Paddlers came from as far away as Barcelona and from every corner of
the Midwest, braving the cold Wisconsin winter.
temperatures in the low teens, spring fever was in the air for Rutabaga’s annual Canoecopia. Since 1981 visitors have been
flocking to Madison, Wisconsin for a weekend of boating fun.
“Canoecopia is a mixture of a consumer event,
paddling exhibition, outdoor school and family reunion.” said Darren
Bush, co-owner of Rutabaga. “It’s the sort of event that brings
people back every year to see what’s new in paddling, but also to see
fellow paddlers and enjoy that community.”
Congratulations to Dave Kruger, winner of a Nova Craft Bob Special 15 ft. canoe!
We drew his name from the new subscribers to Canoe & Kayak Magazine at the show. Next time you see us at a paddling event ask if we have a contest going.
The Alliant Energy Center in Madison was buzzing with crowds of
paddlers eager to break out of winters grip and start paddling.
Canoecopia is now billed as the world’s largest paddling event and it
feels like it. Paddlers of all types–canoeists, kayakers, kayak
fisher folk and rafters–flock to learn about the latest and greatest
in the paddling world and to dream the coming summers adventures.
This year the crowd’s enthusiasm was contagious. Before the show I
wasn’t sure if the specter of high gas prices and sliding economy
would dampen the enthusiasm but it did not feel as if it affected
anyone, as the cash registers rang steadily all weekend as boats, gear
and accessories exited the exhibition in the hands of eager paddlers
by the truckload. Perhaps they were prodded by the bargain prices of
gear or if the bitter cold winter outside made everyone more eager to
buy gear and plan for the coming summers adventures.
There were over 100 exhibitors, boat manufacturers, outfitters and
even paddling schools, filling the exhibition space to capacity.
Saturday we felt like sardines on the way to the cannery–the crowds
were unbelievable but everyone was just glad to be there talking
boating and not stuck inside the house looking out at ice and snow.
The educational component of Canoecopia makes it a unique event. Six
speaker rooms seating from 200 to 500 run continuously over the three-
day event, with over 50 speakers and presenters. “There is
something for everybody,” says Megan Pfieffer, Canoecopia Event
Coordinator. “We have topics that touch on all aspects of paddling
all over the world. This year over 29,000 speaker seats were
Among the presenters were Eugene Buchanan who gave a slide
show of his amazing raft trip in Russia and the book that came out of
it – Brothers on
the Bashkaus. How do you make cataraft tubes from germ warfare
suits? Canoeing legends Joanie and Gary McGuffin were offering tips
on how to canoe with children and in case you wanted to go out in the
frigid Midwestern weather paddling David Freeman (read about our
coverage of his circumnavigation of Lake Superior .) was showing us how to camp in the cold weather. John Grace
of Lunch Video
Magazine explained how to produce a video about your next
kayaking trip. Kayak fisherman Captain Charles Wright of Chokoloskee Charters journeyed up
from the 80plus degree weather in Florida to show us how to catch
some big ones in the Everglades from a kayak.
There was an indoor pool for on the water demos. Lines were long
with people waiting to get to see the demonstrations on paddling
techniques. Over in the pool Dubside was thrilling everyone with
his acrobatic Greenland Style rolling and Fred Hartry demonstrated
the great fast growing sport of stand up surfing.
In the main exhibition hall paddling gear dominated. Here are some of our favorites:
paddles showed off a beautiful bamboo canoe paddle with a carbon
reinforced shaft as well as some sweet looking new bent shaft creek
paddles, and a new sea kayak touring paddle, the Orca V-Lam. Over
Hurricane kayaks, Brad Taylor was touting their new USA made,
thermoformed sit-on-top, the Phoenix 160, and the crazy low prices of
all their kayaks.
Branches leader Ed Vater, proudly showed off his collection of
empty boxes (business was good at the show) and their new kids
paddle, the splash. Bear Paw Outdoors was showing off the newJackson Kayaks whitewater
kayak, the super hero while the folks at Pyrhana showed their new Rev-M
and said they are planning a smaller Everest kayak also. Esquif Canoes was showing their carbon fiber canoes and Novacraft Canoes is coming
out with a new plaid top sheet on one of their canoes – looks like
Rock is bringing his snowboard style over to the canoeing crowd. In
the accessories category Ostrom Outdoors showed off their new camp
kitchen, you can turn any tree into an organized outdoor kitchen.
It’s not that often that revolutionary safety gear comes along but
North Water has a sick new anchor called the Canyon Creeker that is
part repelling device, anchor, and tow tether and rescue device all
There were plenty of exhibitors for the do-it-yourself types also.
My favorite was the North House Folk School. Based in Minnesota,
they offer a range of classes from building traditional Inuit kayaks
to north woods wood-canvas canoes and paddles. They had folks on
hand demonstrating how to carve your own canoe paddle. The Wooden Canoe Heritage
Association was also there showing off a bevy of wood strip canoe
If you were interested in finding your next paddle adventure there
were outfitters galore. Companies like the Minnesotans Worldwide Paddling Adventures and Canada’s Wabakimi Wilderness
Adventures. Wabakimi is billed as the world’s largest wilderness
paddling park and it made my list of places I have to paddle before I die.
Now for the fun part… we get to go out and wait for the rivers and
lakes to melt and plan those trips we just found about using all that
the new gear we just got at the show.
I hear it’s going to get up
to 40 this week in Madison and the ice will start melting…it’s about
time. Happy Paddling!