Sea kayaking dead?

I have only a few thoughts about this.

My thoughts are no more valid or important then anyone else’s and in so saying I point out the fact that no one else has any more important them mine, yours or anyone else’s.

Thought #1. The Sea kayak has been around for hunting and later for fun, for what…1600 years? I kinda-doubt it’s going to die out because of paddle boards.

Thought #2. If you enjoy it (as I do) why would you care if someone else does or doesn’t? I build and often hunt with flintlock rifles. They became obsolete for the most part around 1835. Yet I still enjoy using them and I have filled my freezer many many times with them in the last 55 years of so. What someone else hunts with is not an issue to me and my use of a flintlock should not be an issue to them --------- if they have any brain anyway. Same with Sea kayaks. I love mine. I love going out on the water with it. If someone else doesn’t so what?

Thought #3. Why do some people agonize over this question in the 1st place.


I don’t care who kayaks. My interest is in helping those who have a desire to advance and learn more.


@ szihn - Thought #3. Why do some people agonize over this question in the 1st place

I’m with szihn. I found that video painful to watch…an 11 minute rant about sea kayak “doomsdayers”. Are there a lot of those? Man that guy has a hard time making a point.

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It’s the people who build them that are impacted like Joey in the video, and those looking for the next newest kayak. Which I am neither.

I hunt with a longbow. When compound bows came out in the 70s many makers of recurves and longbows lost their customer base, and retailers soon stopped carrying them. This was because a compound bow was easier to learn how to shoot with sights, mechanical releases, and let off in weight at full draw. However, there was a resurgence of interest in the 90s that saw an increased sale of traditional bows again. They aren’t a major source of income for corporate sporting goods, but much like sea kayaks they are for individual skilled bowyers, and a few small retail companies that specialize in selling them. Some people like traditional and the challenge of developing the skill. There is a saying “what goes around comes around”. Recurves and longbows are today a well-established niche market. I think that is happening with sea kayaks.

People seem drawn to new, novel, easier, and less expensive. Sophisticated marketing of such drive’s many new trends.


I should add many sailboat builders have gone out of business. A good part of the reasons for this other than the fact you have to work to make the boat go not just sit and drive it is they are made of fiberglass. Because it has a much longer life span and needs much less upkeep than the wooden boats. Some of the first fiberglass boats built in the 50s and 60s are still on the water as they don’t rot. As a result, there is a glut of used sailboats that are far less expensive than the new ones being built today. The manufactures are having a difficult time competing with the used market.

I think there is also enough used and much cheaper sea kayaks on the market that today’s kayak makers have to compete with as well. I for one have not bought a new boat, all my canoes, kayaks, and sailboats were bought used at very considerable savings. I suppose I am part of the perceived problem for the boat manufactures.

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For it to be dead, in my mind, it would mean no one is doing it, and there’s no supply of durable goods to engage in the activity. There will always be people paddling. Boats for the most part will last forever if you take a modicum of care for them and there a still companies building new boats. As such, no it’s not dead.

I think the sport has a “generational” or “age” crisis as others have described. I’m likely one of the youngest paddlers in my club and I’m in my mid 50s. I’m cool with that because I’d prefer not to race to keep up with people and we have stuff to talk about. My region has an active cycling culture that I don’t participate in because every outing is a race due to the age of the group. I see younger people getting into cycling and SUP-ing but I don’t see that in sea kayaking, at least not in my region.

I will modify my response a tiny bit: there are a lot of people since the pandemic in sit on top fishing kayaks, mostly motorized in my area. They don’t interact with me beyond a wave and vice versa.

Let’s face it, if all new manufacturing ceased tomorrow there’d still be plenty of boats out there. Look at film photography as an example. Manufacturing new cameras stopped years ago, but there’s still plenty of supply and demand (please don’t tell me about the recent reissue of a Leica film camera…that’s a very specific exception to the general market in photography). Those cameras, like sea kayaks will be around long after we’re all gone. The real threat is lack of film or in the case of kayaking the accessories we all rely on to get on the water…but all of that stuff (pads, paddles, dry bags etc) has other purposes and will continue to be manufactured.


So I think Turning Point Boatworks and Sterling Kayaks (and defunct Mariner Kayaks) are examples of a very a small subset of “boutique” seakayak makers that are using much more updated technology and design and are willing to “customize” features and kayak volume to fine tune for (self) select customer base with the means to buy. I am not sure Joey/TPB is really in the there with the larger manufacturers but won’t discount his belief that what “hurts” the seakayak industry is hurting him. I am not in the business and don’t know enough of that insider info to know if that is true or not.

