Presented to one or more individuals each year for their legendary contributions to paddlesport. Recipients of this prestigious award will be inducted into the ACA Paddlesport Hall of Fame.
Nominations for the 2014 ACA National Awards will be available online in June.
2013 - Bruce Lessels
Bruce Lessels was a member of the U.S.
Whitewater Team and won the bronze medal in C-1 at the 1987 World Whitewater
Championships in France. He has served
as a board member of the Deerfield River Watershed Association, the US Canoe
& Kayak Team, and New England FLOW, as well as a past chair of the Franklin
County Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Bruce is an ACA certified canoe
and kayak instructor and served for several years on the ACA: Safety Education
& Instruction Council. He has written several whitewater books for the
Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) including The Whitewater Handbook, an excellent
source of whitewater technique information for all levels of canoe and kayak
paddlers, and Classic Northeastern Whitewater Guide, a comprehensive guide to
the best whitewater runs in the northeast region for novices to experts. Bruce
and his wife Karen also co-authored a book in 2002 for the AMC entitled
Paddling With Kids. Bruce and Karen own and operate Zoar
Outdoor (est. 1989) to introduce people with an adventurous spirit to the
incredible rivers and mountains of southern New England. At Zoar Outdoor, Bruce
is in charge of overall operations, marketing, finance, and business
2012 - Larry Zuk
The American Canoe Association has been in existence since 1880 – 132 years – and this year's recipient has been an ACA member for almost half that time span. During that period Larry Zuk has been involved in all aspects of canoeing from safety instruction to designing and building canoes and kayaks, to competing in and winning whitewater, flatwater, and canoe sailing races. He has been paddling and canoe sailing for over 76 years.
He started the ACA Rocky Mountain Division in 1955 and established the ACA National Slalom Committee. He hails from a family dedicated to the betterment of the ACA and paddlesports. His father was Commodore, which we now call President, of the ACA in 1950 and Larry has been attending the ACA's Sugar Island Encampment since 1924 when he was just one year old. His friends recall many a day when Larry, as a child, helped his father measure sails for the canoe sailing races. He traditionally sounds the bugle at the opening of the Sugar Island Encampment. Larry has served as a division committee chair, an activity committee chair, on the board of the directors and, in 1975, as President of the ACA. He designed the ACA sail and rig as well as designed and built the highly successful Dragonfly canoe made of super-cored lay-up of carbon fiber for sail racing. He served as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Official in Montreal in 1976 and was the Sailing representative to the International Canoe Federation (ICF) in 1981. In 1980, Larry managed the 100 Anniversary of the ACA events and produced the 1980 Centennial Yearbook. He also has a Sugar Isalnd Sailing Trophy named in his honor.
There are many people who have been great instructors, who have won many races, who have designed excellent boats, and who have written articles and books, but in addition to having done all that, Larry has always done those things in a way that promotes, serves, and represents the ACA in the highest manner and the best light. But his true passion and immense talent lies not on his exploits on the water – which are many and varied - but in the recording and telling of the rich history of the ACA. Historian Daniel Boorstin once wrote that "trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers” and Larry has been there for the ACA as our gardener tending the deep roots of our heritage. Our founders envisioned the ACA as a nationwide community of paddlers forged on the anvil of shared values and Larry has served for decades as our smith at that anvil, helping shape the ACA into a compelling gift from one generation to the next. And he helped lay the foundation for an association that is now well into its third century.
We are a great Association today because of the great bridge builders, smiths, and gardeners of generations past and Larry has filled all of those roles for the ACA. He has prepared, inspired, and empowered paddlers everywhere. He is one of the Keepers of the ACA Flame.
2012 - Dr. David Jones
David started kayaking in 1973 and competed in his first kayak competition in June of 1973. He joined the ACA that same year.
He raced Wildwater K-1 from 1973-1980 and won first place in the S.E. Canoe and Kayak Championships in K-1 Wildwater from 1974-1981. He was a-member of the Special Services Kayak team for the U.S. Air Force from 1974-1976. He competed in the 1976 Olympic Trails in K-4 and finished in second place. He was a member of the U.S. Wildwater Team from 1980-1991, 2006, 2008, 2010 and competed in six World Championships in C-2 wildwater. He competed in five Pre- World Championships in K-1, C-1, and C-2 and finished 10th place in the 1987 World Championships. David won Seven National Championship titles in C-2 Wildwater from 1985-90 and coached the U.S. Team from 1989-1993. He was the team leader and coach for the 1993 Wildwater World Championship in Italy and took third place in the Grand Masters class in the 2006 Wildwater World Championships, Karlovy Vary, CZ. He also took scond place in the Grand Master class in the 2010 Wildwater World Championship in Sort, Spain.
