Wandering Around Out There With A Canoe On My Head

Canoecopia 2012 – Day 3

by Preston
March 19, 2012
There was a little something for all kinds of paddlers at Canoecopia. This is either a very small canoe or a really big hat.

The day before, I had made it through most of the exhibitor area at Canoecopia, and for the final day I figured I’d finish up seeing all the exhibitors, with couple of presentations to see in between. While I was eager to buy a bunch of stuff in the previous days, I figured the best plan was to save it all for the last day. Because I was going in and out of the show room, I figured there was no reason to carry stuff around with me the whole time. So today’s finale, for me, was a mad gear shopping spree. I’m very smart – too smart as it turns out. Another way to put it: I’m “smart“. My father and his cop buddies have a saying to dig each other that goes “Big boy… (short pause) … but not too bright.” It’s since been shortened to “Big boy….

Thick rounded blades, with bent shafts – very popular in Wisconsin

In order to explain my reasoning, let me describe how Canoecopia works. The Aliant Energy Center is a big convention center that is separated into to main areas, one for the presentations, the other for the exhibitors. You get a wrist band going in as proof of paying the price of admission. You can wander around, see a talk or a demo, or grab something to eat or drink. Then you have to cross through into the exhibitor area, where you have to show your wristband again. Funny thing, with all the walking in and out of the exhibition area, and often outside to tweet or post due to cell phone reception, I must have walked through the gates 100 times. I’d raise my arm showing my wristband with a big friendly (dopey) grin as if to suggest “Don’t worry about me, I’ve paid to get in.” When walking into the building I was waved in by smiling attendants, amused at my antics (or laughing at me, not sure). It was going into and out of the exhibitor area where they were a little more serious. (My little camera bag was checked a few times.) The reason for this is that unlike most of the shows to which I’ve been, there is only one single spot for you to pay for anything you buy at the show. This is both brilliant, and convenient. Want a paddle you see at a booth? Just grab it and pay for it on your way out of the show. (So glad I found this out in time or this would be a completely different type of story. One where I’d be telling you about the time I was banned from Canoecopia because I tackled some poor lady for “stealing” one of the Badger Paddles while I was visiting with owner Mike. She was so nonchalant about taking it, and Mike didn’t seem to mind, so I let it go and asked him about it instead.)

Anyway, it’s a great idea for a lot of reasons. Worried about carrying (enough) cash to buy from individual exhibitors, never knowing what kind of payment they might take? Don’t. The main checkout at the show handles all purchases in any way you prefer. Don’t want to carry things around while walking through the exhibits? Just go back and grab one of the provided shopping bags, stuff it with all the stuff you want and head to the checkout. I of course took this to the extreme and decided I wasn’t going to pick anything up until Sunday, just before the close of the show. This way I wouldn’t have to carry anything around, back and forth into the two areas, trying to explain to security that I paid for this stuff already. I found out later I had nothing to worry about because they had bag and coat checking services that I didn’t notice (“Big Boy…”).  Proof they’ve got everything covered at this event.

This kayak builder, along with making artistic kayaks, has patented a “surf wing” – www.surf-wing.com

Another secret to the success of the show: It’s got a lot of space. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of people walking through, but you rarely get involuntarily intimate, bumping into hundreds of people (huge pet peeve with me). This and the centralized checkout must be loved by the exhibitors as well. I know I’ve skipped quite a few purchases because of having to wait in a crowded, bumpy, unorganized line in a small booth. Oh and get this: everything – everything – is discounted for the show. When I did eventually bring my loot bag to the centralized checkout (which was also huge making the process quite quick), I questioned the total. The guy apologized about having to add tax. “Sorry,” I said laughing, “I expected it to be much more than that.” The guy double checked and finally laughed, reminding me about the discount. (“Big Boy….”) But more on that in a bit. I still had some presentations to see, and at the start of the day I still hadn’t made it through the entire exhibitor area. (I wouldn’t describe myself as “chatty”, but when it comes to being around outdoor/paddling exhibitors, turns out I’m downright gabby.)

David Morlock tells you the best pictures comes from being there

There were a couple of noteworthy presentations I attended, but while I indulged in a few for personal interest, there were just too many good shows to see. The first was a talk by David Morlock, who offered photography tips, showing us how to better frame our subjects, anticipate a good shot, and to not be afraid to tell a story. I found him to be a particularly good source of information for me personally, because he started out as a canoe tripper taking pictures and turned, got good at it and turned it into a business (and not the other way around). If you’d like to see his slideshow for the presentation, he was nice enough to put it up here (if you look at nothing else, check out the picture of the loon). I think what stayed with me the most was this bit of advice: The best way to get better photos is by being there. In other words, fancy cameras and lenses are nice, photo and lighting theory is also good, but the best way to get good at photography is to get out there and do it. It’s practice, first of all, but how can you take pictures of great spots without getting out to those great spots?

Becky Mason checking out a Badger Paddle. A canoe icon chooses a straight shaft. Just sayin’.

