The (U.S.) National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is offering to download a preview of the abstract of its 2006 statistical report for download free of charge on this page: http://nmma.org/facts/boatingstats/2006/files/orderform.asp
According to this report the 2006 US market for canoes was a little over 100,000 units sold, at an average price of nearly $550 per unit.
The market for kayaks was over 350,000 units sold at an average price lower than $500.
The total 2006 market for canoes and kayaks was $233,000,000.
If I understand this report correctly the data take into account neither inflatable nor used canoes and kayaks, and they reflect a relatively stable market both in price and number of units sold in recent years.
A rigid entry level kayak costs between $300 and $500 while a touring, whitewater or fishing kayak can cost over $1,000.
It becomes clear from this report that entry level (a.k.a. ‘recreational’) kayaks constitute the bulk of the market in terms of units sold, since the average kayak price is within the price range of this category.
What else is it possible to deduct from this report?
Obviously, entry level kayaks differ from traditional designs mainly by their length to width ratio (L/W, or L/B). They are shorter and wider than traditional kayaks, namely slower and stabler.
This means that the overwhelming majority of U.S. paddlers are willing to sacrifice speed for stability, and that paddlers who practice the Eskimo Roll and put their trust in it as the main means of recovery are a rarity (by that I mean even less than a minority).
Entry level is in fact the norm, and contrarily to what touring manufacturers used to believe paddlers stay at that level and don’t ‘progress’ to the traditional, narrow designs. Progress is therefore represented by the stable designs, while tradition is represented by the (you’ve probably guessed it already) traditional designs…
And last but not least, it doesn’t take statistical reports to see that kayak fishing is the most active and fastest growing market in paddle sports and activities. Most kayak manufacturers have noticed this trend and offer a wide variety of extra wide kayaks (up to 42″, that’s over one meter), because fishing requires more stability than any other kayak related application.
In the same spirit, traditional paddling magazines and websites are increasingly preoccupied with kayak fishing and feature more advertisements for fishing kayaks than ever.