Surfski Shows and Expos – A Very Busy Few Months
As many of you know from following TC Surfski on Facebook, newsletters, and on-line, May and June were jam packed with activities for us including the TC Surfski Immersion camp, triathlon racing, and several boat shows and expos.
As I reflect back, it was quite an aggressive schedule that I committed to in the bleak winter months when things were slow and I was anxious for more business. I can’t ever predict my travel schedule for my full time job, and to add to the madness May/June/July have been three of the busiest travel months I have ever had. Altogether is has put a lot of stress on my family and forced me to really reflect and think hard about the best and most time efficient and economical ways to build TC Surfski.
5/3rd Riverbank Run Expo
In early May I signed up for a major expo at the 5/3rd Riverbank Run in Grand Rapids, MI. I felt this would be an opportunity to expose thousands of athletic minded people to the world of surfski paddling. I invested heavily in a 20 foot booth, display signs, and nice standing rack to display the boats that my brother-in-law graciously built. The booth came together well and we had a perfect location and with a ton of help from my brother-in-law, Ryan, we talked to hundreds of potential customers. There was a ton of excitement and energy from everyone who saw our booth, but as of today, I haven’t confirmed any business from the show. I’m still optimistic that it may take some time and I’ll still recoup my costs from the show, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Surfski Immersion Camp and M22 Challenge
The Surfski Immersion Vacation that followed the Riverbank Expo was amazing and I hope to expand this part of my business and do many more of these. I wrote about this in a separate blog so won’t go in to detail here, but I know everyone who attended had a great time and learned an immense amount. I wasn’t even a “participant” but I picked up enough great tips over the weekend to substantially improve my paddle technique and couldn’t be more thankful to everyone that made it happen.
Two weeks after the Immersion Vacation I returned from a work trip to Amsterdam for the M22 Challenge Adventure Triathlon. I also did a separate blog on this, and will just say that it was awesome exposure for surfskis and I fully expect to see this race continue to drive more and more athletes into surfski paddling.
Bay Harbor Boat Show
Following M22 I was back to Europe (Sweden this time) for a short work trip and then home on Thursday night, just in time to pack up and get ready for a three day boat show/expo in Bay Harbor, MI. Ryan was once again a tremendous help getting the booth setup on Friday and helping me throughout the day and on Sat/Sun my wife Kim joined me and helped to demo the boats out in the water. I signed up for this show hoping it would be an opportunity to get performance kayak exposure to the high end boating/yachting community. This show was again quite expensive as I paid for booth space, travel, lodging, and time off of work. We had a great location with the opportunity to do in water demos, but unfortunately we only got one or two serious customers who wanted to demo. I quickly realized at this show that fitness is not a high priority for many in the power boating community. As with the Riverbank show, I have not yet seen any direct business from this three day show. I’m still hopeful that will change, only time will tell.
Ohio River Paddlefest
After four straight weeks of travel for work, I finally had a welcome relief with a week of working from home. But on Wed I was again packing up the truck and boat trailer and getting ready to head down to Cincinnati immediately after work on Thursday for the Ohio River Paddlefest. To be honest, by this point I was already pretty burned out on the boat show/expo circuit and a bit reluctant to miss another weekend with my family and drive nine hours south. However, I felt a strong obligation as the race director has been a great customer and the Paddlefest directors were extremely gracious and welcoming of TC Surfski and had promoted our offer to do in water demos at the show. Additionally Denny Paull, a good friend of mine, had really enjoyed the race in years past and it worked out well for us to carpool down for the event.
This was the first expo where I actually sold a boat on the spot, so that felt really good. Aside from the sale, I did several demos but it was hard to tell how many people were serious. As with all the shows, we certainly had a lot of interest in the boats, but no further leads at this point.
The 11 mile race on Saturday went really well. It was a great course and a ton of fun to paddle with a nice 1-2 mph current keeping the speeds up over 8 mph for much of the time. Paddling into downtown Cincinnati was definitely a unique experience for me and it was very cool. It is amazing that the event attracts well over 2000 paddlers, but the number of surfski racers is less than 10. Hopefully we can change that over the next few years as there is no reason this shouldn’t be a premier surfski racing event.
Blasted By a Storm
Following the race I was quite relieved to be done with the Expo circuit until mid-August and ready to get back home. Denny and I got out of Cincinnati at a decent hour and were on track to make it home in good time. Then everything changed. About 20 miles south of Ann Arbor we were driving North on Highway 23 when we noticed a massive storm in the distance. Within minutes we were in it. Traffic slowed down to a crawl as we were getting blasted by a 70 mph cross wind and buckets of rain coming down. I glanced in the rear view mirror just in time to see the wind pick up my boat trailer (loaded with 10 boats on it) and dump it over on its side. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road and Denny and I got out to survey the scene and immediately realized there was nothing we could do and our best bet was to get in the car and wait out the storm.
Eventually it subsided enough that we could get out to survey the damage and come up with a plan to work through it. We quickly unloaded the boats and stashed them in a field along the highway while we drove to a nearby Cabelas to get a new tongue to replace the mangled tongue on the trailer. Before the storm hit I was planning to make a delivery of a new SEI Advantage. Fortunately that boat was on the good side of the trailer and my customer (Jim Kemp) met us at Cabelas, followed us back to where we had stashed the boats, and was able to take delivery of a brand new SEI. Jim was also very helpful in reloading the boats. I hope to never had to deliver another boat under those circumstances.
It Could have Been Much Worse
All said and done, five boats were damaged. The worst damage was to Denny’s V12 Ultra and a brand new S18S Advantage that I was hoping to sell in Cincinnati. Three boats received minor damage including a Custom Kayaks Double that Denny had picked up in Cincinnati and a brand new S16 Advantage I picked up from KAS along the way, along with my demo V8 Performance. The trailer was also pretty banged up but operable enough to get the boats loaded safely and get it home. Unfortunately I had not yet established a commercial insurance policy, so no luck with any insurance assistance. Fortunately I have a great repair guy (Al Anderson at Betsy Bay Kayaks) who does phenomenal work and is extremely reasonable with his rates. Once the boats are repaired I’ll make a decision to either sell them at an appropriate discount or use them as demo/rental boats
I can’t thank Denny enough for his understanding and assistance throughout the ordeal. It was Denny’s V12 Ultra that suffered some of the worst, but he was extremely understanding and really drove the plan to get us back in working order and on the road again.
One Long Day
The whole ordeal cost us about 3 hours and any amount of adrenaline we had left after the busy weekend and early morning race. We managed to get home around midnight.
Needless to say, I’m thrilled to have the month of June behind me and some time to recover in July. My work schedule isn’t slowing down any, but thankfully I only have two races in July and no more Expos until TC Waterman and the Suttons Bay Floatilla in August. Thankfully both of those are just single day events close to home so much easier to manage.