I skipped the only Kevin Callan one for example, because I had seen his DVD Wilderness Quest at a previous show, as well as other similar presentations that I can catch closer to home. (Apologies to Scott MacGregor, who made sure I was aware of the “Reel Paddling Film Fest”, but again, I’ll attend somewhere in Ontario. He gave a talk called “Good Dad, Bad Dad” that I really wanted to see, and should try to get him to do it again.) I did see one on Isle Royale, a place that fascinates me, but will probably not visit anytime soon (Too much I need to do on this side of the border first – and they won’t let me bring Nancy).

Becky Mason showing off her skills at Canoecopia

I’m going to upset a few people here, and maybe I’ll be a little gutless and cut it, but I also skipped Becky Mason‘s canoeing demo. Wait! Don’t click the close button. Let me explain. You see, I’ve seen a couple of her presentations recently, bought her DVD (had it autographed in fact), and will be writing about that soon. I also got a chance to speak with her. You see she came by the Badger Paddle booth, looking to borrow a paddle for her demo. She and owner Mike Ramsey chatted about paddle preferences and building techniques, while I just sat back soaking it in – and taking a bunch of pictures of course. Her demo was at 12:00, and I wanted to see another that started at 12:30. (I should also mention that the pool was a bit of a walk away, at the attached hotel.)

Very helpful way to remember how to pronounce “Pukaskwa”

Instead, I went and caught the beginning, Becky warming up, showing off her moves, but not wanting to be the guy who walked out while she spoke, I left before she began. What was so important to skip out on Becky Mason – Queen of canoeing, paddling icon? Well, I had heard that the talk on Pukaskwa was one you had to attend. I was also thinking of canoeing the park, and wanted to hear more about it. Adding to that were three tweets (here, here and here) intrigued me enough to make it something I had to see for myself. Turns out Lyn Elliot from Puksaskwa National Park is a great speaker. She showed us the park, blending in stories of trips down the rivers and paddling along the coast.  As you can imagine, I appreciate a story teller. There are two main stories that are interwoven into her presentation are heartwarming. I’m not going to spoil it for you, in case you can catch her presentation, but the one story especially, has obvious strong emotional meaning to her, and even after giving this presentation countless times, she is nearly overcome when telling it. I would imagine that quite a few people in the audience might be sympathetically moved.

Everyone loves a good story. This one was a good story.

It was a great way to end the weekend at Canoecopia. There was just one last thing I needed to do: Go buy stuff! Like I said, I was waiting for the last possible time to do this, so as to not have to carry stuff around the whole time – because I’m smart. I even had a shopping list of stuff I was going to pick up and mapped out where I needed to go to get it on my way out. I was so confident I even hung out with Mike at the Badger Paddles booth for a bit before taking off (probably talking about how smart I was). There were three main things I needed to do: Grab some Bungee Dealee Bobs, get a the perfect t-shirt for my portaging niece from theCanoeist.com  and a general raid of Sea to Summit gear. The plan was perfect, except for one little tiny flaw.

Many kinds of boat builders were present, including this easy to put together designed kit, using puzzle joints

Did I mention Canoecopia was popular? Busy? Convenient to buy things? Yeah, well it was. So popular that a lot of gear wasn’t there for the last day. I heard that a helmet dealer had only one left when they opened on Sunday. They were packed up and gone by the afternoon. So by an hour before the show closed, a few other places were either empty and gone, or packing up. Oops. (“Big Boy…“) Along with a couple of other things that were less important, no Bungee Dealee Bobs for me. thecanoist.com’s booth was also packed up, but I must have looked very sad to have lost out on my niece’s t-shirt because they were nice enough to go out to their truck and get me one. I’m very happy they did (so’s my niece. She loved it). Overall though, I managed to get a bunch of new camping toys, and have a lot more fun stuff I saw that I’ll investigate and look into getting later – having flown, I wasn’t going to buy anything I couldn’t stuff in my suitcase – and will update you guys on the specific stuff soon.

I found some really interesting stuff made by Cooke Custom Sewing (CCS). Too bad I didn’t have enough room in my suitcase. (Interesting note: this is David Morlock’s dad.)

When I was getting driven to the airport on my way out, the shuttle driver told me that Spring was now officially here, because to the locals of Madison, Canoecopia was the yearly event that marked the change into the warmer seasons. Maybe it will be for me as well, because I’ll definitely be back next year. I can’t think of a better new tradition.

Nova Craft canoes, known for their creative canoe related ideas, also offered a place to rest your tired feet. Too bad I didn’t find this until day 3.
  • Fantastic coverage of a fantastic event, Preston.

    As for Frank and Ellen. Man. oh. man. Tears. Everytime. It’s a little ridiculous, but that’s the kind of place Pukaskwa is. Hopefully a few more folks will travel through these parts and leave some more good stories in the logbooks at the White River Suspension Bridge and on Otter Island.

  • I’ve been to three presentations at Canoecopia in 21 years. Two of them I was the presenter. The other was 15 minutes of Kevin Callan sumo-wrestling Cliff Jacobson before the Fire Marshal hauled me into the hallway for a severe Scotch blessing.

    I didn’t even get to MEET Frank and Ellen.

    Can someone please film every presentation so the guy who writes all the checks can see them? 🙂

  • I’m surprised youtube doesn’t have a bunch of shaky bootleg cellphone videos of some of the presentations, like you see with concerts. Maybe you need an intern, Darren.

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