Outdoor Retailer Summer Market ’09: Paddlesports trends in boats and boards

For paddlesports companies that did roll out new wares, most mainly built on or strengthened previous themes. Once again, kayak fishing remained a point of emphasis, as fishing kayaks were just about the only type of boats to see increased sales in the past year. Also, interest continues to grow around stand-up paddle boards, though no one is quite sure how well they’re actually selling. Nevertheless, more board manufacturers were exhibiting than in previous years. Manufacturers are still a little wary of hitting retailers with a bunch of new whitewater boats, but there was a bit more energy in that segment due to Jackson Kayaks exhibiting for the first time and...

For the paddlesports market, it was no doubt an unusual show. Most of the buzz concerned the surprise announcement of a new paddlesports show in Minneapolis being promoted by Canoe & Kayak magazine; while there was much less buzz about new products. In fact, there was less new stuff this year than in past shows because the recession prompted a few no-shows (like Johnson Outdoors) and caused others to go into a holding pattern.

For companies that did roll out new wares, most mainly built on or strengthened previous themes. Once again, kayak fishing remained a point of emphasis, as fishing kayaks were just about the only type of boats to see increased sales in the past year. Also, interest continues to grow around stand-up paddle boards, though no one is quite sure how well they’re actually selling. Nevertheless, more board manufacturers were exhibiting than in previous years.

Manufacturers are still a little wary of hitting retailers with a bunch of new whitewater boats, but there was a bit more energy in that segment due to Jackson Kayaks exhibiting for the first time. Plus, Jackson and other core companies like Pyranha are addressing some overlooked areas, such as kids’ whitewater boats. We also noticed boat makers have constructed more whitewater/flatwater hybrid kayaks in an attempt to offer consumers great value—meaning they can buy one boat for many activities.

While the prospect of a new trade show created the most noise in the paddlesports section of the Salt Palace, manufacturers are clearly working hard to address the needs of retailers and offer compelling products for today’s consumers.

Today, we cover the highlights in boats and boards; later this week, we’ll cover accessories, from PFDs and paddles, to apparel and other accessories.

Rec, Touring & Hybrid boats

Current Designs has noticed sales shifting away from entry-level boats and moving toward transitional boats. That’s because a transitional boat does not cost that much more, and its allows a person with any ability to have more fun. The Vision 120 is a new, 12-foot transitional boat that should appeal to women, teens and other smaller paddlers.www.cdkayak.com

In a tough economic market, consumers want to buy one boat that can take them from the lake to the river. Dagger’s new Axis 10.5 (MSRP $795) and Axis 12.0 (MSRP $895) are pitched as boats that respond well in either flatwater or swift water. They’re built to be highly maneuverable, so experienced paddlers will appreciate the performance, but they also have a drop skeg whose height can be adjusted for covering distance on calmer waters. www.dagger.com

Another whitewater/touring hybrid is the Pyranha Fusion (MSRP $799-$899), which targets people who do not necessarily think of themselves as whitewater boaters, and probably wouldn’t get into a creek boat, but like to explore rivers. It has a skeg system and lots of storage space for overnight trips. www.pyrnaha.com

Jackson Kayaks also showed us a new transitional boat, the Journey (MSRP $1,049-$1,299), which includes a clever seat called the Sweet Cheeks seat. Basically, you sit on a seat filled with plastic pellets, and once the pellets conform to the contours of the body, you suck out the air surrounding the pellets to create a permanent custom fit. The company also continues to expand its offering of rec boats, and the new Day Tripper series includes the Mini Tripper (MSRP $399) for kids 5 and up and the Day Tripper 10 (MSRP $649) and Day Tripper 12 (MSRP $779) for adults. The boats come standard with adjustable foot braces, the Sweet Cheeks bean bag seating, a large dry bag, cargo netting storage and the Day Tray, which is a workbench that has room to attach rod holders, a fish finder, GPS unit, and includes a built-in tackle box. One thing that really caught our attention was an accessory dubbed the Elite Seat. Available for the adult boats, it’s a removable seat that can serve as a camp chair and allows you to clear out room on the boat to accommodate a dog. The Elite version of the Day Tripper 10 is $799, and the 12 is $929. www.jacksonkayak.com

