• Meg McCall

Adaptive Kayaking Snapshot: A 2021 InfoGraphic

2020 will go down in the record book as one of the most unusual years of our collective lifetime. Yet, despite -- or perhaps because of -- social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines in response to the pandemic, kayaking remained a popular diversion. Paddlers of every age and ability looked no further than the bow of their kayaks for a way to reduce stress, stay fit and stave off boredom.

Here's a profile of just who's involved in adaptive paddling and what types of equipment they use to hit the water.

Adaptive Kayaking Facts and Figures

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Courtesy of Angle Oar LLC

While many program-based adaptive kayaking activities were shut down for much of the paddling season, some organizations found creative ways to help their clients spend time on the water. Whether it was one-on-one, socially-distanced outings, video-based adaptive outfitting consultations, virtual exercise classes or just solo trips, people found a way to kayak.

If you were in the market for a new kayak to go with your adaptive paddling equipment, you had to scour Craig's List, call multiple retailers or just wait due to the manufacturing backlog several major kayak brands were experiencing.

Given the limited ability of organized groups to paddle together, it's no surprise that one of the changes we've noted in the Adaptive Kayaking InfoGraphic above is that there was huge growth in the percentage of individual paddlers investing in adaptive equipment, such as our Versa Paddle and Gamut Paddle Holder. Thirty-six percent of our customer base were individuals in 2019. In 2020, that percentage skyrocketed to 68 percent. The individuals tended to fall into these categories:

  • experienced paddlers with rotator cuff injuries or recent shoulder surgeries

  • older adults with arthritis or joint stiffness

  • parents and grandparents purchasing an adaptive paddle for a child/grandchild with a physical or cognitive disability, including Cerebral Palsy, congenital amputee, Autism

  • recreational therapy- or school-based programs purchasing equipment for an individual involved in their organization

  • adult paddlers with one limb or paralysis

  • people who had participated in a formal adaptive paddling program and now wanted to invest in their own equipment

kayak paddle holder adaptive kayak

The percentage of adaptive paddling programs that purchased paddles, outriggers and related adaptive equipment decreased from 54 percent to 18 percent between 2019 and 2020. It makes sense since the vast majority of them were on hiatus for most of the year. It should be noted, however, that this only reflects our experience at Angle Oar LLC. Other retailers will have had varying trends.

Adaptive paddling, also referred to as universal paddling, strives to enable people of all abilities to participate in paddle sport activities as safely, comfortably, and with the same performance potential as all others.