More than 20,000 people attended Canoecopia March 8-10, marking an encouraging kick off to the spring paddlesports season.


As the nation’s first major consumer paddlesports show, Canoecopia serves as an economic indicator of sorts for the paddlesport industry.


They wont be disappointed, said Darren Bush, Owner and Chief Paddling Evangelist at Rutabaga Paddlesports, the store that presents Canoecopia every March. Sales figures revealed a good trend for paddlesports this year.


“It was definitely easier coming back than loading in,” said Bush. “It’s great to see the staff collapsing cardboard boxes for recycling. We had a great show.”


Attendance at educational events reached record levels during the show. 


“We filled up a lot of speaker rooms,” said Nancy Saulsbury, who coordinates the speaker schedule for Canoecopia. “We have eight speaker rooms that hold up to 550 people, plus an Atrium and pool at the hotel next door. We were standing room only for Saturday, and even Friday and Sunday speakers were quite full.”


Bush attributed the growth of Canoecopia largely to the educational component. “You can purchase gear, but without the knowledge of how to use it, it might gather a lot of dust, and gear is meant to be used,” he said.


“Clearly the trend toward simpler vacations that are closer to home is continuing and expanding,” Bush said. “That bodes well not just for paddlesports, but for the whole outdoor recreation area. Canoes and kayaks are a lot more reliable than cruise ships.”



Recent research shows that outdoor recreation has become a driving force in the US economy. Sixty percent of Wisconsin residents participate in outdoor activities, resulting in spending of $11.9 billion and 150,000 jobs a year in Wisconsin, Bush said, citing research by Outdoor Industry Association. Similar numbers exist in other Midwestern states.


“Canoecopia is a microcosm of our society and economy,” said Bush. “We are doing more outside, and that’s great.”