The Paddle Expo is dead, long live The Paddle Sports Show! From September 29 to October 1, all players in the paddle sports and activities industry are expected in Lyon for the 1st edition of The Paddle Sports Show. Philippe Doux, who was the sidekick of Horst Führsattel throughout the history of the Paddle Expo which took place in Germany until 2019, is embarking on a new challenge, to set up an annual get-together dedicated to all professionals in the sector. Following 3 days of a B2B tradeshow and conferences, the general public will be able, on Saturday October 2, to also enjoy the event with product demonstrations and a day of racing organized by the Alpine Lakes Tour.
Hello Philippe, can you introduce yourself and your personal history with paddle sports?
My name is Philippe Doux, I am 51 years old. For the past twenty years I have been managing a small publishing company dedicated to the world of paddle sports with different magazines and in particular Kayak Session, our very first magazine. Through several print magazines, we deal with whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, fishing, outrigger, paddleboarding, destinations, lifestyle, etc. The idea is to open the eyes of our readership and remind paddlers that even if they have their own favorite paddle sport, they are part of a big family. Our media are exclusively in English, with 50% of our distribution in the US and Canada, 45% in Europe and 5% in the rest of the world. Although we are based in France we have an international focus. English makes it possible to reach the whole world and when you are a minor sport like ours, it’s interesting to be able to federate people as much as possible. From a passion, we made an occupation.
I still practice paddle sports. My dad was a trainer for the French kayak team. We were born and raised, my brother and I, by the rivers. After I stopped competing at age 20, I traveled for fifteen years as a river guide in many countries, Chile, United States, Canada, etc. This is what led me to create this small publishing house, with the idea of sharing all these incredible paddle adventures with the public.
The Paddle Sports Show is presented as the legacy to the Paddle Expo. Why did Paddle Expo stop and what prompted you to take over?
My relationship with Paddle Expo goes back to the very start. Horst Führsattel, the founder of Paddle Expo was a client of my reviews with his kayak brand. One day he calls me to ask me what I thought about starting a tradeshow dedicated to the industry. I told him that I didn’t know, but I offered to give him a hand.
For me at first, it was a side event because every year I mainly went to the Outdoor Retail Show back then in Salt Lake City. But every year I offered Horst new ideas: the Buyers Guide, the awards ceremony, a live coverage of the event with videos on the exhibitors, etc. Year after year we got closer, we came together on two or three events, the event became unmissable and two years ago, Horst was ready to hand it over. And COVID has sped things up. Horst for several years presented me as his heir, which I took jokingly. In the end, I felt legitimate with his support and encouragement.
I am very well surrounded because I work, among other people, with a childhood friend who is tradeshow producer. For my part, knowing the players in the industry well, we felt capable of doing a good job. I take this opportunity to thank the industry players who trusted me, and I want to tell them that I do not take it for granted, and we will do our best to return the trust that has been given to us.
Being based in France and not speaking German, it was not really an option for me to keep the show in Germany. I popped the question to the industry players i.e. whether Lyon was a good destination, and I thought the answer would be negative, thinking that the German market was too big. In the end, the response was extremely positive, mainly because of the geographical position of Lyon and also because the French market is very large. I feel we please a lot of people by confirming the organization.
Setting up a professional tradeshow, in the midst of the COVID crisis, isn’t that a little crazy?
Yes! Of course when we had the idea to launch a year ago, we thought that by September 2021 COVID would be over. And then 6 months ago, we said the same thing to each other, and this summer doubt started settle in. In terms of organization and logistics, it really complicates our task and costs. At the same time, it’s been two years since people have seen each other and since then the market has evolved a lot. We have experienced supply problems, increased transport costs, BREXIT, production delays, etc., there are a lot of questions unanswered and people need to see and talk to each other. Over the last 15 days there have been 800 registrations and this number should increase in the last 15 days prior to the event. We wanted to organize this event, we believed in it, and I thank all those who maintained their confidence. It has been essential in our ability to stay the course.
The Paddle Sports Show is an event geared towards industry professionals. Who are the target audiences exactly, who can attend the show and what is the interest of such ?
The target audience are retailers, distributors, rental business, watersport centers, seaside/lake resorts and also clubs. Basically, everyone who has to buy paddle equipment.
In terms of exhibitors, it ranges from entry-level products, to hi-tech products that reserved for a very select audience. And everything in the middle.
The raison d’être of the Paddle Expo was the answer to 30 years of boat shows, for instance, the boat show in Dusseldorf or Crystal Palace in England, where only a small corner was reserved for paddle sports, as long as we were not making too much noise, nor look too “dirty” amidst yachting businessmen. Basically, we needed a professional event only for us. And the Paddle Sports Show follows the same spirit. It’s an affordable show where you can find the latest innovations and products from small start-ups to multi-sport giants. The ambition is to be a must for paddle sports and water recreation, not at all to develop a new boat show. We’re going to get out of paddle sports a little bit, with foil and wing products, but it won’t go much further.
What is your vision of the industry to date?
I believe that we are witnessing, and TotalSUP is part of it, a mutation, big transformations for which we were not prepared. We go from a phase where we were looking for customers to another in which we are unable to serve customers. It’s great, it’s frightening, but it creates a cataclysm the consequences of which we do not yet know.
We are organizing 3 conferences during the show to discuss all these themes, in particular how to handle the Covid and post-Covid periods. Also, how to open up our activities to true ethnic diversity, people with disabilities, etc.
It’s an industry that is super nice, I think we have gold in our hands. I am very, very optimistic for the future. We are fortunate to have an industry that is very versatile, from extreme SUP surfer to kayak fisherman, we have a paddle in our hand that serves as a common trait. There is such diversity that we can meet all needs, all audiences. We also see that the general public is embracing our culture. Paddles and inflatable kayaks are totally part of the landscape every summer. The success of the Paddle Sports Show is a small reflection of this.
Each day of the show ends with the word “party”. It seems that the atmosphere is not just work, work, work at the Paddle Sports Show, correct?
That’s the idea. We have to make sure that people come to do business but also have a good time! People come to the show with friends, to experience new things and have a laugh. You have to have a party mood and Lyon is particularly suited for that with all the restaurants and bars, especially by the river. People need to come here for lots of reasons: the show but also the conferences, the kayak fishing competition with Hobie, the race in partnership with the alpine lakes tour, product demos, etc.
The best place to have a good time in late September early October is Lyon.
In addition to the show which goes from Wednesday 29th to Friday October 1st, the public with be able to test gear and race as part of the Alpine Lakes Tour circuit. What can you tell us about this event?
Like any tradeshow organizer who wants to fill the aisles of his venue, it would be easier to bring in the public, but the Paddle Sports Show is not the right place for that. Industry professionals want a place to talk to other professionals, not to demos all day or answer questions from hundreds of people. Being close to the river, our idea is to bring out the tradeshow to meet the public and not the other way around. Friday afternoon will therefore be the time for demos and Saturday the day for the general public with a charity paddle and 3 races by the Alpine Lakes Tour. We will also welcome schoolchildren who will be introduced to paddle sports and given notions of environmental protection. I think part of the show will happen on the water. By the river and with a cold drink, it’s not too unpleasant to do business. Since it’s a first edition, it will be a discovery and a trial run. You have to give yourself the chance to try.