Or, manufacturers recycle and repackage older designs to a new audience! Since the death of Boatertalk Forums, I have not been keeping up much with the white water (nor the surf) kayak scene. I was surprised to come across a recent video regarding a “new” dagger ww boat called the “Nova.” I had a reaction akin to finding that the bell bottom jeans of my teen years have come back into fashion! Weird. Dagger Nova is a longer, slicey white water boat that harkens back to my Perception Shock, Dagger Ultrafuge and Riot Trickster from 20 year plus ago. (I still have my Utrafuge in a shed up in ME to be able to “play” the nearby Androscoggin white water in Errol, NH.) This type of ww design gave way for10 years or more to the sub 7’ playboats (to make tricks easier) and longer, higher volume river runners/creekboats that can offer a more forgiving ride for newer ww folks. So, deja vu. What is old is new and the manufacturers have another go with an older design:

With respect to seakayak manufacturering, I do think there is a strong base in Britian, Europe and Australia. We are not in danger of losing access to quality seakayaks, it will just costs more to get new boats.



The concern is over his business future. The same thing happens in hogh end custom furniture. People want it but don’t want to pay the price. They force down prices until quality becomes secondary, which drives competent shops to close. Same thing is happening with retail outlets. Consumers turn to internet purchases rather than supporting shops. The answer is buy what you need now, and with any luck you’ll be dead before you need another.

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Yes, I can see that point.
I make flintlock rifles to earn my living. Such guns are founded on a good economy and/or a wealthy clientele. Because of the time it takes to make a good quality flintlock arm the way it was made 240 years ago, there is no way to make one cheap. A plane one takes about 80-100 hours. A fancy one can take 500 or more. I measure my production not in hours but in weeks and months.
Now that I am working toward retirement, and because I still have a fairly deep back log, I am less concerned then other gunsmiths with the future of business. But knowing the dedicated agenda to disarm people and criminalize the dissemination of parts of history, (Socialists ALWAYS try to edit [meaning lie] about history) the future of my craft looks gloomy as of now.
So such trends can and do impact specialized small businesses. In a short period of time from around 1910 to 1930 an industry that was just part of all normal societies on earth for 5000 years was on the way to near total collapse. That being the horse business. Horses were the standard way of doing big work and also traveling for 5000 years and with the advent of the affordable automobile, the horses industry started to fade. Today it’s still here, but largely all about pleasure riding and very little about working. Many western ranches still have a crew of working cowboys to work the cattle on open ranges, but even those are getting less and less common.
So the small kayak shops may find themselves in a place that adaptation is needed. The days of being able to order any kayak and have it for any customer may be drawing towards obstacles with supply. Looking at sea kayak manufacture inside the USA, we see many of the old makers no longer in that business. MOST of the supply now is overseas. Most in Europe, but I am sure cost of shipping them to the USA is not going to come cheaply.
I love sea kayaks and that’s one of the reasons I intend to supplement my activities with making them from raw materials in my future (God willing) But even looking at the availability of fiberglass cloth and resins, knowing the instability of the US Economy and the thrust toward cyber money such things may become problematic or even impossible to get in the future. No one know exactly how this is all going to end, but what is known is that it’s going to have some hard friction in the near future.
Add to that the reality that getting food and fuel, and maybe drinkable water may become real issues and if it does things like toys are going to fall into a very distant 2nd place in people’s priority list.


sea kayaking like many other hobbies is not a necessity. Wages down, inflation up, energy way up, education cost nuts, vehicle prices crazy, most people skip the three, four, five, six, seven thousand dollar kayaks. Bicycle prices through the roof too people just stop buying.

Current Designs didn’t bail on kayaks because they were making to much money. Demand probably tanked severely. There was a year or more wait to it being unsustainable in short order. COVID money dried up also.

Knocking the last 3-4 pounds off a hull doesn’t matter to most people but cost a fortune. People are buying 300 dollar pool toys which is ok just don’t take it to open bays or oceans.

Higher end builders like TPB may have flooded the market for high end buyers. Competition from over seas and very limited amount of models (1 or 2) has to hurt him.

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at 70 I’m safe from that concern 7 CD boats :laughing:


big high end furniture manufacturer just went belly up in NC 5-600 employees out of a job. They couldn’t aquire new financing probably because of a bad balance sheet from slowing sales.

