Building An Empire: Murky Water Kayaks

When it comes to squirt boats, surf kayaks and freestyle kayaks, you wouldn’t exactly call Binbrook, Ontario, the world epicenter of the sport. But just 27 minutes from steel-town Hamilton, resides Murky Water Kayaks; a place many of the world’s best paddlers look to when they need a custom boat.

Owner Ed Skrzypkowski is the shaper, builder, marketer and CEO of Murky Water and his passion for building boats was born of his passion for paddling them.

“We spent every weekend up on the Ottawa,” he says. “We did paddling trips down to West Virginia, Colorado, Idaho and you always wanted to design something of your own that you thought would be better. That’s how I got into building.”

He built his first boat about 30 years ago. “I bought an old slalom boat, cut it up, shortened it, flattened it, made a deck for it, and then it was my own personal design.” Skrzypkowski then spent five years working at Upstream Kayaks in nearby Guelph, Ontario.

“I kept playing around with my own boats, as Upstream Kayaks grew, but then I realized there’s no market in producing your own boats,” he recalls. “You’re better off having well-known designers and just building their boats. I also thought it would be better to be smaller and more customized.”

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So he left Upstream Kayaks and incorporated Murky Waters in 1994.

“I got permission from Jim Snyder to build his squirt boat design. Then I had other designers like Ian Thompson; he came up with the Departure when he was competing for the Canadian team. We did a lot of work with Corran Addison too when he first started up with Riot.”

“More recently we were approached by Jackson to build their competition boats; the carbon fiber All Star and the Rock Star. We basically pay them a royalty for every boat we build.”

Today Skrzypkowski is still working with the same basic precepts. Producing 40 to 70 boats per year, he runs the operation with his wife on their own property. Murky Water offers a seemingly limitless range of boat construction and designs. You can customize size, shape, graphics and materials. He hand crafts boats in his 2,500-square-foot shop using carbon, polyester or Kevlar. He’ll work with you to beef up the areas that need beefing up, or lighten the lay-up where it’s appropriate.

But the custom attention to detail doesn’t mean it’ll be the most expensive boat you’ll ever buy.

“My aim has always been to build the lightest and strongest boats, but also the most affordable,” he says. “I think to keep the sport going, you have to make sure the products are affordable.”

As for the future of Murky Water Kayaks? “This is going to be a deciding year,” says Skrzypkowski. “I’ve had some issues with health the past couple of years and I realized we’re actually turning away work because I physically can’t keep working seven days a week. I’d like to see the business go into younger minds, younger hands, that can keep the products going. I’m always canvassing; wanna learn a new trade? Especially if you’re a kayaker. You have an advantage because you understand the forces these boats go through.”

As for Ed, he obviously doesn’t get enough time on the water anymore, but he hopes to change that. “I haven’t kayaked seriously for about 15 years,” he says. “I got into building because I love kayaking. Before I do the ultimate mystery move into the ground, I’d like to get a few more years in the kayak and run a few rivers again.”

This article was originally published in Rapid, Volume 18 • Issue 3. Read this issue.  


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