Sea kayaking brand trends

Sea kayaking consumer trends as viewed through insights for search

I took a look at a few tools to see where some of the big Brands in Sea Kayaking stood in comparison with each other. Some of the results were surprising, others were not so surprising. Looking at data like this can sometimes be misleading, and each person can draw their own conclusion as to what this means. I am interested in consumer searches for these brands as it relates to new product launches, brand power, consumer perception, and online web presence. I am as you know not endorsed by any of these brands, nor am I swayed one way or the other. The reason I picked these brands is that they are known primarily for sea kayaks. They don’t make recreational boats, they don’t make light touring kayaks, so the data is cleaner. I have nothing against rec kayaks, or light touring kayaks, it is primarily for the purposes of examining sea kayaking as a sport.

Let me preface this post with the fact that I am a huge nerd. My job and my hobby really shouldn’t intersect, there should be an interstitial space between the two, a void that drops off where I leave search and metrics behind, and kayaking fun can begin without even thinking about this stuff. But alas, it is interesting to look at charts and graphs and to think about what it all means.

I examined the following brands:
Valley Sea Kayaks
Valley Sea Kayak Logo
P&H Sea Kayaks
P&H sea kayak logo
Sea Kayaking UK (formerly Nigel Dennis Kayaks)
Sea Kayaking UK
Tiderace Kayaks
Tiderace Kayaks Logo

So here is a graph from from Google Insights for Search that shows some sort of hedge case water sports. It is something to ground us all who are passionate about this sport. This tool basically gives you search volume over time with news results and other events along the timeline.

Watersports Insights for Search Graph

So the thing to note is that kayaking, windsurfing, and it appears even kiteboarding are following the same trendline. The amount of searches each year is definitely smaller and smaller each year. Keep in mind this is Google’s tool and that they hold roughly 70% of the search share. The peak each year for all these search terms is in July, and it is straight down after this. What this tells me is that it is a shrinking consumer base for splinter water sports. It could be for one of three reasons. One, the number of people who are interested in kayaking is shrinking. Two, the number of people who have tried kayaking once and gotten it out of their system is growing. And three, Google searches overall are shrinking each year with the introduction of other means of finding content on the internet. Keep in mind it could be a combination of all three. The thing that I chuckle about is that parkour is bigger than kayaking in terms of searches. This is not participation mind you, but searches. Throwing myself at concrete in acrobatic leaps is not my idea of a good time, but friend Jeremy Bloyd-Peshkin can beg to differ. The other humor point is, when was the last time you remember windsurfing being top of mind for anyone? 1980 something right? Miami Vice era. Remember the girl with the bikini and the head dink? The Miami Vice opening Video sequence below at time signature :14.

We are part of a shrinking herd, a diminishing tribe so to speak, and it is good to remember the lessons of Miami Vice.

Sea kayaking brands over time.
Let’s look at Google Insights for Search.
Insights for Search Sea Kayaking Trends

So a couple of interesting points. Valley Sea Kayaks has a long history with sea kayaking in general. Their interest in search has been consistent, but dwindling like everyone else’s. Where do their peaks come from? They are roughly correlated to the trend in watersports in general. The super interesting thing is that Aled Williams company Tiderace has risen onto the scene and has gotten almost as much search volume as its competitors relatively quickly. Whereas Sea Kayaking UK, or NDK had a high number of searches and has since declined rapidly, either due to their name shift from NDK, to Sea Kayaking UK, or diminishing interest from consumers.

The startling thing to me is that there aren’t any huge spikes around new product innovation, or new design. That in and of itself says alot about the impact of new product launches.

New Product Launches

There are brief spikes that quickly die off in consumer searches. The brands have done a much better job as of late in getting information to consumers to generate buzz. P&H and Valley both have used message boards and blog posts to pump up interest in new designs. P&H did a masterful job in getting everyone’s attention to the Delphin. And Peter Orton of Valley Sea Kayaks was discussing their new design concept for Valley and is using high profile paddlers like the always fun, Justine Curgenven to test the design.

