How to Grow the Open Canoe User Base

Decked Canoes, Open Canoes, as long as they're canoes!

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How to Grow the Open Canoe User Base

Post by AJ » Fri Jun 02, 2006 5:35 pm

In being new to this forum, I was reading several posts about the state of open canoes, growth in new paddlers, new products, and the industry from a business perspective.

From what I understand, open canoes are much more popular in the Northeast and Southeast then out West. In Colorado it seems like there are maybe as many as 40-50 class III/IV whitewater open canoers. Our local Rocky Mountain Canoe club provides an avenue to grow the sport, but it is tough to get younger people involved in canoes versus kayaks.

For all of our benefit, we need sport to experience some grow so there is a ROI for businesses to develop new and improved products including better canoes. So the big question is how do we do that?

I think there is a market of outdoor minded people that could be interested in the sport, but are not aware of whitewater canoeing versus kayaking and how to get started. I think there are people that would have an interest in a kneeling in an open canoe that would not like sitting an enclosed kayak. Case in point, when the water is running in Boulder Creek we paddle the Boulder town run. People see tons of kayaks and hardly give them a look, but when we come down in canoes, we get a lot more attention and questions from the bystanders about canoes. I like to talk to people and tell them about the sport and our club to get them interested. Not sure if it works, but I try!

My question to you OCers is how did you get involved? As an outdoor enthusiast (back packer, back country skier), I got started by buying a tripping canoe, Cascade 17. I never even considered kayaking. I was thinking self support tandem wilderness tripping. After our first few trips, I was hooked on tripping, running rapids and being on the river, while having the luxury of bringing a cooler (real food and cold beer for camp)! I think canoers come from more of this type of background (wilderness hiker/skier traveler), so I would be interested in others thoughts. I would like to better understand the demographics of people who paddle open canoes.

As a long time tele skier, I remember when I was one of the few tele skiers. Now tele skiing at my home ski area has grown tremendously as well as around Colorado and the country. Thus businesses are developing much better equipment for the bigger market segment and we all benefit. I remember skiing on slippers and skinny edgeless skies to plastic boots and fat skies now.

I am interested in your thoughts as a paddler and from an industry business perspective.


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Post by yarnellboat » Fri Jun 02, 2006 7:28 pm

Hi AJ,

Good question.

There is a recent thread/poll on how people got started. (And an old thread on the overlap of c-boating and tele.)

A distinct disadvantage out west is that there aren't canoe tripping opportunities - in central and western Canada lots of kids are exposed to canoeing at summer camps etc.

Even when those people move west where there's no tripping and the rivers are steeper and colder, most stop canoeing. Clubs are about it as far as promotion.

And I wish there were more festivals and paddling schools that include paddling.

In Ontario there'a great paddling school, but in BC there's very few opportunities for instruction.

Getting c-boaters to work the crowds at kayaking and rafting festivals & races would be one way of getting more paddlers. I think a good strategy would be to try and lure more kayakers into c-boats.

Another option is to get canoeing into the media more. We should all look into to writing stories for outdoor mags and local newspapers.


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Post by AJ » Fri Jun 02, 2006 8:13 pm


In Colorado and Utah, we have some great class I/II beginner tripping stretchs with awesome canyons and side hikes. We also have a couple of outfitters that do guided canoe trips down these stretchs, which is good to increase canoeing's exposure.

I realize that water is not for everyone, just as I am scared to death of rock climbing and hights. I am also not for massive growth as river resources are somewhat limited. I still think that the sport needs some growth and could grow, if properly marketed to the right demographics. At least I sure hope so for all of our benefit.

I will look back at some the older posts regarding this.


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Question: How to expand the whitewater open canoe base.

Post by ChrisKelly » Fri Jun 02, 2006 8:15 pm

Answer: Recruit in Nursing homes.

Sadly, we are an aging demographic.

Seriously, there is more here than meets the eye. For a long time I have believed that there is a real market among 50 something guys. there are lots of us who like canoeing and just have noty been exposed to the WW aspect of the sport. And (drumroll please) we have money! Why do you think all those hot young chix love us so much? :wink:

We also have lesiure time and we love gear. I think that a well thought out sales campaign aimed at this demographic mioght well bear fruit. Chris Kelly

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Post by OC1_SURFER » Sat Jun 03, 2006 2:02 am

You need to talk to the folks who are in charge of the automakers' SUV marketing. Nearly every SUV has had a TV ad in which kayaks are hauled up rugged trails and then launched into breath-taking wilderness streams. The viewers are bombarded with these ads and then it suddenly occurs to them: SUV+KAYAK=FUN.

So you need to convince these folks that it is cool to show a couple of Ocoees/Outrages/Detonators strapped onto a 4runner/Pathfinder/Explorer and rumbling up the mountain. Some of you young open-boaters might even get to star in these ads. I'm sure they wouldn't want any of us ugly old farts messing up the commercial. Oh yeah, you better get a girl in there, too. Helly?

Seriuosly, I believe it is just a matter of time before alot of kayakers are going to want more of a challenge. I'm already seeing some double-bladed paddlers crossing over. I think open-boating is slowly making a comeback.

Terry P.


You want MORE people in the streams....?

Post by BigSpencer » Sun Jun 04, 2006 5:07 pm

I do understand how you must feel...and experience, as do I to some level up here in comparison to lower NewEngland(nearer to the cities).
I'd love to have a few more fellow canoeists and kayakers up from upper NYS, Mass, NH, and/or VT to paddle with, but being a skier...I know what's happened to weekend skiing @resorts. It really has me reconsidering the thought about readily giving out info that might lead to my liquid stashes becoming Coney Islands. Less popular activities = more preserved streams & lower prices for gear...???


