The SNEWS® team of editors armed with maps and GPS (was this show big or what?) ducked and weaved around the trade show floor over the course of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to ensure we could bring you the most comprehensive take on trends, directions, colors, styles and innovations in stories that will run until we pass out. No, each report is not complete and we apologize in advance if a company feels its product was not mentioned -- we do know you love your company's product, really. However, we're only covering product that stood out to us, so if you're not mentioned we either didn't think your product stood out sufficiently or we started drinking alcoholic beverages too early in the afternoon to see straight and missed you as a result -- you pick one. With that in mind, here's our take on trends and new products for kayaks, canoes, paddles, PFDs, paddlesports apparel and paddlesports accessories:
Once again, whitewater boating made fewer waves at the show than rec and touring. (When we walked into the booth for one whitewater boat manufacturer and asked "What's new?" the reply was "Nothing.") However, a few companies hope to draw new customers with boats built to make it easier to pick up the sport. Hey, not a bad idea.
And who would have thought that the kayak fishing market would still be making waves? No doubt, it's one sector of the paddling market that's grabbed the attention of nearly all boat manufactures -- even those whose tradition is in touring. We only noticed a ripple of new things in canoes, but the fishing sector and rec kayaks have probably diverted energy away from this area.
We were glad to see that paddling apparel companies, such as Immersion Research, and PFD manufacturers, such as Stearns, have moved beyond the mere manufacture of eco-friendly products and are now taking a systematic approach toward making their companies more sustainable.
Also refreshing were the many ideas coming from paddle manufacturers. New discoveries with manufacturing techniques demonstrate that paddle manufacturers are stretching themselves, and some have stepped up to serve the most out-of-left-field watersports trend this year -- paddleboarding.
Whitewater boats for beginners
Liquidlogic had beginner paddlers in mind when it designed the new Remix line of river running kayaks (MSRP $437-$677). Though the paddling industry generally does a good job teaching people to paddle, there's been a call for boats better suited to learning. "People needed a small, fast boat that rolls easily," said Steve Jordan of Liquidlogic. Remix boats are not only supposed to be easy to roll, but they're designed to hold a line so that it's easier to ferry across eddy lines. Remix boats are available in 47, 59, 69 and 79 gallons, with the 47-gallon version being suitable for kids.
Riot Kayaks also introduced new boats targeting beginners as well as intermediate creek boaters. With low cockpits and hulls designed for easy rolling, the Thunder 75 and Thunder 76 both retail for $1,099.
Wave Sport wants kids to have an easier time getting into whitewater boating, so this spring it launched the Fuse 35 (MSRP $700), which has a low volume distribution and low cockpit rim to suit smaller folks. This summer Wave Sport added the Fuse 48, 56 and 64 (MSRP $925) for larger paddlers. These not only offer more room, but they're also versatile, built for more control on the river while blending in some playboat characteristics.
Whitewater companies have not only focused on beginners this year, but creek boaters as well. Dagger introduced a creeking version of its Mamba with a rotomolded seat, safety step-out wall, widely adjustable thigh braces and bulkhead footbraces that are padded. Mamba creek boats are available in 7.5, 8.0 and 8.5 sizes (MSRP $925).
The boat market's gone fishing
Dagger's Blackwater boat is now available in an angler package. The Blackwater 12.0 Angler (MSRP $900) has two flush-mounted rod holders in the stern, a swivel rod holder mounted on the bow and an anchor for the really big catch.
Native's Ultimate boats constructed of Tegris (Milliken's polypropylene thermoplastic composite) generated plenty of buzz in the Legacy Paddlesports booth this year. "The whole kayak industry has been waiting on a lighter fishing boat," Liquidlogic's Woody Calloway told SNEWS®, and an Ultimate with Tegris can weigh as little as 28 pounds (35 pounds with the removable seat). Calloway pointed out that ease of portability is important to kayak fishers, and the weight savings can overcome resistance to price (MSRP $1,199 for the 12-foot model and $2,549 for the 16-foot version). When we first wrote about Tegris (formerly called MFT), we noted that the material could fray, but a new version has a protective film to eliminate this problem.
