It was 2007 and I walked into the Las Vegas Convention Center for the world’s largest sportfishing trade show. I had in my hands ink-still-wet copies of the premiere issue of Kayak Angler magazine. Turns out I was a bit early to the game. If it wasn’t my long hair and flip-flops getting me laughed out of ICAST booths of every major fishing brand, it was my enthusiasm about the big, bright, shiny, profitable future of kayak fishing. Twelve years later, I still remember the words of every marketing director, “You’ll never get 230-pound bass anglers into those goddamn tippy things, let alone land a five-pound smallmouth.”
The Danish physicist Niels Bohr said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”
Every year in Paddling Business we round up a bunch of industry insiders, pundits, investors, sages, swamis and fortune tellers to predict the near-certain future of canoeing, kayaking, rafting and paddleboarding.
Almost invariably, they’re making straight-line assumptions based on current paddlesports trends. The problem with this way of thinking is what’s going on now won’t and can’t go on forever. Designs evolve, society reassesses its values, new materials emerge to replace the obsolete, and maybe some simple, new idea changes everything we thought we knew.
On top of pioneering revolutionary tech products, Steve Jobs was celebrated for predicting the future.
In 1985, Jobs predicted the use of personal computers would spread into the home. Computers at the time were clunky boxes of industrial grey plastic and metal used only by companies and schools.
Jobs didn’t make straight-line assumptions based on current trends. In fact, one of his favorite quotes goes, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
Steve Jobs sent Apple on a trajectory to, “put an incredibly great computer in a book.” Apple was inventing the future.
Today, kayaks now travel in backpacks on city buses. Conveyor belts feed concrete rivers. SUP yoga is a thing. The Coast Guard allows CO2-charged self-inflating fanny packs. And kayak fishing is well on its way to being bigger than the rest of paddlesports put together, mostly because we’re now building boats bass anglers won’t fall out of.
What is the future of paddlesports? They say you can’t predict the future because current trends won’t and can’t go on forever. But here’s the thing. Unlike the world of technology, paddling in North America has been going on since forever. And probably always will. And if this year’s Paddlesports Retailer New Product Showcase is any indication, it’s going to be even better than what we have now.
Scott MacGregor is the founder and publisher of Paddling Business, Paddling Magazine and Kayak Angler.
Featured Photo: Klaus Listl