I worked in the wilderness recreation business in the 70's and had friends that were outfitters well into the 90's. Also been a member of a wilderness activities club for over 40 years, so I've watched with interest the cycles of sport popularity. In the 70's it was backpacking, Nordic skiing (on mostly wooden skis with bamboo poles!) and mountaineering oriented rock climbing and alpine ice climbing.
By the 80's backpacking had waned and the hot sports were windsurfing, extreme rockclimbing (redpointing 5.10 and up routes while dressed in flashy lycra)and mountain biking. Orienteering had a brief run in popularity and standard Nordic ski touring lost ground to waxless plastic skis and "skating".
In the 90's the fad for alpine mountaineering began to grow (with the proliferation of young tech millionaires and empty nest Boomers willing to pay guide services to hustle them up notable peaks worldwide). There was a surge in specialized WW kayaks and WW rafting took off. Single track extreme mountain biking also grew madly during that decade and outdoor high tech gear became the style rage on high school and college campuses. With the rise of SUV's as a "be cool" must-have, they were increasingly accessorized with skis, canoes, WW kayaks, off road bicyles and surfboards.
In the ought's (first decade after 2000) it seemed to me that the popularity of the "Survivor" and Bear Grylls sorts of shows, blended with the paranoiac atmosphere prompted by 9/11 and the rise of apocalyptic religious and political mindsets, led to a resurgence in interest in backpacking (though more as a practice for having to "live off the land" due to circumstances rather than for enjoyment of the outdoors.) In fairness, increasing environmental and "green" awareness also led to more people taking camping and hiking vacations. I also suspect that the popularity of TV shows like the X Games broadcasts and the various reality overland races prompted more interest in kayaking during that decade.
Now that we are in the 2K teens (not sure what else to call the decade that started in 2010) SUP's seem to be blossoming and I am noticing a resurgence in canoeing as well as an explosion in rec kayaking and even kayak touring. Hard to tell what is coming up next. I suspect one trend we will see is more new and improved lightweight rigid, inflatable and folding kayaks and canoes.
Odd sidebar: a single friend of mine who has been an obsessive dater through the personal ads for about 10 years has commented that 8 out of 10 personal ads he reads list "kayaking" as a hobby. But when he asks women he dates about their paddling experience, most confess they have "rented a few times" or "have not kayaked yet but think I would like to."
PFD's (Life Jackets)
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