Native also introduced a new Magic boat, the14.5, with a "plug and play" attachment system so you don't have to do any drilling to attach accessories. A solo version retails for $919, and a tandem version (same frame, but with an extra seat instead of a second set of foot pegs) retails for $949.
Even companies known for traditional sea kayaks are getting into fishing. Necky has launched the Zoar Sport Angler (MSRP $1,099), which comes in an olive color and isn't too tricked out, sporting some basic fishing components like deck-mounted rod holders, a paddle leash and anchor trolley system.
Ocean Kayak's Prowler has emerged as one of the hottest fishing kayaks on the market. Because kayak fishers in various areas of the country demand different performance features, the company redesigned the boat, blending all of these needs. The Prowler Trident 15 (MSRP $1,029; $1,259 with rudder) is now a bit narrower than the previous model so that people can cast while straddling the boat. The new design also does a better job cutting through surf, and the seat has been moved forward to allow more storage space at the stern as well as the bow. A feature we really liked on the cockpit was a shield that shades a fish finder, so it's easier to read in bright sunlight.
Ocean Kayak figures more women will be interested in kayak fishing if there's a boat just for them. Thus, it launched the new Caper Lady Angler (MSRP $749), which is pink, and 1 percent of sales go to the Breast Cancer Fund.
Wilderness Systems' Tarpon 120 Ultralite (MSRP $1,350-$1,725) is made with a thermoform plastic that knocks 10 pounds off the weight of previous 120 boats. The hull design, seat and deck layout remain similar to previous versions, but the new Ultralite has an added dry storage well that's easy to access.
Rec and touring boats
According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, the number of female kayakers has increased by 40 percent during each of the last two years. So, it makes sense that Confluence has launched a new line of kayaks just for women. The women's boats are being produced by Perception, Wilderness Systems and Pungo, and they're relatively lightweight and sized to fit women. The Perception Tribute (MSRP $800 rotomolded; $1,150 Airalite), wilderness Systems Tsunami 135 (MSRP $1,050-$1,475), and Pungo 120 (MSRP $775) have logos that are more feminine and are available in lime green, light blue and pink.
For the touring market, we're starting to see more "transition" boats, which are designed to help beginner or intermediate kayakers advance in their paddling skill. Perception's Essence (MSRP $1,300) is a good example. Available in 15-foot and 16-foot models, the Essence will have a drop rudder as well as a skag. Also, it's supposed to track well and be very stable without sacrificing too much maneuverability. Basically, it provides paddlers fairly predictable performance, so they can feel secure in pushing their limits. Available in rotomolded and Airalite construction, its retail price will start at $1,300.
Current Designs has offered transitional boats, such as the Breeze and Whistler, before. But it now has a whole family of transitional boats in the new Vision series. They're intended to have more of a true kayak feel than many rec boats, but have roomy cockpits, lots of foot space, big storage capacity and a 24-inch beam. They're available in lengths from 13 feet to 16 feet, 8 inches (a tandem model) and come in fiberglass composite and rotomolded construction. (MSRP $1,899-$2,799).
Though transitional boats signal that intermediate paddlers are a priority right now, we're still seeing rec boats that make it easier for newcomers to get interested in kayaking. Old Town is referring to its Cayuga rec/touring kayaks as the shaped skis of boats. The new Cayuga 110 (MSRP $799; 10 feet, 11 inches) and Cayuga 130 (MSRP $929; 13 feet, 1 inch) are made to be very stable and easy to paddle. Because 13-foot boats seem to hit the sweet spot for rec boaters, the 130 is expected to be most popular in the Cayuga series.
While beginners and families are getting the most attention from manufacturers these days, we did see a couple of sharp high-end boats. Current Designs based the new Cypress British-style boat (MSRP $2,949) on its well-received Willow. Measuring 16 feet, 9 inches by 22 inches, the Cypress will accommodate larger paddlers and big loads, while it still offers the speed and agility that serious paddlers desire.
Wilderness Systems' Zephyr is the brand's new top-end kayak for day trips, weekend touring and surfing waves. Available in lengths of 15.5 feet and 16 feet, it will be available in rotomolded or composite construction. (MSRP $1,400-$1,450 rotomolded; $3,000 composite.)
