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November 1, 2004

The Nantahala River is at the top of a list of most
well known kayaking rivers of the world. The Nantahala Outdoor Center
is perhaps the most well known outpost for kayaking in the world as well.
When I was 17 years old (23 years ago), Shelby Corson from “The
Forks” Maine was getting sent to the NOC kayak school for a week
of top end kayak instruction. At that time, I had never heard of such
a thing. Wayne Hockmeyer was sending her and told me that there was no
better place to learn to go from an intermediate to an advanced kayaker
than at NOC. All I know is that 23 years later, here I am, and there are
5,000+ kayakers coming to enjoy the fall festivities, buy and sell used
gear, buy new Jackson Kayak boats, and paddle. To do something great once
is a great thing, to do something great every year for many years creates
a legend, and NOC deserves the title of “Whitewater Legend”.

NOC asked if I could help them sell their demo fleet
of Jackson Kayak boats and, of course, help kayakers choose the right
Jackson Kayak for them, new or used. Well, I must say that I didn’t
expect the quantity of kayakers that came. There were weekend warriors,
beginners, soon to become beginners, intermediates (75% of the crowd)
and advanced boaters too. NOC sold all of their instructional Jackson
Kayak boats, and their demos too. These well used Jackson Kayak demo boats
sold anywhere from $799 down to $699. The Fun 1 sold for $649.

Kristine, Emily, Dane, and Stephen Wright were all
on hand to help. Stephen Wright was awesome. He really has a passion for
kayaking, and people, making him an incredible person to help kayakers
improve their day on the water, through great advice, great instruction,
or simply a point in the right direction. Kristine is the most knowledgeable
person I know on kayaking, for a non-kayaker. I think if she had to, she
could demonstrate a McNasty, or a hand roll, even though she doesn’t
kayak. Emily can connect with other female boaters immediately. She has
a great combination of knowledge and humbleness to be able to help just
about anybody buy not be at all arrogant. Dane mostly spent his time foam
boating or kayaking. Kristine bought him a new (used) bike from NOC, and
before I knew it we had a new (used) bike for Emily as well.

Yesterday NOC ran out of Super Fun and 2 Fun models.
I left a message with Brian Talbert, my original full time employee, that
they wanted 5 more boats. I didn’t Brian and his wife, Tanya, got
the message. Well, this morning, they pulled in with 5 new boats on the
roof. I am not sure how many 2 Funs there are left, but there is only
1 Super Fun left. The competitive side of me wants to know whether the
Jackson Kayak boats are doing a better job for NOC or another brand here
at GAF? I will get the numbers from them and let you know. Certainly,
I would prefer to be paddling either a Fun or Star family boat, over anything
anybody else is making, but that is like asking Santa Clause if he prefers
Christmas or Halloween.

I have been paddling everyday. The past two days have
been playboating at the rapid next to the store in the hole and wave.
Tomorrow, I am going to go river running down the Nantahala at 10am with
anybody who wants to join in. I can run harder rivers than the Nantahala,
but I am very fortunate that I can have fun on class 2 or class 5, and
anything in between. I just leave the booth and go paddling, leaving it
unattended. Yea, those people who come at that time don’t get my
help….or do they? I have had employers who would argue that it is
my job to be in a booth, not go kayaking. I believe that I am no help
to anybody, if I am not a kayaker that can’t put paddling ahead
of selling paddling. If I had to walk away from one of those activities
today- it would be selling kayaks, without a second of hesitation. Take
my company, take my money, but never try to get in the way of my paddling.
It also doesn’t hurt that I am not trying to sell so many boats
that I need to fight for a customer. Yes, I want every kayaker to be in
the best boat for them, and frankly, if they need a river runner that
plays, or a full on playboat, that can still river run, I have the best
boats, for just about any sized boater, in my opinion. However, most companies
will discontinue model when it gets below 400 units per year. I am selling
2,500 boats with 9 molds in 2004, that is less than 300 boats per mold,
on average! I am picking up the crumbs that the other companies don’t
want and making a good business doing it. Therefore- look for me on the
river! With that said, many of my molds will make way over the 300 units
next year, with the exception of the Fun 1, Star, Fun 1.5. Will I discontinue
them? No sooner than I will discontinue my kids!

So, what else happened? I met many people who I have
crossed paths with before. Some that are great fans, some are past students.
One, Joe, a New Yorker now living and working at the Kennedy Space Center
in Florida, plans on taking a Jackson Kayak sticker and putting it on
the Space Shuttle and getting a photo for me! I met Joe on the Ottawa
at my favorite kayak school, . I also met a rolling
challenged lady, who can roll, but faces sea sickness and a fear that
stems from a car wreck where she was stuck in the car underwater, ooooh,
that would screw anybody up for wanting to roll. Live music tonight, three
kegs of beer, more fun stuff.

We have all four dogs in the RV, along with Stephen
Wright and the kids. Sleeping is interesting.

Going to do that now…