SGB spoke with show producer Darren Bush, who is also the producer of the new Paddlesports Retailer show, about his optimistic view of the industry’s future.

Writer: Travis Poulin

Canoecopia took place on March 10-12, 2017, and the event saw better numbers than expected. Canoecopia is a canoe and kayak tradeshow that also gives attendees access to guiding outfitters, paddling schools and general knowledge about the industry. Canoecopia donates a portion of their proceeds to charitable non-profit groups and donations are matched by Rutabaga Paddlesports — Canoecopia’s parent company.

Canoecopia producer and owner of Rutabaga Paddlesports in Madison, WI Darren Bush said he saw a surprising rise in attendance and sales this year, well ahead of his projections. Bush said he thought 2017 would see a lapse in attendance and sales, but Canoecopia saw the exact opposite.

“Canoecopia is like a family reunion for me,” Bush said. “I usually spend several hours walking around and hugging people from my paddling family that I haven’t seen in a while.”

Bush attributes his love for the paddling industry to the people that participate. He said the humble and passionate folks create a family in the community that he fell in love with. After having an actual family of his own, Bush toned down his chase for the craziest whitewater and focused on being involved in the community. He now enjoys floating down scenic flat water sections as much as he used to enjoy white-knuckling his paddle through class V whitewater.

Paddlesports Retailer
Bush is also the producer of the new Paddlesports Retailer (PR) show — a new trade show for paddlers, by paddlers that will take place August 30 – September 1. The PR show is a separation from the Outdoor Retailer (OR) show. When OR decided to move its show to June, Bush said he and his fellow paddle retailers felt this was untimely for the paddlesports industry because it lands during peak paddling season. Peak season makes it very difficult for retailers to pack up, leave their home base and head to a trade show.

Bush, who has been in the paddling industry for 28 years, expects to see good numbers at the new show. Like Canoecopia, the PR show will take place in Madison. Bush feels Madison is a good central point in the country and the show can attract vendors from both coasts.

Bush made it clear that the PR show is not his show, but the paddlesports industry’s show. “I am just helping with the logistics,” Bush said. “We all had a meeting and asked the paddling community what they wanted and that’s exactly what they’re going to get at the show. A good vendor goes by what the industry wants.”

Bush said the PR show is already about half full for reservations and he expects it to fill up quickly. A portion of each vendor’s entry fee will be given directly back to the paddling industry through supporting paddling programs. When asked if he was overwhelmed between organizing both shows and trying to run his own business, Bush appropriately said, “Not too bad; I am just trying to keep my head above water.”

Bush said since the announcement of the PR show he has had several companies contact him that have not been involved in a trade show for many years. He said Werner Paddles will make their first tradeshow appearance in 10 years in September.  Bush said the PR show is trying to help the smaller retailers get to the show by offering scholarships to assists in traveling expenses.

“We did not create this show for ourselves,” Bush said. “We created this for the industry and people that are passionate about paddling. We want to create a new home for our tribe.”

Photos courtesy Canoecopia