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9 Expert Kayakers On Myths About Rolling

kayaker underwater about to flip his boat upright
Myth #9: “That it's hard.” —Bren Orton, Send co-founder Photo: Boomer Jerritt

“Some say it’s like riding a bike—once you’ve learned it, you can just jump back into it at any time. If you’ve been away from kayaking for some time, chances are muscle memory isn’t as strong and you can find yourself swimming.”
–Andy Hill, C1 world champion

“I have taught classes where the women in the class learn how to roll much faster than the men. The men sometimes get a hurt ego, and play it off as the women being more flexible. Are you flexible enough to lift your arms above your head?

Then you are flexible enough to roll a kayak. You don’t have to be flexible in order to roll. I have seen a stiff 76-year-old man learn to roll, he just needed to find a different technique to do it.”
—Brooke Hess, U.S. National Freestyle Kayak Team

“People think rolling is hard. It’s not about strength, it’s more about technique and finesse than anything else.”
—Katie Kowalski, Canoe Kayak Canada National Freestyle Team

“The myth is it’s easier and safer to roll up staying forward, or that it is easier to roll up finishing back. Even if the argument is that your face may be exposed, it is safest to be upright. How you get back upright the quickest is the safest.”
—Nick Troutman, pro kayaker

“The myth of the disappearing roll. Sometimes in turbulence, beginners and intermediates find their rolls disappear. They flail and cannot get up. This is because they have practiced their rolls in a certain way, from one starting position, but turbulence forces the boat, their body, and their paddle out of position.

The roll is there, but you must practice doing it with power from any starting point. That’s what is meant by a combat roll.  And the myth of the hip snap—people tell beginners to snap their hips during the roll, which is confusing and false. The only place where you exert force on the boat to turn it upright is through the knee pushing in the direction of the roll. You don’t need a hip snap—your hip will follow your knee.”
—Doug Ammons, explorer

“Myth: Rolling a kayak is like riding a bike. Truth: Rolling a kayak is only like riding a bike if the bike is upside down and underwater with rocks and trees flying by. Too many times we downplay how difficult a reliable role is to master or maintain. The secret to the roll is long-time boaters must practice, and beginner kayakers must have patience.”
—Ben Stookesberry, explorer

“A myth about rolling is some boats are harder to roll than others. Here’s a fact about rolling—anyone with a good hip snap can roll any appropriately sized kayak. Truth.”
—Stephen Wright, pro kayaker and coach

“The myth about rolling is that pro kayakers don’t swim.”
—Rafa Ortiz, pro kayaker

Myth #9: “That it’s hard.” —Bren Orton, Send co-founder. Feature Photo: Boomer Jerritt

Voyageur Canoe Tour Season Continues At The Peterborough Lift Lock

Peterborough, ON, Wednesday, August 14, 2019 – The Canadian Canoe Museum’s one-of-a-kind Voyageur Canoe Tour experiences at the Peterborough Lift Lock continue this month. Registration is open for tours on August 23, 25, 31 and September 1. Meanwhile, custom tours for groups can also be booked anytime until Thanksgiving.

The Voyageur Canoe Tour experience is a draw for people of all ages and abilities from near and far, and sees up to 16 participants paddle a 36-foot voyageur canoe up and over the lift lock. This 90-minute guided tour, offered in partnership with Parks Canada, explores the National Historic Site, along with the role of the voyageur in early trade networks.

“The tours are fun – and a feast for the senses. As we paddle together, we salute and we sing, and we experience the incredible sensation of going up and down the lift lock, and the sweeping views along the way,” says Karen Taylor, Director of Programs, adding that more than 400 people will take part in this unique experience this season.

Members of the public can visit canoemuseum.ca/voyageur-canoe-tours/ to register or call Kate Kennington, (705) 748 9153 ext. 220, to find out more.

Gearlab Launches the Malik: A First-of-Its-Kind Polypropylene Greenland Paddle

TAIPEI,Taiwan and Denver, Colorado, August 13, 2019 – In an effort to expand the sport of open water ocean kayaking with Greenland-style paddles to new users, award-winning design development group Gearlab Outdoors presents a new entry-level polypropylene paddle called the Malik (named for the Inuit word for “smooth wave”).

Gearlab’s core users are very passionate and knowledgeable about the sport and its history, but what about people new to Greenland style paddling?  The designers at Gearlab have developed the perfect paddle to allow curious kayakers to experience the benefits of a leaner, longer paddle in open water at an introductory price. The Malik will be available August 2019.

Gearlab is known for technologically advanced performance carbon-fiber Greenland style paddles. Gearlab believes everyone, including veteran paddlers on Euro blades, should have the opportunity to try out and enjoy the benefits of a Greenland paddle.

The new Malik inherits many of the premium features of a Gearlab carbon-fiber paddle, such as the ProTek tips and D-Clip quick-release carbon fiber ferrule. The high impact polypropylene blade makes the paddle durable, ensuring a smooth and reliable paddling experience for new users.

The Malik will come with three sticker colors available: yellow, orange, and teal – pick your vibe depending on your personality: yellow represents happiness; orange represents courage, passion, and strength; teal represents adventure and freedom. Every set of paddles has special DIY stickers, a great way to express a paddler’s uniqueness. The Malik is an ideal solution for kayak clubs, touring services, kayakers fresh to Greenland-style paddling, or simply for use as a spare paddle.

