By Cliff and Nancy Hill
Whatever floats your boat! Last Friday evening, seeking to affirm that spring is indeed on the way, your reporters attended the annual Grand Rapids Boat Show at Devos Place. Along with the recent Camper, Travel & RV Show and the Golf Show winter-weary West Michiganders welcomed these harbingers of Spring.
At the show, we found ourselves sitting in the stands adjacent to what was billed as the “Huge Lagoon”- the largest indoor body of water at any boat show in the nation. This new addition to the show is a 100,000-gallon behemoth of an indoor lake. It was capable of floating special boats on display along with providing a venue for scuba, kayaking, and wakeboard demonstrations. (It was huge!)
As in past years, Rockford’s Powers Outdoors played a prominent role in the staging of the five-day show. At variously scheduled times throughout the show’s run Powers Outdoors presented Kayaking and Paddleboard Clinics & Demos to the delight of those in the stands.
Co-owner Jake Slominski of Powers Outdoors, who represented the Rockford location, hosted the demos. On the water, Doug Powers demonstrated the use of stand-up paddleboards and sit-in or sit-on styles of kayaks.
The audience was particularly interested in the stand-up paddleboard demonstration. This newest craze in flat-water fun involves the use of a handmade oversized fiberglass surfboard that is very buoyant and stable and allows the user to stand and propel the board with a long-handled paddle. You can also paddle while on your knees or on your belly with your hands. Slominski told the audience that the technique could be mastered in about 5 minutes and was great for exercise or just play.
Also demonstrated was a sit-on kayak that allowed easier on and off rather than the in and out of a traditional kayak. This particular kayak is fisherman friendly and is very stable and maneuverable.
Doug finished up the session by demonstrating the “Ultimate” Kayak. This model allows the user to either paddle, peddle, or the use of an electrical propulsion system. The peddle and electrical systems are built into the craft. It is super stable with comfortable seating and is the fastest kayak on the water. A user controlled stern-mounted tiller adds to maneuverability.
After the demo and back at the Powers Outdoors booth, Slominski told us that kayaks and canoes have been the largest segment of watercraft sales in the past few years. Interestingly, in this category, 52% of sales have been to women because the industry has become more accommodating to women’s physical needs (weight of craft and paddles, etc.).
“Powers Outdoors only sells affordable kayaks and canoes not big-ticket watercraft,” said Slominski, adding, “We have carved a niche for ourselves in this segment of watercraft sales by being better at what we do than any of our competitors.” He cites Powers Outdoors “try it before you buy it” philosophy where one can test drive (or paddle) the store’s watercraft before making a decision to buy. This special service, unique only to Powers Outdoors is available seven days a week at all their locations. Slominski feels the Rockford store location is blessed by its close proximity to the Rogue River that is fast becoming a kayaking and canoeing Mecca and destination.
Powers Outdoors is the largest Paddlesports dealer in Michigan and prides itself on getting people involved in boating and affordably allowing them to spend quality time with family and friends. Not only are kayaks and canoes affordable, they require little or no maintenance and last forever.
As for the economy, Slominski said, “At last year’s show we sold 120 canoes and kayaks and, from the enthusiasm of show attendees these past two days, I’m confident we will either match or exceed last year’s sales.”
We, here in Rockford, are also blessed not only by the Rouge River flowing through the heart of town but also by the proximity of numerous lakes in our local vicinity. Paddlesports makes it easy to take advantage of this healthy outdoor activity. This is especially so with kayaks and canoes, where the activity is available year-round on the Rogue River. It¹s all the more an economical value without the need to travel long distances to find water.
If you missed the boat (no pun intended) at the Boat Show you can still visit Powers Outdoors to schedule your own demonstration. The Rockford store can be found on the NW corner of 10 Mile Rd. and Main Street.