The first Paddlesports Retailer trade show launched last week in Madison, Wis. The sold-out and well-attended, paddlesports-specific show certainly delivered with four days of paddling’s biggest brands displaying their latest and greatest for dealers and specialty retailers, not to mention inquisitive media hoping for a sneak peek of what to expect in the year to come. Here’s the highlights of what caught our editors’ attention as we cruised the Alliant Center hall as well as the adjacent park lake, which hosted an open-water demo on Aug 29. (Next year, the show moves to Oklahoma City.)
CURRENT DESIGNS KARLA / BENDING BRANCHES TANGO
@cdkayak welcomes the new 15-foot Karla into its Danish family of playful coastal cruisers that includes the 16' Sisu and 17' Prana. Think British bow lines for rockered rough-water readiness into a lower, more Greenland-style back end. Don't let the mix of Euro design roots confuse you; the comfortable outfitting and higher knee height simply provide a unique import-like feel to a performance tourer made in the U.S. (look out for an LV version later this year). We paired a first speed date with Karla at the @paddlesportsretailer show (which wrapped up Friday in Madison) with @bending_branches' svelte new Tango, swinging light at 35 ounces for an all-carbon two-piece with a simple-adjusting and -locking ferrule system. Other big news from @wenonah_canoe /CD is the expansion of T-Formex — the layered ABS laminate 'Royalex replacement' material developed by @esquifcanoes and used in the production of Wenonah's popular Spirit II last year — across six models of the Minnesota manufacturer's deep line, including versions of the Adirondack, Aurora, Prospector and Wilderness, in both green and the red pictured.
MUSTANG SURVIVAL KHIMERA
The B.C. rescue product crafters at @mustangsurvival celebrate their 50th anniversary this year with the innovative Khimera, the first hybrid inflatable PFD approved by the @uscg and Transport Canada. We couldn't help but give the slim, low-profile full jacket with 8 lbs base flotation a little 'Tommy Boy' jerk to test how it adds another 14.5 lbs that stays internal ($200)
ASTRAL BREWER 2.0 / TR1 MERGE
A couple big new releases from @astralfootwear highlighted the first @paddlesportsretailer show, which wrapped Friday. The first, pictured bottom, is the new Brewer, ready for its 2.0 upgrade following 5 years of heavy use and feedback for the popular flagship shoe (and its women's Brewess counterpart) yielding an integrated liner for smoother sock-free water wear, sealed-to-sole upper (as opposed to stitched), plus wider-spaced G Rubber lugs on the flip side. The more trail-ready TR1 family now includes three shoe models, as well as the scaled-up TR1 Merge, pictured up top, mixing parts of the Junction and Rassler, with a shank-stiffened sole that offers expedition paddlers a rugged and reinforced option made with precisely their needs in mind (available in the early new year)
PYRANHA RIPPER / OCTANE
When you ask Graham Mackereth about the design inspiration for the new Ripper from @pyranhaus_official, be prepared for a long answer, a master's class in craft shaping that goes back to recreational paddling's roots in the mid-19th century. The living legend's ideas come from a lot of places. Mackereth cites his recent restoration of a vintage wooden speedboat to explain the Ripper's lines to the stern that result in level running at higher speeds. The dynamic hull? Well, that goes back to modifications Mackereth has been making to slalom-based river runners since Pyranha's commercial debut of the Trident 1 in 1971. The Brit-based brand's tinkering doesn't end there. Also new is the plastic Octane, a joint project with @thinkkayak.global allowing paddlers to "go fast," as Mackereth puts it, "where an almost beginner can actually enjoy the experience." (look for a decked version, called the Valkyrie, out later this year).
KOKATAT NAIAD / PROTEUS
@kokatatusa continues pushing life jacket design with the debut of the Naiad (and Proteus, its male-torso contoured counterpart) by integrating shoulder straps into a single backpack-like breathable collar that cinches down articulated panels of soft PVC-free foam. Every-paddler comfort extras include the soft stretch outer, fleece-lined hand pockets and high back ($139/119).
CATARACT OARS DESO
The Deso series from Cataract Oars @cataractoars gripped our attention by going thin, utilizing a filament-wound carbon shaft that rounds out to a wider diameter at two urethane grips. These provide a unique feel that has us itching to apply some torque to the carbon foam-core, Dynel-edged blades, producing a solid stick weighing in at around 35 ounces. #paddlesportsretailer
@chrisgragtmans gives us the rundown of the Phantom, a long-cooking @daggerkayaks passion project realized to create a more dynamic, race-ready performer (in one size just shy of 9 feet, at 89 gals.). With low stern rocker and parting lines designed to create a faster hull that won't put paddlers in the back seat, as Gragtmans explains, the Phantom moves "like a 9-foot Green Boat."
NRS GUIDE SERIES
@swiftcanoeandkayak's new all-carbon seat molding caught our attention at @paddlesportsretailer. Last spring we reviewed the Keewaydin 17-ft tripping canoe in the #bwca -- our knees and shoulders especially loved the light load on portage. And now they've shaved having yet even more pounds -- their premium carbon fusion package, complete with an ergonomic and padded yoke, cuts the weight of a 17' tripper down to 36 lbs! (Premium of course at a premium, $3800 price).
We're on site all week at @paddlesportsretailer in Madison, Wis., and will be showcasing the latest boats and paddling gear that catch our attention! — First up is the Skyrise rooftop tent from @Yakimaracks – We liked the roominess and ease of setup. The durable components and build have the trunk totting and trailer haulers among us itching to lounge ($1249 for 3-person, $999 for 2). Rack purists will want to check out the Showdown side-loader ($449). It offers a lot of practicality and intuitive ease for board and boat loading. Stay tuned for a more detailed editorial test later this year!
-- Want more new paddling gear previews for the year ahead? Check out a few of the new paddling accessories that debuted at this summer’s Outdoor Retailer show, as well as notable new kayak fishing products at the 2017 ICast and OR Summer Market trade shows; For more in-depth reviews, see our recent slate of Field Tested gear profiles, as well as our recent review of 5 do-it-call tripping canoes, including the mentioned 17-foot Swift Keewaydin.