Liquid Logic’s Coupe extends the reach of the brand beyond whitewater rivers and the mountains. While this sit-on-top is designed to be highly maneuverable, it’s also built to travel well with a drop-down skeg to improve tracking. It’s available in lengths of 10 feet (MSRP $589) and 13 feet (MSRP $829). www.liquidlogickayaks.com

Since companies started to really focus on outfitting about three years ago, the level of engineering has really increased, sometime to the point of overkill. It seems like the design wizards have started to simplify things. Just check out the simple seatback on Native Watercraft’s Inuit (MSRP $999-$1,529), which is the brand’s first touring kayak series. To raise the seatback you simply pull up on the backrest, and push it down again to shorten it. Hey, it’s that easy and works just fine. The Inuit is available in three sizes, including 12.5, 13.5 and 14.5. www.nativewatercraft.com

P&H is offering advanced paddlers a couple of new toys in the Delphinus and Aries boats, which are sea kayak ‘play’ boats for negotiating rock gardens, sea caves and other environments that require a high-performance boat. The Delphinus 150 and 155 (MSRP $1,799) are plastic boats, while the Aries 150 and 155 (MRSP $3,499) are composite models. www.phseakayaks.com

Perception decided to offer a more affordable sit-on-top for ocean paddling, or just playing on lakes and rivers, so it introduced the Tribe, which comes in three sizes (9.5, 11.5 and 13.5), retailing from $495 to $695. It’s a no-brainer boat that’s easy to paddle, and they’re even stackable, so they’ll occupy less room in the garage or shed. www.perceptionkayaks.com

Venture Kayaks is focused on bringing new people into sea kayaking, and this year introduced the extremely stable Flex 11 (MSRP $699), which is 25 inches wide, measures 10 feet, 8 inches in length and weighs 45 pounds. Women or shorter men with a little paddling experience might want to check out the new Easky 17 (MSRP $1,399 with skeg; $1,499 with rudder), a low-volume touring boat that will allow you to stretch your paddling skills. www.venturekayaks.com

Kayak fishing boats

Current Designs
launched a new 14-foot Kestrel with an open cockpit for larger paddlers (i.e. anglers). With double bulkheads and an optional rudder, the Kestrel 140 OC measures 13 feet, 6 inches long, is 25 inches wide and weighs 53 pounds. www.cdkayak.com

Feel Free’s new Moken 12 sit-on-top boat (MSRP $899) is well-outfitted for kayak fishing—rod holders, a rear storage well, etc.—but what’s really cool are molded carry handles on the sides and a built-in wheel at the stern to make it easy to haul the thing to and from the shore. www.feeelfreekayak.com


Hobie’s Mirage Pro Angler boat (MSRP $2,399) introduced in February received the award at the ICAST trade show for best overall product. It’s powered by the Mirage drive found on other Hobie kayaks, but the stability and comfort of this craft make it feel more like a boat. It can hold 600 pounds and boasts as many features as any fishing kayak on the market, including room for six rod-holders. Hobie also showed us its new Torpedo motor (MSRP $1,800), which weighs only about 17 pounds with all parts and has a battery that floats. www.hobie.com

The Wilderness Systems Commander 120 (MSRP $995-$1,420) joins the growing number of canoe/kayak hybrids, as well as the growing fleet of boats aimed at anglers. Something unique about the boat is the dual seating option. There’s a high “captain’s seat” to give an angler a higher view out over the water, as well as a lower seat that folds down to be stowed under the captain’s seat. The lower seat has a cushy backrest and leg lifters for added relief. Plus, the whole seat is removable. Also notable are tracks on each side of the boat that allow custom rigging, and the boat is available with an angler package that includes rod holders, an anchor bag and anchor. www.wildernesssystems.com


Whitewater boats

Jackson Kayaks
launched a new All-Star series of playboats (MSRP $1199), which actually made their debut at this year’s Teva Mountains Games in Vail, Col., and swept the men’s freestyle competition. The boats, which range from the Shooting Stars model for kids to the Mon-Star for large adults, have wedge-shaped decks to shed water easily and reduce resistance for bigger launches. Also, the cockpit is high at the knee area, and this knee space is narrow, to make legs feel more comfortable and allow more space for vertical paddle strokes. www.jacksonkayak.com