More than a racer, David received his ACA Instructor Trainer certification in Whitewater Kayaking from Gordon Grant in 1990 and his Instructor Trainer Educator certification in 1999. He is also certified in Swiftwate Rescue and is a Wilderness First Responder. He has volunteered at the annual Instructor Update Workshops for the Dixie Division from 1994-2002. Over the period from 1991 to 2009, he served as the head of whitewater instruction at Camp Greystone in Tuxedo, NC; head of instruction of whitewater at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain, NC and head of instruction of whitewater at Camp Merrie Woode, Sapphire, NC.
In addition, David served as the past NSWC (National Slalom & Wildwater Committee) representative from 1980-91, as a delegate to the ACA Congress in the 1980's, and was an early organizer and the Medical Adminsitrator for the 1996 Whitewater Olympic venue on the Ocoee River.
David serves on the Board of Trustees of several organizations and is very active in the Presbyterian Church. His hobbies include reading and watercolor painting.
2011 - Phil & Mary DeRiemer
Phil and Mary DeRiemer (pronounced "d-reemer") have been teaching for over 20 years. They are known for individualizing their guiding and teaching styles to fit your needs. They'll be glad to work with you on your paddling technique, river strategies and playing, or just back you up as you go for a move.
"Phil and Mary DeRiemer individually have a long and well deserved reputation as world class kayakers, but they may even be better kayak instructors. Their passion for teaching, attention to detail and communication skills are simply unsurpassed. As an extra added bonus, they are both just wonderful folks to hang with." - Chuck, NV
As a teacher Phil is known for his fun, patient and knowledgeable approach to kayaking. He has a playful sense of humor that brings laughter to whatever he's doing. He is appreciated for his ability to motivate and instill confidence while weaving his good humor into a day on the river. "Whether it's working on your roll, improving your technique, or facing new challenges, I really enjoy the process of helping someone have a break through "
Mary helps paddlers move beyond perceived limitations in a supportive, fun and patient manner. "I know that as a paddler, you can do anything I can do. My goal is to help YOU know that."
"You are both natural teachers--each with you're own style and technique. Mary is warm and caring in her approach while Phil uses his sense of humor and laid back style to teach. But you are both serious teachers who do not compromise on the fundamentals. You are firm and consistent while remaining positive. I was impressed with the work you did. You each went right to the problem and made a correction. I was also impressed with your ability to give on-the-fly comments when I didn't even sense you were watching. Not just to me but to all of us. I have no comment other than general praise for your ability to encourage and teach. I now realize that there is more to one's development than just going on a bigger rapid. Can't say enough about your teaching techniques and encouragement. Thanks for everything." - Mike, OR
These two nationally recognized teachers co- wrote, and are featured in, two essential instructional DVD/videos, The Kayak Roll and The River Runner's Edge. The latter and most recent DVD is geared for the whitewater kayaker. It features technique, strategy, water reading and much more. Along with Kent Ford, they are co-authors of The Kayaker's Playbook. For many years Mary served as the ww kayak technique contributor for Canoe and Kayak magazine. Both Phil and Mary are certified by the ACA at the highest level as teachers of teachers. Oh yeah, and they love what they do!
2011 - Walt Blackadar
Every so often in sport, an individual comes along and changes things forever. In whitewater sport that person is Walt Blackadar.
Walt's River in 1971 was so far ahead of its time that it is not only significant in terms of whitewater history, but it is significant in the history of adventure and exploration.
Dr. Walt Blackadar became known as a kayaking pioneer/explorer in 1971 when he did a solo descent of the formidable Turn Back Canyon on the Alsek River in British Columbia. A Sports Illustrated article featuring this solo run soon followed. This solo run of Turnback Canyon on the Alsek (at the time was considered by some as whitewater's Everest), is still considered among the biggest accomplishments of its time. His solo descent was ahead of its time and became significant in terms of its solo, self-supported extreme of exploration. His article chronicling his solo descent propelled him to almost a cult hero overnight making him the legend that became the face for the public epitomizing big water river running.
Walt changed the face of kayaking in the 1970s from a conservative slalom philosophy in the U.S. to a "go get it” whitewater attitude. Not only did he develop a U.S. style and technique for big whitewater, but he created the hype and popularity becoming the basis for today's whitewater stars.
Walt died on the South Fork of the Payette in Idaho in 1978, pinned on a submerged log.
