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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2016 7:15 pm 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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Regarding FC, I am fearing the worst.

Our market needs someone to come up with a truly revolutionary, and affordable idea. I have a feeling that dropstitch might be going in the right direction, especially if both the weight and the cost could be dropped.

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Chris T.
~'91 Klepper A2 w/ BSD schooner rig.
'64 Klepper Passat/Tradewind and T12 restoration projects.
Non-folding: '84 Hobie 16; early '90s Old Town Canoe.
Previously owned '04 Pakboat Puffin II and '05 Swift.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2016 1:54 am 
knight of the folding kayak realm

Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2011 6:09 pm
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chrstjrn wrote:
Regarding FC, I am fearing the worst.

Our market needs someone to come up with a truly revolutionary, and affordable idea. I have a feeling that dropstitch might be going in the right direction, especially if both the weight and the cost could be dropped.

Unfortunately I fear interest in kayaking in general might be declining as it is for many other outdoor activities. There's been quite a bit written about how younger persons (under 30) just aren't as interested in the outdoors as older generations. I'm also a wilderness backpacker, and while I doubt it will ever really disappear in my lifetime, interest does seem to be declining somewhat, though day hiking is still very popular.

One of the major obstacles to kayaking, in addition to being fairly expensive, is inconvenience. For most people, kayaking isn't something you can really do on a whim; it requires at least some degree of planning. On the other hand, if someone wants to go on a day hike, it's usually pretty simple to just throw some food and water in a backpack, hope in the car and go.

But back to Feathercraft... While the yaks are great, they seem prohibitively expensive for most prospective buyers. For only a little more than a new FC, it's possible to get a decent used car and decent used hard shell. Spending $3500+ for a kayak just isn't practical for most of us.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2016 10:00 pm 
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Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2011 9:22 am
Posts: 385
Location: Coastal New Jersey
Apathizer makes an interesting point. Jersey Paddler, which at one time had a running inventory of about 500 boats, is existing today on its sales of SUPs and fishing "kayaks" that can hardly be called kayaks at all. They've cancelled Paddlesport for 2016 and talk has it that a move to a smaller location could be a future consideration. What at one time was the largest kayak and canoe dealer in the east could become a Chinese restaurant in the not-too-distant future. Folding Kayak Adventures in Colorado has decided to call it quits, Pakboats has dropped its proper sea kayaks and one now has to wonder what might become of Feathercraft. Their boats are certainly of the highest quality but they come at a significantly higher price than, say, Folbot and one wonders if they're that much better. I might chance to speculate that Fobot is an over-all better value or, anyway, it was before they switched over to that roofing membrane called Elvaloy that they use to make their boats hulls with now. It's understandable, from an economic perspective why the Aironaut was dropped from the line. There is likely an inflatable in my future and I thought that the Aironaut might be it but now I suppose not. And if Jersey Paddler does become a Chinese restaurant, I hope that the dim-sum and Hunan pork will be to my liking.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2016 12:05 am 
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It does seem that much of the kayak market, esp for younger paddlers, has been absorbed by SUPs. While SUPs are nice for quick outings and day trips, they're not nearly as efficient and practical for multi-day trips as kayaks.

I generally agree with Jake that Folbot (and Pakboats, which I think are a bit better, but that's another discussion) are perfectly adequate for most paddlers at a more affordable price than Feathercraft. I have no insight into the financial health of Folbot and Pakboats, but Pakboats' Quest were discontinued due to poor sales. [They still produce the XT-17, which serves as both a large volume single or recreational double.] Alv has said the Quest will be replaced by a new version of the Puffin, but nothing official has been announced as far as I know.

But reasonable prices don't matter if there's limited demand for a product; that's what concerns me. No one can precisely predict the future, but for kayaks -especially folders- it seems a bit dicey.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2016 4:14 am 
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Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 6:42 pm
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Interesting. I get the impression that here in the UK paddlesport is thriving. But I've no hard numbers to put to that. (I suspect the British Canoe Union might have quite good figures given that a high percentage of UK paddlers join in order to obtain a licence to paddle on the extensive UK canal network. There is a report of some sort here but not a numbers over time graph, which would be interesting.)

I wonder why numbers should be falling over on your side of the pond?

