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I have often read that the biggest canoe-sales volume that the Grumman company ever had in their history, by far, occurred right after that movie came out. I think the boom lasted a couple of years, but was most pronounced shortly after the movie first started playing. I can't say what other long-time canoe "standards" experienced, such as companies like Old Town, but that's what happened for Grumman.
I think what you saw is attributable to the fact that rank amateurs getting started with their brand-new canoe aren't likely to show up at the same places as the hard-core whitewater folks that you hung out with. That said, I think it was Bob (thebob.com) who once quoted some source that talked about several amateur canoers dying in difficult rapids shortly after the movie came out, with those rapids being the type where paddlers of such a skill level were normally not ever seen.
I'm not a suburban guy--But here's a reference from the book, "The Grumman Story"...Please note next to last sentence in paragraph below, referencing how many sold in 1974...
"Hoffman and Achilich influenced canoeing in the last half of the twentieth century like few others, by introducing light, rugged boats at an easily affordable price," the magazine wrote. A Grumman canoe, Paddler publisher and editor Eugene Buchanan said recently, could take a beating. "You could put the wife and kids and kitchen sink in the thing and ram it into rocks," he said. The public bought thousands. A 1975 brochure cited sales of more than 300,000 Grumman canoes in 30 years. Demand peaked in 1974 with sales of 33,000, propelled by the 1972 movie "Deliverance" and concerns about fuel consumption during the mid-'70s energy crisis."
And I don't care who you knew, or what anybody else paddles for that matter...And now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to banjo practice.