This episode is brought to you by the Whitewater Journal. Paddle more in 2020. Get your journal here!

We start this week’s show with a lashing from Kayak Pucon Hostile. Next, we discuss what Eric Jackson’s next moves may be. From there we get into listener mail and of course rants and raves! Thank you for listening, enjoy!


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Chris Hipgrave Email

What’s up gentlemen?

While we all throughly enjoy Weld’s passionate assessments of the whitewater industry, I feel strongly that his doom and gloom / glass half empty summary of current industry events, might only be telling one narrative of a much more complex situation.

First off let’s talk about overall participation in whitewater. The latest Outdoor Industry Association / American Canoe Association paddlesports report shows some really promising stats …
– Whitewater participation rates among those 35 to 44 is increasing, but the biggest year-over-year growth is with youth ages six to 12.
– In fact, participation among children ages six to 12 has increased by 126% since 2013.
– The growth of whitewater kayaking looks promising. At 56 percent, whitewater kayaking had the highest first-time participation of any paddle-sport in 2018.
– Female participation has consistently grown since 2013
– 44% of whitewater participants have taken whitewater skills courses. These participants are 10 percent more likely than the average paddler to receive training from a certified instructor.

Anecdotically, I would also argue that whitewater kayaking is stronger than we give it credit. Just go paddle during Yough week, Gauley season, a solid Colorado season, etc. and the numbers of folks enjoying the river is astonishing compared to even just 10 years ago. In these regional whitewater strongholds, the only thing lacking feels like space in the eddy on some weekends.

So here at Pyranha we strongly disagree with the concept that whitewater kayaking is an endangered activity and we’re likely to end up making our own kayaks in our garages, as some have suggested (Corran). Could it be better? Absolutely, and there are great examples of clubs and individuals that should be applauded for acting locally to make huge difference.

Turning our attention to the recent spate of industry acquisitions, mergers and departures, again I would argue that these are inevitable in a young industry like ours that only started rotomolding whitewater kayaks 40 years ago. Folks probably don’t understand just how small the whitewater industry is, so when big things happen like these industry shake ups, we all probably feel somewhat threatened. However, we can choose to engage the reality that our young industry is realigning to a new retail reality, and adjust our own course, or we can choose to point out everything that’s flawed about it and yet out of our control. I hear many folks, including the Hammer Factor, comparing whitewater kayaking to the biking industry but even there we are seeing mergers and acquisitions as they grabble with the same changing retail landscape.

Here at Pyranha, we have zero plans to slow down our innovation of new and exciting boats just because of these industry changes and challenges. If one of our peers stopped manufacturing whitewater kayaks tomorrow, the industry would adjust, small manufacturers (Waka, Exo, etc), would step up to join the mainstream and once the dust settled, we’d all be back on the river doing what we love. The draw of the river will always be stronger than what manufacturers name is on the side of your kayak. Additionally, we strongly disagree with the assertion that fewer manufacturers means less innovation. To use your own example, the bike industry is dominated by Trek and Specialized and yet they have some of the most interesting and innovative bikes out there. iOS and Android, are another example. Innovation will only stop if we choose to make it stop and the paddlers out there demand that we don’t, so at Pyranha, we won’t.

Lastly, let’s address the Big Gear Show … on second thoughts let’s not. That whole thing just pissed me off!


Chris Hipgrave – Director of Sales
Pyranha US, 2000 Jonesborough Road, Erwin TN 37650