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April 5, 2006

Sorry my last update wasn’t complete and got off topic. The river called, and I was distracted. Monday was supposed to be my “day off” and I was going take the kids golfing, but golf is something you do when the rivers are dry, not after a big rain.

Here is the rest of the update:

Jackson Kayak as a business:

Dave Olson, my CFO was in town all week, working on the closing of our new plant in Sparta. John Ratliff found this plant and organized the start of negotiations with White County business development commission, and then Dave Olson took over the majority of the financing and negotiations with both the Upper Cumberland Development Corporation and the White County group. Dave got us a great deal on our building that we bought from VF Corp, who moved their sewing operation to South America. At 92,000 square feet we should be set for space for a while. The deal on our building would make you want to buy a couple for yourself, we were at the right place at the right time, so we are able to keep our overhead low, while expanding. Dave also worked with my management staff on processes to keep the information flow and work flow effective and accurate. We have an awesome system from the initial phone call or Email to Carman for orders, to creating work orders for the assembly guys to make those boats immediately to, scheduling shipping, to invoicing, inventory control and purchasing, and follow up. We promise our dealers/customers that they can get any boat they want within three weeks, BUT we are actually shipping any boat they want within a few days (if not in 24 hours!). This is a testimony to the processes and staff that John Ratliff is overseeing and our commitment towards making every aspect of the business one that would qualify to “win the world championships”. That was my mandate in the beginning, where I wanted to have a company that Forbes or Inc. or some business group that ranked companies by how they run their business would rank us number one. With that said, we would not likely win any such contest yet, but in striving to do so, we are improving rapidly and I can say that we are a WAY better company in 2006 then ever before.

Building our log house:

I have wanted to build a house for my family on this property since long before we bought it (2001). When we bought the property I was still working for Wavesport and saving money towards that goal. We bought the property (20 acres for $78,000) and put a double wide trailer on the front of it to replace the old single wide that was there. We moved Lorraine, my mother in law, up from Florida to live in it with us, and she would take over this house after we built our log house. Well, I quit working for Wavesport in the Summer of 2003 and lost any hope of building my log house that year (as planned). We lived on our savings from August- January of 2004, plus dug into our credit. I made a lot less money with Jackson Kayak then Wavesport/sponsors, etc. that year so the house was pushed off for two more years. Kristine and I decided that we would build it this year no matter what our situation was, since Emily was turning 16 and still has never had her own bedroom (she shares with Dane). She has had her “dream bedroom” designed for years and we want her to enjoy living at home in our new house before she potentially flies the coup in a few years. Keith Perryman is our builder and is as good as it gets. He has the best subcontractors in Rock Island, and they build nothing but the best for Keith, and now for us, sweet! Our foundation walls are up, and our logs have been delivered by Heritage Log homes in TN, and today they start framing in our basement, which will be finished. This past weekend we dropped a big hickory tree on the foundation walls but it held up with no problem (10” thick poured walls!). Tomorrow is the last day I’ll see the house under construction until it is finished. We go on tour Thursday and won’t be back until September.

Team JK Fun Tour:

Mixing business with pleasure is the only way to go. In fact, I believe that the fun in business should be priority one, and making it successful is so that the business can be sustained indefinitely and the fun can continue. I am not impressed with the priority system that I learned in school. “When you grow up, you can’t just do what you want to, or you won’t…” My dad said it better, “Do what you love, and love what you do.” That is different for each person, but that is what we do on the Fun Tour. To see the Fun Tour Schedule click here:

