From the perspective of a specialty paddlesports retailer in the Mid-Atlantic region, I would like to comment on one aspect of our business. We, as an industry, have come to the consensus that in order to survive, much less thrive, in the face of competition, not only from other outdoor sports, but from the ever-increasing sedentary pastimes of video games, television, and computers, we must reach out and really grab the younger generation.

That means we have to have suitable boats available for our current (and hopefully future) consumers.

Talk About It

Are you a parent looking for a canoe or kayak for your child? Are you a kid looking for a boat for yourself? What do you want from canoe and kayak manufacturers? Talk about it on the Canoe & Kayak message boards.

Ironically, the whitewater kayak manufacturers (probably the smallest sales demographic of our industry) has paid the most attention to the younger generation. The majority of the touring kayak manufacturers, on the other hand, after halfheartedly trying to fill child-sized needs, subsequently dropped these boats because they weren’t selling well enough to justify their existence. There are only a small handful of kayaks still available that are both affordable and sized to fit children.

Totally falling through the cracks is the recreational kayak market. The recreational kayak market is the largest and fastest-growing segment in paddlesports. We also share the hope that a good share of these first-time recreational paddlers will become enamored with the sport and come back for higher-end boats and equipment, whether it be whitewater or touring, canoe or kayak. Why then are we missing the boat in the children’s market?

If manufacturers aren’t willing to make the investment to produce boats that fit children and afford them the same experience their parents are enjoying, how are we, as retailers, to get these children involved, much less keep them interested in paddling when they have so many other choices? Anyone who is a parent realizes that the only way to get your children to join you in activities is to make it fun. Paddling will never be fun if we try to put kids in an entry-level boat designed to accommodate a 225-pound adult. Our kids deserve much better.

Manufacturers of bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, ice skates, skis, and backpacks learned long ago that investing in quality, affordable children’s gear pays off in the long run. When do we plan to step up to the plate and do the same?