Bob Foote and Esquif
Bob's Relationship with Esquif and Information on the new Paradigm
For several years now, there have been grumblings that the canoe market is drying up and on the way out. Well, I am here to say, canoeing is still very much alive and doing quite well. Over the past 25 years, I have had the opportunity to see and participate in many of the changes and innovations that have affected the sport – both from the side of a paddler and designer. I remember yeeeeears ago watching one of the first Royalex boats on a river. A group of us were standing on the river bank, beside our aluminum canoes, commenting to one another that - “Those Royalex boats won’t be around for very long. They cost too much, the material is hard to repair, and you can’t glue anything to it.” Boy, were we wrong. Royalex canoes are still here and going strong. Also, it used to be several small “Mom and Pop” businesses that built and distributed a majority of the canoes. Now, with the exception of a few independent companies, larger-sized corporations are the ones manufacturing the boats. Recently, I taught a canoe class, where there was not one boat or outfitting system that was still in production. On the other hand, I have instructed classes where all the students were paddling currently manufactured canoes with up-to-date outfitting.
I have had the privilege to design solo and tandem canoes for Dagger, Navarro, and Bell. I’ve designed canoes used for general recreation/family use, whitewater, tripping, freestyle, etc. Recently, I’ve joined forces with Esquif Canoes out of Quebec, Canada. I am exited about this new relationship for a variety of reasons. First, Esquif is strongly committed to all aspects of canoeing, not just the larger market areas (i.e. general livery, rental markets). They strive to design and manufacture boats that cater to all aspects of the sport, including the smaller markets of rodeo, whitewater tandem, and slalom racing. Second, they are constantly in pursuit of new materials and innovative designs. Their Zephyr is a great example of this. This design is unique and made out of a revolutionary new plastic called Twin Tex. Twin Tex is tough, yet lightweight - a paddlers’ dream material. The R&D cost and tooling cost were great, but Esquif feels that such investments are the only way to grow the sport. I couldn’t agree more.
When I joined Esquif, I wanted to continue along their same line of pushing the envelope and designing unique hull shapes to challenge the paddling market; hence, the new Paradigm.
The Paradigm is a short 10’ 8” hard-chine boat, with very full ends. There has not been a new hard-chined boat for a long time. Instead of just making something similar to what is already on the market, I decided to offer something different. The Paradigm is very asymmetrical with long front entry and short exit; shallow arc in the front; flat where the paddlers mass is; chines harder in the rear; and low shear line. What does all this mean? For the paddler that enjoys hard edges, this is a boat that will push that feel and require a learning curve. For the paddler that wants a dry boat, the full ends meet that wish. If you build fullness into the ends, you don’t have to stick them up in the air to keep the boat dry. Over the years, we have been sweeping up the front ends to give dryness. (It also looks cool.) The problem with ends that sweep up, is it makes the boat harder to roll if you go over on your off side and the ends catch the wind. When the shear line is kept low, the boat rolls easier and does not catch as much wind.
The trim (seat positioning) is critical and based on how you wish to paddle the boat. If you want a longer glide and faster hull, the trim is set a little forward. If you want to emphases spin, then the trim is set a little back. Getting used to the low shear line will take time. Being used to ends that stick up and then getting into a boat with a low shear line, will give the perception that the boat is trimmed bow heavy. Going into a few waves, will show how dry the boat is and why there is no real need to have high ends.
Bottom Line – I’m really excited to be working with Esquif. We have other plans on the drawing board for more innovative designs – solo and tandem. Stay-tuned.
PS: Another indicator I use to tell the state of the market is the demand for canoe classes. I am fortunate to say, that requests are up and growing. If you would like a canoe class (flat water, whitewater or freestyle) taught in your part of the country, or are looking for a class in your area, look at the schedule posted on this site.
Questions and Answers:
Over the past several months I have been asked some specific questions regarding Esquif, the Paradigm, the Zephyr and the whitewater market. Below are a few of the questions and the corresponding answers:
Q: I have a Phantom that I love, but it is beat to death and I’m going to need to replace it soon. The Paradigm looks similar. Would it be a good replacement?
A: At a casual glance the Phantom and Paradigm are the same, with just minor variations on a theme: both boats have edges, full ends, and are about the same width, with the Paradigm a foot longer than the Phantom. But, if you take a closer look, or better yet, paddle them side by side, you will see and feel major differences. If you turn the Paradigm over and look at the hull shape, you will see that it has a longer entry line and a shorter exit, than the Phantom. Rocker is a great variable and the measurement in a catalog means nothing. First, not all manufactures measure the same way. There’s also no indication of what distance that rocker is spread or at what rate. A boat that has 5” of rocker that starts 18” back and then goes to the bow (the Phantom) is very different than one that has 5” of rocker that’s spread over an area of 4’ to 5’ (the Paradigm). Rocker can start in the middle of the boat and climb gradually to the end, or it can be where the hull stays flat until a short distance from the end then have the entire rocker added in. A little change in the rocker can greatly affect the feel and performance of a boat. That being said, the Paradigm's rocker will result in a different paddling experience than the Phantom's rocker, but an experience nonetheless that a former Phantom owner should like and appreciate.
