CanoeSport Outfitters, Iowa

MTI is celebrating 25 years in 2016 by featuring 25 of our longest-running dealers. We are only here because they’ve been here with us – selling our products and getting people on the water. It it because of their loyalty, support, and feedback that we continue to evolve and grow to serve paddlers. Here’s to another 25 years! – Editor’s Note

Canoesport Outfitters when it first opened its doors in 1992.

When Jeff Holmes opened CanoeSport Outfitters opened in May of 1992, the paddlesports industry was very different. A huge variety of companies produced innovative new products, all trying to out-do one another, and relied on local sales reps to support demos and events. As corporate consolidation among manufacturers started, the industry changed dramatically, and shops were left to pick up the slack on their own. Many were forced to close up shop, but others rallied around the community they cater to. It is because they didn’t sacrifice their core values that CanoeSport Outfitters is still around today.

The shop now, several expansions and moves later.

“For twenty-four years we have remained focused on promoting paddling as safe and healthy activities ideally suited for all ages,” says Shireen Cave, who has worked at CanoeSport Outfitters full-time since 2010 after falling in love with kayaking two years before. “We’ve remained event and service oriented rather than sales oriented. We constantly look for ways to add value to what we do rather than simply selling the cheapest products.”

In addition to selling high quality products, they provide services that you just can’t get
online. All of their staff are devoted paddlers and instructors, and they know that education doesn’t only happen on the water. “They understand that convincing a customer to buy better products more than likely means they’ll create a life-long paddler and a loyal customer” says Shireen.

Customers can be hard to come by in the often-seasonal paddling business. “Our business is eight or nine months of insane activity followed by three months of quiet recovery,” says Shireen. “This is largely due to our increased reliance on rentals, instruction, and adventure travel rather than strictly retail sales.” That includes lessons in canoeing, kayaking and SUP from highly qualified ACA and BCU instructors, as well as guided trips to places such as Lake Powell, the Apostle Islands, Georgia the Everglades. They have been offering rentals, instruction and demos at nearby Lake Ahquabi State Park for 20 years now.

CanoeSport 3
Teaching a kayaking class on Lake Ahquabi, where they also offer rentals. How many MTI PFDs can you spot?


MTI is among the products they sell, “largely because of Lili!” says Shireen. “We were doing business with MTI before Lili and Gordon purchased the company, but we definitely increased our focus on their products afterwards. We like doing business with a smaller company, owned by someone we know rather than a corporation with a different CEO every year.”

A sampling of the high-quality products CanoeSport Outfitters carries.

It truly is all about the people you know, and in a small suburb of 15,000 like Indianolia, Iowa, on the outskirts of Des Moines, that can be a lot of people. “It’s still a place where you know your neighbor,” says Shireen. “We are located in the old downtown area and we actually have a town square. Across the street from us is a business that has a soda fountain and you can still get a green river or a cherry vanilla coke.”

We may not be able to go back to the halcyon days of the paddle industry, but we’ll take a cherry vanilla coke for now.

Canoesport Outfitters is hosting their annual DemoFest on April 9 at Lake Ahquabi State Park, 16510 118th Ave, Indianola, IA 50125. Come paddle the latest boats, boards and try out their best-selling MTI PFD, the Slipstream!


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