Hobie has introduced an inflatable boat with its pedal system (MSRP $1,799 single; $2,499 tandem). The inflatable Mirage i12 packs into a rolling case that's 50 pounds packed, and you can take it on a plane. The thinking is that this product will be good for travelers as well as those who want to store a boat in a condo, motor home or sailboat. Its floor is made with dropstitch construction, so it's very stable and you can stand on it. Plus, it allows more waterline length than you typically see in an inflatable.
Ocean Kayak's Peakaboo boat (MSRP $899) could be a hit with a families that enjoy rec boating. Kids will dig the see-through plastic panel in the floor of the boat, and it's replaceable if it gets scratched or dinged.
Couple of canoe notes
Bell Canoe has made its boats more durable by placing skid plates made of Kevlar felt beneath the outer skin of all composite boats. The other good news is that this upgrade hasn't increased prices.
Mad River has brought back the Reflection 17 (MSRP $1,180-$1,580), which was a popular design by Dagger. It's 17 feet, 14 inches long and 35 inches wide, making it suitable for cruising around or camping with plenty of gear.
Wenonah has a soft spot for your paddler friend who's always the third wheel. The new Senecah canoe (MSRP $2,899) is 19 feet, 4 inches long and 39.5 inches wide, making it big enough to accommodate a third person or maybe your gear if you tend to pack everything but the kitchen sink. And if you have a group of nine folks headed to the Boundary Waters (and you know that only four boats and nine campers are allowed per group), well, now you have space for that ninth person.
Kokatat updated its Gore-Tex Front Entry Drysuit (MSRP $715; $880 with socks and relief zipper) to include a gusseted neck to fit a wider range of people. There is also a women's version of the suit (MSRP $924) that includes a full drop seat and socks. In addition, Kokatat revamped its Gore-Tex Expedition Dry Suit (MSRP $1,049 men's; $1,059 women's) with a cummerbund waist that has a tacky material on the inner surface to keep it from riding up. There are also new drains at the cuffs, and the hood is shaped like a balaclava so it won't blow off easily in high winds.
Immersion Research has made sustainability a key factor in its product design, and the company is taking advantage of the fact that recycled technical fabrics are becoming more available and affordable. The new See Change (MSRP $220) is the first 100-percent recycled paddle jacket, and it's made of polyester. The new Basic T base layer (MSRP $45 long sleeve, $40 short sleeve) is also eco-friendly, as it is made with natural Cocona antimicrobial technology. Immersion Research also introduced a four-way stretch Enviroskin fleece top (MSRP $58) that's made of 30-percent recycled material. The R&D folks at the company have been looking for a fleece that stretches well and doesn't pill, and they think they've found it.
NRS knows it's high time somebody livened up the look of paddling apparel, so it updated its Sea Tour jacket with subtle patterns -- eye-catching but nothing too crazy. It's also exploring new material for its drysuits. The Mission Drysuit (MSRP $850) is its first made with an Event waterproof/breathable fabric. Also, NRS has added a women's version of the Inversion drysuit (MSRP $695), and it's outfitted with a front relief zipper that's positioned a little lower for the ladies.
Extrasport has redesigned its Tech Wear paddling apparel, including dry tops and splash jackets, to be much more breathable. Its X-Pert Flex, Xtreme Armor and X-Posed Hoodie tops are all made with an Entrant waterproof/breathable membrane.
A few notes on PFDs
Extrasport and Stearns have joined the many PFD manufacturers removing PVC from their products. Stearns has an informative Eco-Aware pamphlet that details its use of Gaia foam in PFDs and highlights its PVC-free rainwear and initiatives to reduce waste in manufacturing and packaging. Bravo!
MTI is working to strengthen its branding, and you'll see an updated brand logo on its PFDS and apparel. The letters MTI are much more prominent and gone is the word Adventurewear, which was difficult to read and just as hard to embroider. Lili Colby of MTI ran us through a new instructional video that MTI is providing to stores to educate staff members on the company's history. As for new product, MTI introduced a new Solaris high-back PFD (MSRP $65). It has a trim fit, plus lots of mesh in the back, expandable pockets, and it's already Coast Guard approved. (Colby tells us that often new PFDs are rolled out at the show despite the fact that they haven't received this approval.)