Length: 210/220/230 cm
Weight: 990g ±30 g (For the 220 cm paddle)

Materials: polypropylene blade and carbon-fiber loom

The Malik and the new accessories will be launched at the Paddlesports Retailer this month in Oklahoma City OK, August 25th-29th, Booth 6X.

About Gearlab Outdoors

For the past eight years, Gearlab has designed and manufactured Greenland-style carbon-fiber paddles for ocean kayakers around the world. Created by a team of award-winning industrial designers and outdoor enthusiasts, the paddles are adapted from indigenous Inuit designs. Greenland paddles allow kayakers to travel farther with greater efficiency and precision, while reducing injury and fatigue. Made from 100 percent continuous carbon-fiber material, Gearlab paddles perfect thousand-year-old ergonomics with advanced material strength and durability. Gearlab paddles will open up a new realm of adventure for both recreational and advanced kayakers. Discover the benefits of Gearlab paddles at GearlabOutdoors.com.

Oru Kayak Revolutionizes Origami Boat Design Again With “The Inlet”

San Francisco, CA (August 13, 2019) – All the excuses for not owning a kayak have just been erased. Oru Kayak, the makers of the original origami-inspired kayak, directly tackled weight, carry, and set-up with the company’s newest and most innovative kayak design to date, the Inlet. The Inlet most notably features an all-new origami folding pattern that allows the kayak to be intuitively folded from box-to-boat in under 3-minutes. The Inlet also boasts the lightest-weight and thinnest-fold profile of any Oru Kayak — at just 10 inches wide, the inlet is small enough to be stashed under a living room sofa or stacked 3x in the trunk of a standard compact car.

To achieve the Inlet’s unheard-of specifications, Oru worked out an entirely new origami folding pattern, the first completely-new folding pattern since the company was formed in 2012. Developed by Oru Founder and Chief Design Officer Anton Willis, the new folding pattern produces a significantly streamlined box-to-boat assembly that eliminates many of the loose parts found in other Oru Kayaks. Notably, the Inlet features Oru’s first fully-integrated floorboard, enabling a more intuitive and speedy assembly. In a handful of simple steps, Inlet owners can now be on the water in less than three minutes; 75% faster than past Oru kayak models.

Oru’s new folding pattern achieves more than just speed, it also maximizes spatial efficiency and reduces overall weight. When fully assembled, the roomy Inlet is 10ft long, 31-inches wide, and weighs just 20lbs. When not paddling, the Inlet neatly folds into a compact box, similar in size to a guitar case (40”x18”x10”).

For Anton Willis, the Inlet represents a dream come to fruition: “This boat represents what I always wanted for Oru: kayaks with intuitive and quick assembly, great stability, an affordable price, and unbelievable portability. I strongly feel that the Inlet is as close as we’ve ever come to building a product that breaks all the common barriers to boat ownership.”

In an on-going effort to make on-water recreation accessible to more people, Oru paid special attention to the Inlet’s price tag. At MSRP of $850 (or $699 for a limited time on Kickstarter), the Inlet is Oru’s first kayak ever to be listed under $1000, and is notably $450 less than Oru’s currently least expensive model.

The Inlet will be available starting Tuesday, August 13 at 7am PST For more information, please visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1975288517/the-oru-kayak-inlet-most-portable-origami-kayak-ever



  • Box Dimensions: 42 in x 18 in x 10 in (34% smaller box volume than the Bay ST)
  • Full Boat Size: 10 ft x 31 in (same total carrying volume as the Bay ST)
  • Weight: 20lbs (29% lighter weight than the Bay ST)


  • Retail: $850
  • Kickstarter: $699


  • Integrated floorboard
  • Open cockpit for easy entry and exit
  • 10ft length for smooth on-water tracking and maneuverability
  • Adjustable footrest
  • Adjustable backrest
  • Front and rear bulkheads
  • Padded carrying handles and shoulder-strap

About Oru Kayak

Founded in 2012, Oru Kayak is a leading innovator in the kayaking industry and the first to bring a foldable kayak to market utilizing the principles of origami. Beyond the functionality of its engineering, the Oru Kayak stands apart from the competition for its superb on the water performance, durability, easy assembly, and stylish design. Based in San Francisco and manufactured in the USA, Oru Kayak is sold in dozens of countries across five continents including Europe, Australia, Asia and the Americas. For more information visit orukayak.com

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Technology Delivers Full-Circle Power

Oceanside, CA (July 9, 2019) – Two decades ago, Hobie revolutionized kayak fishing with the invention of the original MirageDrive. The radical engineering feat was met with worldwide acclaim and leg-propulsion became the new standard for kayak fishing locomotion.

Imitators eventually arrived on the scene, but the original remains the industry benchmark…

Hobie knew improving on its revolutionary MirageDrive wouldn’t be easy, but they weren’t deterred. Six years in the making, for 2020, Hobie is proud to announce the greatest achievement to date in the form of an astonishing 360-degree rotating pedal drive—an all new paradigm in kayak fishing boat control, complete with a nearly 100-page patent registration.


