Information collected by the Outdoor Foundation in the U.S. indicated that 17.8 million Americans aged 6 and over participated in kayaking, canoeing and rafting in 2008. The foundation has released a report in conjunction with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) detailing all of the results, called “A Special Report on Paddlesports.” It looks at various factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, income, education and geographic region.

Of the three main sports discussed, 9.9 million Americans went canoeing in 2008, 7.8 million kayaked and 4.7 million participated in rafting. They made 174 excursions to the country’s waterways, averaging 10 days per participant. In 2008, 2.8 percent of Americans participated in kayaking; 1.7 percent went rafting; and canoeing was the most popular of the paddlesports, occupying 3.6 percent of Americans 6 and over.

Recreational kayaking was the most popular kind, following by sea/tour kayaking and whitewater kayaking. Kayakers on average hit the water one to three times per year. Most kayakers live on the coasts, in the Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic and Pacific regions.

Canoers head out with their boats seven times per year. Even though canoeing is more popular, kayakers make more outings each year, at 77.4 million compared with canoers’ 69.5 million. Participants are concentrated in the East North Central region, around the Great Lakes, and South Atlantic region.

Americans who go rafting do so infrequently: 43 percent only hit the water once a year, and 74 percent go out three times a year or less. Participation in this sport is increasing in the 25-to-44 age group, but dropping among those aged 6 to 17.

Respondents said that they were most influenced to participate in paddlesports by their friends and parents. Kayakers and rafters cite relaxation as the No. 1 reason for their excursions, while canoers do it for fun. The main reasons campers gave for not participating in paddlesports were lack of time and too-expensive equipment.

The Special Report on Paddlesports is part of an effort by the Outdoor Foundation to compile its Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, in which it surveyed more than 40,000 Americans over the age of 5 online, asking about 114 activities in 40 outdoor sports. It is available at www.outdoorfoundation.org/research.