It began with the need for a vision. The TRAK team had spent the months prior to our Pacific Rim Surf Camp developing improvements to our kayak and creating useful peripherals that would enhance the performance of our boats and the experience of their paddlers. It entered into our heads that innovation can become a futile endeavour if there is no system in place to validate that innovation and we quickly realized that, as a company, we needed a clear picture of the quality of our products and our brand. They say that hindsight is 20/20 – we knew that we needed 20/20 foresight. The solution was a reflection of the genesis of the entire TRAK 2.0 project; we talked to paddlers and assembled a group to help keep us on the right path.
Jaime, Jason, Walt and JP discuss product development over a few prototypes. Photo Credit: Hans Trupp
The twenty-person-strong team, cryptically entitled the 20/20 Team, consists of a handpicked selection of TRAK Pilots and ACA instructors. Vetted according to their experience, expertise, enthusiasm, and personalities, and brought onboard to provide feedback at a critical time, we assembled (most) of the team in Tofino, BC, to accomplish this critical mission. This West coast venue was selected as the perfect theatre in which to tackle the difficult task of articulating the required feedback for a number of reasons: it is a verified paddling mecca with varyingly intense conditions, getting there required the team to travel with their TRAK via plane – an important aspect of TRAK ownership, and for the secluded and remote environment that would allow for a focused experience that was free of distractions. A better choice could not have been made.
The 20/20 team rallies to Fabio (centre) for a teachable moment. Photo Credit: Hans Trupp
We achieved our goals out there by tactically intermingling a surf progression clinic within the context of our TRAK 2.0 project. Contrived flat water testing is no substitute for the dynamic volatility and randomness of an open coastal environment, and our setting was a crucial player in testing the prototypes that we had brought along for trial. A mix of focused on water testing, spontaneous “oops!” moments, and collaborative group workshopping channeled the insightful thoughts of the team into indescribably valuable feedback. Crowd favorites included our adjustable hip pads and rough water thigh braces, which were described as “total game changers”, and the variety of new storage bags and tourability systems. It wasn’t all “back pats and tummy rubs” as a few issues with our current product were made demonstrably apparent to us, spurring us to take another look at how different TRAK systems integrate with each other.
Gen rescues Andrew while the team observes. Photo Credit: Hans Trupp
The team was able to glean a lot of insight for themselves (and about themselves!) from the surf skills progression element of the trip. Top notch instructors and organizers delivered the team an experience that was both informative and challenging, giving them choices on how to sharpen some skills and push their capabilities and, in plenty of cases, develop an entirely new toolset and perspective on how to approach open coastal and surf kayaking. Hats were unquestionably off for the brilliant leadership and support team that provided everything from expert-level instruction to campsites and delicious meals.
The camp concludes with a beach fire and TRAK Kayak Blues singalong. Photo Credit: Hans Trupp
Our Pacific Rim Surf Camp was, undoubtedly, an amazing success that brought together a group of strangers and created a passionate team of friends and comrades. The buzz around the TRAK office about how much of a precedent this has set for future trips is both exhilarating and daunting, but these are expectations that we intend to exceed on subsequent adventures into expedition planning and surf skills progression.
A narrative retelling of the events can be read here and TRAK 2.0, The Ultimate Touring Kayak, can be found on Kickstarter for a limited time.