What we do on tour is this: We travel to where the water is the best for that time of year. Since the spring has so many good places to be, we get to try different options each year, and consequently we get to see different dealers on the way. This year we head to California for late April, early May. We will clinic our dealers, do on the water paddling sessions with anyone who wants to show up, and do a bunch of river running in between visits. The Kern and American River Festivals are part of the deal, including extreme races, freestyle, boater cross and slalom racing! Then we go to Reno for the big invitational, and Colorado after that for more events. Competing on the tour is something that I love to do, and I schedule our tour around the competitions. After our Colorado tour, we’ll head to Europe for the Lyon Festival in France, and “Wave and Wheels” in Switzerland. Tony Lunt, my partner and his kids, are meeting us there and we’ll tour around paddling together for those two weeks, sweet! When we get back we will spend quality time in Canada at Wilderness Tours and Ottawa Kayak School on the Ottawa River. This part of the trip is a place where people can come and meet me for clinics and awesome kayaking, as well as we can train for the USA Team Trials which are in August. I have a “bye” since I am the current World Champion, SWEET! That means I don’t have to qualify for the USA team to paddle in the next world championships, which are Spring 2007 on Buseater Wave on the Ottawa. Emily and Dane do have to qualify for the USA Team however to compete and I will make sure they get some paddling in on Garberator to prepare for it. The World cup is next and that ends up right here at Rock Island. When we come for that, Kristine will have flown home a few times to work on the house, and it should be ready to move into! We are hosting the World Cup out of the house (media, VIP station, meetings, etc.) and it is designed for this type of thing. It has a 2,000 square foot deck, perfect!


My kids and I are having a great time competing, as is the rest of Team JK. Competition is something that adds a little extra purpose to the play and is a key element to my life. I LOVE to compete and play games and go nuts if I don’t have anyone around to compete against. My kids and I play football, soccer, and inside games a lot, and Jay, Clay, Stephen, Emily, Dane, and I play kayaking games a lot. We also go to events that have a big “upside” or “downside” depending upon our results. I love the idea that if I show up and get 10th place three events in a row, that people will start saying, “EJ is getting old and the age of him dominating the kayaking competition scene are over…” or something like that. This is a great challenge for me each year, and that started in 1984. Apparently I won’t be getting tired of it anytime soon, since it is as fun today as it was then. The only difference is that back then I had something to prove and I was struggling to get to the top, not focusing on staying there.

The world championships is the holy grail of competition for me, since it is a single date, and it is do or die at that moment, with so much that can go wrong, the concept of winning that event or counting on winning is far fetched to say the least. I have gone into each event since 1993 thinking I had a big advantage on the competition. However I won in 1993, was 13th in 1995, 2nd in 1997, 9th in 1999, 1st in 2001, 4th in 2003, and 1st in 2005. that is a lot of years to think you should win each time and only be all over the map in results. It is the rat and feeder pellet thing. Perhaps the high likelihood of not winning is the excitement of it all.

Now that my kids are VERY much into the competition scene, it adds three times the struggle, three times the variables, and three different personalities with three different challenges. It is super fun to be a part of. Add slalom racing to the mix and things will get quite interesting! Will my kids really love it, or not be interested after trying it? I don’t really care either way, but I am interested in it again and I hope they will join me. In fact I hope to disguise my training as coaching my kids and my getting good again being a side effect of that on the water coaching!


I am no balancing my life at this moment. Instead, I am like a guy that is overloaded with too much stuff and just “going for it full speed” running across a fallen tree with my load and hoping to get to the otherside before falling off! With that said, Thursday marks a new era in the 2006 season and I will be over the tree and on solid ground. My business is running smoothly and doesn’t need my presence here at Rock Island. My house is being built and doesn’t need me here either. My schedule is set, the RV will be packed, my kids and wife are ready to go and my training is doing great. My videos are almost finished, we made three videos in Africa, and Chris Emerick had just about finished two of them. He will have Playboating: Advanced finished in one week. We then have the Paddle Station video to complete, but Eric Stiller will do the editing with Chris on that. I am focused on a major sponsor and some major media that will both likely be decided upon this week, and implementation is the easy part for me. Therefore, while my plate is full, I am balanced once again. Full time travel with my wife and two kids in the RV, implementing a plan that is a balanced life recipe. By the time my Tour is finished, it won’t seem balanced anymore, and I will be very excited to be home once again, this time, in my dream house. Warm Southeastern Fall, wine on the deck, planning my 2007 season for Jackson Kayak and the Jackson family. I like it.

🙂 EJ