After a seven-year hiatus, former flatwater and downriver canoe champion Ted Bell started building canoes again in 2014 for his Northstar Canoes, based in Princeton, Minnesota.
“I’m super happy to be back building boats,” Bell, 61, said. “I’m doing what I love to do.”
Bell sold his long-running Bell Canoe Works company to ORC in 2006, initiating a non-compete clause that ended in 2013. Building boats in his garage for the past several years, he decided to re-enter the commercial fray, teaming up with friend and business partner Bear Paulsen to bring a line of high-performance composite offerings.
“Ted doesn’t do anything except at full throttle,” Paulsen said.
Bell Canoe Works, which Bell founded in 1988, brought high-end composite canoes from the racing sector to the recreational market. Since then, Bell has introduced countless innovations in composite canoe construction while gaining a reputation for building some of the highest-quality canoes on the market. In 1993, he brought on canoe designer David Yost and the company quickly rose to become one of the industry’s premier composite and Royalex canoe manufacturers.
Now that he’s back – joining other major players like Mad River Canoe, Wenonah Canoe, Mohawk Canoe and more — it’s much to the delight of his broad fan base. Bell is also working again with Yost, as well as Yost’s son, Carl, on the design front.
While the market has changed, they feel there’s still plenty of opportunity for a small brand to innovate and bring some attention back to canoes beyond the conglomerates.
“Kayaks are hot, SUPs are hotter, and kayak fishing is even hotter still,” Paulsen said. “But historically, canoes are still the most viable craft. And there are still as many people canoeing as there are kayaking.
Northstar introduced models in three different lay-ups, including its carbon/Kevlar Black-Lite, Kevlar Lite, and White Gold. Northstar model line-up started with four sizes of the Northwind touring canoe (20 – 20’6″; 18 – 18’9″; 17 – 17’6″; and 16 – 16’6″); the 16-foot Magic for performance touring; the 12-foot ADK Solo for double-bladed touring; and the 14’6” Phoenix for river touring.
Great Miami Outfitters is pleased to carry Northstar Canoes, as one of only 2 dealers in Ohio. “We’ve seen the upswing of kayaks and SUPs in the market,” says Dan Schlegel, co-owner, “but as avid paddlers, my son Andrew and I still love to paddle a good canoe. We think there are advantages to canoeing over kayaking, especially when you are talking about solo canoes.”
“They can carry more gear, they are usually lighter, and there is a certain magic to paddling an open boat with a single bladed paddle.”
Stop in at Great Miami Outfitters, to see the new Northstar Canoes in stock!