The International Whitewater Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held at NOC last week. There were a lot of grey haired people there; legends of kayaking. People that every paddler should have heard of, and would be impressed to get to know. Even though I have been in this sport for a really long time, some of the people there were before my time, but still, they had an impact on my life.
Klaus Lettman, of Lettman kayaks. Klaus has designed and manufactured over 400 kayak designs in his lifetime. The one I am most familiar with is the Lettman Mark 4. Not only was it my first kayak, and my dad’s first kayak, it was the design that Klaus paddled to a gold medal in the 1972 Olympic slalom race. Klaus was there to accept his award as an “advocate” for his contributions to the sport. His son, Jochen, was a bronze medalist in the 1992 Olympic race I competed in at Barcelona and now runs his business. My father, Jim Jackson, was floored when he met Klaus and it was a highlight for him at the ceremony. I have a sash with his signature, along with the signature of the other inductees from 2007 and 2008. Cool.
Gilles Zok, another blast from the past, the most decorated down river racer of all time, 6 time world champion, from France. I met Gilles in 1984 at Saint Pied D’Boef for the first time when I was there for slalom. Gilles was there with his wife, who translated for him as he wouldn’t have known what was going on otherwise. (like Kristine does for me, except is because I can never hear what is going on) Gilles dominated in the 70’s and 80’s before retiring.
Walt Blackadar was inducted as an explorer, one that if you haven’t heard of, you are either young or really new to the sport.Walt was most famous for his solo first descent of Turn Back Canyon in Alaska. He died paddling the North Fork of the Payette year’s later, and his daughters were there to accept his award. I never met him, which is a bummer.
William Nealy- of the cartoons, received his award there as well, post-mortem. His wife was there to accept it, and was just as funny and entertaining as I imagine William was. I grew up on his work and the funny thing is that when I started reading it, we all dressed and looked exactly like in his books. His books were a source of information and learning, not just entertainment. Want to understand 70’s and 80’s kayaking? Read William Nealy comic books!
Bill Endicott, my coach from 1984-1992, and the guy who took me in as a kid from New Hampshire, and helped me become the competitor I am today, was inducted by couldn’t be there this time. Bill coached some of the most dominating individuals in slalom. Jon Lugbill, Davey Hearn, Cathy Hearn, Dana Cladek, Joe Jacobi/Scott Strausbau, the Hallers, and more. He was a mentor for so many people for so long that he left a permanent mark on paddling in the USA and world wide, and so many people are better off after their time under his wing that it could never really be measured. I can attest to that.
Davey Hearn, and Cathy Hearn were both inducted last year and were there. Their careers span more than 30 years already and aren’t over yet! Each with their own brand of paddling, both world champions, both Olympians, both coaches. Davey is known for his boat designs and created the squirtable stern, fueling squirt boating, playboating, and a new era in slalom. You can never measure just how much effect his early C1 designs had on paddling as a whole, but it was enormous.
Kent Ford was there to accept his award as an advocate. Kent started off as a DC C1er with decades of USA Team success, competing against Jon and Davey in their dominating era and winning world championships in the team event. His career as a producer of instructional videos is how most new paddlers know him today, producing over 20 of them. Performance Video, Kent’s production company has helped paddlers learn the basics for decades and is now undertaking the biggest project of them all, a history of paddling. Kent is creating an incredible piece for paddlers that involves getting old home movies, etc. from the 40’s and beyond to properly tell the story of how paddling got to where it is today. Richard Fox, 5 time world slalom champion, from England, was also inducted in 2007. I owe much of my slalom success to Richard as he took me under his wing as a training partner in 1988 in Brazil. He showed me what real training was about and became a great friend of mine as we went head to head every day. Richard has clearly been my hero since I started slalom and even today I am chasing his record of 5 gold medals in the World Championships.Known for razer sharp reflexes, impeccable technique, but rarely given the credit for his physical prowness, only because he could “win with 90% effort” as he would say was the goal for any paddler, and would leave margin for error.Richard also married Miriam who became the World Champion in women’s kayak and kept him on his toes, very cool.
Tony Prijon was also inducted. Prijon kayaks, Germany, one of the most successful slalom paddlers of the 70’s, again, with a son, Anton Prijon, who took over the reins, like with the Lettmans. Landis Arnold, USA importer for Prijon for decades, was there to accept the award for Tony. The affect of Tony’s presence over the past 30+ years is hard to measure, but is greater than you can imagine. His designs were innovative and he brought blow molding to the industry. The Prijon Hurricane was quite ahead of its time and was the only production plastic boat in the 1993 World Championships to really be competitive.
Explorer from England Mick Hopkinson, got inducted for his two decades of first descents in the Alps, Himalayas, and Africa. A slalom paddler to start, moved to exploring with a small team and went on for twenty years of pioneering. I haven’t really crossed paths with Mick, but hope to.
David and Phyllis Knight: David has designed every boat that I have paddled since 1997, and the slalom boats I paddled from 1993 to present. We’ll surely see him in the IWHOF at some point as no designer has been more successful in the past 10 years in creating sellable, winning boats! It was special for me to have them there.
At the ceremony there was quite the who’s who of paddling. Introducing me, was Payson Kennedy, one of the NOC founders, who was inducted in the Hall of Fame himself in the last round! Horace Holden, senior, and junior were both there, NOC’s other founder, and Olympian and friend Horace, who is now quite the playboater and father of several boaters at the top level. Wayne Dickert, NOC head of instruction, and Olympian, with his lovely wife, were there supporting the event and adding credibility to the overall group just by being there. Pam Dawson, former director of the ACA and now head of paddling in Ohio was there too. Risa Shimoda, the organizer of the IWHOF, also an icon in paddling for over 20 years (she ran the Niagara Gorge in a squirt boat in the mid 90’s, for example) created a great way to showcase the history of our sport with the IWHOF.
NOC did an awesome job in hosting the event with Matt Urdan leading the charge. We did the event at the “Paddler’s Pub” upstairs of Relia’s Garden restaurant. Sutton Bacon, NOC’s president was there as well and should be proud of the job they did.
I had special guests there too, with my Dad, and my sister, Laurie. My kids, Emily and Dane were there. Watching the future generation meet the past generation was great to see. There is a video that was made showcasing the inductees. My section had me winning the Gorge Games Extreme races, as well as the 2001 World Championships, and Olympic racing, nothing newer than 2001. It wasn’t exactly vintage, but not new either. It was like a “see EJ in the middle of his career” segment.
Go to this website for more information and to see the video.