Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show Review: A Few Gems in a Sea of the Same

Saturday, 21 February 2009
Swift Canoes on RackThis weekend was the Toronto Outdoor Adventure Show, the weekend when all the companies who offer anything related to the outdoor world comes together and hawks shows off their wares.

To be honest, I have never really enjoyed going but each year I make the pilgrimage to see what is new and to talk to a bunch of friends who I know running booths. This year was generally speaking, no exception. The same ho-hum booths quickly thrown together and filled with a smattering of products that they hope will appeal to the common man walking by.

The current economic climate seemed to have a major effect on who came and what size of booth they rented. Almost everybody scaled back considerably and there were several canoe manufactures missing who normally would be there.

This event is also different then other shows I go to as the emphasis on new boats is clearly canoes. Ontario is solidly canoe country it just makes sense. The gang from the Complete Paddler were there with their kayaks which was great to see. They are one of the few Valley dealers for Ontario and still waiting for some new products to come in later this spring.

There were a couple of bright spots that I thought was really interesting:

Cedar Canoe Wood InlayA new canoe company (at least to me) was there showing off their hand crafted cedar strip canoes. HandCrafted Canoes makes a nice range of wood and Kevlar canoes at extremely reasonable prices. They brought along one of their showcase boats with some amazing wood inlays. Their website is: but they are experiencing technical difficulties as it's giving the old 404 error when loading. They are going to need to get that fixed as they are going to lose any generated interest that came from this show! Update: Site is working fine now!
Sayer Paddles West Coast Paddle MotifPaddle Shack nice display of paddles from Sawyer featuring some West Coast motifs. I looked for more information on the Sawyer website but there was nothing listed about them. The welcome page of the new site says they are currently redesigning the site so maybe they will appear when the redesign is complete.
Swift CanoeSwift Canoe and Kayak were there as well. Here in Ontario, Swift is a big player and in my opinion one of the best canoe manufactures. Over the years, they have really pushed the envelope in regards to canoe design, technology and workmanship. If I was in the market for a canoe, they would be high up on my company hit list. Swift also make sea kayaks but for some reason just aren't up to the same standard as other kayak companies in regards to design. The build quality is there but they always seem to look like small canoes with tops on them. They paddle that way as well. I'm sure it is a strategic decision as their market really is towards the family cottage owner who values stability and hatch size over performance and packing space.
The Lurking Octopus was designed by Jenna Gregory.But hands down the coolest thing I saw at the show came from a canoe manufacture that didn't even send any staff to the event to talk about it. Nova Craft Canoe normally rents a huge booth but this year they rented a very small booth and threw in a couple of canoes and brochures. No staff nothing. They recently held a contest with Fanshaw College's graphic design program to custom design graphics for their boats and the winners of the contest had their boats on display.

Finally, a step in the right direction to making boats cooler. I'm so tired of the one colour conservative design and its time that companies step up and start making designs like this available to purchase. The Lurking Octopus was designed by Jenna Gregory.

Nova Craft Canoe - The Lurking Octopus was designed by Jenna Gregory.Nova Craft; turn this concept boat into reality!

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David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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