Come inside ... for a little while

Last modified: 3/23/2012 12:00:00 AM
All my outdoor time recently has been spent raking up oak leaves that either didn't get raked last fall or fell or blew in over the winter - if you can call what we just experienced "winter." Yard work is not exactly my first choice for Active Outdoors pastimes - though the reach, pull and twist motions of raking wet leaves does strengthen some of the same muscles you use for paddling. So I guess it's not a total loss.

Paddling has been much on my mind lately. Yours, too, I imagine. I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to the New England Paddlesports Show (

pid/3), which happens March 30 to April 1 this year.

It isn't particularly active . . . it isn't outdoors . . . so why in the world would anyone want to go and waste what might possibly be a perfectly lovely spring day inside the UNH Field House in Durham looking at hundreds of kayaks, dozens of canoes and thousands of paddling accessories?

Simple, just the sight of all that floatable fun will get you cranked up and, possibly, geared up to do more paddling this season. And, since we've got seven or eight months of open water and warm days ahead, and since paddling is the perfect way to enjoy those days, spending a day at a paddle show at this time of year just makes sense.

A show like this is a learning experience. If you have questions about hull design and materials, comfortable boats seats, or why one paddle is lighter, stronger and more efficient than another, chances are the folks manning the booths can answer that for you. I particularly like being able to pick up a paddle, get the feel of it, and then do the same with a comparable paddle by another manufacturer just steps away. Sometimes the differences are subtle, sometimes they are huge. One thing I will warn you - this show is pretty much all about flatwater paddle sports. In the past there's been little in the way of whitewater boats and gear.

There's more to any paddle show than just gear, of course. They've got all sorts of seminars and demonstrations as well. There are seminars on how to pick a kayak, how to pick a kayak paddle, how to choose the right PFD for your needs, demonstrations on how to paddle a standup paddle board (SUP) and what to do if you fall out of your kayak far from shore - and all that is just on Friday evening!

The show runs two more days. One seminar title that intrigues me is "How Not To Have A Bad Day," which is being presented by Roger Poor of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail on both Saturday and Sunday morning. Gotta catch that. Maybe you'd be more interested in one of several seminars on kayak fishing or the slide show on "Exploring The World By Kayak," by Cathy Piffath (who led me on my first-ever kayak adventure) and Jeff Cooper of H2Outfitters in Maine.

I've been paddling canoes almost all my life, and kayaks for years, and I still learn many, many things at each show.

If we're really lucky, it'll be too rainy, cold or windy - or all three - to actually get out and go paddling. Then, you don't feel guilty about giving up a day outside. But even if it's nice outdoors, a day at the show is a pretty good investment in your enjoyable paddling future.

Life isn't a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

 Other demos, events

If you are looking to buy a new kayak, you should always paddle it first. And while many kayak sellers have a place to paddle nearby, a demo event where there are lots of boats to compare is both fun and instructive. Here are a few events I've found so far. I'll let you know as I find more.

• May 5-6: The Kayak Centre of Rhode Island ( will have more than 125 kayaks at the Wickford Town Beach, (Rt. 1A) in North Kingstown from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• May 18-20: The Adirondack Paddlefest sponsored by Mountainman Outdoor Supply Company in Old Forge, N.Y. ( Huge demo and sale and a great excuse to visit the Adirondacks.

• May 20, Contoocook River Canoe Company ( has a huge demo/sale event on the Merrimack River near Concord, with over 200 boats and paddles by Werner and Bending Branches.

• EMS has a traveling kayak demo during May, June and July. For the complete list go to and type "kayak demo" in the search box, or call your local store.

 Giving back

On April 14 Connecticut Outdoors (4ctoutdoors) has its annual Naugatuck River Cleanup Day scheduled. They are looking for "an army" to help remove trash from the river and its banks.

• The Northern Forest Canoe Trail ( is always looking for volunteers to help out with various river projects. Go to its website and click on "get involved."

(Tim Jones can be reached at

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