For the Love of Paddling

Back in the early 1970s, in addition to the Age of Aquarius, a boom in outdoor recreation was dawning. At the time, most counterculture paddlers and backpackers didn’t recognize it as a trend. Any sign of conformity was anathema to the tie-dyed society. They were just grooving on nature, while flower power fueled the nascent outdoor industry.


At the same time, a new magazine – Canoe – appeared on the scene. Like many start-ups, it struggled at first to simply pay the bills, much less to make a profit.


The magazine was uprooted from its original home in Chicago, then repotted in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Camden, Maine, waiting patiently for conditions that would allow it to flourish and blossom. That opportunity arose when Dave and Judy Harrison purchased the magazine in 1984. After a coast-to-coast move and a year spent figuring out how to run the business, they transplanted Canoe one last time back to their home in Kirkland, Washington.


The Harrisons worked hard and capitalized on some luck of the times. “Outdoor sports were beginning to boom, and computer power for both managing and publishing was suddenly affordable for even a pip-squeak magazine,” Dave recalled. Under their guidance, Canoe magazine’s circulation more than doubled, advertising revenues increased significantly, and actual profits began to materialize. To nurture the magazine’s success, the Harrisons worked tirelessly to help the fledgling paddlesports industry mature. “Here was a shaky magazine in a flaky ‘industry,’ dominated by lifestylers laying up boats in their garages,” Dave observed.


Judy organized the industry’s initial gathering, which led to the formation of the North American Paddlesports Association. Through this trade organization, canoe and kayak manufacturers were presented for the first time with demographic and statistical data that helped them market their industry and its products. “Those lifestylers grew up,” Judy said. “And we did, too.”


The pair influenced almost every aspect of paddlesports, from conservation to promotional events. They shared a lifelong passion for paddling that led to their meeting scores of wonderful, generous, brilliant, eccentric, daring, passionate, wild and crazy people, many of whom became fast friends.


Appearing throughout the anniversary issue of Canoe & Kayak are annual sidebars – one for each year of the magazine’s 30-year history. These include noteworthy magazine issues, significant paddlesports accomplishments, and quotes from some of those wonderful, generous, brilliant, eccentric, daring, passionate, wild and crazy paddlers.


In rare moments when they could be found off the water, contributing editor Larry Rice asked these canoeists and kayakers one simple question: “What do you love about paddling?” Read their replies and see if you don’t agree that there’s a lot to be said for the love of paddling.

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