Entry Level Products

A healthy industry is one that can offer and deliver goods to its participants within all level of skill, income, and commitment. While it is essential to not only offer high end products, it is important to differentiate the concepts of entry-level products. What is good for the sport, and what is a lot less money…

As a paddler, coach, instructor, retail manager and now sales manager for the trade, I feel I have seen many sides of the paddling industry. An emerging face of the industry, however, is entry-level, budget-conscious equipment marketed toward the recreational enthusiast. A huge jump in participation levels has driven the industry to create a new tier of equipment that is affordable, but is now at risk due to cheap, copy-type brands.

This section of the market is not driven by performance, weight, strength or durability, but by budget and price point. When the new and enthusiastic kayaker has a budget, they don’t see quality brands that have spent huge amounts of money on research, product development and manufacturing process, they see two products that look similar and one is significantly cheaper.

This is where I believe the problem of cheap copy-style entry level products come from, the new kayaker buys on budget and immediately realizes the performance is pretty dire, the weight is significant, and the durability is non-existent. This leaves the new participant disillusioned with the sport and there is a very real danger that these kayakers will stop participating, which slows down the growth of the sport. From dealing with customers firsthand and hearing their complaints, I believe it is a very real problem.

My view is that entry-level products are essential for the growth of our sport and the continuous development of our sporting equipment. However as retailers, coaches and paddlers we have a responsibility to support the brands that have been leading the way for many years building, designing, and inspiring new products.

I am not saying don’t support new brands – there are some exciting and new brands coming along that are changing the sport, but they are not just copying products and making them cheaper.

My advice to a new kayaker or paddler is to think of equipment as an investment. Entry-level and recreational products are crucial to our sport for the progression of individuals, as well as to fund the development of the high level equipment. Without one, you can’t have the other. Entry-level doesn’t have to mean cheap, it just needs to be affordable and these are two very different things.

By: Craig Jones