Strokes for all Folks: Canoecopia Goes Big in Mad Town

A scene from a recent Canoecopia event in Madison, Wisc. (Photo courtesy Canoecopia)

Don’t be surprised is your local waterways were a little less crowded last weekend.

On March 7-10, more than 20,000 paddlers of all strokes descended upon Madison, Wisc., for the annual Canoecopia show, hosted by retailer Rutabaga Paddlesports.

Billed as the “World’s Largest Paddlesports Expo,”

The event showcased more than 250,000 square feet of kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards, outdoor equipment, clothing, and more, all wrapped around a weekend of nearly 200 presentations, seminars and clinics, and the obligatory socializing that ensues whenever paddlers get together.

“It was a great show,” says Rutabaga owner Darren Bush. “The turnout was great, even though the weather turned nasty Saturday afternoon, and so was the vibe. All in all, it was a great success.”

One attendee, he adds, drove 28 hours through a blizzard from Las Vegas to attend the show.

“We had a wonderful time with our community, and we’re grateful for their support for the show, both spiritually and through sales,” Bush adds. “The speakers were wonderful, and Aluminum Chef was filmed for a Public Television show.”

Indeed, Canoecopia is as much an educational event where you can learn about gear, develop skills and discover new destinations, as it is a show for shopping. Still, it’s the latter, and consumers’ demand to see and purchase what’s new for the year, that drives exhibitor interest.

“Just like every year the flood gates were opened and a rush of paddling-starved Midwesterners filled the show room floor each day,” says Nick Hinds, Northwest Sales & Customer Service Rep for Werner. “We noticed a slight decrease in traffic but it did seem like serious buyers looking for quality products were there.  It’s a testament to the vendors that travel to support this show, that so many folks know to avoid big box outlets and choose more useful quality paddling brands.”

The speakers and clinics added a very real component to the weekend’s educational feel, he adds. “Our favorite presenter and team athlete Jim Baird made everyone’s sides hurt from laughter,” Hinds says.

Exhibitor registration for 2020 will open up in May.