Boating Barometers

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As the first such indicator for the industry, Canoecopia, held at the 100,000-square-foot Alliant Energy Center, shows that we’re in good hands. Paddling Life went straight to co-owner Darren Bush to find out what trends are hot and where the industry stands for the coming year.
“Everything was good across the board,” says Bush, returning to a sense of normalcy after the whirlwind weekend. “If anything, people seemed to step it up a bit for higher-end gear across all products.”
Bush adds that canoe and rec kayak sales were healthy, as were those for apparel and other accessories. The one downtick he noticed came in low-end canoes. “Roto is dead,” he says, referring to inexpensive rotomolded canoes. “Low-end canoes didn’t do so well. People were more enticed to spend $300 or so more and get a good boat.” In particular, he noticed strong sales for Legacy’s Native canoes (“I think people feel it’s the right tool for the job,” he says), as well as for such brands as Teva and Five Fingers.
With more than 22,000 people attending the three-day event March 9-11, it was the largest Canoecopia ever, with attendance up 9% over the year before, and boat and accessory sales up equally. “We’re definitely outgrowing the Alliant Center,” he says, “but they’re already planning on adding on to it.”

PL Canoecopia Side News
If it seemed like there was a fair amount of estrogen emanating from one of the conference rooms at Madison, Wis.’s Alliant Energy Center around noon on Saturday, March 10, you’re right. It was Canoecopia’s first-ever Women’s Paddling Panel, featuring such mainstay paddlers as Justine Curgenven, Mel Price, Anna Levesque, Cindy Scherrer, Dixie-marie Prickett, Wendy Killoran and Freya Hoffmeister.
“We had a lot of talented women there ready to give advice,” says Curgenven. “The audience was mostly middle-aged or elderly women, and people were given lots of advice on topics ranging from self confidence and technique to ‘how to pee from your kayak’. Karen Knight advocated learning good technique to keep up with the boys.”

The panel was just one of many side events at the country’s biggest consumer paddlesports shows, that’s grown from a tiny sidewalk sale that sold just 11 boats in 1976 into a rite of paddling passage that this year drew more than 20,000 presenters, paddlers and patrons to Madison’s 100,000-square-foot Alliance Energy Center March 9-11 to check out and purchase new gear, shoot the bull with friends, and make plans to hit the water. The three-day event also saw hundreds of exhibitors display their new wares fro the season.

Among this year’s line-up of presenters were Tom Bergh, Jon Bowermaster, Justine Curgenven, Cliff Jacobson, Wayne Horodowich, Gary and Joanie McGuffin, Andy Knapp and others. Highlights included the world premier of Curgenven’s “This is the Sea 3” video Saturday at 9 p.m., thanks to sponsorship support from Lendal Paddles. The premier played to a full house of 400 people, with many turned away at the door.

This year’s event also showcased several green endeavors, with Yakima unveiling a carbon-free product program and Teko providing carbon offsets to cover this year’s Canoecopia. With the help of the Alliant Energy Center, Teko calculated the tons of CO2 produced by the electricity and natural gas used at the event, and then worked through the Chicago Climate Exchange to purchase the necessary carbon offsets. Info: www.chicagoclimatex.com