I think a lot of canoeing participants here in the UK are under twenty or over 40. Many people seem to get busy with other things in their twenties or thirties: careers, relationships. (Perhaps they've given up on both by their mid-40s. ;-) ) More relevant to my mind is how much money people are willing to spend on their past-times. I suspect there is a psychological barrier for people to spending more than about £1000 (ca $1500) on a boat or a bicycle. Whether that has changed substantially over time, I don't know.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 14, 2016 11:55 am 
lord high faltbotmeister

Joined: Thu Sep 06, 2007 8:05 am
Posts: 804
Location: atlanta, georgia
Interesting discussion and great observations idc and Apathizer.

But before we mourn the demise of paddlesports in the U.S....

All paddlesports are up dramatically here in the last decade. In 2014 more than 7% of the population over the age of 6 participated in some form of the sport. Kayaking is the largest and second-fastest growing segment of paddlers, with over 4% participation. Standup boards are the fastest growing but still very small segment.

Interesting (at least to me) is that the kayaking segment is the most affluent, with more than 40% of participants making over $100,000.

I have no data regarding the folder component of the kayaking segment. But it looks to me as though the growth in participation is not among adventure/explorer/camping types. Rather, it is in the recreational paddler.

I recall the image of dozens of frolicking, bathing suit attired, young people in Klepper ads from the 50's and 60's and from before the War. Also images of German kayakers in suit-and-tie! How does that fit with today's demographic? Not so far off as it sounds. In the summertime down on the river I paddle most frequently one can observe dozens (sometimes hundreds) of scantily-clad young people frolicking in and on the water in (mostly rented) SOTs and paddleboards. And on any sunny weekend day I can watch hundreds of young and, notably, old (like me at 63) people paddle/float by my house.

Of note is that NONE of the paddlers are in folders. They are, predominantly, rotomolded kayaks and fiberglass canoes (and some innertube-floats tied to beer coolers). Why is this image so different from the image in the old Klepper ads?

Well, for one thing, it has to be technology. New materials and manufacturing techniques have made boats inexpensive and (I assume) more approachable, whether to own or rent, by a much larger segment of the population. Another is the point already raised about how we spend (or bank) our leisure time during our “productive” years between age 25 and 60 or so. Except for the “radical” adventures like Doi Nomazi, the ranks of avid kayakers are, by my observation, huddled on both ends of the age spectrum.

The folder community, both before and after the war, was centered in Germany and included dozens of now-defunct kayak makers. They were creating wooden-framed, hand-crafted pieces of floating art, imo. But they all disappeared except Klepper, Nautiraid, Wayland, and Longhaul.

The “new age” folders are various forms of composite, aluminum, and unobtainium materials.

Folding kayaks dominated the European markets because that was all there was to paddle until the mid-70s when the first plastic kayak was introduced. Sure, there were Inuit style skin-on-frames, wooden kayaks and canoes, but the most practical and inexpensive kayak was a folder. Now the plastic, rotomolded, carbon fiber, etc. models have eaten market share and fed the growth in demand for safe, dependable, cheap boats.

So the market for folders is now just for people who “need” the unique feature of being able to store and transport the boat in bags. Or, for people who fell in love with the aesthetics, craftsmanship, and uniqueness of the marques like Klepper and Feathercraft. And there are few people in either of these categories. And it is hard for me to imagine either of these categories actually growing. But I ramble. Can you tell I just retired?

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1990's A1 Expedition
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2016 12:40 am 
knight of the folding kayak realm

Joined: Sun Nov 27, 2011 6:09 pm
Posts: 262
gbellware wrote:
...
Interesting (at least to me) is that the kayaking segment is the most affluent, with more than 40% of participants making over $100,000.
...
So the market for folders is now just for people who “need” the unique feature of being able to store and transport the boat in bags. Or, for people who fell in love with the aesthetics, craftsmanship, and uniqueness of the marques like Klepper and Feathercraft. And there are few people in either of these categories. And it is hard for me to imagine either of these categories actually growing. But I ramble. Can you tell I just retired?

I agree, but am still a little puzzled that the market for folders seems so stagnant. I would guess most affluent paddlers have little need or interest in them because they have vehicles that can easily transport a kayak. But with the majority of growth in urban areas, and with fewer younger persons (under 30) owning cars, I would think there'd at least be some growth in the folders market.