Unfortunately this has not paid off in any lasting effect with consumers in search in the way that it does with say consumer electronics, or smart phones. Not a fair comparison. But in terms of how say the Apple iPhone4 launch caught the consumers perception, and has maintained interest post launch. Well, sort of unbeatable isn’t it? Could the paddlesports industry do a better job of doing prelaunch materials like videos, testimonials and endoresements for new products without getting all slimy? Probably. But is that the whole story, no? The outdoor retailer trade show, has to dates, one in January and one in August. Why are there no huge blips then? Industry insiders are aware of it, but few others. Whereas the consumer electronic show, comic con, and other expo shows.

Take a lesson from the comic book nerds here.

Marvel Studios announced the director for the Avengers movie, Joss Whedon at Comic Con, and it was plastered all over the internet and twitter. Could these Outdoor Retailer shows be a better vehicle for paddle sports? Maybe. Or maybe I overestimate the power of these shows to promote new products. I am one of the nerds from Comic Con for the record.

Lastly is a Compete Graph, showing traffic to these major brands. Unfortunately Tiderace did not have enough volume to show on this graph so I threw Go Kayak Now! into the mix. We’re not doing to bad are we?…

Competitive Graph of site traffic to Sea Kayaking sites

I think each of these brands has a lot to offer to consumers looking to get their first kayak, or their second or third, this is not a criticism of the product at all, but rather a bit of insight into the trend in consumer behavior with the brand as it pertains to search. Let me know if you have insights from the paddleshop side of things, or the manufacturer side that I don’t and I would love to see it. Keep in mind this is all from the US side of things for what is mostly a UK operation. I didn’t intend to pick all UK manufacturers but they had the most data to play with and made all sea kayaks.


  1. Hmmm. It didn’t let me use html to attach the link to the graph. Here it is:

  2. I ran a couple of other searches. Graphs here.

    The first one graphs sea kayaking, river kayaking, whitewater kayaking, kayak tours, and stand up paddle boarding. SUP is growing. WW is treading down slightly, but river kayaking is holding the same. Sea kayaking is dropping off. With the interest holding in rough water kayaking, I would have expected that the increase in rough water sea kayaking videos and interest would have gained a bit back. The kayak tours search is holding steady, which seems to suggest to me that people are still interested in kayaking.

    The second graph shows the decline of the big four U.S. canoe brands over time in search compared to SUP.

    The third shows canoeing, kayaking, and SUPing is comparison to the growth of the overall watersports catagory in search. SUP is growing the most as would be expected. What I find interesting is that in-season canoeing and kayaking show more growth than watersports, but out of the northern hemisphere summer season, canoeing and kayaking drops under watersports growth rate. This seems to suggest to me that canoeing and kayaking fails to hold people’s attention in the off-season like other watersports might.

    I agree with you about the lack of hype around the Outdoor Retailer shows. From the perspective of an outdoor retailer, not that many people who shop for this type of gear care that much about next years product or the newest and greatest thing. I think that could change with better product releases.

    I’d speculate that some of the decline in sea kayaking over time results from the movement of sales from specialty stores to big box stores. In specialty stores, there’s a better chance that the salesperson will be a passionate sea kayaker. In a big box store, chances are that they’ve never been in a sea kayak. First time buyers want ease of entry and exit and stability at a cheap price. In a big box store, it’s easy to sell them that boat. With a specialty store with a trained staff and passionate sea kayakers on staff, it’s easy to teach them why they might not want that.

  3. Hi Keith,

    All this is suggestive: It hits me as strange that the interest in these four brands might be diminishing. Then if your blog gets more hits than UK Sea Kayaks, intuition tells me that interest has grown, and hits arrive through different vehicles. It would be interesting to know if sales figures match the trend in Google searches.

    Then, what would be the ratio of unique hits coming from links or saved bookmarks to direct Google searches? I for one, access most blogs form aggregators and bookmarks, and only rarely type a search. The same for Sea Kayak manufacturers.

    All the best,