CLEVELAND, Ohio — If you had plans to hit the water this summer with a kayak or paddleboard, you might have to put them on hold.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, people found themselves looking for safe outdoor activities to remain active and stave off stress and depression. As a result, the demand and price for kayak and paddleboard rentals shot up, according to Paddling Magazine.
Kayaking has shown steady growth in the last ten years, from 7.1 million participants in 2011 to 11 million in 2020, according to data from the National Sporting Goods Association.
As was seen with food, personal protective equipment, and fitness equipment, the pandemic upended supply chains for some sporting goods like paddleboards and kayaks. It also put many paddling and other water sports manufacturers in a compromising situation and wondering what to do next.
Brad Nelson, owner of Hi Tempo Snowsports and Watersports and member of the national buying group for the National Sporting Goods Association, said the inventory planning system for manufactures changed from the “old days” when vendors would stock inventory and supplies sufficient to allow for anticipated production.
Today, Nelson says most manufacturers work on a “just in time” system, meaning inventory arrives just as you need it for the manufacturing of the product.
“Covid clearly upended that,” Nelson said. “Many of the kayak manufacturers build the hulls of their boats here in the states, but all the small parts that are attached to those boats come from countries with manufacturing excellence from all over the planet.”
Nelson said when the pandemic hit, many factories across the globe had to shut down, and unlike the United States, many of them still have not fully reopened.
“As it sits now, our vendors have plenty of boats but not the parts to finish the boats,” Nelson said.
The ones that managed to survive, like Canadian-based manufacturer Delta Kayaking, found themselves shipping double the number of kayaks usually ordered, leaving almost little to no inventory to hit the sales floor.
Reilly Monroe, an employee at Great Lakes Watersports, said the pandemic has definitely caused an increased interest in kayaking and other water sports in the Cleveland area, and it has no plans of slowing down now that pandemic restrictions are primarily gone.
Monroe said kayaks had become more of a long-term investment, causing manufacturers to make them durable, increasing their overall lifespan and price. The heightened demand just further exacerbated the issue.
Monroe pointed to the increase in demand as the reason behind problems with inventory from its kayak suppliers throughout the past year.
“Since people have been cooped up in their homes for almost a year and a half, many people are searching for a safe and active way to get outside, and kayaking fills that niche,” Monroe said.
In anticipation of high demand this spring and summer, Joshua Allen, owner of Great Lakes Watersports, said the boat rental service expanded its number of kayaks, buying eight single kayaks and six double kayaks from West Marine Cleveland in March, bringing their overall inventory to 37.
“Demand has been so high we’re going to purchase more kayaks from West Marine Cleveland,” Allen said.
Bill Cochrane, owner of Nalu Standup Paddle & Surf, said the surge couldn’t come at a worse time. The surf shop based in Rocky River is having a hard time keeping up with customer demand.
Cochrane said people wanting to get outside more had caused the demand to be higher than the supply available, and that supply chain shortages are affecting all outdoor industry sectors.
“Majority of these boards are manufactured in Asia. Securing containers is a real challenge,” Cochrane said. “Since the pandemic started, the cost of a container has more than tripled. Truck lines domestically have also increased their pricing, and it takes longer for the boards to arrive once they are in the USA warehouses.”
While pricing isn’t too bad right now, Cochrane said it might change. He noted that companies are still struggling to absorb all the increased freight costs and trouble obtaining raw materials.
“Look for higher prices once the current inventory is depleted,” he said.
Cochrane suggests that consumers don’t wait and buy it if they see something in their price range. He predicts the majority of boards available will be gone by mid-July.
Still in the market for watersport equipment? Here are what retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart are offering.
The Lifetime Teton Angler Kayak is available at Dick’s Sporting Goods
The Lifetime Teton Angler Kayak’s retail price is listed at $399.99.
The Lifetime Fathom 10 Stand-Up Paddle Board is available at Dick’s Sporting goods.
The Lifetime Fathom 10 Stand-Up Paddle Board is available for $399.99.
The Lifetime Pacer 8 ft. Sit-In Kayak is available at Walmart.
The Lifetime Pacer 8 ft. Sit-In Kayak retails for $198.00.
The Goplus 9.8’/10’/11′ Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board W/Carry Bag Adjustable Paddle Adult Youth is available with Walmart.
The Goplus Inflatable Stand Up Paddle Board is available at the retailer for $229.99.
See more kayaks and additional paddleboards from L.L. Bean.