Dwyer, whose death on January 13th marked the passage of one of the boating world’s most major personages, is noted for her lifelong commitment to recreational kayaking and the seminal impact she made on the industry. Andy Zimmerman, President of Legacy Paddlesports, remembers Dwyer as someone “way before her time, both as a woman paddler and in recognizing the attributes of making a boat for the recreational paddler.”
“Grannie Annie’s” brainchild was recreational kayaking, which she popularized through her company Kiwi Kayaks. “Her Kiwi kayaks and her non-macho approach to the sport opened the flood gates,” says Joe Pulliam, founder of Dagger Kayaks, noting the huge numbers of people drawn to the sport by Dwyer’s stable and colorful craft. “She, as much as anyone, anywhere, showed that kayaking is truly a sport for everyone,”
“She did a lot to move us forward as an industry,” says Zimmerman. Her wide-bottomed, large cockpit boats were revolutionary, serving to help beginners progress more quickly and opening up new dimensions in the sport for those desiring the more relaxing paddling style her wide and stubby designs offered.
Dwyer also owned California Rivers and Dragonfly Designs, and she paddled across the country and abroad. It was in New Zealand where she first encountered the short, wide craft that served as the concept for the thousands of Kiwi kayaks she manufactured in Healdesburg, CA. The inherent stability and user-friendliness of the design made it forgiving for beginners, and by successfully navigating the Grand Canyon in one of her own boats Dwyer demonstrated that more experienced boaters could also use the kayak on demanding rivers.
Dwyer was a passionate advocate of recreational kayaking, organizing the Marin Canoe Club and writing several guidebooks, including the Nor-Cal calmwater guide, “Easy Waters of California.” She also taught paddling classes and led trips throughout the state, and Dwyer remained an active member of the paddling community as an octogenarian. “She set new standards for a lady her age, and even for younger female paddlers,” says Zimmerman. “I knew her well; she was nothing less than awesome and really cared about paddlesports.”
Dwyer died of a stroke in the Santa Rosa hospital. She is survived by her daughters, Lenora Theolecke and Louise Hollingsworth, her two sons, Dr. Lawrence Dwyer and Lowell Dwyer, and ten grandchildren.