Put simply, the remarkable new Hobie MirageDrive 360 propulsion system is a 360-degree rotating pedal drive that allows anglers to easily maneuver their 2020 Mirage Pro Angler 360 12 and 14 fishing kayak in every direction—backwards, forward, sideways, diagonally—or even effortlessly spin on its own access. Upping the ante with all-new Kick-Up Fins, which automatically retract upon impact, the new MirageDrive 360 delivers precision boat control and close-quarter maneuverability that’s unrivalled by any other human-powered watercraft. With the MirageDrive 360, anglers go where they want and fish how they want with total control and complete confidence.

The MirageDrive 360 is designed for versatility on the water and to help anglers catch more fish. Infinitely more maneuverable, anglers will immediately discover they spend less time positioning their boat, and more time catching fish. Boat control is brought to an entirely new level, affording anglers the ability to surgically position themselves to make the best cast and presentation to the fish, as well as staying right on top of fish once found, shallow or deep or anywhere in between.

The MirageDrive 360 allows access to tighter quarters and more fishing scenarios. Imagine being able to turn on a dime in every direction. It also allows you to follow shorelines or underwater structure in a way kayak anglers have never experienced.

“The MirageDrive 360 completely changes how you engage with your boat and the environment,” says Philip Dow, Lead Design Engineer for Hobie. “For example, if you’re fishing along a shoreline or highly contoured underwater structure, you can follow those nuances exactly with boat placement. Similarly, with the Kick-Up Fins, shallow and structure-filled waters become far more manageable. Hobie’s MirageDrive 360 completely redefines boat control.”

He continues: “In the same way a trolling motor can hold an exact point, you can do that with the MirageDrive 360. You can hold an exact location and direction against a wind or a current, too. Previously, when you drifted out of position, you had to pedal in a circle to point the hull in the right direction between casts. Now, when you’re sitting idle, if you turn the drive and start to pedal you’re immediately turning. It’s extremely effective for place-holding in an exact location. You feel like a sniper. If you want to swing the bow past a rock, you can do it exactly and make your next cast without any unnecessary boat movement.”

Designed to accept Hobie’s vast array of accessories, the Pro Angler 360 series fishing kayaks can be easily outfitted with additional angling equipment.

“In every environment there’s the need for better control in order to position yourself to present your bait to the fish in the most natural way possible,” says Morgan Promnitz, Hobie’s Sr. Fishing Brand Manager. “Whether you’re fishing offshore, inshore, or freshwater, the benefits are numerous. We’ve tested the boats in a multitude of fishing environments and our test team response has all been the same—the MirageDrive 360 gives anglers a huge advantage that results in more fish caught, period.”

“The Kick-Up Fins add peace of mind to anglers exploring waters with submerged objects such as rocks or tree stumps because the fins will automatically retract upon impacting an object. This greatly reduces any chance or damaging the propulsion system and allows anglers to explore with confidence—no more damaged props or bent fins.”

The new Hobie Pro Angler 360 Series can be purchased at your local authorized Hobie dealer. The Mirage Pro Angler 12 with 360 Technology is offered at an introductory MSRP of $4,649; the Hobie Pro Angler 14 360 has an introductory MSRP of $4,799 (excluding taxes and shipping). Available Fall 2019.

Profile: Steve Jordan

Steve Jordan is no stranger to the ups and downs of the kayak business. His career has spanned nearly thirty years and taken him from Perception Kayaks, through the co-founding of Liquidlogic Kayaks to his current role as President of Hurricane Aquasports, and VP of Sales for BIG Adventures, the parent company that produces the Hurricane, Native and Liquidlogic brands.

All that experience gives Jordan a long view on the current paddlesports market. He’s positive about the performance of the brands but realistic about the challenges. Jordan says the 2019 season started out slowly. Sales are flat in some categories and down in a few. “It’s a challenging year,” said Jordan, “not like any season I’ve seen in some time, and the weather has not been on our side for an early start to the season.”

The challenges of 2019 are different than the tough times in 2007 and 2008. One of the key issues today is the proliferation of mass market product at ultra-low price points. Jordan sees these sales eating into sales and margins on recreational kayaks at specialty dealers.

Despite the competition from big box retailers, not all categories are down. Jordan says specialty products, like Hurricane’s lightweight ABS kayaks, have continued to perform.

These kayaks offer specialty retailers and their customers something they can’t find at chain retailers. High performance, lightweight designs at a great value and affordability.

Jordan says the Native line of fishing kayaks has been a huge success for Big Adventures and their dealers. These boats, particularly the pedal drive models, sell at higher price points than the recreational kayaks. Fishing kayak sales have increased the average transaction at retail and have helped support specialty paddlesports dealers even as sales in other categories have eroded.

Fishing kayaks can be a profit center for dealers, but they require expertise to sell. Kayak anglers want to buy from an expert, somebody who knows both the boats and the fishing.

“You can’t just put them out on the floor and expect them to sell,” says Jordan. “You have to live it.”

That’s why Native’s most successful fishing kayak dealers are also their most innovative, actively engaging on the web to build community and excitement around the sport and their shops. Dealers who create unique internet content increase their credibility with customers and are more likely to make the sale.

While internet marketing and content creation can drive customers into specialty shops, Jordan doesn’t see web sales as the future of specialty paddlesports. He says that several of his key dealers are re-evaluating the profitability of their internet sales. “You can reach a lot of customers, but there are heavy overheads,” says Jordan. And then there is the problem of freight. “Rates are sky high. A lot of that business was built on free freight or discounted freight,” says Jordan, “you can’t do that now.”

