Just a week ago, thirty-foot towering piles of ice blocked the Lake Superior shoreline. The pack ice had blown in making an already dull snowless winter seem a bit longer. I watched the ice with fascination, but hoped that winter would be over soon. By the weeks end, temperature shored into the 50s, and I made the annual trek down to Canoecopia, the world’s largest paddlesports expo in Madison, WI.
As usual, the expo was packed with attendance up by the high single digits. This year the extra attendance spilled over into all the presentations. Everything was packed to the point that there were rows of people standing in the back of almost every single slide show that I went to. More about the presentations below.
The New and Cool Products
Without much further ado, what new and exciting items did I see this year: Not much. As far as gear, the show was much more of the same. Below are a few items that stood out against the others: (Note: All links open in a new window.) These may or may not be new items in the paddlesports world – just items that caught my eye this show.
Esquif Twin-Tex: I’ve been hearing about this new Twin-Tex material from Esquif toted by owner of Esquif, Jacques Chasse, as a material that “will take over the Royalex canoe market and all but the ultra-light category of the composite canoe market.” So, I was excited to see the stuff up close. The material is actually a fabric that is combined with polyethylene. To make the stuff, they apparently lay the fabric into the mold, then heat up the polyethylene and the two combine to make a composite fabric. The process requires less heat that rotomolding and is suppose to be more environmentally safe. The whole process creates a boat that is tough, as tough or tougher than Royalex, and light. The 16’2″ 51 pound Mistral indeed feels light when you pick it up. It’s not Kevlar light, but it costs about half of what Kevlar does. The bad new is that the material seems very flexible. Even where the hull was reinforced with an extra layer of Twin-Tex, I was still able to push in and create a large indent with very little force. I’ll be interested to hear reports of the material on the water. I’d be concerned about oil canning.
Hurricane Kayaks Tracer 165: Hurricane makes some neat looking kayaks out of a thermoformed ABS plastic. This material is as stiff as composites, costs a fraction of the price of a typical composite boat, and is darn light. Their touring model, the Tracer, is 16’5″ long, 22.5″ wide and weighs 46 pounds. That’s light for a plastic kayak. It’s also one of the best looking plastic touring kayaks on the market, and I’ve heard of several kayaking instructors who use it for their instruction boat. Price: $1500. That’s a smoking deal for a good-looking British kayak. Downside: You probably don’t want to use this for a rock garden boat, although the hull shape could handle it, the plastic probably won’t. But, hey, super glue works on this stuff.
Granite Gear Immersion Waterproof Pack: At bit big and a bit heavy, Granite Gear had their Immersion Waterproof pack at the show. It’s a waterproof welded portage pack that looks good. It would be nice to see a pack that drops in weight and is a bit smaller. Say 4000 cubic inches and 1.5 to 2 pounds.
Adirondack Guide Boat: So, you can row Adirondack guide boats in big waves and rough water. Umm, I need one.
American Canoe Association: Hey, the ACA is starting a new rating system for paddlers. Instead of Stars, you can be levels. Take that BCU.
Impex Kayaks: I think last year I wrote about these kayak builders from Canada. This year, I’m more impressed. I saw a couple of their kayaks being used in the pool, and now I can say that they are on my list of kayaks to try. The Montauk looks great, fun, and a nice day boat. I want one. And the Force 4 also looks fantastic.
Northwater Sea-Tec Tow: I have the old version of Northwater’s tow line, but the new Sea-Tec tow makes me want this version. It has 30′ of line, which is about all I need on Superior, a nice bag, and an extra three foot of line you can use to hook into a deck-mounted fairlead and cleat. This hides behind a Velcro sheath that you can also use to hide your belt when you’re using the tow system as a deck mounted system. Scrap the hop clips for the bungie system though. That needs to be made more secure.
P&H Kayaks: A quick shout out for the idea of a day hatch leading to a sealed knee tube in front of the cockpit. Easy to get into, secure, and reduces the volume of water fillable space in the cockpit. Win! Win! and Win! If I had one of these, I’d have to retire my Northwater Underdeck bag.
Sea Kayaker Magazine: Consistently good. Great reviews – get those testers into rougher water, folks. If you only subscribe to one print zine for paddling, this is the one.
Superior Kayaks Hollow Core Greenland Paddles: I like Greenland paddles. I don’t use them very often anymore, but they’re sweet, and at 32 ounces, these hollow core paddles feel light and feel good. The organic feel of wood and super nice balance makes this paddle stand out.
TRAK Kayaks: A kayak that changes shape while you sit in the boat. It’s a foldable kayak, and it’s cool. Definitely should be on your list to try if you want to buy a folding kayak.
