What’s New in Gear from Canoecopia
New products for 2008 as debuted in the land of cheese curds
What started as a weekend sale 18 years ago for Madison, Wisc., retailer Rutabaga has grown into a rite of passage for Midwest paddlers. One Web site calls it a “Star Trek convention for paddlers.” Another likens it to “a modern-day Voyageur rendezvous.” An outfitter from YellowKnife once showed up at his booth with a pure-bred wolf by his side. Last year a man walked around with a sign taped to his back reading, “Looking for J-80 race canoe.”
What is it? It’s Canoecopia, the industry’s largest consumer show held the second weekend of March every year. More than 25,000 visitors attended presentations, re-established old friendships, and shopped for discounted wares this year from over 200 vendors. Wisconsin whackos even lined up an hour beforehand to get into the 100,000-square-foot Alliance Energy convention center–without the lure of free brats and beer– parting with $15—nearly a case of Old Milwaukee–to attend the three-day weekend, during which they bought as many as 700 boats.
But most importantly, the event once again offered the year’s first look at the unveiling of new gear for the upcoming season. PL was on hand sniffing around to bring you the following sample of what you’re likely to see on the water this year…
Wenonah Canoe owner Mike Cichanowski might have been busy this spring racing Wisconsin’s grueling Birkiebiner cross-country ski race, but that hasn’t stopped the company from continuing its tradition of innovation. This year it’s changed its Escapade enough to for us call it a new boat, and at 16’6” it’s sized right to fit two needs: it can hold enough gear for small paddlers and minimalists to use on extended trips, while the big boys will be treated to a solid day tripper. By increasing the center tumblehome Wenonah’s made a canoe more suited to occasional solo outings than the original Escapade.
Available in Tuf-weave Flex-core, Kevlar Flex-core and Kevlar Ultra-light.
Filling Wenonah’s large solo wilderness tripping canoe gap is the Wilderness, which is a scaled-up Vagabond. This canoe rewards large boaters with its impressive capacity and stability, and is designed get you as far away from crowded beachfronts as you want.
Available in Royalex, Tuf-weave Flex-core, Kevlar Flex-core, Kevlar Ultra-light and Graphite Ultra-light.
The Wee Lassie is a throwback to the traditional Adirondack style, but that doesn’t mean it’s stuck in the past. Benefiting from Wenonah’s lightweight construction technology this canoe weighs in at a shocking 24 pounds, so light paddlers should have no trouble moving this boat on and off the water. Love canoes but you’re tempted by the allure of double-bladed paddles? The Wee Lassie’s adjustable seat makes it easier than ever to use a kayak paddle, so switch up as you please.
Available in Kevlar layup.
Nova Craft Canoe completes its family of traditionally designed canoes with the Cronje, an efficient touring canoe. While designed to cover distances on large open lakes this seventeen-foot craft handles deftly on simple moving water.
Capacity: 1,000 lbs
Available in Kevlar, Kevlar/Spectra, Blue Steel and R-Lite.
Old Town has released the Pack in a new configuration—this one designed to get you landing the big ones in comfort and style. The Pack Angler is fully outfitted for under a thousand dollars, set up completely to be the ultimate solo fishing canoe. A rodholder is something you’d expect but the workdeck in front of the seat might surprise you, and the boat is stable enough to clean your catch on board and eat it, right there. If you’re that kind of guy.
Weight: 33 lbs
Capacity: 578 lbs
Available in Royalex
On the other end of the price spectrum is Old Town’s Koru LE, ]available for a wallet-busting five grand. Only 50 of these limited edition canoes are being made, each handcrafted by designer Geoff King. These floating works of art is made of carbon fiber and trimmed in furniture grade wood, and it is an experience just to look at one.
Weight: 62 lbs
Capacity: 1,000 lbs
No new models are out from the Bell Canoes Works, as the company focuses on improving the existing line. What are they doing? Internal skid plates are being made standard on all of Bell’s composite boats, and work is being done to make their fabrics stronger without adding weight.
