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Been watching a steady decline in business the past year. I can graph it out and see sales slowly declining from what has been a very steady level the past few years. Talking to other supplies in the field they comment that it has slowed for them too and we are at  loss as to why?


One supplies says Political Theater.  Which I don't doubt.

I wonder if the proliferation of cheap China kayaks?


Economy is good so that is not it.  Any input? 

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I agree that manually building things as a hobby has probably declined as computer oriented hobbies have grown.


Based on SOF forum traffic, the market has always been relatively tiny.  And a former classroom based SOF business started selling online plans about 18 months ago. 


I summary, I would not be surprised if it turns out that your market share of an already small and shrinking market is being diluted.

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Well, I just bought the plans and I'm building a Short Shot and my friend just built a Ravenwood so we are not part of the problem ? but .... as a Boy Scout leader I've seen a huge decline in outdoor activity and I think it is seen everywhere. Backpacking, hobbies and sport are all seeing less participation. We are becoming an indoor people.


On the kit building theme, my brother and I grew up building and flying balsa model airplanes so the Short Shot is just a floating version of those kits. When I we had a model building day at the scouts not one boy had ever seen let alone built a plastic model. I was shocked. I don't know if it is a phase but I think computers have changed the way people play.

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I think that is part of it and I do think my business does have a predictable life left in it. No doubt as the older people die off this is going to not be viable as a business venture. Maybe as a side hussle. But I know that the days are numbered but I am near retirement age so I have other options and plans.


But the decline I have seen is sudden, like the last year and that is what doesn't add up. Baby boomers didn't all die off to be replaced by Gen X and Melinials yet.

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It is not just the SOF kayak market that is shrinking;  rather, the entire touring kayak market has shrunk in favor of smaller kayaks.   Every major manufacturer (Eddyline, Necky, Delta, Hurricane,  ...) now offers a 12’ foot boat that has high degree of initial stability.   


As a novice SOF builder  but a long term kayaker with lots of touring experience around the world and an experienced canoe builder (about a dozen strip canoes over 40 years),  i actually found the information gathering process before building a SOF kayak more complicated than it should be.   Maybe this is the curse of the Internet.  There is not one single definitive place for someone to go to get a comprehensive and up-to-date view of best practices for the novice builder.   Personally, I started with Jeff’s book but your videos and blog posts are not always consistent with the book     For example,  you seem to now recommend using the double cord method of sewing the deck seam  - a technique not covered in the book.  But,  having restored a couple of wood canvas canoes I am left wondering whether the prospective first time builder wouldn’t be better off being told to use staples and avoiding sewing altogether.   


I also think the prospective builder is likely overwhelmed by the dizzying array of alternative designs available by you and others.   When I am in the market for a new hard shell kayak I can go to my local dealer and try out multiple models in an afternoon before deciding what boat to buy.   This option is obviously not open to the prospective builder.   i do not have a good suggestion on how this problem might be solved.


If it were my business I might be tempted to update and publish your book on line with associated videos in order to drive retail sales.  Just an idea.   




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On 6/30/2019 at 2:33 PM, davidd said:

 Every major manufacturer (Eddyline, Necky, Delta, Hurricane,  ...) now offers a 12’ foot boat that has high degree of initial stability.   


Been thinking on this and I think you hit on it right there.  Every WalMart in the country offers a 10-12 footer around $200.  Instant and cheap gratification. No cares how poorly made they are and that many are down right dangerous. Glad I am near retirement age!

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 6/27/2019 at 10:39 AM, benhardt57 said:

I assume the average age of your customer is increasing every year. Building a kayak (or anything for that matter) requires too much attention span for your typical young person these days.


I suspect you are correct, and I’m only 35. Hard work and patience are quickly going out of style, with the exception of what seems to be a minority of younger folks. The reward/work matrix has been skewed by so much instant gratification.

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My two bits.

1. Fear factor:.  Worry about am I capable to build this.  People at my sailing club are very surprised at how light the kayak is.  And we do have people who build their own boats there.  But sailing is also having it's challenges in attracting new people, and this has been going on for a few decades.

2. Space:  Today's new houses are very cramped for space, both house and garage.  I can build a 17 foot kayak but it would be very cramped.  The Ravenswood is about as big as I would want to get.

3. Material: I was able to order the cedar strips, so basically I wound up with a complete kit that only needed some scarfs glued. Even then I am lucky to have a very long hallway coming in off the front door.

4. Independence: I am perfectly happy to do something myself that is new.  I will research the bejezers out of something, which is why I purchased the kit from Kudzu instead of going with stitch and glue (Canadian winters do not agree with epoxy and I don't have a heated workspace) and I am not OCD enough to do cedar strip.  And I know that I make mistakes the first time and will work through them.  Every time I look at woodworking or boat building classes they are always sold out.  There is a lot of comfort in having an instructor available to answer questions and provide guidance.

5. Attention span: Don't really agree with this one.  I have been a cub/scout leader and they do have the ability to do so.  However a 2 hour meeting once a week would not make a kayak.  Don't have the space to store the in transition kayak.  If I can get an 11 year old to cut, lash, and stitch over a one month period to make a kayak most kids should be able to do so.  What might be lacking is the adult who is willing and able to put the time in.


Possible target audience: Junior high and high school construction classes.  Here in Canada that would be Grade 7 through 12.  Several classes a week, have the space and the tools.  


KJ Lummis


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  • 5 weeks later...

I was 28 when I built mine. I almost didn’t. I think a well produced video series on youtube with some good marketing would help I think. The only reason I realized this was even an option is because my father in law mentioned it, and explained how forgiving the process would be.


I would also note the size, the Stonefly is a bit big given whats coming out from swift. A Swift Pack Canoe is 12 feet at 25lbs. Thats hard to beat, but should be feasible with SOF canoes. My Stonefly is 54 lbs (thats based on my decisions but I think 40lbs is avg no?). The 66 Canoe from Cape Falcon is like 20lbs. There is a wide market of people that would LOVE to build their own canoes here (can speak for Ontario, Canada). But there needs to be some designs that compete on weight since we have to portage them often.


So in my opinion (on Canoes) i would suggest:

1. Show the limited number of tools needed - a table saw and jig saw with a small block plane (mine was $19 on amazon) is enough

2. Show the materials are pretty easy to get (they are here basically anywhere in Canada I think)

3. Produce a high quality video series like Cape Falcon

4. Produce a design that competes on space/weight

5. Really highlight how easy it actually is, because man I messed up a lot but I still love it, and take it on some pretty remote backcountry camping adventures.

6. The lack of epoxy and steam bending is pretty great!


Some of this really only applies to back country campers but there are a LOT of us here. AND maybe you could agree to come up here early in spring and offer a class. I’m sure some of the lumber mills (i.e. Wood Source here in Ottawa) would love to host you since they have all the wood you would need and would be good space. Just some thoughts.

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