When and where did you start kayaking?
I started kayaking in 1980. It was time when people working on the river were far and few between and everybody was a weekend warrior. There were like ten people in the entire effing state of North Carolina that kayaked. Now look at the Gauley. It’s crazy.
You were around when the only thing people were paddling were glass boats. Tell us a bit about that.
Well you couldn’t hit any rocks. Think about that. But we were still running hard shit. We were paddling 13-foot long glass boats and thinking that we were badass because of it. I can remember people showing up to the river with plastic boats and getting laughed at. They’d say, “The only thing plastic is good for is keeping turkey’s fresh.” It was a time when every boat was different and molded for the individual.
What do you think about the kayaking revolution?
It’s been about the kayaks. I have so much respect for the designers because they are taking feedback from plebs like me and turning it into designs. The whole thing is such a process: build a prototype; get feedback from your friends, prototype, and so on. But the idea behind designs is to make the sport easier. That’s why there has been so much progression in kayaking.
What’s going on now with kayaking and what’s next?
It’s moving back to river running and creeking while playboating is on its way out. That whole rodeo deal in the 90s was a farce. It was just a bunch of the same paddlers traveling around competing against each other. The sport is just too young to support athletes. Look at it today, the Jackson’s roll into a competition, beat everybody’s ass, and then move on. When the bosses asked me if Liquid Logic should support a freestyle team I said, “Hell no.” There just aren’t that many playboaters out there for it to make sense. Our best selling boats are river runners then creek boats, then its playboats (or Freestyle, as they’re calling them now).