Outside Business Journal

2020 OBJ Retailer Survey results, part 9: Paddlesports gear

136 independent outdoor retailers across the country responded to our annual survey last year. Here are the industry's best-selling paddlesports brands, according to their responses.

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If you’ve been following this series from the beginning, you might be able to tell that we’re coming to the end of our report, as our data has already covered most of the major retail categories sold at outdoor shops across the country: men’s and women’s apparel, footwear, camping gear, climbing gear, and more.

We have just a few big categories left. This week, we’re looking at one of the most talked about during the pandemic, paddlesports. Our survey collected data for eight types of gear across the category: whitewater kayaks, canoes, touring kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, personal flotation devices, paddles, paddlesports apparel, and paddlesports accessories.

How we collected our data

As with the rest of the sections in our survey, we didn’t supply a list of responses for retailers to choose from. The results you see below all came from write-ins.

The numbers here reflect the percentages of respondents who actually answered each question. Some respondents declined to answer one or more of our questions about paddlesports sales. These omissions were not included in the calculation of vote percentages. We also included a question about whether or not respondents’ shops sold paddlesports gear at all. If they didn’t, we omitted them from the calculation of vote percentages.

Finally, survey responses were gathered with the promise of anonymity to ensure the collection of the most accurate possible data from retailers.

The overview

As reported by data-collection groups like NPD and others, paddlesports gear sold exceptionally well last year as consumers flocked to new outdoor activities, driven by the stresses and restrictions of the pandemic.

As we reported throughout 2020, many paddlesports-focused retailers saw sales increase dramatically in the spring and summer, even as Covid dampened retail sales across the nation more generally. Of course, shops everywhere faced inventory challenges through much of last year (and continue to do so), but that didn’t change the fact that paddlesports sales at both independent retail and big-box stores rose 56 percent in year-over-year growth in June 2020, according to NPD.

Taking a look at where those dollars went, we saw some interesting trends emerge across the paddlesports category at specialty retail in 2020.

Whitewater kayaks and canoes had clear winners in each category—Dagger and Wenonah, respectively—which each captured about 40 percent of the vote total. Touring kayaks, on the other hand, saw a greater spread. No single brand captured more than 20 percent of the vote total; instead, Wilderness Systems, Eddyline, and Hurricane all turned in moderately successful performances, dividing about half of the vote total between them.

Stand-up paddleboards did have a clear winner—SIC—which pulled in twice the votes of the second-place finishers, BOTE and Hala Gear, tied for 15 percent of the total.

Paddles was something of an isolated category, with three dominant brands that didn’t show up anywhere else in the results for one simple reason: The three brands that nabbed significant portions of the vote share are each one-product companies, specializing in paddles and nothing else.

The last three categories—personal flotation devices, apparel, and accessories—were absolutely dominated by a single brand: NRS. The company pulled in roughly 40 percent of the vote total in each of the three categories, handily beating all challengers. In the apparel category, NRS was close to securing half the vote, with the second-place finisher lagging significantly behind at 9.5 percent.

Despite the dominance of NRS in certain product areas, paddlesports as a category saw a larger spread of brands than most of the retail segments we’ve examined thus far in our survey results. The market for paddlesports equipment, according to these results, appears to be populated by numerous big players, with only a few products cornered by a clear market leader.

The complete data for each category is listed below.

Whitewater kayaks

Dagger: 40 percent

Pyranha: 30 percent

Jackson: 20 percent

Advanced Elements: 10 percent


Wenonah: 41.7 percent

Old Town: 25 percent

Esquif: 16.7 percent

Mad River: 8.3 percent

Swift: 8.3 percent

Touring kayaks

Wilderness Systems: 19 percent

Eddyline: 14.3 percent

Hurricane: 14.3 percent

Hobie: 9.5 percent

Jackson: 9.5 percent

Native: 9.5 percent

Other brands mentioned: Advanced Elements, Current Designs, Delta, P&H, Perception

Stand-up paddleboards

SIC: 30 percent

BOTE: 15 percent

Hala Gear: 15 percent

Boardworks: 10 percent

NRS: 10 percent

Surftech: 10 percent

Other brands mentioned: Badfish, Hobie

Personal flotation devices

NRS: 39.3 percent

Astral: 32.1 percent

MTI: 17.9 percent

Other brands mentioned: Kokatat, Stohlquist


Werner: 33.3 percent

Aqua Bound: 23.3 percent

Bending Branches: 20 percent

Other brands mentioned: Accent, Cannon, Carlisle, Chinook, Harmony, NRS, Surftech

Paddlesports apparel

NRS: 47.6 percent

Free Fly: 9.5 percent

Kokatat: 9.5 percent

Other brands mentioned: Anetik, Astral, Carve, Level Six, O’Neill, Quicksilver, Simms

Paddlesports accessories

NRS: 41.7 percent

Yak Attack: 16.7 percent

Hobie: 12.5 percent

Other brands mentioned: Astral, Ice Mule, Level Six, Sea to Summit, Seals, Seattle Sports

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