The spiralling cost of freight prompted BIG Adventures to take shipping in-house. “We leased a truck and hired a driver,” says Jordan. Having their own truck not only allowed BIG Adventures to drive down freight costs to their dealers, it also helped to reduce costs on the manufacturing side. “We back haul our own resin, transport our recycled product. It’s helped a lot of have our own truck, and our service level has increased with our dealer base.”

Driving down costs by doing things in-house is a big part of the strategy that BIG Adventures uses to stay nimble and flexible in a challenging marketplace. Jordan said that the past year has seen downward pressure on the profitable pedal drive fishing kayak category. There are more options on the market than there were a few years ago and prices and margins have come down.

The evolving market prompted BIG Adventures to bring pedal drive production in-house, sourcing components from regional suppliers. “We used to have our pedal drives built in Taiwan,” says Jordan, “now we build them ourselves.” By keeping their supply chain close to their manufacturing facility, Native stayed competitive in the category. “We’ve increased dealer margins and reduced price.”

While realistic about the challenges of the current market, Jordan remains optimistic about the opportunity for growth in key categories, and committed to maintaining a strong relationship with specialty retailers. “There’s a lot of opportunity for us to grow if we nurture what we’ve had for all these years—our passion for paddling.”

Trade War, Part II

Paddlesports is again in the tariff crossfire as the United States opens a new offensive in the global trade war. In May the Trump administration increased tariffs from 10 percent to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, including kayaks, canoes and inflatable boats. And on August 1, as Paddling Business went to press, President Trump announced a new 10 percent tariff on an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports, among them standup paddleboards, lifejackets, pedal drives and other components.

The increased tariffs come as a heavy blow to a paddlesports industry reeling from a three-punch tariff combo last year. First, the European Union imposed a 25 percent import tax on U.S. kayak and canoe exports in June 2018, and Canada followed suit with a 10 percent tariff in July.

Trade hostilities on the Chinese front have escalated steadily since September 2018, when the Trump administration imposed a 10 percent tariff on selected Chinese imports, since increased to 25 percent. The latest round of tariffs comes as U.S.-China trade negotiations faltered for the second time in three months, and makes almost all Chinese imports to the United States subject to tariffs of 10 to 25 percent, or even more. The levy on inflatable kayaks now stands at 27.5 percent.

Confused? You’re not alone.

Among the most difficult aspects of the tariff wars is the uncertainty they bring to supply chains and vendor-retailer relationships.

When the Canadian and EU tariffs took effect in June 2018, paddlesports industry leaders could only guess how their businesses would be affected. As million-dollar players in a trillion-dollar trade war, the best they could do is hunker down and hope for a speedy truce. A year later, the impact of those tariffs is visible on everyone’s balance sheets. The European Union’s 25 percent tariff on canoes and kayaks was a body blow to American manufacturers who play in the European market, some of whom saw their European sales decline as much as 80 percent. Canada’s 10 percent tariff was lifted in May, but with the majority of summer orders having already shipped, even that silver lining came with a bit of tarnish. The hangover will stretch deep into the 2019 season.

You can escape the tariff by paddling over the Canada-U.S. border, but just trying paddling from China. | Photo: Pixabay

The increased tariffs on Chinese-made canoes, kayaks and inflatables will hurt some brands more than others, but industry leaders who spoke with Paddling Business agree there will be many more losers than winners. Even companies molding kayaks in the United States braced for a substantial hit, as the cost of some Chinese-made components increased 25 percent overnight. In May, less than two weeks after the Trump administration announced the increase in Chinese tariffs, Hobie scheduled a five percent mid-season price hike on all its kayaks and SUPs—even though most of the company’s boats are manufactured in Oceanside, California.

Components make up a substantial portion of production costs and like many other U.S.-based kayak companies, Hobie sources some of those parts from China. The company was already absorbing the impact of the 10 percent tariff on Chinese components which went into effect in October 2018, and when the tariff increased to 25 percent company brass concluded they had no choice but to raise prices to compensate.

“Hobie is proud to employ hundreds of people at our headquarters in Oceanside,” the company said in a statement. “While a majority of our manufacturing takes place in our Oceanside facility, some of our production and materials do come from overseas. Unfortunately, the recent tariffs, among other factors, have forced us to increase prices on select Hobie products.” The increase took effect June 15, accompanied by a new retail price list. Dealer margin was not impacted.

A similar dynamic is in play for other U.S.-based manufacturers using imported components, although they’ve been able to hold the line on pricing for now.

Doug Ragan, senior vice president for sales at Jackson Kayak, says that if the List 4 tariffs go into effect the Sparta, Tennessee-based kayak maker may have no choice but to raise prices. The company already is reeling from the Canadian and EU tariffs imposed last year. Jackson’s strategy was to cut margin to the bone and try to hold market share. The rope-a-dope tactic allowed the company to wait out the Canadian tariff, but Jackson Kayak is still absorbing body shots in Europe. Sales suffered despite the best efforts of Jackson and its European retailers to hold prices in the same ballpark as their non-U.S. competitors, who suddenly had a 25 percent pricing advantage.

“European distributors who were taking six containers a year ago are now taking one,” Ragan says. “It’s a slap in the gut, and meanwhile they’re pouring hot coals on you from China. It’s a perfect storm right now.”