Q: I am paddling a Probe 12 II, and thinking about getting another boat. Would the Paradigm be a good choice?
A: Depends….. Why do you want another boat? If it’s to get one that feels and paddles similar to what you have, then I would look at Esquif’s Zephyr. It is lightweight, fairly fast, and user friendly. You will be comfortable with the boat in a relatively short amount of time. Other 12’ boats with soft chines that fall into this category are the Rival, Outrage, and Shaman. Now, if what you are looking for is something with a totally different feel and paddling style, then I would look at the shorter, harder chined boats like the Ocoee, Phantom, and Paradigm. This type of boat can be challenging and require a longer learning curve, but they can also be a lot of fun and broaden and improve your skill base.
Q: I noticed the Paradigm is a new boat by Esquif. Should I buy one?
A: I would not buy a boat just because it is the new boat out there. Look at your paddling style and what you are paddling now. Does the new boat fit your paddling style? Is it different enough to be worth the expense? Do you need the difference? Just because PhotoShop comes out with a new version, doesn’t mean I need to go out and upgrade. My PhotoShop needs are very basic and the current version fits my needs. So you’ll need to answer for yourself the question on to buy or not to buy.
Q: The bow of the Paradigm looks very full. Does this slow the boat down?
A: Good question, and the answers is – it depends. When paddling on relatively flat water, the full bow is out of the water and does not come into play - so speed is not affected. As the wave height increases, the more the bow will come into play by riding up the wave and shedding water. Therefore, in this case, riding up versus cutting through the wave will slow the boat down. When front surfing, the full bow keeps the boat from pearling and prevents water from coming in over the bow. So, the bottom line - If you are looking for a boat that will cut through waves, then one with a full front would not be recommended, but if you want to ride up over the waves and a boat that doesn’t pearl when front surfing, then a full front end would be what you are looking for.
Q: How is Esquif’s new material Twin Tex holding up?
A: I’ve been using the new Zephyr and letting students paddle it for the past few months. It has been dragged, dropped, and banged into rocks. Karen and I both paddled it on our fourteen-day Grand Canyon Trip in August. So far it has held up to the use, abuse and heat extremely well. I would venture to say that a Royalex boat would not have faired quite as well.
Q: I understand that the outfitting in the Zephyr is not staying in. Is that true?
A: As with all new material, there’s a learning curve. When Royalex, Royal-Lite, Discoveries, etc. first came out, we went through a learning curve with those materials. We couldn’t get outfitting to stick and they were difficult to repair. Now we have Royalex welding, etc. So yes, when the Zephyr first came out, there was some glue failure. Has this been addressed? Yes. Will the learning curve continue, most definitely. On personal note, I took the Zephyr down the Grand Canyon - 235 miles, big water, air temp of 105 degrees, water temp of about 48 degrees. It would go from sitting on the beach in the sun during lunch to being cooled in the water. The air bags may have expanded and contracted, but I did not have even a hint of outfitting failure.
Q: Why have so many companies stopped making whitewater boats?
A: I don’t have a concrete answer for this. I am not saying that demand or lack thereof hasn’t had an impact. But I believe one of the contributing factors is the consumer. For example – when a whitewater canoe is delivered, some customers, if they found a scratch on the Royalex boat, would want a discounted price, because it’s now a “blem”. It didn’t seem to matter that as soon as they took the boat down its first river, it would have a ton of scratches. Or instead of buying a boat locally, they will drive a 100 miles to save $50. Profit margins in most boats are low to begin with. I would recommend supporting the manufactures and retailers we have left. Bell, Esquif, Mad River and the others, each make boats that meet some part of the market’s need. Maybe not your need, but a need. (Slalom, Freestyle, hard edges, soft edges, big boats, small boats…) None of these areas are big enough to support our sport, but taken as a whole group, they are. I would encourage we support the industry as whole and our local retailer.
On a side note, I’ve worked and I’m still working with Mad River, Dagger, Navarro, Bell and Esquif. A lot of time at trade shows you will find us hanging out or eating together. While there is some friendly rivalry going on, there’s a lot of mutual respect there too. Here are two examples of this. At a trade show, two major companies introduced a similar product with the same name. To settle who would use the name, they had a paddling tug-a-war in the pool. The winner would keep the name of the product and the loser would change theirs. (A lot of money had already been spent by each company on the printing of catalogs and other literature.) Each company could have gotten world champion paddlers to compete for them, but instead, the manufactures’ owners or representative paddled against each other in the race. It was great fun, no hard feelings. (Wish our world problems could be solved so easily.) Another example: During another trade show, a prominent manufacturer was not able to get time in the pool to demonstrate its products. After hearing about this, one of their chief competitors offered them some of their pool time. When I asked them why they did that, they said, “It was beneficial to the overall good of the sport to give up some of our time to allow our competitor to have a chance to show their products in the pool." I believe one of the problems with our whitewater market is that, unlike the above manufacturer, the consumer is too uni-focused. They are looking at what is good for them as an individual vs. what is good for the overall of the sport.