The Canoe Shops Group was not formed as such, it evolved. The first kayak to come Duffer’s way was a PBK in the early sixties. Not canvas on wood but battleship grey PVC on wood. Grand Duffer allegedly purchased the PVC in the Ministry of Defence Surplus stores in Plymouth.
Duffer was called Duffer as a child because he excelled at school; the ageing process converted his handle to The Old Duffer.
In the 1960’s Duffer paddled anything he could get his hands on in search of food - mainly fish and edible crabs. He tells tales about 40lb conger eels slithering over his legs inside a PVC kayak: an evolution that will sort kayak anglers from kayakers.
Time passed, as it does. Life’s little twists and turns were navigated and to everyone’s surprise The Erk requested a kayak for his twelfth birthday. Good parenting skills kicked in and The Erk was presented with a Laser 2-350; the seed of The Canoe Shops Group was well and truly planted. Anyone old enough will know that a Laser 2-350 is a huge kayak for a child to paddle. A grumpy Old Duffer set about adding kayak retail to his day job.
Attached to the birthday present was a One Star course with the Port of Plymouth Canoeing Association (PPCA). The PPCA taught The Erk to paddle and taught Old Duffer to paddle and swim. The debt owed by Canoe Shops to the PPCA is priceless. Their tuition and encouragement changed lives and fortunes far beyond the scope of the BCU Star Scheme. Armed with a 4 Star Sea and a brand new Meridian it was time to form Kayaks and Paddles (Plymouth) Ltd. Andy joined the Old Duffer at K&P and the Oxford English Dictionary was extended to include Kermuffitypuff, Zing Zang Zooly and what’s in the Box Andy. Duffer taught Andy to stuff insulation pads and Andy went walk about for three months each year to paddle the world. Armed with the same BCU 4 Star Sea and a Pyranha Acrobat 300 in a tasteful shade of Hot Pink, Bournemouth Canoes was formed and opened near Poole Harbour in Dorset. The Erk was paddling white water and surf whilst the Fridge Fairy was either being sea sick or stranded out back awaiting her next beating in the surf.
We camped on and paddled around the Scilly’s to prepare us for Alaska. Capitan Flag collected us from the airport in Anchorage and opened our eyes to wilderness paddling. Another lasting impression for life, we will return to Alaska in the mother of all luxury liners! Bears, whales, sea lions, orca, sea otters, land otters, bald eagles, humming birds, salmon, the biggest mosquito on the planet and ice. Tidewater glaciers, ice, more ice, growlers, strange strange weather and twenty rolls of film all showing ice.
By now, Leggy was inching towards his degree in Control Systems Engineering and needed a sensible career path. Old Duffer saved Engineering from Leggy by getting him to manage Brighton Canoes. The Erk is now working at Bournemouth.
It was about now that kayak angling was added to sea kayaking and where did the Old Duffer and Fridge Fairy go to satisfy this need? Ireland. It seemed daft to drive all that way and not take a van and trailer load of kayaks with them, so Bantry Bay Canoes in West Cork became the first overseas venture.
The wrinklies (Duffer and the Fridge Fairy) are twitcher’s of a sort. Kayak birding brings with it an viewing advantage none kayaking birders never see. Everything from Kingfishers, spoonbills and Red kites. We know you can see Kites from the land but up close and personal with spoonbills in Cornwall is brilliant.
Having enjoyed paddling on the Norfolk Broads and along the coast of East Anglia we found ourselves drawn to Norwich. The Fridge Fairy “tested the shops in Norwich” and found them “satisfactory” so Norfolk Canoes was formed.
The crash in 2008 did not help any of us and then came the recession. If ever you needed another reason to get out there and paddle this was it. There are no economic tales of woe in your head whilst paddling.
Canoe Shops Group made some adjustments in 2011 to better equip it for the future.
One of the happy adjustments in 2012 is called Manchester Canoes. The group has always had a need for a good size store near to the Pyranha factory in Cheshire. Sending Kermuffitypuff Belle Up North unloaded is not a good use of fuel.
2013 looks very promising with Manchester Canoes opening in February and plans in place to re-open Cheltenham Canoes along with Canoe Shops Scotland.
Old Duffer and the Fridge Fairy are now The Erk’s and Leggy’s little helpers – doing all the jobs they don’t want to do – it’s called evolution. Do a good job lads because our care home of choice aint cheap!
|There is a plan behind all this and today it is still evolving.|
The Canoe Shops Group Limited has a mission statement:
“To supply great toys of the best quality and at the right price to people who want to buy them. To do this work in such a manner as to leave our customers with a smile on their faces and help launch them into a lifetime of paddlesport”.
The business has grown steadily and managing the same takes a lot of effort and dedication.
We needed a Top Dog to oversee the continued growth of the business and after much head hunting Not Again got the job.