Best In Show: Canoecopia 2013

By Lou Dzierzak

Every March, more than 20,000 Midwestern paddlers make an annual pilgrimage to attend the Canoecopia expo in Madison, Wis. The parking lot is filled with license plates from Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, and Ontario, which document Canoecopia's appeal. Over the three-day event, paddling enthusiasts at this weekend’s show visited more than 200 exhibitors to check out the latest canoes, kayaks, paddles, apparel, gear and accessories. Some of them stood out above the rest to become the best in show. [Check out more pics HERE]

Darren Bush, owner of Rutabaga Paddlesports and host of Canoecopia believes paddlers from centuries past would feel comfortable at the consumer show. "If a voyageur from 300 years ago came back in time and saw Canoecopia, they would immediately recognize what it is," explains Bush. "There's a lot of commerce, partying, hanging out, catching up and telling stories. Connecting with the paddling community is a big part of the attraction."

Commerce was definitely in play in 2013. C4 Waterman, a first-time exhibitor, sold out of products mid-day on Saturday. That did little to prevent other buyers from ordering the brand's standup paddleboards for future delivery. "Being included in Canoecopia means you have arrived as a brand," reports Todd Bradley, CEO and co-founder, C4 Waterman. "I've never seen anything like it. The show was awesome."

The staff manning the Yakima booth shared a similar experience. "There was a wave of people that started about noon Saturday. I didn't look up for the next six hours. It was amazing," says Casper Rubalcava, US marketing manager, Whispbar and Prorack.

Canoecopia attracts an audience that is experienced and knowledgeable about their paddling activities. But the appeal of new product designs is strong. "Most people come here to learn about what's new. Although some are fairly entrenched in what they know they are open-minded and willing to learn about new products," reports Mike Ramsey, owner of Badger Paddles.

Lila Menzies, manager, marketing and sales, accessories at Confluence Watersports agrees: “If they were looking for paddles, they checked out Aqua-Bound, Werner, Bending Branches and Adventure Technologies to see what they had to offer,” she says. “After doing their competitive research they were making purchases."

Here are some of the products attracting attention at Canoecopia 2013.

C4 Waterman Wahine
The 10’10 Wahine is designed for novice to advanced distance paddling, coastal cruising, and race training. Designed to bring maximum efficiency and easy speed to every stroke. Paddlers will love this board for its drag-free glide, versatility, and portability. (, $1275)

Novacraft Ocoee

The Ocoee is an extremely flexible boat suitable for creeking and general river running. The hard chines and flat bottom create a carving edge that taps into the power of the river making for tighter turns that let you snap in and out of eddies with ease.  The hull has a compound tumblehome on the sides that gives it remarkable secondary stability compared to other open-playboat canoe designs. (, $1,399)

Harmony Stowaway Cart
The Stowaway Cart makes transporting your kayak or canoe easy. It is simple to set up and breakdown and small enough to stow in your boat. The aluminum frame is corrosion resistant. (, $79.99).

SteriPEN Ultra

The SteriPEN purifiers water with ultraviolet (UV) light technology. A user-friendly OLED shows battery status, treatment success and UV lamp life. The battery is USB-rechargeable via computer, outlet or portable solar panel. Purifies half a liter in less than a minute. (, $99.95)

Badger Paddles

Badger paddles add a water-based non-toxic tint to add some style and fun. Choose from blue, green, pink, purple, turquoise, yellow, orange, multi-colored or black. Cubs (children’s paddles) are made from poplar. The adult version is made from ash and includes a paddle sock. (, $125 Adult WaterColours, $45 Cubs)


Two Thule 10-foot locking straps with locking cylinders keep your hull secure. Steel cables inside a theft-resistant nylon sleeve provide a dual-layer locking system. The lock housing is rubber-coated to prevent vehicle and equipment scratches. (, $69.95)


Kokatat's Maximus Prime rescue PFD was designed with input from Eric and Dane Jackson. The Prime is a Type 5 rescue version of the new Maximus PFD platform featuring the Dynamic Suspension System (DSS). DSS features wide, contoured shoulder straps that allow an independently suspended front flotation panel to move with the paddler. Made with all Gaia foam, the Prime also features a quick-release safety harness and O-ring, a tether/tow system, and an electronics pocket. (, $218)


In 2013, Therm-a-Rest is launching a collection of goose down and synthetic sleeping bags. Therm-a-Rest eliminates unneeded bulk and weight with thermal mapped, zoned insulation. The 750+ fill-power goose down Antares bag is highly compressible. (, $349.95)