With more than 27 years of paddlesports leadership experience under his spray skirt, industry veteran Joe Pulliam has joined the senior management team of Rock Island, Tenn.’s Jackson Kayak. PL probed him on his thoughts of getting back into the currents of paddlesports:
PL Psyched to be back in the whitewater world?
Pulliam Absolutely, and psyched to be back in a world where whitewater really matters.
PL You’ve seen stints at all the major ww boat companies (Perception, Dagger, and now Jackson). How do you view the state of the industry, and how has whitewater changed since your early days at Dagger?
Pulliam From a business standpoint, in those days whitewater dominated kayaking, now it’s a relatively small part. JK is doing more outside of whitewater…it’s key to the stability and health of the business. But whitewater, like at Dagger of old, flows through the veins of most everyone there. That’s fun.
PLWhat Jackson boat do you paddle?
Pulliam I really like the Hero, and have been able to get out on some old favorites like the Watauga and Wilsons Creek and it’s just the perfect boat for those runs. I also have a Dynamic Duo for Thomas and me. I’ve been in the Fun some, which I like, but have yet to get in the Stars or Rocker.
PL What do you feel were Dagger’s most revolutionary kayaks, and how do they compare to Jackson’s?
Pulliam I’m not sure many of Dagger’s boats I’d call “revolutionary”, but many were really, really good for their time and simply better than what else was out there. Steve Scarborough was just such a great and versatile designer and with the likes of Marc Lyle and Spe involved, we did some great boats. Crossfire, RPM, Medieval, several of the canoes like the Encore come to mind. David Knight’s boats not only perform well, but they fit great…things we did well for the day at Dagger as well. One comparison I like is not actually to a Dagger or Perception boat, but to another one I was involved with (a long story for another day): the Noah Jedi. The Jackson Hero is today’s Jedi: way easy to paddle yet sporty enough to be fun, great on creeks, and such a good ergonomic fit that promotes good technique. And my feet don’t hurt!
PL How often are you paddling?
Pulliam About once every other week with a big trip thrown in two or three times a year. Did the Grand Canyon last fall, have yet to do an extended trip this year.
PL How’s your roll these days?
Pulliam Haven’t had to swim in a couple of years, but the roll does happen a bit slower than it did 20 or 30 years ago!
Tapped to bring insights gleaned from building kayak brands and sales to industry-leading positions, Pulliam describes his role with Jackson Kayak as a generalist who will be influencing decisions across a broad swathe of company operations.
Jackson Kayak founder Eric “EJ” Jackson touts Pulliam’s arrival as an endorsement of the Jackson Kayak team and company, “We are very proud that Joe has found Jackson Kayak worthy of his time, energy and commitment,” EJ says. “Everyone in the industry loves to work with Joe. He knows the business and has a lot of integrity plus he’s great fun and a great boater.”
Pulliam and Jackson have known each other for years but Pulliam, who has been a consultant for the past four years, said three key factors drew him to working exclusively with Jackson: the size of the company, that it’s family-owned rather than corporately owned, and that whitewater, still a big passion for Pulliam, is more than “just a sideline image piece.”
“Being part of Jackson Kayak reminds me of my Dagger days except I get to work from home now,” Pulliam says. “This company has a lot of potential.”
Pulliam got his start in the paddlesports industry in 1982 as marketing director for Perception, Inc. Six years later, he left to co-found Dagger. Ten years later, Dagger merged with Perception to form Watermark Paddlesports. In 2005, Confluence Watersports acquired Watermark’s paddlesports division brands, including Dagger.
During the course of his career, Pulliam has given back to the paddlesports industry through membership on the boards of paddlesports trade associations, the American Canoe Association and American Whitewater. He also served on the 1996 Olympic Whitewater Marketing Committee as well as myriad local and regional business and river-oriented non-profits.
Founded in 2004, family-owned and operated Jackson Kayak is the leading manufacturer of whitewater kayaks. For further details about the complete line of Jackson Kayak whitewater and recreational boats, visit JacksonKayak.com.