Sawyer Paddles and Oars
Shaggy and Bruce at Sawyer are hitting the water running, with new, super-aesthetic bent and straight-shaft touring and whitewater paddles. On the touring front is the Orca V-lam, available in bent $279 and straight ($249) versions. Both are adjustable in length (straight: 10 cm; bent: 5 cm) and come with adjustable ferrules. On the whitewater side comes the one-piece cedar Copperhead ($299.95) and Diamond back ($249.95), with a straight carbon shaft with a cedar core and blades with carbon on one glass on the back showing the cedar core construction. Info: www.paddlesandoars.com
Whiskeyjack Paddles has released a number of more affordable paddles for ’08. The Good Sky sports a traditional shape, with straight shaft and beavertail blade, but is lighter than most hardwood paddles. At $99 we can afford the old school look this paddle sports.
Blade Dimensions: 6” x 22”
The Whiskey Stroke is a bent shaft that won’t break the bank at $99. It’s light and is meant to hold up against abuse.
Blade Dimensions: 8” x 18”
Bent shaft; 12-degree bend
Bending Branches is out with the Espresso line of straight shaft and bent paddles.
The Espresso Plus ST* is made of Black Willow wood and sports a glassed blade protected by Rockgard wrap. One sweet-ass looking paddle.
Blade Dimensions: 8” x 20”
* The Espresso Plus 14 is of the same dimensions as the ST, but with a bent shaft.
Werner’s Compulsion is an extremely light and stiff outrigger racing paddle that makes an excellent touring paddle as well. Their large blades make these paddles best for those with broad shoulders and slower cadences.
Blade Dimensions: 9.25” x 19.25”
Bent shaft; 12 degree bend
New from Native is the Marvel family of recreational kayaks designed to be light, efficient and affordable. The boats are available in 10, 12 and 14.5 foot sizes. The 14 footer can be bought either as a large solo or a tandem kayak. What we liked: padding around the cockpit rim makes putting your feet up a relaxing experience. All of the sizes have a rear storage hatch, and the two larger ones can be outfitted with a rudder.
Width: Marvel 10: 31”
Marvel 12: 30”
Marvel 14.5: 31”
Also out is the Magic—a dedicated sit-on-top kayak fishing platform complete with rod holders, thigh straps, a second seat, anchors and a slew of other accessories that can be attached to mounts in the hull. This one is available in two sizes, 12 and 14.5 foot lengths, the larger one available either as a solo or tandem, and both can be bought with rudders.
Width: 12 footer: 31”
14.5 footer: 32”
Wilderness Systems’ Pungo has received a new removable deck console that acts as a spray cover and storage area. The comfortable Phase-3 outfitting has not been changed. The Pungo comes in 10, 12 and 14 foot sizes.
Width: Pungo 100: 30”
Pungo 120: 29”
Pungo 140: 28”
(The larger widths on the shorter boats make them more stable and forgiving. The shorter width of the longer kayaks is done to trade stability for speed.)
Two new touring models are also available this year: the Zephyr 15.5 and 16.0 are out in polyethylene and composite materials. The Zephyr is a forgiving tourer that handles well in variable conditions.
Dagger’s Approach 10 it whitewater ready with a soft chines and a rounded ends, but its drop-down skeg keeps it tracking well on flatwater. A great kayak for someone who needs one boat to hit all the fishing spots, and the large stern hatch and storage area gives you a place to keep your catch.
Weight: 44 lbs
Capacity: 330 lbs
Hobie’s MirageDrive system adds a new dimension to kayaking. For the full review check out the full review.
Venture Kayak has redesigned the Easky family: The new models feature a GPS or fish finder mount, fishing rod holders and a paddle park, among other upgrades. Both models have two hatches for gear storage, and the 13 foot model is designed to serve as a stable and forgiving introduction to touring.
Lengths: 13’7” and 15’
Widths: 26.5” and 23.5”
Weights: 46 and 50 lbs
Current Designs has a few new models for ’08. The Vision series is a new line of entry-level, versatile short-touring kayaks available in four versions, all of which are available in composite construction. The largest single, the 150, is also available in polyethylene. These boats have soft chines and shallow “v” hulls for, making them forgiving and efficient to paddle.
The Double Vision is 16’8” tandem that offers all the features of the single Visions for two.
Widths: Vision 130, 140, and 150: 24”
Double Vision: 28”
Fiberglass/Kevlar hybrid construction
The Cypress is also new this year. A British-style tourer with a drop-down skeg, the Cypress can accommodate large paddlers and larger loads, and is excellent for someone looking for a kayak that will be ready for any challenge.
Weight 48 lbs