While a bit older (45) than the 'younger' market, I fall into the latter category. I'm car-free and live in Seattle - one of the best kayak cities in the US. Having a car seems like more trouble and expense than it's worth, but I still like to paddle on trips of up to a few days at a time. A folder or inflatable is my only option.

I'm not sure if there's much of a future market for folders, but I hope so.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2016 7:13 am 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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Location: Arlington, VA (i.e. Wash DC)
With the shrinking size of apartments-- particularly the closets and storage space-- it has even become difficult to find a place for a folder.

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Chris T.
~'91 Klepper A2 w/ BSD schooner rig.
'64 Klepper Passat/Tradewind and T12 restoration projects.
Non-folding: '84 Hobie 16; early '90s Old Town Canoe.
Previously owned '04 Pakboat Puffin II and '05 Swift.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2016 2:19 pm 
knight of the folding kayak realm

Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2011 9:22 am
Posts: 385
Location: Coastal New Jersey
Relative to other sorts of double-paddle craft, folders have always been a niche market here in the U.S. Since I bought my first kayak in 1991, I've come upon just two people out in folders, a sailing Klepper Aerius and a Fobot Cooper. On the other hand, as a young GI stationed in Germany in the early 1960s not far from the Neckar River near Heidelberg, I can recall Sunday afternoons when one could count upwards of a dozen folding kayaks, singles and doubles, being paddled along the banks of that lovely river. If I were to return there today, I think I'd be more likely to see mostly rotomolded plastic kayaks under 12 feet, pretty much what one might expect to see paddling the shallows of Sarasota and Tampa Bays.

I acquired my FC Kurrent primarily for use during our winter sojourns on Florida's Gulf Coast but I've become fond of this little boat for the way it feels when I'm paddling it and for it's relatively light 31 pound weight but, if I had to put it together and then take it all apart and stow it every time I wanted to spend a few hours on the water, I would probably not own a folder or, at least, not a Feathercraft. Maybe a Pakboat Puffin which seems easier to assemble and even lighter or, better yet, an inflatable if I could find one with decent paddling performance. For my purposes as well as that of the typical urban apartment dweller, the FC Aironaut might well have been the boat of choice despite its rather impressive cost but, alas, that duckie has been dropped from the Feathercraft line as being uneconomical to produce. For this ancient paddler as well as the urban, auto-less paddler, the search continues.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2016 11:03 am 
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In case anyone had been saving up for an aironaut and is deeply disappointed, the guys at this place in Germany have a showroom model to sell http://www.out-trade.de/de/index.php?list=WG09, also a khatsalano.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2016 1:10 pm 
faltbootemeister
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Yesterday I received a reply email from Theresa saying there are no plans to bring the Aironaut back. I took that with two grains of salt. They might looking at ways to lower production costs. After all, the Aironaut was very successful, but probably FC wasn't making any money off it.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2016 3:41 pm 
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Location: Germany
By the way Pouch has fild insolvency...

http://www.faltboot.org/forum/read.php?14,223048

The falling demand for folding boats currently seems to be a general worldwide problem

R.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2016 3:44 pm 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle
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Ughh-- terrible news, but thank to Rainer for letting us know.

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Chris T.
~'91 Klepper A2 w/ BSD schooner rig.
'64 Klepper Passat/Tradewind and T12 restoration projects.
Non-folding: '84 Hobie 16; early '90s Old Town Canoe.
Previously owned '04 Pakboat Puffin II and '05 Swift.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 2:30 pm 
knight of the folding kayak realm

Joined: Sat Feb 19, 2011 9:22 am
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Location: Coastal New Jersey
I, too, have heard that the Aironaut was selling well and it's sad to see it dropped from the Feathercraft line. I wonder if it was a matter of profitability or was there a production problem? Anyway, for the paddler looking for a high-end inflatable sea kayak, there doesn't seem to be much available.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 28, 2016 8:39 am 
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Worrying to note that many of the parts and accessories even for models that are still in stock / production are sold out on the FC website, is this usual? I guess the assurance that 'they remember how to make them' means they might be made on demand? I hope so.


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