It’s officially on. Paddling season. Our lifeblood. And with it, some outrageous – but true – stories for Dr. Aqua to attach annoying punch lines to. It’s been one hell of a spring.
Let’s get right into the Notables:
Confluence Watersports—makers of Wave Sport, Dagger, Wilderness Systems and other paddling gear—was all over the place this week. And the Paddling Life reporters, with ears to the streets, are finding it tough “weeding” through fact and fiction. Or maybe that should be “mething” through it? According to sources, Confluence asked approximately 30 employees to take random drug tests and subsequently fired those employees after tests came back dirty (it was even rumored the company FedExed red eye plane tickets to off campus workers so they could give urine).
It’s also rumored that even more workers walked out after refusing to take tests of their own. Confluence declined to comment directly about the firings but didn’t deny they took place. Snews reported that the random tests were spurred by the discovery of a pipe– used for smoking substances other than marijuana—found sitting on an employee’s desk on the production floor. According to Snews, it was either an April Fool’s joke gone bad, or someone was having a party at work and didn’t invite anyone else.
Fair enough. But beyond the drug-test issue, the boat company also laid off members of its marketing team, plus a good share of its Wave Sport team presence for financial reasons. Stories have also come across our radar in recent weeks that ACS has been looking to sell Confluence —one of the sexiest has K2 sniffing around. Hmmm. Not hard to put two and two together. “Seems like they’re trying to trim the fat,” says ex-Wave Sport Brand manager, Jimmy Blakeney, who was also laid off. Drug tests had nothing to do with his termination.
Rumors are kind of annoying. There’s so many involving Confluence lately it reminds me of a junior high dance and the whisper game. “Pssst…..Jenny’s wearing high heels.” Which turns into: “Pssst, Jenny’s got a new set of wheels.” Which easily morphs into “Psst….Jenny just copped Barry a feel.” The poor teenage girl is turned into a slut
before the end of the first song. Let’s wait and see.
In more paddlers behaving badly, this has to be a first: A paddling Internet forum used for vigilante justice. On Mountainbuzz.com, a paddler who was camping at Escalante Creek in western Colorado, reported that a couple of kayakers violated his person as they became intoxicated during the night –nothing new there – and then started shooting off firearms. He also complained that the rowdy kayakers –one a member of Team Dagger –acted rudely towards him and stole his bottle of Tequila, which was left out by the fire. Because of the report, the pro paddler got raked across the coals as his sponsors, including Dagger and NRS, dropped him for the season. All on the public forum too.
Ouch. Firearms and booze are never a good mix and won’t be condoned here. But the whole lynch mob affect was a bit over the top. Luckily, the aforementioned pro boater had the class to stay off the post. Good move. One of his cronies created multiple aliases and proceeded to spout off. He was then outed by the forum administrators, only making the situation worse for himself.
Dr. Aqua has definitely witnessed pro kayakers involved in questionable activities get off squeaky clean. I guess this just proves that the Internet has changed everything. We’re always being watched and we can always be tried by the court of public opinion. I definitely wouldn’t want to be the dude who reported them. Oh and one more thing: Never leave an open bottle of Tequila laying around a fire when kayakers are present and expect to find said bottle full in the morning. Boaters live to swallow the worm.
In more whitewater news, I just received my first copy of Whitewater of the Southern Rockies by Evan Stafford and Kyle McCutchen. Let it be known that this new guide has replaced Sports Illustrated next to Dr. A’s porcelain throne. Six-hundred pages of pictures and river descriptions from Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona and Utah and some heartfelt dedications to legendary Rocky Mountain paddlers who’ve moved on to the river in the sky. They’re calling this thing “the New Testament” and I can see why. It looks like a bible and you’ll be singing its hymns too when you start using it. It was edited by the boating community so you may notice a few errors here and there but that will only make it more endearing. Great pictures, great read.
Two weeks ago, members of a Belororussian canoe team were arrested by the Ukrainian authorities when they crossed international waters during a training session. Their boats were confiscated and they were thrown in jail. Arresting a team of canoeists would be like arresting a bunch of nuns who were sight-seeing too close to the White House. Maybe the paddlers were toting sub machine guns or were going to blow up a military outpost using a suicide bomb. Can you see it: “All right boys, ramming speed.” Why not just use a motorboat?
I never thought I would see Ice Cube in a kayak. Cube was the gangster’ rapper from Compton, Calif., who helped wake up society to police brutality with Straight Outa’ Compton in the early 90’s. “F*** the Police,” was his motto. He then did some quality flicks like Boyz in the Hood, Friday, and Barber Shop. And now this: Are We Done Yet. Cube trades in his hard image to go kayak fishing. “That kayak really kicked my ass,” he said of the experience. I wonder if that ass-kicking is as tough as the ones he took on the streets. Stoked he’s boating. Maybe this will encourage a new generation to go paddling. They probably won’t be listening to the Predator album on their i-pod though.
Adios boaters. May the water be high where you are.