Mark Hall compares his long career in paddlesports to a “ridiculous disease.” The Vancouver Island-based sales manager for Kayak Distribution, a Canadian company that brokers Boreal Design, Riot Kayaks and Corran SUPs, says he should’ve made a run for the Alberta oil sands a long time ago. But there’s something about designing and selling kayaks that won’t let go of Hall’s imagination. Perhaps that passion is why Kayak Distribution has emerged as a key player in the paddlesports industry.
Kayak Distribution’s model relies on offshore production: Its composite kayaks are built in Estonia, and plastics are molded at a brand-new facility near Shanghai, China, which employs 40 full-time workers. Hall sells to markets around the world, from Russia to Australia, while catering to the North American retailers and outfitters who have long relied on touring kayaks from Boreal Designs. With its new plastics facility, Hall says Kayak Distribution is poised to start prototyping boats and designing molds for other manufacturers and retailers.
Meantime, Hall is excited about two new thermoform Boreal Design kayaks due out in 2016: A Greenland-style boat conceived with the advice of expert rollers James Manke and James Roberts; and a British-inspired, rough-water design called the Storm will be available in three lengths. The latter, Hall promises, will be “the ultimate guide’s boat.” Both will be constructed in thermoform plastic, which Hall says strikes a perfect blend of performance and durability at an attractive price.
“The Greenland EXP fills the void left when we dropped Tahe from our line,” says Hall. “It has more rocker and will fit everyone. It will do okay at $2,500.”
Even as he’s watched the touring kayak market become saturated with barebones, recreational “cheapies” sold at big-box stores, Hall believes this has created a larger pool of potential paddlers to woo into the “longboat” market with ergonomic, high-performance designs. Kayak Distribution’s Boreal Design “boutique” shops in Quebec have survived the big-box onslaught because they sell exciting boats at reasonable prices, says Hall.
“Everybody loves the idea of being in a longboat,” he insists. “That’s a real kayak, not a cheapie Costco boat. People dream about buying a longboat and learning how to use it. That emotion is still strong. I’m sure we’re going to see the longboat return. We’re trying to make it more accessible.”
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