Fall 2019 heralded some unexpected shakeups in the paddlesports industry, including consolidations and shutdowns. Here’s a round-up of the news that got the paddling industry and paddlers talking during the months of October and November 2019.

Hemisphere Design Works Shuts Down Operations in Michigan

On October 30, 2019, local news stations in Muskegon, Michigan, reported Hemisphere Design Works, makers of Evoke, Future Beach and Sun Dolphin recreational kayaks, were shutting down headquarters. This was according to a notice filed with the state of Michigan on October 29. Layoffs reportedly began the same day.

“The company has been in the process of seeking capital which, if obtained, would have enabled it to avoid or postpone a closure and continue operations. Unfortunately, the company’s efforts have not been successful and the company has unexpectedly learned that the term lender will not provide additional funding,” the kayak maker said in the notice.

The closing comes two years after industry giants, KL Outdoor and GSC Technologies, merged to form Hemisphere Design Works. At the time, the press release announcing the merger claimed: “The existing Hemisphere Design Works house of brands commands an industry-leading 30 percent of the market, and with a forecast of double-digit growth through 2020, it’s leading flagship brands Sundolphin, Future Beach and Evoke are positioned to capitalize on this demand.”

Bonafide Kayak and Big Adventures Join Forces in Merger

Native Watercraft and Liquidlogic Kayaks, together with Bonafide Kayaks, announced the merger of their businesses on October 31, 2019. Bonafide Kayaks founder Luther Cifers will serve the combined business as president. Kelley Woolsey will serve as Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

Don Grigg, CEO of Native, Liquidlogic, and Hurricane, will serve as CEO of the combined companies. “Bringing these businesses together does so many positive things,” Grigg said in a press release.

“We both had amazing teams prior to this merger, and working together towards a common vision is going to be great for all of us,” Griggs added. “We’re confident that the collective in both people and brands will be a significant and positive force in the industry for years to come.” Read more about the merger in the press release here.

Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers, Orion Kennels and Blue Sky Boatworks Consolidation

On November 1, 2019, it was announced Jackson Adventures is now the brand representing Jackson Kayak, Orion Coolers, Orion Kennels and Blue Sky Boatworks. The launch of the new consolidated brand came with the launch of a new website (jacksonadventures.com) where all products and content will be centralized. Read more in the press release here.

White Squall Sea Change

On November 5, 2019, after 35 years at the helm and valuable contributions to the Great Lakes paddling scene, Tim Dyer announced he and Kathy are closing up the White Squall Paddling Centre near the shore of Georgian Bay, near Parry Sound, Ontario. The shop will continue operations until another provider takes over in Spring 2020. All boats and gear are on clear-out pricing. Read Dyer’s statement on the White Squall blog here.

YakGear Under the Umbrella of Railblaza USA

On November 15, 2019, Railblaza announced YakGear would be moving under the newly formed umbrella brand of Railblaza USA. Bill Bragman, YakGear’s founder and president, will remain president of the new company. Learn more in the press release here.


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