Although this year has not seen much in the way of racing as the 3 biggest races in the sport had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, marathon canoe racing has seen some innovation this year. I want to highlight some of the things that have happened so far this year in terms of products that have hit the market and open the question to what might be next?
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Colors other than black?
If you had to pick a color that was associated with the sport of marathon canoe racing what would it be? I know if we polled a group of paddlers the answer would clearly be black. The reason is that our sport has been dominated by standard carbon fiber and epoxy canoes and paddles. I remember growing up in the 90s as a young boy watching the pro class in the General Clinton 70 miler come screeching down the river in their sleek black boats. It made me think "wow those boats are fast" when in retrospect it was the engines that made those boats fast more so than the material of the boat. But ever since then the industry has adopted and been primarily focused on black carbon fiber. Well, this year the industry has started to open their eyes and we have seen the re-introduction to some Kevlar products in the market.
New Kevlar/carbon hybrids are immerging that will now allow other colors variations as the Kevlar can be colored. These hybrids offer a great combination of stiffness, strength and abrasion resistance without sacrificing weight. Basically the carbon fiber and Kevlar are woven together in a twill fabric pattern which allows them to take advantage of the strengths of each material. You can currently get this new fabric on GRB Newman Designs canoes and Paddle Blades as well as on ZRE paddle shafts. Current color offerings for Kevlar/Carbon consist of red, orange (our favorite ;) ), and blue.
ZRE also debuted colored shafts that consist of carbon/fiberglass that we showed you here first back in January with the very popular Pink shafts. Although these may weigh just a touch more because of the fiberglass, they definitely make up for it in style as the colors tend to stand out more compared to the Kevlar versions. The colors that they have currently on these versions are blue, orange, yellow, green, and pink.
New Canoe Designs
New material is not the only thing we have seen so far this year. There have been the introduction of some new boat designs as well. This year there are at least 2 new pro-boat designs immerging and new 18ft C1.
The new 18ft C1 design by Savage River appeared in January where our own Ben Schlimmer did a preliminary review of this boat HERE. He has also won the the Madrid C1 and Wells Bridge C1 races in the boat. Our friend Dave Preston also won the amateur division in this boat as Wells Bridge Race also. For a lighter paddler this definitely has to be an option to consider.
GRB Newman Designs launched their new C2 3x27 pro-boat, the CK2020 and we will be reviewing it here on the site within the next month. This has been their first new model in the 3x27 spec in a long time and I personally think this one might be a winner. Along with the new design they also debuted their color option just like with the paddles and rest assured, it didn't add to the weight, this one only weighed 27lbs! This boat is light on the scale and also light on the pocket, a fully loaded version of this boat comes in at $4695 with just an additional $250 if you want the sweet colored carbon/Kevlar version. Stay on the lookout for our full review coming up where we will go in full depth on everything from performance to what is included in the cost and how it stacks up to the competition.
The other pro-boat that is making an appearance this year is from a new boat maker Boardman Boatworks. They are coming out with their Alpha 2020 and the first one has just come out of the mold. I was told the first one will be ready for water by this weekend. This design is a modified Hassel, where they made improvements on some of the areas that they believe will make a big difference. They will be ready to start taking orders for this boat soon, follow us on facebook as we will share more info there.
The electronics is another area that you see more and more people adopting as time goes on. I am finally starting to hear more people discussing metrics such as DPS, stroke rate, and the difference between wrist based HR sensors and chest straps. There are also lots of improvements being made in LED lighting technology and communication technology with the increased popularity of Bluetooth headphones. This year I believe that the biggest change is the cost of entry into paddling specific electronics. When the Garmin Vivoactive 4 hit the market at the end of last year, it dropped the extremely popular Vivoactive 3 to the same price as just a normal nice watch, and half the price of paddle. This makes this now affordable to most paddlers and more and more data can now be viewed as a result.
What is next?
I am a true believer that innovation will help push our sport forward, and although we are starting to get some fresh ideas in terms of boat design and use of different materials, there is so much more room for innovation in this sport. I want to hear from you, what you would like to see innovated or what new products you wish existed out there that just don't as of now, and who knows, maybe we can make it happen!
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