“For Paddlers…By Paddlers”
This was the inaugural Paddlesports Retailer, so I managed to get a day off work and hit the show for one day. Unfortunately, that day was Friday and the show was sparse. Most of the PR folks lit out for home on Thursday, though I did get to meet a few. On the positive side, fewer people made for better viewing and definitely better chatting – most vendors had time and a strong desire to tell their story.
Yak Power is a brilliant electrical system designed with kayak anglers in mind, but my mind raced feverishly imagining all the things you could do with it with canoe or kayak camping in mind. The plug and play system features lights, usb outlets, and can power any smaller electronic device you can imagine. My thinking cap is on.
Yakima clearly has been working in multiple dimensions on their recent products: a car top tent, retractable awning, trailer hitch support bar, and an amazing new trailer. Each of the items has most of what you’d expect, but each one also works in several ways and has intriguing features. For example, the trailer not only has a tongue that swivels out of the way when parked, the tongue also has an integrate handle that allows the user to pick up the trailer and move it by hand. Smart. Keep an eye out for these new products coming soon.
Kokatat is well-known for their drysuits and other paddling clothes. It turns out they have some great personal flotation devices as well, as well as rain jackets and more. One of the things I loved in their booth was the crazy beautiful vibrant colors they have for all their gear. If you don’t like that, however, don’t fret – they come in muted tones as well. I’m looking forward to seeing if we can partner together on a planned Buffalo River trip that’s in the planning stages with Missouri Howell even as I write this.
While the canoes from Pakboats are flat-out gorgeous, owner/designer Alv assured me that it was way too much boat for me, as they are used for expedition canoeing in the very worst weather on earth. Happily, his kayaks are just as enticing, especially as they are convertible, using an optional deck or going topless.
The boats from the Folding Boat Company were quite the opposite, with the K-PAK not very attractive in design, to my eye. What they lacked in comeliness they more than made up for in light weight and ease of use: a rigid aluminum folding frame remains inside the skin, so setting up the canoe is as simple as joining the frame via attached sleeves, inflating flotation bladders, and you are ready to go. That ease of set-up/breakdown is further made intriguing by the light weight – a claimed 21 pounds!
I met with Hala some years ago at Outdoor Retailer, but it wasn’t a good fit, as they were primarily focused on whitewater river SUPing at the time. They’ve branched out into the recreational SUP market now, with an insanely cool new feature that should bring joy to all inflatable SUP fans. Unidirectional Carbon + Fusion Drop Stitch is combined with aramid fibers and compressed at 200,000 lbs and then laid up on the top and bottom of the board, creating the benefits of a hardboard, but with less weight and the portability of an iSUP. Fantastic stuff.
This year Paddlesports Retailer was held at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI, where we attended in Canoecopia. It was cool to see the similarities and differences between the 2 shows. Organizers of Paddlesport Retailer have announced plans to host the next industry trade show in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 2018. I don’t think I’ve visited that city before, so a great reason to go!