What’s on the horizon line?
The art of river running is coming back strong. This is love of running rivers of a wide spectrum of difficulty and making the most of attaining, squirting, splatting, surfing all in the same boat with a renewed focus on better style and technique. Boats like the Braaap and the new Pyranha Ripper are the perfect crafts for this kind of paddling, and it’s something we haven’t had since the heyday of the Dagger RPM and Prijon Hurricane. Flat spinning a Hurricane, even on a class II breaking wave, is way harder, cooler, and more accessible than the same move in a playboat on Garburator. As a result, I think I would not be investing heavily in dedicated playboat or creek boat futures right now.
—John Weld, co-founder, Immersion Research
You are seeing younger paddlers who missed the whole evolution of the kayak in the ’90s and 2000s wanting to experience the older shapes. Older boaters reminisce and want to paddle what they paddled years ago to enjoy some of the things the new boats are not good for. Racing keeps growing again. It died off a while ago and is now resurging. Freestyle is stagnant but healthy, with some events getting bigger and others getting smaller.
—Eric Jackson, founder, Jackson Kayak
Playboating and creeking have peaks and dips, but in my opinion expedition kayaking is the backbone of the whitewater industry. We are seeing more expeditions combining challenging whitewater and big distances. And we are seeing this more now because social media is so popular and useful in promoting trips. The stories are being told through stunning photography and video.
—Erik Boomer, pro athlete
I witnessed the first descent of the Upper Gatineau in a paddleboat, and I don’t think this trend will catch on. We are seeing a return to user-friendly whitewater open boats with an emphasis on lighter hull weights. Paddlers appreciate the improved performance of a lighter boat, as well as the ease of carrying it.
—Paul Mason, instructor trainer
What are you most excited about?
I think the growing recreational market is really exciting. These are the people that paddlesports really needs to foster and convert into paddling enthusiasts. We have all these new unconventional channels where people are being introduced to paddlesports. There are duck hunters buying kayaks right now that’s a new paddling enthusiast waiting to happen
—Ryan Lightbody, Marketing Manager, Stohlquist
We are stoked to see more whitewater events evolving out of what were originally races for elite paddlers.
I think creating community, and not exclusivity, around these events will go a long way to consolidating our sport. Another thing is the focus on youth programming. We are seeing a bunch of organizations, ours included, really focusing on getting kids and families into whitewater boats. What is really exciting is the amount of requests we’re getting for kids gear right now. This can only make our sport more healthy in years to come.
—Simon Coward, owner, Aquabatics
Source-to-sea river trips, and the gear being developed to run class V whitewater and then descend all the way to the river’s mouth excites me. Longer designs have been created to incorporate speed, comfort and increased room for storing gear for weeks and months worth of downriver travel. As opposed to kayaking trips that were once planned to descend lots of short sections of rivers, there are more and more trips being planned to accomplish a single long stretch of river encompassing the entire range of classification from flatwater to hard whitewater.
—Ben Stookesberry, explorer
I see some open boaters realizing the benefits open canoe slalom has for their overall skill level. I’m certifying approximately the same number of canoe instructors each year, but notice they tend to have a higher level of safety skills. I think it would now be an exception for one of my paddling buddies to not have river rescue certification.
— Paul Mason, instructor trainer
What’s the next big innovation?
When I see what’s happening in other watersports, I’m pretty sure we will see some foils under kayaks really soon.
—Nouria Newman, pro athlete
Internet of Things paddling gear. Smart paddles fully connected via Bluetooth to your smartphone to capture every second on the river and allow constant updates of your social media feeds, along with weather updates and information regarding the river you’re paddling. Drysuits keeping track of how many strokes you’ve taken, your heart rate and let you know when you need to eat or rest. Ambient sensors detect if you are, in fact, running the shit, and letting friends and family know in realtime. HUDs showing claw alerts so you know when it’s okay to throw the brown claw and when to just cool it. Also, we’re really excited about what’s happening in virtual reality. Virtual kayaking will prove to be much safer and more comfortable than actual kayaking. The additional revenue generated by targeted, relevant ads to the particular customer will also be quite exciting.
—John Weld, cofounder, Immersion Research
If there was a way to bombproof a sprayskirt that would be it. Most of my major swims have come from decks coming loose. If there could be a way of locking a skirt for certain rapids that would make me relax a bit more.
—Mariann Sæther, pro athlete
I’m anticipating Esquif ’s Extasy open canoe—it is the first canoe designed for women, and also the first OC to be designed by a woman. I look forward to seeing my daughter play in a boat built for someone her size.
—Eli Helbert, “The Canoe Guru”
We are at a unique time when there is almost no such thing as too remote in terms of access. Our overland route across Greenland became a way to establish a carbon neutral route into one of the most remote rivers ever descended. More than that, we utilized the icecap crossing to describe the river’s entire system, including the second largest chunk of ice on earth that is rapidly melting. In other places, like equatorial Colombia, paddling vast stretches of flatwater to access a remote gorge not only cuts down on expensive motorized transport, but allows the paddler to take in the rich culture and histories of a river that gives birth to an exploding river canyon in the middle of nowhere. There are so many more stories for us to tell beyond just bravery and the impressive whitewater that results from these expeditions. By taking the longer, slower and often times cheaper routes to the whitewater we are in the unique position to tell those stories.
—Ben Stookesberry, explorer