2010 - Payson Kennedy
"Paddling with Payson is like shooting hoops with Michael Jordan," said ACA member William McDuffie.
Payson Kennedy began canoeing at age 10 in the Atlanta, GA area and years later becamne a camp counselor and canoeing instructor for a local YMCA camp. He continued his paddling exploration when he was stationed in Washington State in the 1950s hitting the waterways of the Northwest in a folding kayak. In the late 1960s, fiancee Aurelia took him down the Nantahala River in western North Carolina and five years later (1972) Aurelia, Payson, and Horace Holden opened the Nantahala Outdoor Center. At the time, NOC consisted of the former Tote & Tarry Motel, a restaurant, and a gear store. Payson, Aurelia, and their four children moved from Atlanta and Payson assumed duties as Director of NOC. Three years later they made their first profit. Over the years, Payson built NOC into a $15 million per year operation with 600 summer-time employees who serve over 200,000 outdoor enthusiasts annually. He served as Director/CEO/President until 1998 and then came back "out of retirement" to serve again as CEO/President in 2004-2005. NOC now is recognized as the largest outdoor education/recreation center in the world and was recently rated as "one of the best outfitters on Earth” by National Geographic Adventure Magazine.
Kennedy played a stunt double in Deliverance, in 1972, and soon thereafter started racing, eventually winning six national championships in C2 between 1974 and 1984. He helped start the nation's oldest triathlon, the Outdoorsman Triathlon, in which he still competes. Payson helped create the non-profit Nantahala Racing Club which has produced numerous U.S. Olympic whitewater racers over the years. In addition, he is regualry involved with conservation and safety issues and still guides paddle rafts on several rivers.
In 2005, he was inducted into the International Whitewater Hall of Fame for his longtiome advocacy on behalf of paddlesports. His vision and leadership of the Nantahala Outdoor Center and its prominence in the paddlesports world has exposed millions of citizens to the wonders of rivers and the joys of paddlign. He is truly a Legend of Paddling.
2010 - William Nealy
A world-famous cartoonist, William Nealy is best-known for his groundbreaking book Kayak, which combined expert paddling instruction as well as artful caricatures and parodies of the whitewater enthusiasts themselves. The quality of his work transcends its subject; this book, and the others which followed, spawned a host of imitators, and made William a cult figure in the world of outdoor sports. Born on February 4th, 1953, Nealy grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Never comfortable in a highly structured environment, he left high school before graduating, and then attended St. Johns College, eventually graduating from Birmingham-Southern. He brought a thorough and rigorous intelligence to his interests and avocations, all of which, in his hands, became arts. He produced river maps during the 1970's and 1980's for rivers including the Gauley, New, Upper Chattahoochee, Yough, Nolichucky, French Broad, Arkansas, and other rivers. He was the author/illustrator of Whitewater Home Companion, Kayaks to Hell, Whitewater: Tales of Terror, Kayak: A Manual of Technique, and Kayak: the Animated Manual of Intermediate and Advanced Whitewater Technique. In addition, he was the illustrator-artist for The Squirt Book: the Illustrated Manual of Squirt Kayaking Technique (1997) and Squirt Boating & Beyond: How to Rip in Anything That Squirts (2001), both written by Jim Snyder. He co-founded Menasha Ridge Press, a publishing company promoting outdoor books, including river guides and he was the author/illustrator of The Mountain Bike Way of Knowledge, a manual on riding technique in the style of his whitewater books.
2009 - Bob Benner
On March 16, 1969, 15 people gathered at Bob Benner's house in Jamestown. Bob recalls, "For the purpose of getting people together who like to paddle.” During that meeting the Carolina Canoe Club (CCC) was born, with Bob as president, Sheila Masseey as secretary-treasurer and Tony Comer as cruise chairman. Some of the CCC's first trips were on the Fisher, Mayo, Dan, and New Rivers. As a founder and past president of the Carolina Canoe Club, Bob is truly a pioneer in paddling in the southeast. In 1970, he joined the faculty at Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, NC and taught river canoeing among other outdoor recreation classes for almost 25 years. During that time he also organized and directed the Southeastern Intercollegiate Canoe Races for 20 years. He was among the very first Red Cross Instructors and Instructor Trainers in Whitewater Canoeing. He has also been active in numerous capacities with the Boy Scouts of America and has authored two paddling books. Bob has also served on several state groups involving rivers, water trails, and river assessment. His work on the Catawba River Recreation Study led to the establishment of an 83-mile state water trail.
