Canoecopia 2017 – one for the books!

Canoecopia 2017 – one for the books!

Canoecopia 2017 is in the books now, and it was a fantastic experience. I hope everyone that attended enjoyed it as much as I did.

This was the first Canoecopia at which I’ve presented. I was scheduled to deliver “Packing the Perfect ‘Oh Sh!t’ Emergency Kit: A Murphy’s Law Adventure Guide” on Saturday afternoon, but a speaker wasn’t able to

A selfie with one of the two great groups I was able to speak with at Canoecopia 2017!

attend the show so Rutabaga’s Nancy Saulsbury asked if I could fill in on Friday evening too. Each presentation went really well and, as teachers will tell you about their classes, each group also had its own personality!

Because Friday’s presentation was a late addition, it wasn’t listed in the show guide and I thought that I might be talking to myself and the room host, Elizabeth. My fears were unfounded, though, and about 30 people showed up for the discussion. They were an absolutely great group, sharing their experiences and offering some really good suggestions on things they include in their kits. (In fact, I’ll be adding some of this material to my next presentation, this one at Midwest Mountaineering’s Outdoor Adventure Expo on April 29, 2017, in Minneapolis.)

Saturday’s scheduled event blew me away. Well over 100 people showed up, and it was standing room only. It’s always a good sign when you’re able to joke and laugh with a group before the presentation even starts, and the selfie taken here before the room really filled up was an indication of how much fun these paddlers were! Right after room host Jeff read my short speaker intro, I was even asked by not one, but two women in the audience if I was married! Wait…what?!? I might expect good-natured heckling, but I can honestly say I never expected this line of questioning! It was just another very funny indication of how enjoyable the Canoecopia crowd was!

Most importantly, I was able to share some solid water-safety and first-aid information with the group. We discussed the increasing importance of campfire safety as well. After the presentation was over, I was thrilled to see that not a single copy of the handouts we gave to the audience was left behind! Getting good information to outdoor enthusiasts is a key part of our mission so it was gratifying that attendees felt the material we put together with our technical advisor Chad Willemssen had real value and took the information home with them.

Paddlers are amazing people, and there were a number of really cool folks in the room. I had to give a shout out to Emma Burgeson, whom I met this past summer in the Yukon Territory. Emma and her equally amazing teammate, Paige Norman, finished fourth in the Yukon 1000 canoe and kayak race. They completed the event in just over 8 days, making them the first all-female team to finish the race. I had the good fortune to meet the pair at an overnight stop in Carmacks, when they pulled into the Coal Mine Campground around midnight. I had met and was talking with Emma’s mother, Anne, during the day so I went down to the dock to await their arrival with her. To see them here at Canoecopia and be greeted with a shout of “It’s John from Wisconsin!” was another highlight of the weekend.

Emma Burgeson (back) and Paige Norman during the 2016 Yukon 1000 canoe and kayak race. The pair were the first all-women’s team to finish the event, and spoke at this year’s Canoecopia.

There were a few other VIPs in the room, too. Speaker Mack Truax was there. If you’ve ever had a chance to talk with Mack about the Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT), the longest paddling trail in the northeast, you know what a cool guy he is. Plus, Mack is insane – in the best possible way! He holds the current solo record of 22 days on the 740-mile trail. This year, he’s planning to do the NFCT again, and I have every faith that his adventures will make for another great presentation. (His paddle modifications, btw, are a work of genius!)

While I wasn’t able to see many presentations at Canoecopia this year, I was able to catch documentarian Jesse Hieb and Matt Krueger’s presentation on the Wisconsin River. Jesse’s energy, and Matt’s work with the Rivers Alliance of Wisconsin, combined for a great discussion on how things have changed over the last 40 years on my favorite river here in the Badger state. That info was bolstered by a stop at the booth of the Friends of the Lower Wisconsin  (FLOW), and I look forward to joining – and working with this group – in the future. I also was able to see some of the presentation by the Friends of the Baraboo River, and definitely will be paddling that stretch of water in the near future.

So now, it’s Monday morning after Canoecopia. Inspired by the event, my wife and I repaired my four-season tent yesterday, and I’m looking for someplace snowy to pitch it soon. Before that, of course, I have to put everything away after attending the show. It will be good to get my dining room (and show staging area) back to normal!

The bottom line, though, is that I’m still buzzing after having the opportunity to speak at the world’s largest paddling expo. As with any show, it’s the people that make it great and, on behalf of The Outdoor Kind, LLC, I’d like to say thanks to Rutabaga’s Darren Bush and Nancy Saulsbury. I’d also like to thank everyone who attended these presentations and shared information/kind words afterward as well. I love meeting and learning from fellow paddlers, and talking about the important work we’re doing with our new company. What a fantastic weekend it was!

Enjoy the upcoming paddling season, friends, and keep an eye out for some big product roll-outs and announcements this spring and summer from The Outdoor Kind, LLC!