Just eight months after Canoe & Kayak Magazine announced it would launch its own paddlesports show, the industrys leaders are clearly closing ranks around the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. Paddlesports manufacturers that have pulled out of the show in recent years because of its timing and costs are now trickling back thanks to a series of show changes secured by the ad-hoc Paddlesports Advisory Council organized last year with help from Outdoor Industry Association.

Among the paddlesports companies returning to OR Summer Market this year are Johnson Outdoors, Sawyer Paddles & Oars, Novacraft, Point 65 of Sweden, Fluid Kayaks, Kialoa Paddles and Northern Shore, according to OR Show Director Kenji Haroutunian. Boat makers Legacy Paddlesports, Delta and Innova are all moving back to the main floor from less prime locations.  While an improving economic outlook has helped bring these companies back to the fold, Nielsens decision to push the show back to August from the peak paddling season of late July and offer $200,000 in discounts to boat makers is clearly having an impact.


Nielsens rapid response has earned the Council a lot of credibility, said Amy Zimmerman, a founder and owner of Legacy Paddlesports and former director of the Professional Paddlesports Association; its successor the Paddlesports Industry Association and the now dormant TAPs organization. 


So long as Ive been involved in the industry and the boards of PPA, PIA and TAPS, Ive never seen any group get anything near as much done as this advisory board, Zimmerman said Friday. I was opposed to it initially because there was too much going on with the business and the economy and I did not think I could commit the time. I was also skeptical as to what could be accomplished because of the historic dysfunction of trade groups in paddlesports. But this group has gotten its act together and gotten Nielsen and OIA support.


Zimmerman is among those who credit Canoe and Kayak Publisher Jim Marsh for spurring progress. It was his announcement to launch a paddlesports only show at last years Outdoor Retailer that accelerated discussions between the industry, OIA and Nielsen. Still, Zimmerman said he wants to join the Council, which is run largely on a volunteer basis by representatives from 12 paddlesports companies. 


Zimmerman also applauds the Councils decision to invest a $25,000 stipend from Outdoor Retailer in the Outdoor Nation Youth Festival & Summit, which she sees as a sustainable and scalable model for recruiting youth into paddlesports nationwide.


Council members say they will now turn their attention to attracting more paddlesports dealers to the show, in part, by asking them whether they want Nielsen to spend $10,000 to bring a paddling tank back to the show floor at OR. The tank was removed three years ago after complaints from exhibitors that it was too noisy. Some would rather see the $10,000 used to promote Outdoor Nation at the show.


Council members say that while their immediate focus has required working closely with OIA and Nielsen, they remain association agnostic. They note that only three of the Councils 12 members are OIA directors and they are in no rush to become a formal trade group run by professional staff.


Will we become a trade association in the next few years? asked Sutton Bacon, a founding member of the Council and CEO of Nantahala Outdoor Center. Probably. But we see ourselves more effect as being grass roots. We want to be perceived as independent, grass roots and association agnostic.