There’s people that make money from paddling. I wasn’t very good at it from a monetary point of view. Video boating and being a camp counselor was a labor of love and a good job for a young person but I had no plans on making it into a career. I had a friend that hooked up with Burton snowboards early on and he had a career, another that worked in marketing at big sky.

Sitting at a hotel bar during canoecopia, I got to converse with the business side of things. For some it was a circuit of tradeshows and it could have been any kind of trade show except for the outdoor clothing everybody wore- kind of hipster. Underfilled down vests seemed to be fashionable. Folks were there to sell a product (in this case paddling gear) and make a living. Most got out on the water at least a wee bit. Some lamented that they didn’t get out more. It is safe to say they were more into selling and I was more into paddling.

Somedays I don’t feel like paddling. Most days however, I do look forward to it. It is very rare that I don’t actually enjoy it, even if the motivation was waning loading up for the day. For me it is just that simple, go or don’t go. Do as you please.

I didn’t start paddling to be part of some outdoor industry trend. The question “is sea kayaking dead? (commercial sales)” is not of much interest to me. What does interest me is “will I get dead trying sea kayaking?” If you truly want to sell stuff then you probably need to look at trends and market to consumers. If you want to go paddling just send me a pm. Some people get their priorities screwed up. Ten or twenty minutes on the water and the world seems like a better place. When I get cranky I know I need to go paddling. Quit your complainin’ and get in a dam#ed boat regardless of the color scheme, or how far or how fast you can go! Special orders be dam#ed! Stop pining for the glory days! Just go paddling! My heart is in the right place. Is yours?

I’ve spent $5000 in the past four years on paddlin’ gear. Quit your complainin’! I’m doing my part. Now get in a dam#ed boat!

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Now, do canoeing.

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I’m not sure Joey is thinking through the “middle age kayakers replacing the retiring kayakers so we’re OK” idea.

Married with kids probably isn’t going to have matching $5000 kayaks. So he’s right there. But will people be in a better financial position after the kids leave? Here’s a few wrinkles that impact the number:

  1. women “leaned into” careers and deferred having kids until 35+. That means the age after kids is 50+. So people are older when they even start into kayaking and there’s competition for their interests. Pickle ball anyone?

  2. kids don’t leave home now! One third of Gen Z (18 - 25) still live with their parent/s. Those who do move out, often rely on their parents for child care. A shocking number of parents raise their grandkids completely.

Another impact: homeownership is at its lowest rate in 50 years. That creates a bit of a storage problem. Foldables and inflatables are generally frowned upon by sea kayaker groups, relegating the foldables to still inland water. Those kayakers won’t be as likely to take classes or go on trips. That’s what gets people to buy expensive kayaks….multiple ones!

An anecdotal illustration of fewer kayakers: a meetup group, Chesapeake Kayak Association, would have 30+ people at any of their paddles back in the early/mid-2000s. CKA welcomed beginner and inexperienced kayakers of all ages and had rental gear. Many of the instructors around here got their start with CKA. Health issues caused it to disband and that resource has not been replaced.

Other groups’ paddles now have only 12-16 people show up although some of the long weekends on Smith Island or annual kayak campers will draw more. The area symposia seem to advertise open slots much closer to the event date than 5- 6 years ago. Trips and classes run by a local business use to fill up within weeks and that doesn’t happen now, evidenced again by last minute reminders to sign up.

A decline doesn’t mean sea kayaking is dying, it’s just the industry change that Joey is talking about. But until entry into the sport becomes more accessible, sea kayaking has downsized.

That’s not a bad thing, but businesses who rely on equipment sales will have to work harder for business. Customers are going to have to want a sea kayak to search out suppliers such as Turning Point. That takes effort. How likely will they be to just walk into Dick’s and buy a SUP instead? For a fraction of the cost to boot.


The storage issue is real and significant, especially here in Florida where many people live in condos or apartments with no garages. For three years my kayaks lived at a fellow paddler’s house, they are now at my parents house (a garage long enough to fit my 19’ Mirage was a necessity!) Fortunately only 10 minutes away, but I can’t store them where I live either.

Many times while working at Sweetwater kayaks I heard people say that they had nowhere to store a kayak, especially not a long one.


So, in summary, while sea kayaking manufacturers and retailers may come and go, sea kayaking will persist so long as individual humans are drawn to and are willing to explore beyond terra firma with crafts design to handle their physical needs, aspirations and the conditions of the sea.

As Frank from FLA used to sign off – Paddle on!


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Worry about death of kayaking another day. Now breathing wood smoke to recharge.

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Always healthy :laughing:

You were paddling aluminum canoes after WWII :flushed:

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