How tariffs impact small business

Sea Eagle Boats is in the eye of that storm. The Long Island-based seller of inflatable kayaks, boats and standup paddleboards has become a high profile example of how tariffs impact small and mid-sized U.S. companies.The company has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and other major outlets, thanks to owners Cecil and John Hoge’s candid assessment of how the Trump tariffs have impacted their business. The first thing John Hoge wants to make clear is that China does not pay the tariffs, as President Trump has repeatedly asserted. Importers, and ultimately consumers, pick up the tab.

“It’s not debatable. We have the bills that CBP (Customs and Border Protection) gives us for the tariff, in black and white. We get seven days to pay,” says Hoge. He gives the feds an account number, and they help themselves to the money—about $180,000 since the 10 percent Chinese tariff increase went into effect in September 2018. At the new rate, he would have to pay about $450,000 to land the same imports. That’s a heavy burden for a family business with 30 employees, Hoge says.

His Chinese suppliers have been little help. One reduced prices by 5 percent. The other wouldn’t budge. (A third supplier shifted production of Sea Eagle boats from China to a factory it owns in Vietnam.) Hoge says he had no choice but to pass the cost on to consumers, raising prices an average of 7.5 percent in January to compensate for the 10 percent tariff hike. The increase came on top of a 2.5 percent tariff already in effect for inflatable boats, raising the total tax to 12.5 percent. Now he’s paying a total of 27.5 percent and expects he’ll have to raise prices again when his current inventory runs low. Other inflatable importers face the same choice.

“While every business sector is price sensitive, our product categories fall on the extreme end of the spectrum,” Aquaglide general manager Jeff Cunningham wrote in a public comment to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. The letter urged tariff exemptions for products the Bend, Oregon-based company imports from China, including kayaks, paddles and standup paddleboards.

“If the 25 percent tariff goes into effect, we will be forced to pass substantial price increases on to our dealers and customers . . . I anticipate a 20-30 percent decrease in revenue, which would then force us to reduce our staff,” Cunningham wrote.

Who pays the tariffs?

Entry-level hardshell brands who import from China face the daunting prospect of competing at rock-bottom retail prices with U.S. and Canadian rivals, while absorbing a 25 percent import tax on every boat they import. Selling a kayak and paddle for as little as $200 leaves precious little margin, and importers will likely have to pass at least a portion of the tariff on to consumers. North American manufacturers like Pelican and Lifetime will have a choice: raise their own prices to sweeten margins, or keep prices low to seize market share. Either way, the Alibaba brands are in for a rough ride. Prospects are better for mid-market brands that import from China.

Josh Thomas, co-founder and CEO of Vibe Kayaks, says his company will tighten belts and hold the line on pricing. “A 25-percent hike, let’s be honest—it sucks. But we’re not necessarily going from zero to 25,” Thomas says. “There was enough blood in the water to know that some kind of trade war or tariffs was coming, and being a younger brand it was a little bit easier for us to plan ahead for it.”

Vibe raised prices last year, with MSRP for the flagship Sea Ghost 130 fishing kayak increasing from $899 to $999. That gave the company a bit of extra margin, Thomas says. “We planned for 10 or 15 percent, and the way we tighten up and close that last 10 percent gap is internal operations, making sure we’re running as lean and as efficient as possible.” One thing Thomas won’t do is change suppliers. When he went into the kayak business in 2013, he couldn’t find a U.S. manufacturer willing to work at the volume and pricing needed for his business plan to pencil out. In China, he had his pick of suppliers. The company he partnered with has grown with him as his sales volume doubled every year for six years. Now plenty of U.S. molders are courting him, but Thomas remains committed to his Chinese partner, who has become a close friend. If he does move his operations, it would be to another Asian country with the same partner, he says. They’ve gone so far as to scout sites, but for now the timing and difficulty of such a move is prohibitive, Thomas says.

“Let me just move some molds over to what, a big empty field in the middle of Vietnam?” he says. “I’d have to put up a building, move machinery, learn their culture, learn their laws, learn their taxes.” That kind of investment doesn’t make sense, especially when there’s no telling what will happen next with tariffs.

While President Trump’s style of economic brinkmanship breeds uncertainty it’s also impossible to ignore. The tariffs could compel China to renegotiate a trade deal on terms more favorable to the U.S., or they could cause both sides to dig in deeper.

As Paddling Business went to press at the end of July, a U.S. trade delegation was preparing to travel to Shanghai for the first face-to-face negotiations since the proposed trade deal fell apart in May. That’s a promising development, though the parties are still miles apart. The Chinese say they won’t talk brass tacks until the U.S. lifts all tariffs, but have resisted U.S. demands that they strengthen regulations against intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers. President Trump’s response was a new round of tariffs and the threat of more escalation, saying his administration could raise tariffs in stages to “well beyond” 25 percent.

When Tennessee congressman John Rose toured the Jackson Kayak factory in April, founder Eric Jackson had one request—help with the crippling EU tariffs. Rose was sympathetic but said there was nothing he could do to help. “He said those decisions are coming from 16000 Pennsylvania Avenue,” Ragan says.