2008 - David Mason
Dave Mason is a past commodore of the ACA who has been a member for over 30 years. This guy bleeds ACA through and through and always finds a way to lighten the mood. Getting started: My parents sent me off to a summer camp, Camp High Rocks, where I fell in love with canoeing. When I graduated from high school, my father bought me my first canoe. That was a big mistake. I chose Sewanee because it was located in the Tennessee mountains near good white water.
Reaction to induction into the American Canoe Association Paddlesport Hall of Fame: "I was honored and flattered. I was honored that the 'higher ups' had noticed the years of training, racing and instructing that I'd done, along with serving on the boards of all the national governing bodies. To now have my name alongside some of the 'who's who' in the U.S. paddling world is very moving."
2008 - Les Fry
Back in the late 1960's before many of us started boating, and before some of our younger members were born, Les Fry served as president of the newly formed Coastal Canoeists club. He, along with others, helped build an active club that has promoted paddling and given many of us a good introduction to boating and whitewater as well as a strong community of paddlers and friends. Les began paddling as a youngster and years later joined the Coastals in its first month in 1965. He has paddled very, very actively for four decades, some years missing only a few weekends in his boat. During that period, whitewater paddling became very popular. Paddlers around the country learned and developed more skills, safety and river lore by personal and shared experience. Much of it was included in Coastal CaNews issues during which time Les was the editor. He also wrote and edited the "Port Advocate” for the Norfolk Junior Chamber of Commerce during the 1940's, and the monthly "Jaycee Journal” for the Portsmouth Jaycees from 1944 to 1952. Many of these publications included his signature cartoon drawings.
2007 - Joe Pulliam
Pulliam got his start in the paddlesports industry in 1982 as marketing director for Perception, Inc. Six years later, he left to co-found Dagger. Ten years later, Dagger merged with Perception to form Watermark Paddlesports. In 2005, Confluence Watersports acquired Watermark's paddlesports division brands, including Dagger. He is now part of the Senior Management team at Jackson Kayak where he works with founder Eric "EJ” Jackson. During the course of his career, Pulliam has given back to the paddlesports industry through membership on the boards of paddlesports trade associations, the American Canoe Association and American Whitewater. He also served on the 1996 Olympic Whitewater Marketing Committee as well as myriad local and regional business and river-oriented non-profits.
2007 - Steve Scarborough
When Dagger was founded in 1988, Joe Pulliam was working at Perception and Steve Scarborough was designing paddles for his own company, Dagger Paddles. Together the two led a resurgence in innovation that still defines Dagger today. Placing an emphasis on research, development and new design tech-nology has helped the two innovators build Dagger into one of the fastest growing companies in the paddlesports industry. "We used to play hooky to go paddling," says Pulliam, who bought his first canoe at age 14. Pulliam went on to build his first canoe at age 17, which someone stole from his backyard. "It was the ugliest boat we ever made," he says. "Everyone joked about why some-one would want to steal it." Today he divides his time between real estate, business interests, and his work as an environmental activist serving on the board of Conservation Fisheries, a group that works to propagate and restore rare fish species. In 2006 Governor Phil Bredesen appointed Steve to the Tennessee Conservation Commission and was recently voted Chair by the commission members.
2006 - Tom Johnson
Tom was the first kayak designer to make the leap from fiberglass to plastic with the River Chaser manufactured by Hollowform. His River Chaser design, the first rotationally molded plastic whitewater kayak, was responsible for the growth of plastic kayaks into all paddlesport markets today. Tom has also been an advocate and supporter for slalom for more than forty years both locally and nationally. He continues to paddle and instructs on occasion while remaining involved in the Kernville whitewater racing community. Credited with building the first fiberglass canoe (1942). Designed numerous canoes, kayaks, paddles and other paddling gear for the whitewater industry (1940s through 1980s). ACA Commodore (1968-1969) and ACA Pacific Division Vice Commodore (1962-1967).• Assistant Coach: 1969 World Championships. Created Olympic training center on Kern River where 8 of 13 U.S. team members trained (1972). Manager Coach for ‘72 Olympic team. Designed first roto-molded plastic kayak, the "River Chaser” (1974). Designed numerous canoes, kayaks, paddles and other paddling gear for the whitewater industry (1940s through 1980s). National K-1 Wildwater Champion (1967). National OC-2 Champion (1972). National C-2 Masters Slalom Champion (1980).
