A Special Report on Paddesports - OIA and The Outdoor Foundation

Outdoor Industry Association and The Outdoor Foundation released today A Special Report on Paddlesports—which provides a detailed look at participation in kayaking, canoeing, and rafting among Americans.

New Report from Outdoor Industry Association and The Outdoor Foundation Examines Paddlesports Trends in the US

Boulder, CO, October 8, 2009—Outdoor Industry Association and The Outdoor Foundation released today A Special Report on Paddlesports—which provides a detailed look at participation in kayaking, canoeing, and rafting among Americans. Among other findings, the report reveals that nearly 18 million Americans enjoyed paddling in 2008 – getting out on rivers, lakes, streams and other waterways in their communities.

ASpecial Report on Paddlesports uses the latest participation data collected annually by The Outdoor Foundation to present detailed information on participation in kayaking, canoeing, and rafting by gender, age, ethnicity, income, education and geographic region.

"This joint project with The Outdoor Foundation allows us to present the paddle community with critical information needed by businesses, communities and non-profits working to connect Americans with the outdoors," said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of Outdoor Industry Association.

While the special report shows increasing participation in paddlesports, it also highlights the outreach opportunities facing paddlers – both females and minority groups are significantly underrepresented in every paddlesports category.

Key Findings:


  • 17.8 million Americans ages 6 and older participated in kayaking, canoeing, and rafting in 2008.
  • 9.9 million Americans participated in canoeing in 2008. 7.8 million Americans participated in kayaking and 4.7 million in rafting.
  • Paddling participants made 174 million outings in 2008, averaging 10 days per participant.


  • Kayaking has enjoyed steady growth since 2006, climbing to 2.8 percent of Americans ages 6 and older in 2008.
  • Recreational kayaking is the most popular type of kayaking followed – by a significant margin – by sea/tour kayaking and whitewater kayaking.
  • 47 percent of kayakers get out 1 to 3 times per year.
  • Most kayakers live in states bordering the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean – the Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic and Pacific regions.


  • Canoeing is the most popular type of paddling. 3.6 percent of Americans age 6 and older participated in canoeing in 2008.
  • Canoeing participants make an average of seven outings per year. Despite the activity's greater popularity, canoers make fewer annual outings than kayakers – 77.4 million compared to 69.5 million.
  • Geographically, most canoers – over 40 percent of all participants – are located in the East North Central and South Atlantic regions of the US, those states bordering the Great Lakes and Atlantic Ocean.


  • 1.7 percent of Americans age 6 and older participate in rafting.
  • 43 percent of rafters make only one outing per year and 74 percent make three outings per year or less.
  • Overall participation in rafting remains relatively steady and is even increasing among adults ages 25 to 44. However participation has declined among youth ages 6 to 17 over the past two years – following a nationwide downward trend among youth seen in other outdoor activities.

Motivations and Barriers

  • Friends and parents are the most influential in introducing paddlers to outdoor activities.
  • Relaxation is the top reason cited for participation in outdoor activities by kayakers and rafters while fun is the top reason cited among canoers.
  • A lack of time is the number one reason camping participants don’t get out more often. A lack of money for equipment is also a commonly cited reason.

“Over the past several years, paddlesports have shown steady growth among American participants,” said Christine Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “From rafting class 5 rapids to exploring quiet coves, paddlesports offer some of the most diverse experiences of any nature-based activity -- an essential part of the outdoor industry and active outdoor economy.”

A Special Report on Paddllesports is based on extended analysis of data collected for the Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, produced annually by The Outdoor Foundation. The report uses the responses of over 40,000 Americans ages 6 and older captured in an on-line survey covering 114 different activities. The survey is the largest of its type examining participation in sports and outdoor activities.

The 2009 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, which includes high-level 2008 participation data and trend analysis for 40 outdoor sports, was released by The Outdoor Foundation in September and details the quality and extent of participation in outdoor recreation among all Americans age 6+, with a special focus on youth and diverse groups. To download a copy of ASpecial Report on Paddlesports visit www.outdoorfoundation.org/research.


About Outdoor Industry Association

Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) is a national trade association whose mission is to ensure the growth and success of the outdoor industry. OIA provides trade services for over 4000 manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, sales representatives and retailers in the outdoor industry. OIA programs include representation in government/legislative affairs, market and social research, business-to-business services and youth outreach initiatives. Educational events include the annual Rendezvous, Outdoor University, and the Capitol Summit. Outdoor Industry Association is based in Boulder, Colorado, and is the title sponsor of the Outdoor Retailer tradeshows. For more information go to http://www.outdoorindustry.org or call 303.444.3353.

About The Outdoor Foundation

The Outdoor Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and growing future generations of outdoor enthusiasts. Through ground-breaking research, action-oriented convening and outreach and education programs, The Foundation is working with partners to mobilize a major cultural shift that leads all Americans to the great outdoors. For more information visit www.outdoorfoundation.org.