Jackson Kayak is one of the biggest employers in Rose’s district, with 160 workers most of whom are the primary breadwinners for their families. Tennessee is a deep red state, and Rose is a member of the President’s party. Still, Rose said there’s nothing he can do to influence tariff policy. The story is the same in New York. “My congressman understands, but he could lose his career with one tweet,” Hoge says of Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican. Hoge’s overtures to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also fell on deaf ears. The New York Democrat is frequently at odds with the President, but on China tariffs he’s urged Trump to “hang tough.”

Canadian and European tariffs

The Canadian and European tariffs came last year in response to U.S. import duties on steel and aluminum. They’re tit-for-tat measures targeting finished products containing steel and aluminum. Motorboats are high on this list, and they happen to share the same tariff code as kayaks and canoes. Paddlesports was literally collateral damage. The trade conflict with China is a tougher knot to unravel. American companies have complained for decades of China’s heavy-handed trade practices, including currency manipulation and theft of intellectual property. These policies have been a driving force in the rapid rise of Chinese manufacturing, and some American companies are happy to push back.

Bonafide manufacturers kayaks in North Carolina with a minimum of imported components. | Photo: Courtesy Bonafide Kayaks

“If you look at one of the big sticking points between the U.S. and China, it’s about intellectual property theft and government subsidies that allow them to be hypercompetitive,” says Luther Cifers, CEO of YakAttack and Bonafide Kayaks. “Those are two things that are kind of hard to argue with, you know. Don’t steal. So if there’s a little equalizer that makes doing business that way more difficult, I’m happy about that,” says Cifers, who got into the kayak fishing business after the automotive components plant in which he started his career moved to Mexico. His companies make injection-molded kayak fishing accessories in Virginia and kayaks in North Carolina, and Made in America is at the core of his philosophy.

Tariff policy had nothing to do with his decision to keep his factories close to home, Cifers says. Quality control and supply chain efficiency were reasons enough. With the percentage of homegrown components in his kayaks in “the high 90s,” Bonafide is immune to the tariffs on Chinese imports—but not the larger trade war.

“We could have picked up some European distribution if it wasn’t for the tariffs,” he says. “When you take tariffs and the strong dollar into account— and the fact that Chinese knockoffs of most American kayaks are readily available in Europe anyway—the export market’s pretty tough.”


S2O Design Completes New Whitewater Park for the City of Fort Collins

LYONS, COLO. (August 13, 2019) – Coursing through the heart of downtown Fort Collins, Colo., the Poudre River is now home to the country’s newest whitewater park. Driven by river park engineering firm S20 Design and Engineering, the new whitewater park features a series of waves for rafters, kayakers, and stand-up paddleboarders, a wading area for families, a pedestrian bridge, and extensive bank reconfiguration. The project, located near Old Town at Vine Drive and College Avenue, brings the river back to a more natural state, provides the community a greater connection to the river, and invites economic development to the area.

“The Poudre has always been a classic Colorado destination for river running, and now its recreational amenities will be more accessible than ever,” said S2O Design founder Scott Shipley. “Not only is it a beautiful site for a river park, it’s also a perfect example of various entities coming together to create a great focal point for the town.”

Lyons, Colo.-based S2O Design provided design, planning, permitting, and construction services to the project. S20 was chosen because of its expertise with whitewater park development and familiarity with the market. The park will officially open in September 2019.

Design and construction of the Poudre River Whitewater Park was a complex process with several moving parts and a broad array of stakeholders. S2O Design was charged with converting the dangerous Coy Diversion Dam, which was a barrier to fish passage, into a usable park area that also encourages fish migration. The river features needed to provide low- and high-water functionality to a wide variety of users, with extensive bank restoration and reconfiguration to bolster animal habitat and improve stormwater management.

Funding the $12 million project was achieved through both public and private partners. The city’s Building on Basics tax initiative, a program introduced in 2015 for community improvements, contributed $7 million; the city’s Storm Water, Natural Areas, and Parks and Rec departments contributed $3 million; and private donations totaled more than $2 million, including a $1 million gift from longtime Fort Collins residents Jack and Ginger Graham.

“The Poudre holds a very special place in our city’s history,” said Jack Graham, former U.S. Senate candidate and Colorado State University athletic director who spearheaded the school’s new on-campus stadium. “It has been in need of some TLC for decades and the park’s environmental repairs and restoration, coupled with its recreational features, will bring needed energy and economic development to the River District and downtown.”

Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell added, “The river, and its new park, is a true treasure for our community and a legacy for our future. It will build community, strengthen our downtown, and contribute to our vibrancy and prosperity.”

Bringing the project to fruition was a long time coming. It was formally approved by voters in 2015 as part of the city’s Community Capital Improvement Program, but was in the works for nearly 20 years prior. “We first started talking about it way back in 1986, so it’s great to finally see it come to fruition,” says Tim O’Hara, a commercial photographer who served as the lead fundraiser for the project.

Previous efforts at building a river park there had stalled. Shipley, who holds a master’s degree in Engineering and is also a three-time Olympian and World Cup slalom kayak champion, was able to organize the project’s multiple stakeholders, navigate the long public process, and drive the design decisions that led to its final construction. “A lot of other companies had looked at this, but we were the only ones who were able to get it done,” said Shipley.

S2O Design has completed several other river recreation and restoration projects in Colorado, including the Eagle River Park, Durango Whitewater Park, Canon City Whitewater Park, and Bohn Park in Lyons, Colo.

