Boat businesses swamped during pandemic

CALGARY — Canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUP) are in high demand in Calgary during the summer of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year has been insane,” said Jocelyn Peters who has worked at Aquabatics for three seasons. “We’ve been sold out of kayaks for about three months now. We’re taking preseason orders for next year already.”

Peters says they were also sold out of canoes and had a single SUP left. Paddles and inflatables were also low in stock.

Businesses that rent out boats, SUP and rafts had a slow start to the season but business began booming once pandemic restrictions eased.

“It’s great because most of our lessons that we ran got cancelled because of COVID in the spring and so we were a little worried,” said Mark Taylor, owner of the Rocky Mountain Paddling Centre.

“Rentals have increased so substantially that it’s been a great summer for us.”

Boat repair shops have been swamped too.

“I’ve been repairing a lot of boats that otherwise wouldn’t be repaired because there’s nothing new nowadays,” said Jeff McDougall, owner of The Old Boathouse YYC.

He said aside from the lack of inventory, people are also motivated by the price. It’s normally about a third of the cost to repair an old canoe then to buy one new.

“It makes me happy that stuff isn’t ending up in the landfill.”

Boaters are happy, people are embracing the outdoors and helping keep local businesses afloat.

“Glad to see that the places that have maybe struggled a little bit with the outdoors are doing well,” said Walter Savill, who has enjoyed canoeing for years.

“We’re getting more people out there and more people learning about it and I think it’s fantastic.”

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