Desperately searching for signs of spring? I think many of us in the Midwest are right there with you! Snowdrifts around here are so high, the streets already feel like an August corn maze in Iowa. And, another snowstorm is on the way! Our tandem kayak, Kupendana, hangs on the garage wall right above the snowblower’s winter parking spot, waiting patiently for some attention. Gene and I are more anxious, but have found the perfect treatment for our spring fever: Canoecopia, the world’s largest paddlesport expo!
On March 8-10, paddle enthusiasts of all kinds will gather at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Hundreds of vendors will display boats, SUPs, paddles, fishing gear, paddle clothes and supplies. Over 180 speakers are set to offer presentations on everything from beautiful paddle locales, land ethics and safety to skills such as choosing equipment, paddle techniques, packing, cooking and photography. Over at the Clarion Hotel there will even be pool demonstrations of kayak rescues, paddle strokes and Greenland Style Rolling.
We discovered Canoecopia the spring before we launched on our kayak service trip in 2013. I’m not sure why we didn’t know about it before that – you’d think if the world’s largest anything were right in your backyard, you’d know about it. But a fellow paddler recommended it, so not knowing what to expect, off we went.
Our first time, we made the rookie mistake of assuming we’d be able to see everything in one day. Glassy-eyed, we navigated our way through hundreds of exhibits, trying with limited success to focus on what we still needed for our upcoming trip. We picked up some paddle grips and splurged on a pop-up sail, but most of the time was spent learning about the newest and greatest boats, paddles, clothing and supplies, and talking to outfitters, guides, and paddlers about the experiences they could offer. We didn’t even realize how many expert presenters were scheduled throughout the three-day event to offer information about things it wouldn’t have hurt us to know.
We were delighted to find that Pygmy Boats had a booth, and stopped by to meet John Lockwood, founder and owner of the company whose kit we used to build the tandem wooden kayak we planned to paddle the length of the Mississippi River. We also met adventurers who shared stories and tips from their journeys. One of the most memorable discussions was with a couple of guys who had tried three times to paddle the Mississippi, giving up each time due to “irreconcilable differences”. We laughed about it at the time, but their experiences prompted us to set some ground rules to be sure we didn’t suffer the same fate!
In subsequent years, we learned to check the program or the website in advance, planning the presentations we wanted to attend and leaving plenty of time to see everything we wanted to see. We’ve gathered information on destinations that have become dreams for next adventures, listened to presenters share their stories and skills, and met authors who have written books on paddling topics. You can see the lists of this year’s presenters and exhibitors at www.canoecopia.com.
This year, Gene and I are excited to be among the list of presenters. We’ll show some pictures of our service journey on the Mississippi and Tennessee/Tombigbee Waterway and share the process we used to dehydrate and vacuum pack one-pot nutritious meals for five months on the water. We’ll explain how we used Priority Mail to send ourselves boxes of food along the way and how we made a pot cozy to conserve cooking fuel while rehydrating meals. Our presentations will be on Friday, Mar. 8th at 6:30 PM and Saturday Mar. 9th at 9:30 AM. Please feel free to join us – we’d love to have your friendly faces in the room!