About S2O Design
S2O Design is an engineering firm specializing in innovative river engineering, restoration, and community-focused whitewater park design. Our team of expert boater-engineers has planned, conceived, designed, and created some of the best in-stream whitewater parks as well as largest and most dynamic recirculating whitewater parks in the world. S2O Design is led by engineer, Olympian, and three-time World Cup Kayak Champion and Freestyle Kayak Champion Scott Shipley. For more information, visit S2ODesign.com.

Touring Kayak Review: Wilderness Systems’ Tsunami 145

person paddling Wilderness Systems’ Tsunami 145 touring kayak on a lake
Wilderness Systems’ celebrating 15 years of doing it all well. | Photo: Virginia Marshall

When the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 was added into the trio of updated Tsunamis to their light touring line-up in late 2018, they billed this latest iteration “the Swiss Army Knife of touring kayaks.”

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 Kayak Specs
Length: 14 ft 6 in
Width: 25.5 in
Weight: 56 lbs
Paddler Weight: 180-245 lbs
Capacity: 350 lbs
MSRP: $1,299 USD/ $1,789 CAD
$1,519 USD/ $1,929 CAD (with rudder)

The Tsunami’s wide-ranging capabilities and functional aesthetic—enhanced by its unique outfitting (more on that later)—suggest a different epithet to us: the cargo pants of kayak touring. Unlike ephemeral fashion fads, however, the user-friendly Tsunami continues to be just as popular today as when it first debuted in 2004.

In the years since, Wilderness Systems has introduced three different Tsunami layups and tweaked and simplified the boat’s paddler-specific sizing—winnowing down eight options to just five. These updates take into account where and how the kayaks are being used, and who is paddling them. Translating this feedback into design refinements keeps a well-traveled offering like the Tsunami fresh and accessible for new paddlers, while giving existing fans more of what they already enjoy about the boat.

A 14-foot recreational kayak by Wilderness Systems’

Our demo Tsunami 145 is the largest of the three updated sizes, proportioned to afford larger paddlers a comfortable fit and fearless stability without completely sacrificing touring efficiency.

Also new this year is a Tsunami 140 kayak—offering similar performance for mid-sized folks—and a 125, which fits larger paddlers seeking a stable day tripper. Two long-haul options, the Tsunami 165 kayak and the Tsunami 175, remain unchanged.

Reimagining a proven design is a delicate endeavor, says Shane Steffen, director of product management for Confluence Outdoor’s boat division, which includes the Wilderness Systems brand. “We started with styling,” he explains, “we wanted to bring a more modern look to the Tsunami.”

The deck redesign isn’t merely skin-deep. It also adds stiffness across the top of the boat, improving durability and resiliency during re-entries and transport.

Changes inside the cockpit are more subtle: the updated Phase 3 AirPro seat system makes it easier to adjust leg lifters, backrest height and tilt on the fly, and now enables users to trim the seat fore and aft. The seat back can also be quickly removed or swapped for a low-profile backband.

Wilderness Systems’ best kayak for stability and tracking

After 15 years on the water, Steffen has some theories about these kayaks’ popularity.

“People love the Tsunami for two main reasons,” he says. “One is the stability profile—it feels comfortable from the first time you sit in it. The second is tracking: new paddlers can point the boat where they want to go and it gets there.”

Small refinements aim to enhance these novice-friendly features. Designers shifted volume out of the hull to flare the sidewalls and further increase initial and secondary stability.

In the rec touring market—especially models for larger and newer paddlers—it’s refreshing to paddle a design promoting advanced skills.

An extended waterline gives hull speed a boost, great news for those touring with friends in longer boats.

Meanwhile, the shallow-V, multi-chine hull profile is classic Tsunami. Two defined edges in each chine act like secondary and tertiary keels, lending this kayak its trademark tracking and predictable handling.

A high-performance polyethylene sit-in kayak

Steffen says product longevity was also a focus of the redesign brief. Along with the stiffer deck, there is a replaceable skid plate where the keel reaches the stern—a wear point when dragging from the bow.

It’s something Wilderness Systems should know a thing or two about. In 2012, adventurers Jon Turk and Erik Boomer chose a pair of Tsunami 135s to complete the first-ever circumnavigation of ice-choked Ellesmere Island.

The diminutive boats were the largest that would fit in the airplane needed to reach this remote Arctic outpost. For much of the 1,500-mile journey, the men skied or hiked pulling the kayaks—each laden with 250 pounds of food and supplies—over snow, slush and jagged sea ice.

Like their predecessors, the new Tsunamis are constructed from hard-wearing-but-hefty rotomolded polyethylene. I’m not usually a dragger, but I admit to using Turk and Boomer’s strategy when I find myself alone with our demo and a long expanse of snow-crusted turf.

It’s utility, comfort and style in one package—just like your favorite cargo pants.

Hoarfrost rimes the desiccated grasses and parched canopies of the oaks lining the banks as I slip into the mirror of the river. When a gust of wind disturbs the stillness, orphaned leaves scatter like clutches of skittish water boatmen. Where the channel narrows, deadfalls create a natural slalom course.

Achieving tight-radius turns in the Tsunami necessitates putting the kayak on edge. Fortunately, cockpit fit and contact points are optimized to facilitate edging and bracing proficiency.

In the rec touring market—especially models for larger and newer paddlers—it’s refreshing to paddle a design promoting more advanced skills.

