America’s Paddlesports

Paddlesports are rapidly gaining in popularity across America, with outdoors outfitters taking center stage with many adrenaline-seeking enthusiasts. Designed to test skill, whitewater rafting is a fun adventure for men, women and children. This leads many to wonder who is actually participating in paddlesports?

In 2008 alone, more than 17.8 million Americans, ranging in age from six years to adult, participated in some form of river rafting, kayaking or canoeing. Of this number, 4.7 million participated in rafting, 7.8 million in kayaking and 9.9 million in canoeing. These outings averaged 10 days per person, making a total of 174 million outings.

Growing since 2006, kayaking includes 2.8-percent of the population ages six years to adult. Recreational kayaking is the most popular, with sea kayaking and whitewater kayaking coming in second and third. At least 47-percent of regular kayakers go out one to three times annually. Most kayakers live in states surrounding the ocean, including the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

By far the most popular form of paddlesports, more than 3.6-percent of Americans participated in this activity in 2008. The average canoeing participant went out at least seven times annually; however they made fewer overall outings than kayakers. Most people who canoe live in the Atlantic and Great Lakes regions.

At least 1.7-percent of Americans age six years and up participated in rafting. Of this number, 43-percent of rafters made a single outing, while 74-percent went outtwo to three times annually. Rafting tours have continued to increase among those ages 25 to 44, have declined among youths. This is not surprising, as most outdoor activities have decreased among today’s youths, which is linked to increased technology use.

The top reasons people participate in paddlesports include:

Most rafters are introduced to outdoor activities by their parents or friends.

Kayakers and rafters cite the top reason for participating in outdoor activities as relaxation, while canoers report fun.

Canoers, kayakers and rafters all say they would like to get outdoors more, but cite the main reason for fewer trips is due to time constraints with work and money.

Whitewater rafting outfitters should consider their market when advertising outdoor adventures. Often times, there is crossover participation with other sporting activities. For example, 54-percent of paddlers enjoy fitness walking, 45-percent bowling, 45-percent backyard and car camping, 43-percent hiking, 40-percent free weights, 40-percent freshwater fishing, 37-percent bicycling, 33-percent running or jogging, 27-percent wildlife viewing, 38-percent golf, 18-percent TV camping and 20-percent aerobic activities.

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