The canoe company, based in London, Ontario, has always built good canoe designs (my favorite is their Prospector). But lately they have gone where no other boat builder had even thought of going when it comes to the actual look of the canoe. It all started last season when they put out various plaid canoes, a tie-dyed canoe and that Canadian flag canoe you've seen me paddling around in (built, and donated, especially for celebrating National Canoe Day). Nova Craft staff realized that it was possible to laminate almost any design into a composite boat. Roch Prévost, Sales and Marketing Manager, and Tim Miller, owner of Nova Craft, recognized this as an exciting opportunity to offer a unique, personalized and very different designs to customers and this is rejuvenating the canoe-manufacturing industry.
The big question — why? After all, they knew the company could receive some criticism from a number of "traditional" paddlers, as well as canoe builders, by coming out with such "odd" designs. And they did definitely get some flack. But the company just ignored initial comments made. They knew that canoeing needed an "odd" and "non-tradtional" approach to canoe design if the paddlesport community was ever going to get the youth of today interested in canoe tripping. And their idea worked — big time! Nova Craft sales are up (in a recession) and they have a pile of young paddlers ordering their own personalized canoe design. Heck, I even ordered another one and, according to my wife, I definitely don't need another canoe.
Yes, they made money with the new project. Good for them. But this new initiative, in my opinion, is much more then a way to increase sales. They've sparked interest in canoeing with today's youth — and that's far more important in my view.
Nova Craft also created a project with Fanshaw College Arts Department this winter where 74 students were to create a design for a canoe, aimed at the 25 to 35 year-old demographic, but not excluding teenagers. Here's what Nova Craft had to say about the whole thing…
Each student had to create his or her design, remembering the practical as well as whimsical as it has to be possible to put onto a canoe, and then write a specification sheet aimed at selling the finished product. Each design had to be unique, and translatable onto the curves of a canoe. To facilitate this, the students were given a specific profile for their designs, taken from measurements of a Bob Special, 15-foot canoe. The students were not given any particular theme; rather the design was to represent their personality and what the canoe and canoeing means to them.
Each student had three minutes to present his or her design to a panel of five judges, representing a variety of backgrounds in canoeing, art and marketing. (I was fortunate enough to be one of those judges and I have to say it was the best day I've had in a long time). The presentations were evaluated out of 100 possible points in six different judging categories. Sixteen finalists went on to the second tier, and their presentations were judged based on best fit with Nova Craft's ideals and with the target demographic. Of the three finalists, one design each was chosen to represent man, woman and the outdoors. The overall high quality of all the designs impressed everyone involved. They were all outstanding, and picking the ones with the best fit to Nova Craft Canoe proved to be a challenge.
This is a contest where everyone wins: the three students with the winning designs each received a $500.00 bursary from Nova Craft Canoe and all the students and their designs received media exposure and a chance to discuss their work with industry representatives during the reveal ceremony at Fanshawe College. Nova Craft Canoe retains exclusive use of the winning designs, and the overall media exposure benefits Nova Craft and Fanshawe College. The three winning canoes will travel throughout the summer to be featured at various outdoor shows, including Canoecopia, the largest show in North America dedicated solely to paddlesports.