NRS has combined features of its Mystic and Guru PFDs into the new Guru (MSRP $85). It has big pockets, more reflective materials than previous models, and will be available in four colors, including bright pink, blue, red and yellow.
Patagonia has brought back its Half-Pint kids PFD (MSRP $60), which is made with PVC-free Gaia foam. The pullover design allows it to be put on a kid easily, and it adjusts to fit kids from 50 to 90 pounds.
Stohlquist reports that its fishing PFD wound up being its third best-selling model this past year, and it's rare for a new product to claim such a lofty spot. This summer Stohlquist brought out a lower-priced version, the Piseas (MSRP $79) made of a 420-denier cloth rather than more expensive nylon.
Aquabound discovered a new design for flat paddles that improves quality during production and increases performance in the water. New Odyssey flat paddles (MSRP $80 fiberglass; $110 carbon) have molded spines on the outside face of the blade, which helps maintain a flatter blade surface during production. Also, the spines grab water during a paddle stroke, providing more power. Odyssey paddles are available in 6-, 7- and 8-inch widths.
AT launched new products for casual paddlers as well as enthusiasts. Rec and tour paddlers can now get a $99 composite paddle, the SS Tour4E, which weighs 35 ounces, comes in four sizes (215 cm-230 cm), and regular or oversized blade sizes. On the high end, the AT2 SL (MSRP $499) is a full carbon version of the AT2, giving play paddlers a stick that's 3 ounces lighter than the AT2 and more flexible.
Bending Branches revamped some of its new paddles, such as the Whisper (MSRP $50) to include ferrules that are fiberglass rather than plastic, and a drip ring that is actually molded into the blade. Cool idea. Retailers will also like the new POP labels attached to paddle blades. They point out the ideal conditions for each paddle (for example: "Perfect for easy rivers and smooth lakes"), plus the labels have charts to show what paddle length matches a person's height.
As we mentioned in our Open-Air-Demo report, paddleboard manufacturers are trying to grow the sport in the United States (Waterman and Hobie are two of the players in the outdoor specialty market), and paddle companies are getting on-board. Werner introduced the Spanker Stand-up Surf Paddle (MSRP $299 one-piece; $314 two-piece) to meet what it says is unexpected demand. As one person at Werner told us, the company forecast that the Spanker would not sell as well as Werner's new Compulsion outrigger paddle, but to everyone's surprise the Stand-Up Paddle has actually drawn more interest.
Sawyer's new stand-up paddle is the Ellipse Bonzai (MSRP $199.95), which weighs 32 ounces, and its pine shaft and Western red cedar blade are both reinforced with carbon. A thumb notch on the grip allows your hand to relax and still maintain control of the paddle, while an 11-degree bend at the base of the shaft allows for longer, more efficient strokes.
Odds and ends
Malone Auto Racks, a 10-year-old company that started as a paddle manufacturer, has an inflatable roof rack for boats, dubbed the HandiRack (MSRP $99.95). Consisting of dual inflatable tubes made of nylon, the rack can hold up to 180 pounds and when inflated measures 57 inches by 13 inches by 4 inches and weighs 6 pounds. It has D-rings that are used to strap the rack to a vehicle through doors, and the straps are secured with a cam buckle inside of the vehicle. The HandiRack includes a pump, straps and a nylon travel bag.
Waterproof cameras and recorders are getting more attention, including Oregon Scientific's ATC2K Action Helmet Camera (MSRP $129.99). It's shock resistant and waterproof up to 10 feet and can be mounted to a helmet. It has 32 MB of memory that can expand to 2 GB with an SD card, and it's compatible with most PC and Mac editing software. It measures 4.25 inches by 1.75 inches by 2.25 inches, and with batteries weighs a little less than half a pound.
Seattle Sports showed us the new Hydrostar S.U.B. waterproof light (MSRP $39.95) with the wind-up Dynamo charging mechanism. It has some cool features, like laser pointer lights and a USB port that can be used to charge electronics such as an iPod. Also incorporating Dynamo charging is Active Trax (MSRP $39.95), a device that serves as a speaker for an iPod, and also has a USB port for charging.
Stohlquist has an interesting material on the palm of its new paddling Maw Glove (MSRP $40). To achieve the optimum amount of grip, the Super Stretch material has a texture and flexibility similar to real skin. Freaky.