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More is better

Post by Jim » Sun Jun 04, 2006 11:49 pm

I disagree that “Less popular activities = more preserved streams”.

I think that the risk is that rivers can be dammed, diverted, or the access points can lost. The solutions, as the AWA has repeatedly shown us, have ranged from negotiation to political action, and the successes come based on the contributions of many rather than few. Also, it appears that it is easier to achieve positive results when there is the ability to promote the economic benefits, that is- that river use will benefit an area because of $$$ spent by boaters in that community while they are there to use the river.

I would love to see more canoers out there. Today’s park and play mentality is such that I do not have to worry about bumping into too many of them, as they will not run rivers like I want to. If they do I look forward to seeing them.

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Post by NateOC » Sun Jun 04, 2006 11:58 pm

I say that to convert kayakers, everyone should do what I do: Tag along with a novice 'yak class and do some really fancy backwards eddy turn or something and everyone'll go "oh! I want to try that". Unfortunately, it rarely works,



just a thought

Post by Louie » Mon Jun 05, 2006 1:12 am

Ice pick Kayaks in the parking lots, and as to why I got started in a really boat over a girls boats. Well they hadn't invented Kayaks yet.



Post by BigSpencer » Mon Jun 05, 2006 5:51 pm

...I don't disagree with the points you make...Jim. My rational that you quoted....was a little too aesthetically-based & simplistic....*[EDIT] Maybe a/the local, liquid Playpark might be a way for people in communities to get a chance to feel a canoe's hull in moving water. Flatwater rentals on weekends get business. IF a Playpark were setup, the interested would come. Just like many things in this society, the initial funding to the tough part.
Last edited by BigSpencer on Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Question: How to expand the whitewater open canoe base.

Post by jscottl67 » Mon Jun 05, 2006 11:50 pm

ChrisKelly wrote:For a long time I have believed that there is a real market among 50 something guys. there are lots of us who like canoeing and just have noty been exposed to the WW aspect of the sport. And (drumroll please) we have money! Chris Kelly
I agree that the financial aspect of it has a lot to do with it. Most of the 'yakers out there started paddling at or near college age. There are some younger, some older, but that's the time that most got started. Now I'm not saying that an Ocoee or Zephyr isn't worth $1,300+ outfitted, but for a college student? For that, a decent 'yak, a skirt, paddle, gear, maybe a couple of lessons, and still have money left over for gas, pizza, and beer.

I'm in my late 30's and like a lot of us in OC, started out with a tandem flatwater boat and got into white water later. Maybe somebody will make a low end ww boat that can compete on price/performance with the 'yaks. Obviously not an upper end boat, but a starter boat.

Until the manufacturers make an "entry level" ww OC, if you 50 something guys with 20+ boats will sell some of those old boats and replace them with nice, shiny new ones we'll be able to get some new paddlers out there. :wink: :P :D


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Post by yarnellboat » Tue Jun 06, 2006 7:08 am

I was at a "river festival" this weekend (read "kayak festival"), and there seemed to be lots of opportunity to get people into canoes, but it takes lots of commitment/planning from a canoeing club or business to give canoeing a presence and make things happen.

Lots of kayakers either used to canoe or would like to canoe, for a couple of main reasons:

1) An experienced paddler with a new girlfriend/boyfriend that is just getting into ww could "level the playing field" by trying a cboat, and they could paddle the same runs more easily.

2) Fond memories of canoeing from a previous life.

3) Paddling tandem.

4) Class 4+ kayakers that are getting older and/or having families are spending less time on the river and/or are evaluating risk differently, and could challenge themselves back on safer runs.

5) For the ability to carry more gear for trips.

6) Just because they were primed to imagine buying more gear.

Or maybe they just came by to talk about canoes because I was camped with a couple of single girls?


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Post by Jan_dettmer » Tue Jun 06, 2006 10:33 pm

Single girls Pat?!? And you did not say a word??????

No seriously: The canoe/c1 community on the island is very small. I take
peopleout in canoes sometimes (kayak friends). It is a great challenge.
Few weeks ago, my friend Braden Fandrich (who is a very accomplished Kayaker...he designed the Crux among other things) took out the Prodigy on a local easy run (Cowichan). It was his first day in a canoe and he had a blast. He swam once and got the roll very quickly (that day, his first day).
It was awesome and hilarious to watch at the same time. (the low brace - or shall I say fist brace - on the off-side is a kayaker classic!).

Unfortunately, I am busy with a zillion projects in the canoe/kayak community and mostly don't find the time to take out new canoers. In BC, we have such high pressure on our wilderness streams from micro-hydro that that is my personal top priority.

Cheers, Jan
Is there something like an expert kayaker?

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Post by Scott C » Wed Jun 07, 2006 5:10 am

The best way to promote open boating is to let a kayaker try your open boat. A few weeks ago I let a few try my Quake on a wave. We had to use a pry bar to get the grin off their faces. It was great. Once you have single bladed successfully you are hooked for life. :D
~~~\open side up/~~~

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Post by angelamsig » Wed Jun 07, 2006 12:19 pm

For people living in or near a city I think one big reason to choose a kayak over a canoe is the storage issue. It's a lot easier to haul a kayak up apartment stairs and store it behind your couch. Lots of these guys own more than one kayak so I don't think it's financial. Another thing is outfitting. Kayaks are ready to drop into the river as soon as you buy them. Not all open boats are.


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