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Colorado boat sales boom during coronavirus

Paddleboard maker calls the demand ‘insane’ as retailers report record business

The Colorado Sun

The rivers are rising and paddle shops and boat makers across Colorado are reporting record sales as more families dip a paddle in the state’s waterways.

“It’s like strumming the perfect chord on your guitar. It just feels right,” said Mike McCormack, an Eagle dad who has two boys, 11 and 14. He just bought his first raft, a 15-foot, self-bailing Star Super Bug. “This summer is about adventuring in place and the boat brings that adventure in reach. It’s the one thing the whole family agrees on. This was an investment in our family.”

Colorado is a hotbed of watercraft design, with innovative entrepreneurs creating all kinds of boats, rafts and boards for navigating the state’s rivers and lakes. And those designers all are reporting the busiest few weeks in the history of their businesses, with families placing boat orders as pandemic-related safer-at-home orders flow on.

When the ski resorts closed, ski shops reported a run on backcountry skis. As public transportation ground to a halt, the world’s bike shops were cleaned out. RV and camper dealers are reporting record sales as families explore a new way to vacation. And now formerly quarantined Coloradans are rushing the rivers.

“It’s on fire right now. Insane,” said Mike Harvey, the co-founder of Badfish, the Salida stand-up paddleboard maker that has seen booming sales through May. “Best four-week period we have ever seen.”

Thor Tingey at the 20-year-old Alpacka Raft in Mancos saw sales drop 70% in the last two weeks of March after year-over-year growth in the first two months of the year. The rebound was slow in April, but as rules loosened and stimulus checks landed in May, orders for the handmade Alpacka packrafts have boomed.

“The last few weeks have been among the busiest in our history,” said Tingey, who has spread his workers across four buildings along the Mancos River to provide nearly 1,000 square feet of space per employee. “Since we are a build-to-order operation, it’s been quite the challenge to manage the higher sales volume — and I’m not complaining. We are thrilled to be back to work.”

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