Pyranha is also developing new playboat, the Skjak (pronounced shok), in three sizes (MSRP $1,099), which targets boaters of all skill levels from beginners to pros. There were few details available on the boat, except that it’s pitched as being dynamic but user-friendly, able to go big and fast, and also a predictable ride. Should be interesting to see it at work…or play, rather. Pyranha is also addressing kids with its new Rebel (MSRP $799), which is based on the Z1 and is supposed to be very stable and easy to roll. It’s measures 7 feet, 1 inch in length, and it’s 21.5 inches wide. www.pyranha.com

Canoe notes

Mad River Canoe
has launched a project to determine how to produce canoes in the most eco-friendly way. A result of that project is a concept boat, the Malecite Eco, which is made from the Malecite hull that was first used when Mad River was launched in 1971. The exterior is covered with a partially plant-based clear gel, and VOC emissions were trapped during manufacturing so they didn’t enter the atmosphere. The interior incorporates layers of hemp, and the layup of the boat is 66 percent natural fibers. Also the boat’s wood parts are made of ash, a sustainable hardwood, and it’s outfitted with cane, which replenishes quickly to be sustainable. In other news, Mad River has lightened the Explorer 16 by 10 percent, so it now weighs 65 pounds. www.madrivercanoe.com


Wenonah claims that its new Sundowner 17 (MSRP $1,399), designed for adventure racing, is the fastest Royalex canoe ever made. The bow, straight keel-line and shallow-arch hull are designed for speed and great tracking ability, while the Royalex layup allows the boat to survive the hard knocks of racing in rocky streams.www.wenonah.com

Stand-up paddle boards

started manufacturing paddle boards five years ago, and this year marked its second time exhibiting at OR. The company has been happy with the response, and is targeting entry-level paddlers with four models of boards ranging in lengths from 10 feet, 6 inches to 12 feet. Constructed of styrene and epoxy, the boards are made to be durable and easy to repair, and they retail from $575 to $650. www.mikedoylecustomsurfboards.com

Stand-up paddle boarding gets a lot tougher when you’re facing the wind and struggling to paddle home after a tiring workout. Thus, Native Watercraft created the Versa Board (MSRP $999), which can be used as a paddle board, but also has a seat that allows you to sit and paddle in tough conditions. It’s designed to be super stable, not only for stand-up paddling, but also for fishing. The seat on the Versa Board even swivels to make it easier to land a fish. www.nativewatercraft.com


Surf Tech’s 12-foot-6 and 11-foot-6 Laird boards remain its best-sellers for those new to the sport, but the new French 11-foot-6 soft-top board (MSRP $975) might be the most stable board on the market, and a prime option for those get their first taste of the sport. For experienced folks, the company also showed its new 14-foot Joe Bark Expedition board (MSRP $2,075) at OR. It has stainless steel inserts to accommodate accessories like paddle holders, water bottle holders or a GPS unit. www.surftech.com

Tahoe Stand Up Paddleboards launched in November, offering three boards made for flat water. Their design differs from other boards in that the bow has more volume and places more of the board in the water than a typical board. They also have front fins to make them track well when touring. The best board for newbies is probably the 12-foot Rubicon (MSRP $1,395), which is the least expensive Tahoe board, and it’s made with thermoformed plastic that resists abrasion extremely well. www.tahoesup.com

C4 Waterman’s new entry-level board is the Pohaku (MSRP $800), available in lengths of 10 feet or 10 feet, 6 inches. Made with 2.5-pound EPS foam and epoxy resin laminations, these boards have a simpler construction than other Waterman boards, allowing the company to offer something for less than $1,000. www.c4waterman.com

--Marcus Woolf

The SNEWS® team of seasoned reporters covers a trade show to seek out product highlights, indications of a trend (to a product category, a company or the industry) or products that are new to the market. In our post-show reports, we do not write about every last piece of gear or equipment we have seen, although, promise, we have most likely seen nearly everything. Even if not in a show report, you never know how information may be included in a future report, trend watch, product review or story. If you have any comments or questions, please email us at snewsbox@snewsnet.com.