This is the Sea III: This is the first item that I’ve bought from Canoecopia and I’ve been there a few times! This is total paddler’s porn and it is absolutely fantastic. Justine Curgenven is a film maker and paddler from Britain. She’s darn good. I’ve watched the film twice now and twice with non-paddlers, and the film was even interesting to the non-paddlers. Wow! Buy this film. Here are links to Amazon for part one and two:
- This is the Sea: The First Ever Extreme Sea Kayaking Film
- This Is the Sea Two: Action Sea Kayak Film
I’ll add three when it becomes available. These are worth owning.
Products I didn’t see
Sea Kayaking Guide Rescue Vest: I still haven’t found the ideal sea kayaking rescue vest designed for guides. Come on manufacturers make something perfect for us. It needs: a knife tab that pulls to the right hand side, a rescue belt that doesn’t need to be threaded each time you put the vest on, pockets on the left near the shoulder, but not too high, for a VHF radio. This has to be big enough for the $99 Uniden or, at least, my M-72 in a waterproof bag (This pocket needs an attachment point for a lanyard). Pocket on the right for flares, northwater stirrup, small cut and bruise kit, signal mirror, sunglasses, key lanyard. A way to attach a strobe to the back. A detachable hydration pocket to store stuff in. A low profile and comfy all day design. And a place to clip a pig tail and a tow rope biner. Also, while you’re at it, design a good sea kayak tow system for guides that attaches to the quick release, so we don’t have to take on and off a waist belt for tours.
Trip Report on the Presentations
There were so many vendors in the show, that I didn’t get a chance to get to all of them and study their products in detail, but such is life. I did get a chance to go to as many presentations as I could squeeze in. This only left an hour to walk the show. Below is a quick review of the presentations that I saw and a few comments on them.
Bob Marchino, Lost in History: Paddling the First Fur Trade Route: My first show of the day was watching this slide show about the First Fur Trade Route. Bob talked about the route, the history and showed pretty slides. He kept on talking about the slide show he gave last year at Canoecopia, which I didn’t see, so when he mentioned it, I felt a bit lost, but, hey, I want to paddle this route now.
Lena Conlan, Paddling the Land of the Midnight Sun: Holy Cow!!! See this show or anyone that she gives at next year’s event. Lena is absolutely captivating. Her show centered on the guided trips that her and her husband offer in Scandinavia. I didn’t want the show to be over and could have sat another hour watching her slides. She is a very good photographer, dynamic speaker, and I want to go on one of her guided trips. If anyone wants to send me, it’s only about $3000 plus plane tickets.
Kevin Callan, Quetico and Beyond: If you’ve never seen Kevin Callan, you owe it to yourself to get out and go see him. He has to be the funniest person in the whole outdoor industry. This year’s show concentrated on the month he spent in my backyard, the Quetico, and featured a few slides, him talking, and some absolutely hilarious video of he and his friend in the bush. Kevin Callan = Funny x Infinity plus One.
Jon Bowermaster, Borderland: Sea Kayaking Croatia: Apparently, this guy is a film maker. During this show on Croatia, we watched a film on French Polynesia. He didn’t really talk much. We just watched a movie that had nothing to do with Croatia, although it was the first time the movie was shown. I have to shrug my shoulders and award this with the great big star of disappointment. I heard that others felt the same way. It would have been cool if he would have presented something, instead of just showing a film that I could have watched on the DVD player and got the same reward. I felt bad that I spent my time there instead of one of the other shows going on.
Mel Rice & Mark Schoon, Tandem Kayak Rolling: Ummm, where’s the tandem kayak, I thought, when I saw them bring in two solo boats. Ummm, no not again, I thought, when they said they were changing the presentation from tandem kayak rolling to kayak rescues. Not another Bowermaster!!! But, luckily, this turned out to be a-okay. They demonstrated two rescues that I’ve never tried, including one using a leg hook into the cockpit and then worming in, and a boat over boat, get into the cockpit and slide off rescue that looked slicker than snot.
Kelly Blades, Kayak Games: Teaching Tool or a Way to Keep Kids Out of Jail?: Apparently, Kelly Blades was a clown in a former life, and this clown thinks that he knows how to teach fun in kayaking. Funny, he can. This was a worthwhile presentation demonstrating that you can use any games as a teaching tool. For instructors, these games provide us with a way to challenge the students, have fun, and give us the ability to access the student’s abilities while they are playing. Yes, and it was fun. It’s been a long time since I played Simon Says, but during Kelly’s show, the whole audience played.
Gary Luhm, Alaska: Paddling the Great Sea: This was a great how to you do it type of presentation. I got to the show late and had to stand, but it was worth it. Man, I wish I could be notes for this show. Very worthwhile.
And that’s a wrap. This years show was fun. I only spent one day there this year, but that felt okay to me. It was good to see a bunch of old friends and meet some new ones. The shows were high quality again, and this year I actually bought something. Cool.