vancouver area there are surviving companies like Sterlings Kayaks in Bellingham, Atlantis in Ladysmith, Seaward in Chemainus and of course Nimbus in Maple Ridge. Buy Local - Shop Small Box!!

Do you get many boat buyers from the States? I'm wondering about the new definition of 'local'...
I spend quite a bit of money 'across the line', but most Americans I meet don't seem much interested in shopping in Canada.

Anyway, I just bought a new boat this week (from BodyBoatBlade in WA) after calling the BC dealers for that boat. One dealer didn't have a boat in stock and was dropping the line, and the other didn't have a boat in stock, didn't know when their shipment of boats was going to arrive, and couldn't quote a price. Hey, I tried to shop local...
 
We do get some shoppers from Washington. Mostly for our surf skis as we have a good selection. American's don't like paying Canadian tax. We looked closely at Tide Race, We did NDK, but a dealer needs to bring in a lot of boats to make it worthwhile, its especially difficult when some kayaks can be the "flavour of the month". A Tahe M kayaks is pretty specialized. Shipping jacks up the price. But when Sterling is making great boats just over the border, it makes sense to support each other. We will be posting some photos of his boats on our DCO and DCCKC Facebook page so check them out. His new Reflection is an awesome surfing, tidal current kayak.
Bob
 
lilydipper said:
American's don't like paying Canadian tax.
Bob:
Until you mentioned this, I hadn't realized that the government had cancelled the tax rebate scheme for visitors. It's not really an even playing field for BC retailers, when Canadians can buy US tax-exempt in Washington (though we do pay HST/GST+PST) at the border.

Those Sterling boats look pretty nice, but expensive...even if they are local. Do you have Sterling boats in stock/demo, or are they a custom order operation? (I thought Sterling was a small-scale builder.)
 
Kind of getting a bit off-topic here guys. Perhaps you could take the boat-specific conversation to the Gear forum? Thanks.
 
Back
Top