Anybody into paddling knows that Kokatat is one of the market leaders in the development of solid, well designed paddling gear. For 40 years now they have turned out paddling jackets, PFD’s, dry suits and paddling apparel which is used by both beginners at the local lake and pro’s in the far off reaches of the wilderness.
A short while ago I had the pleasure to sit down with Steve O'Meara, Founder and CEO of Kokatat. I wanted to learn about the history of dry suits as well as talk about some of the many technical hurdles they had to overcome during the initial product development.
What I discovered along the way is somebody who was clearly a forward thinker in the very early days of paddlesports but is also somebody who is not interested in riding the coattails of past success and always push forward and continue innovating.
When did you start making dry suits and how did you come up with the idea to develop them?
We started making dry suits in 1986. Dry suits have been used both in diving (though much different then the ones used in paddling) and sailing but not really noted in watersports in general. It was a logical progression from a dry top which we had been making pretty much from day one.
As the sport became more popular people realized that winter/very early spring (especially in whitewater) often had the best water so they started going earlier in the season and of course this ran into all kinds of issues. Just having a dry top worked fine if you were staying in your boat but you ran into problems if you came out due to really cold water. The need for a full suit became more important.
What was out there in sailing was kind of one piece suits. It was more like a coverall with a zipper and a hood. There were survival suits but they were insulated and very awkward to move around in. They kept you warm but but not very practical for paddlesports.
What was being used up until dry suits came along were neoprene wet suits but they also had issues. When you were above the water with the blowing wind you got a lot of evaperative cooling. In the water you move around so you pump a lot of cold water in and warm water out so you are circulating it. You don’t stay warm as long in a wet suit and with dry suits you can layer and adjust to the air/water temperature.
If I get in trouble I really hope these guys come and save me but if they don't provide some pre-rescue entertainment, I’m going to be pissed.
Full video below.
CLEVELAND – The Ninth District Coast Guard District is launching “Paddles Up Great Lakes", an educational outreach campaign aimed at raising safe boating awareness among the region’s paddlesports community.
The campaign begins Labor Day weekend and runs through Sept. 10.
“Paddlesports is the fastest growing segment of recreational boating,” said Frank Jennings, Jr., the Ninth District’s recreational boating safety program manager. “Current economic conditions coupled with the modest entry-level cost of paddlecraft have contributed to a surge in the popularity of this sport.”
According to the National Marine Manufacturing Association, 2009 sales of canoes and kayaks totaled 343,600, nearly the number sold the previous year. With the growth of this user group, the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary are engaging paddlers and paddling groups in the interest of on-water safety. Coast Guard boating safety statistics from 2009 indicate 255 paddlers either died or were injured while paddling on our Nation’s waters. Of those, 120 drowned.
One quick video posted below gives a great demonstration of their new 47' MLB. This boat is specifically designed for rescue in large surf.
The official Coast Guard website describes them as:
The 47' motor lifeboat is designed as a first response rescue resource in high seas, surf & heavy weather environments. They are built to withstand the most severe conditions at sea and are capable of effecting a rescue at sea even under the most difficult circumstances. They are self-bailing, self-righting, almost unsinkable, and have a long cruising radius for their size. It is the replacement for the aging 44' MLB fleet.
More info: www.uscg.mil