The 50-year-old Washington-based recreational and light touring kayak brand will retain control of its board, with three-fifths of directors consisting of long-term Eddyline management. Meanwhile, RZC Investments will support Eddyline’s growth, including plans for a new facility in Arkansas.
Eddyline was already in the process of expanding prior to the investment from RZC. In early 2020, Eddyline moved into its current headquarters in Burlington, Washington, doubling its production capacity, and opened another production facility in Queretaro, Mexico, in 2021.
Eddyline currently sells its kayaks to approximately 100 dealers at 150 store locations across the United States and Canada. The future Arkansas distribution center will help the brand get its kayaks to dealers and customers more efficiently, said Eddyline president Scott Holley.
“[In Washington] we’ve got a lot of advantages in our proximity to world-class sea kayaking in the Pacific Northwest, but we’re at a disadvantage when it comes to shipping to important markets in the southeastern U.S.,” Holley said. “Having a distribution presence in northwest Arkansas, which is really well-situated and central, will help us make sure we can get Eddylines into the hands of our dealers and consumers more quickly.”
RZC Investments is the direct investment firm of Runway Group, founded by Steuart and Tom Walton—grandsons and heirs of Walmart founder Sam Walton. The brothers have been committed to growing the outdoor recreation community in northwest Arkansas for over a decade, notably in the development of mountain biking infrastructure and trail networks through their family’s foundation and through investments in bicycle manufacturers. Eddyline is RZC’s first venture in the world of paddlesports. Despite the Walmart connection, Eddyline products will not be available in the superstore. “We do not have any relationship with Walmart nor do we anticipate having a relationship with Walmart,” confirms Holley.
“We began the process of looking for ways to grow a couple years back, and through that process we went to Bentonville [Arkansas] to look for resources,” Holley said. “It turned out that one of the individuals affiliated with RZC is also a passionate Eddyline customer, so when he found out we were looking to expand our production, he got in touch with us, one thing led to another, and that’s how this came about.”
According to Holley, the Walton’s—and RZC’s—focus on outdoor recreation made the investment firm a good fit for Eddyline.
“RZC and the Waltons have shown tremendous commitment to conservation and outdoor recreation,” Holley said. “In northwest Arkansas, there’s a ton of outdoor recreation going on there, and a lot of opportunities to grow kayaking as a sport,” Holley said. “I’m excited to have a long-term partner who shares our vision for making quality gear.”
Eddyline’s current product lineup is manufactured using Carbonlite, a high-performance thermoplastic, which creates a lightweight, shiny and UV-resistant design. An increased interest in recreational kayaking, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, brought Eddyline more first-time buyers than ever.
“COVID really changed how people thought about recreating,” Holley said. “Before, a lot of people would buy an Eddyline after they already had some experience, and now we’re seeing a lot more people coming into the sport willing to do the research and pay a premium for a quality product.”
“Supply-chain issues have been at the top of every kayak manufacturer’s mind since the beginning of the pandemic,” he added. “You had massively increased demand at the same time that getting raw materials and getting finished products into the hands of consumers became more challenging than ever. This investment will help us expand our production capacity and distribution capacity.”
In terms of product offerings, Eddyline is looking to continue its focus on quality and performance while adapting to the new user market. “We’re working on a lot of product initiatives right now, including filling out our existing line and improving the feature set for comfort and accessibility,” Holley said. “Quality of design, craftsmanship and service are things we’re not going to settle on.”
As part of the investment, RZC Vice President Don Huffner joins the Eddyline board along with longterm managers Todd Keane, Janet Sutton and president Scott Holley. While Eddyline and RZA are not disclosing the dollar amount of the investment, it’s clear the increase in funding is substantial enough to allow Eddyline to pursue an entirely new geographic presence in the south-central U.S.—good news for retailers and buyers in a booming paddlesports industry.