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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Toronto MEC, and Paddle Toronto.

This past week I had the pleasure of visiting my countries delightful neighbor to the north. This was a very unofficial trip, I brought no paddling gear, not even clothes to paddle in. It was just a week in Toronto. But while I was there, the Otaku in me had to come out. I made an effort to get a feel for the paddling community in Toronto, and I was very impressed.

My first stop was MEC, or The Mountain Equipment Co-op. I was very impressed with the paddling equipment selection in this smallish - compared to REI and other US outdoor retailers - store.



They had more cold weather paddling clothing than I have ever seen in one place, and that includes dry suits. I know a number of people - myself included - who have ordered drysuits online with fingers crossed because you are spending a lot of money on a piece of gear you can't try on. I also was able to try on the Kokatat Ronin Pro pfd which has been in the running as a potential replacement for my aging Astral 300r.

Speaking of Astral, they were nowhere to be found. I was very surprised to see my favorite brand, a brand widely regarded in the US, not to be available. A quick look at the MEC website shows the only PFD's carried are Kokatat and MEC brand. Though they do carry the Astral Brewer shoe. Go figure. 

Another of my favorite brands that is missing from the MEC lineup was Werner. I think paddles was the area that the store - and website - were the most lacking. They had a very small range of kayaking paddles, mostly from the brand Accent, which I haven't heard of or used - though they may be very good! - I did see a lot of canoe paddles and SUP paddles, neither of which is surprising. 

I was very excited to see a great range on kayaks, from simple recreation boats to a good selection of 15 foot and bigger touring kayaks. As you can see in the photos, there are kayaks all over the store. 

If you follow me on facebook, you saw that I got a new throw bag to replace the one that was sacrificed to the bear* gods in Alaska. 

My next stop was to a spot along the Harbour front. Paddle Toronto offers instruction in SUP and Kayak and also offered boat storage. Which is where all these nice photos came from. 





I met a lovely woman who happened to be paddling my boat, she told me that a boat can be stored at the harbour for around $400 a year, which is really quite reasonable. After visiting Paddle Toronto I decided to look into Paddle Canada which is their version of the ACA. But I have to say, from everything I read I liked the Paddle Canada curriculum and system a lot more. It looked like a simple progression up the skills ladder. To me it felt very similar to BCU, which I also prefer to ACA. All in all I was really excited by the paddling community in Toronto. I hope someday to be able to do some paddling up there. 

*I don't think I mentioned it in the version of 'The bear' posted here, but it did get mentioned in the version posted at Lets be Wild.com. The boats were tied to a tree with my throw bag. The tree was in the forest, a few feet from where the bear retreated too. I cut the line, so I didn't have to go in after it.