Wilderness Systems’ touring kayak accessories and features

Late in the afternoon, the sun peaks unexpectedly beneath clouds swollen with snow. Decanted golden light spills onto the river, illuminating three sleek otters fishing below a swift. The scene has me reaching for my camera, conveniently tucked in a deck pocket.

Replacing the behind-the-cockpit day hatch of previous Tsunamis, each new boat ships with a pair of mesh deck pockets. Removable cargo pockets for your front deck, these are Wilderness Systems’ solution to the question of accessible-on-the-water storage.

The pockets put small essentials within easier reach than a day hatch and are lower profile than an aftermarket deck bag, but there’s an obvious downside: they don’t provide dry storage.

The design team eschewed a more conventional third option—a cockpit-fitted deck pod—in favor of an open tube mounted under the front deck. The engineering is pretty basic, but it’s a convenient spot to stash a water bottle and doesn’t noticeably impede foot- or legroom.

Whether playing quiet waterways or venturing into open waters, the Tsunami 145 continues to offer larger paddlers a satisfying fusion of rec kayak stability and longboat efficiency. It’s utility, comfort and style in one package—just like your favorite cargo pants.

Celebrating 15 years of doing it all well. Feature Photo: Virginia Marshall

5 Steps To Plan An Epic Kayak Expedition

Your kayak can take you places most people will never see. Going into unknown and less traveled locations and completing a trip you researched, planned and executed carries a great sense of accomplishment. And it gives you a deeper understanding of the area when you’ve spent time preparing for the rivers and cultures you’re headed to enjoy.

There can be drawbacks to these endeavors, especially the exploratory type missions. They can, and often do, require more suffering than enjoyment when water levels don’t work out, or the access trail you’d planned to use doesn’t exist. Know your group’s willingness to adapt, and plan your trip accordingly. If you are going somewhere remote, you might not want to push your limits as much as usual.

Here are the fundamentals to help budding explorers go out and plan their own adventure.

  1. Do your expedition research

Hunt out guidebooks and search online for blogs, photos or videos. Don’t limit yourself to kayak specific searches; climbers, canyoneers, and hikers often travel to similar locations as kayakers. There is so much information out there and chances are your area has been explored and documented in some way. Google Earth can also be an amazing tool for scoping out the landscape you’ll be venturing into.

Maybe you know someone who has already been where you want to go? Buy them a beer or give them a lift to a river and pick their brains.

You’ll want to know where exactly you want to go, what to expect of the rivers, when the rivers will be in good condition and have a rough idea of logistics. In some places like Nepal, you may need permits/permission to access certain areas.

Make an of estimate of how much this will all cost.

Step 2: Find your group. | Photo: Mark Mulrain
  1. Find a good group

A group can make or break a trip. When you are going to spend an extended period of time in each other’s company, it’s important you get along well and trust one another.

Ideally, everyone will bring something different to the team. That might be leadership on the river, cooking skills, even a sense of humor can be an asset.

The group should ideally all be around the same ability level too, so you can all take care of each other.

The ideal team for a multi-day trip has:

  • Someone who has already paddled the river to lead the trip
  • Experienced expedition paddlers
  • Someone with emergency first aid training
  • Super keen and fit people willing to push the group to paddle/portage faster
  • Access to lots of camping/cooking/safety equipment
  • A good rapport between each and every group member
Everything you need and then some. Photo: Mark Mulrain
  1. Go guided? 

A few years ago, hiring a guide service would be something I would have never considered. Why pay more to do something I could do myself?

As I moved away from student life and got myself a real job, I found I had less free time and more money. I wanted to make the most of my free time, and a guide made this possible. You can spend less time gaffing and more time doing the fun stuff! It’s certainly something to consider if your time is valuable to you.

Even if you are managing the trip yourself, you may need to work with a travel agent to book private travel or organize permits. Your research will shed some light on this.

  1. The right skills

Does everyone in the group have paddling and safety skills suitable for the grades of water you will be undertaking? If you are going to be wild camping you will need to know how to build a fire, set up your shelter, and how to load all your gear into the kayak. Packing a kayak with overnight gear is a skill in of itself, one that grows with practice.

Step 5: Make an equipment list. | Photo: Mark Mulrain
  1. The right equipment

You will need all your standard safety gear and first aid items, but you may also want to add some items to your collection, like a set of split paddles in the group.

Anything you don’t know how to use, make sure you take the time to learn. There are no user manuals or 4G signals in remote areas.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you need any special medication for the area you are going to?
  • Will you need climbing equipment for access issues?
  • Will you need cooking equipment?
  • Will you need camping equipment?
  • Will you need to carry water purification tablets or a filter?
  • Will you need spare clothing?
  • How will you keep everything dry?
  • Will you need a satellite phone or GPS beacon for emergencies?

For longer trips where you need to carry a lot of stuff in your boat, you might end up overloading your regular kayak. I switched from a 9R to a 9R L for a multi-day in Nepal, and it was a brilliant decision, the extra weight from my multiday equipment made the bigger 9R paddle a lot like a regular 9R for me. On another trip, I picked a Machno for its extra volume and carrying capacity.

When not traveling the world kayaking, Mark Mulrain calls Edinburgh, U.K. his home. He is a Pyranha team paddler and manages Immersion Research’s European division.