It might not have had the same panache as the Emmy’s, Oscars, or even ESPYs, but for the tight-knit whitewatwer community, the 2007 and 2008 induction ceremonies for the International Whitewater Hall of Fame, held Oct. 11-12 at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), was every bit as inspiring.
The ceremony drew more than 75 attendees and honorees from as far away as Germany, including relatives of the late Walt Blackadar, US Slalom Team Coach Cathy Hearn, Gilles Zok and more.
“It turned out great,” says event organizer Matt Urdan of the NOC, who toured honoree Zok around the rivers of the Southeast afterward. “It was a first class weekend all the way around–everyone wsa really grateful, and IWHOF gained some enthusiastic new advocates.”
Also honored at the event were honorees from 2007, including Tony Prijon, Walt Blackadar, Richard Fox, Cathy Hearn, Bill Endicott and Wiliam Nealy. Voted in by 75 internationally recognized whitewater paddlers, this year’s honorees were selected on the basis of their contributions in each of four categories, and will join the 18 already honored since the IWHOF began recognizing such exceptional individuals in 2005.
Special thanks go to the NOC for hosting the event (including Urdan and NOC President Sutton Bacon), as well as IWHOF Board President Matt Menashes, executive director of the Paddlesports Industry Foundation (PIF); and IWHOF board members Risa Shimoda, Pam Dillon and others. A special thanks also goes to sponsors NOC, ACA, USACK, PIF, jackson Kayaks, Risa Shimoda, the National Safe Boating Council, Pam Dillon and Virgil Chambers.
EXLORER: Mick Hopkinson
A slalom racer from Britain before putting his energy into exploration, Mick, who operates the New Zealand Kayak School, has been on such first descents as the river Inn in Switzerland and Austria, the Blue Nile in Ethiopia and the Dudh Kosi in Nepal. He was also a member of Nepal’s Karnali expedition and the “Taming of the Lion” first descent team on the Indus River in Baltistan. More recently he has been knocking first descents in Wyoming’s Wind River Range and on the West Coast of New Zealand.
PIONEER: Klaus Lettman
One of the world’s most famous boat builders, Klaus has designed more than 400 boat models during his life, influencing more paddlers than perhaps any other designer in the world. Many paddlers — especially before the era of rotationally molded boats — learned to paddle in a Lettman boat. Today he continues to permeate the paddling scene with his Lettman family of high performance kayaks and paddles in nearly every competition category.
CHAMPION: Eric Jackson
Eric has been involved in all aspects of whitewater, from his 10-year membership on the U.S. slalom team — including his participation in the 1992 Olympics, where he was the highest U.S. finisher — to his 16-year tenure on the U.S. Freestyle Kayaking Team, during which he has pocketed five gold medals. He has designed boats that have won the World Championships since 1999, has authored numerous instructional books and videos, and is the founder of Jackson Kayak, the first manufacturer to produce kayaks for small children.
CHAMPION: Gilles Zok
A six-time World Champion in Wildwater, Gilles is one of the world’s greatest downriver C1 racers. He was on top of the sport during its most vibrant period, taking home the following results: 1977 (Spittal, Austria) Gold Team/ Silver Individual; 1979, Desbiens, Quebec (CAN) Gold Team/ Silver Individual; 1981, Bala, Wales (GBR) Gold Team and Individual; 1983, Merano (ITA) Gold Team and Individual; 1985, Garmisch Partenkirchen (DEU) Gold Team and Individual; 1987, Bourg St. Maurice (FRA) Silver Team and Gold Individual.
ADVOCATE: Carl Luther (1882 -1968)
One of the first Germans to actively promote the sport of whitewater, Carl organized canoe camps and orchestrated the general assembly of the German Canoe Federation in 1926. An essayist, philosopher and accomplished skier and mountaineer, he wrote many articles for Kanusport, and his 1923 book Paddling and River Riding was reprinted ten times. With few photos available during that era, his photographic skills proved to be invaluable in promoting the sport.
ADVOCATE: Kent Ford
Kent’s background includes instruction, World Championship downriver and slalom titles, coaching for the U.S. Team, and working as public address announcer at the last four Olympic Games. His instructional books and videos make him one of the sport’s most recognized paddlers, worldwide. A member of the U.S. Whitewater Slalom and Downriver Team between 1977 and 1995, he’s a three-time U.S. National Champion and two-time World Champion in C1 Team competition and a member of the second team in history to win the team competition twice.
IWHOF is a program of the Paddlesports Industry Association, whose mission is to “promote the sport of paddling, past and present.” For more info check out iwhof.org.