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2006 was a big year for the Jackson family, Jackson Kayak, and me personally. I had a great kayaking season, winning the World Cup, USA Team Trials, Reno, Teva Mountain Games, etc.. I contribute my kayaking successes to a combination of being able to really cut loose and not worry about my performance (not nervous), and having great people to paddle with (my kids and team jk). Meanwhile, I am competing in the kayaking industry and that is just as fun for me. For me it is having the best product as my most important factor, followed by my customers satisfaction with my boats, and finally the scoreboard, which is simply how many Jackson Kayak boats did people choose, compared to other brands. I am a competitor, meaning that I get great satisfaction in starting with a clean slate and jumping into a game with worthy competition and seeing how I do. I haven’t said it here on the Jackson Kayak website yet, simply because it may get construed with bragging, instead of simply stating facts and how it affects my life and my company, but I will take that chance here today. Jackson Kayak was the #1 selling whitewater brand in 2006. According to Leisure Trends, who does independent market research, we went from 4th place in 2005 to 1st place in 2006. This was a moment I was waiting for, and honestly didn’t expect until 2007 when we had our new boats. Internally, running my own kayak company with a great team of people, including my partner, Tony, my design partner, David Knight, my CFO Dave Olson, and the factory crew, not to mention my wife, Kristine, and my mother-in-law, Lorraine (office manager); we have goals set and they are very challenging and this was a big deal for us. Things will be a little different at Jackson Kayak.

How will this change Jackson Kayak for the future? We will now focus on making kayaking better for everyone in addition to making, selling, and servicing our kayaks. What does this mean? We will be supporting paddling on the local levels, creating more paddling opportunities, social events, and improving communication among paddlers in local communities. Why? Because the health of our sport is what will determine the health of Jackson Kayak. In 2007, between our new Rockers, Stars, and Funs, and our price point boats, the Classics, we have an incredible line up of kayaks that makes paddling way more exciting for me, and those boats will do very well in the stores. We just need to make sure that paddlers have as many outlets for paddling as possible, and this is something we should do as the #1 brand.

Also in 2006 I built my first house. I have been married for 18 years, had kids for 16 years, and yet have never owned my own house. In 2002 I bought property in Rock Island and we put a trailer on it for Kristine’s mom to live in and we stayed there during the winter until we could build our own house, our dream house. We have known for many years, while living full time in our RV, what our house would be. Well, this year, we finally built it and this winter, we lived in it! Our dinner table seats 10, and from November to February we probably averaged 9 people sitting at the table for dinner every night. Nick, Ruth, Klass, family, and other friends visited and hung out for our first ever experience with our own house! I have an office, but spent much of my time working in the living room, or kitchen. Meetings were often held in my living room. My partner, Tony and his wife came out for meetings and fun, and we actually had a place to put them in our guest room! This is a big change in my life, since we have lived in an RV since 1997 and visiting the Jacksons wasn’t really an option. Kristine has been cooking up a storm in her new kitchen, so my eating has been part of the fun of the new house too!

Work in 2006 and now in 2007 has been even more intense than in the past. We are “turning the bend” from a start up business to a medium sized business with responsibilities to our customers, dealers, staff, suppliers, and my partner that have all increased with the business. Some changes are planned, some come unexpectedly and take more time and focus then you would think are necessary, but in the end, I am becoming a better businessman every step of the way. My motivations are to build a business that will take care of my family in the years to come, and to have an outlet for my desire to making the kayaking world a better place.

The 2007 kayaking season is officially here. March 1st is tomorrow, and the snow will begin melting, the rains fall, the weather gets warmer, and it is time for paddling! I am heading to Africa today to train for the World Championships with my kids, Nick, Ruth, Stephen, Jessie, and maybe Joel. We will also be filming for our 2007 JK promo video for the star series. This is a major kickoff to my paddling season, where my conditioning, my technique, and my focus change from 100% business/family to paddling/business/family. While I paddle all winter, it isn’t the same. Now, I will actually be looking at my performance while paddling, I’ll have my new All-Star and be aware that I will be competing in the world championships in 2 months, and my time on the water will take precedence over my time in the office. While some might think my business may suffer because of this, it is quite the contrary. I am finished with the development of the 2007 plan, I am 90% done with administrative stuff, and 80% done with R+D on Rec boats and have people in place to complete it. What I have to do is to be a paddler to keep my edge sharp for my 2008 planning season. I learn more about the kayaking business being on the road all summer with customers then I do sitting in an office at home. I contribute my success with the 2007 line of boats on both my 2004-6 paddling seasons, and on having the right people to help me, like David Knight. I will enjoy every minute of paddling in my new line of boats. The new All-Star is in a class by itself now! It is truly an unfair advantage. I can’t wait to get my new boat on the Nile!

When I return from Africa on April 2nd, I will be in top shape as well as ready for the season mentally. We will spend two weeks or so at the house to catch up and then hit the road in the RV and stay on the road until October. There will be a world championships, and other big competitions in the season, as well as completing our 2007 promo video that we’ll show when we are on the road. I will get to paddle with many of you during the summer travels and hope you all have a great paddling season!See you on the river!