When the huge Seattle Boat Show opens every January, friends in the paddle industry admit they have no interest in attending. I often hear "I'm a paddler not a boater!"

But in truth, if you're in the paddling industry, boat shows have a lot of benefits to the human powered folks. These tips will allow paddlers to see how boat shows are great for product research, networking and even promoting your business.

Meet Waterway Officials, Harbormasters, Tour Vendors...

  • Chat with the Police / Harbor Patrol about paddler's issues, recent rescues and how your business can work with them.
  • Connect with city, State and National Parks education and outreach staff to see how you can work in their parks or provide water safety education tips for their communications staff.
  • Connect with local marina staff especially if you already use their marina or plan on expanding trips or services in the marina.
  • Meet charter, tour and seaplane vendors that you'd like to work for or with.
  • Connect with environmental agencies and companies looking for help in keeping your waterways clean.

Connect with Equipment Manufacturers..

  • Gear such as handheld VHF radios will be shown by their manufacturers at these events. Often you can discuss how you use the gear and offer suggestions for improvements for paddlers.
  • You can also find vest and waist C02 lifejackets, rescue gear, wetsuits, rash guards and even SUPs and kayaks at boating events. Also you'll find racks for attaching kayaks/sups to boats.
  • Meet manufacturer reps for all the above products. Often reps travel to these shows so it's a good time to connect in person.
  • Check how boaters repair their inflatable, plastic and fiberglass hulls and see if it applies to your paddling craft.

Browse Boating and Water Industry Book Store Booths

  • Take advantage of event discounts to purchase books that apply to paddling such as marine navigation, regional boating travel, marine weather and regional history.

Learn from the Boating Industry Pros about Event Marketing. Do you have a paddling symposium coming up soon?

  • For many boating companies this is their most successful sales opportunity. How are they marketing themselves?
  • How are vendors getting your email address for their marketing?
  • How are booths set up? Look at the design, colors matching their branding, their methods to meet and greet you and methods to grab your attention whether visual or otherwise.
  • Boaters use paddling gear and strap kayaks and sups to their craft. How can you help them do that better? This is where I look for ideas for write articles to help boaters become better and more safe paddlers. How do you inflate an isup on a boat?
  • Be ready to connect by bringing your business cards and stickers. Nothing's worse than making a connection and then 'oh sorry, I don't have a card or don't have one on me.'.
  • Bring a backpack or shoulder bag to pick up brochures and show schwag or hand-out your marketing materials.

Take a Boating Seminar

  • Boat shows bring in top experts in marine weather, navigation, repair and touring companies. Show seminars are usually free or discounted.
  • Want to get into boating? They have great seminars are how to get started, engine repair, etc..

Teach Paddling Skills at the Next Event 

  • Ask the event organizers if you can give future seminars on topics like, how to attach your SUP or kayak to your boat, where to paddle in your region, how to get on a sup or kayak from the boat, what to wear when paddling, how and which gear to purchase gear.
  • Continue to build your authority in the boating and paddling industry by writing articles on the above or similar topics for boating magazines, online publications and blogs.