2006 - Steve Lysak
Steve Lysak had a very long and varied career as a canoeist. His greatest success came in team events, either pairs or fours. He had many partners, but it was with Steve Macknowski that he reached his highest achievements. Together they won the U.S. title in 1948 in Canadian pairs as well as taking a gold and silver medal at the London Olympics of that year. Lysak and Macknowski also were on three national championship Canadian fours teams. Lysak also managed one national title at C-1. Lysak was from the New York area and represented the Yonkers Canoe Club all his career. He designed and built the canoe that he and Macknowski used in the Olympics. In 1948 Lysak and Macknoski made careful plans to win a berth on the U.S. Olympic Canoe Team and by spring had designed and built their own canoe. They commended an arduous training ordeal which continues until they won our country's first gold medal in history in canoeing on a rain-swept River Thames at Henley, England-the two men singled blade 10,000 meter race. The following day they captured the silver medal in the 100 meter race, missing a second gold medal by four inches. A week after returning home they won the national title in the two-men singled senior races and they joined with Yonkers Canoe teammates to win the national four man singled blade senior crew title for the third time. Lysak has never hung up his paddle. In 1953 he moved into canoe sailing and has won six national championships in the Open Cruising Canoe Class. Since 1963 he has been sailing the international 10 Square Meter Canoe, the 100 year old class in which the founding fathers of the Yonkers Canoe Club achieved national recognition in the 1880's and on through the turn of the century.
2005 - William 'Bill' Endicott
As coach of the U.S. slalom team from 1977-'92, Bethesda, Md.'s Bill Endicott, 54, has had more influence on the U.S. slalom scene than any other person in the world. A successful competitor in his own right, with C-2 appearances in the 1971 and '73 World Championships and a ninth-place showing in the '71 C-2 Wildwater Championships, it is his coaching that remains his legacy. In his 15 years at the helm of the U.S. Canoe & Kayak Team, Endicott coached athletes who won 57 medals in World Cup, World Championship and Olympic competition, 27 of them gold. Never one to steal the limelight, he naturally downplays his contributions: "We just started getting athletes who started at a really young age and who could train year-round," he says. Bill Endicott has the unique distinction of being inducted into the International Whitewater Hall of Fame twice: first with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and then again as an Advocate in 2007.
2004 - David Yost
Known to paddlers everywhere as DY, David Yost designed his first racing canoe, the Minuteman, in 1973, and was soon designing for Sawyer. Deals with Tubbs, Curtis, Loon Works, Perception, Swift and Bell Canoe followed. Nearly 80 hulls reaching production by seven manufacturers, including the Flashfire, Wildfire, and Starfire, make Yost the century's most prolific designer of human-powered watercraft. A student of historical boats and the effect of materials on design, Yost continues to design for construction in wood strip, wood and fabric, laminated plastic, vacuum forming and rotomolding. Yost's designs emphasize seakindlyness and user-comfort over speed. He describes his work as an out-of-hand hobby of designing hulls for friends. He has the distinction of being the most prolific designer of human-powered watercraft around.
2003 - Cliff Jacobson
With 16 books in print and hundreds of articles penned, Cliff Jacobson is the most published paddling author of the twentieth century. He is also an accomplished wilderness canoe guide, leading trips to northern rivers for the Science Museum of Minnesota. Jacobson's interest and persistence were major factors in the re-development of the solo open canoe. Jacobson teaches Environmental Science to middle school students and has developed programs on water quality, wilderness meals and wilderness experience for challenged youth. All are used in middle schools nationally. A popular speaker at paddling events around the world, Jacobson puts on stellar shows while gently promoting "Leave No Trace" camping.
2002 - Bart Hauthaway
Bart Hauthaway was a world-class slalom competitor in the ‘60s and such a student of the sport he later became the U.S. Olympic Coach in the same event. He won several national championships in canoe sailing, and convinced Old Town Canoe to manufacture variations of the Adirondack pack canoe he developed. Short, open-topped and paddled with a double paddle, Hauthaway's pack canoes started the movement towards the open-cockpit recreational kayaks growing today's industry. "There were a few early builders [of sea kayaks), including Bart Hauthaway who in 1975 licensed a fibreglass touring design to Old Town Canoe. Ken Fink was distributing British boats through his Poseidon Kayak Imports from 1978 on. But there were no prominent kayak builders until Tieken Kayaks.”
2002 - Ray McLain
Ray was a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.). After working for 31 years at Proctor and Gamble as a chemical engineer, Ray left the United States lock, stock and paddle in 1995 to establish a small, but growing, adventure travel business in Costa Rica, called Costa Rica Rios Aventuras. To Ray's relief and satisfaction, the company he pioneered was sold a few months before his death to Brett Shelton, who wants it to "remain the same as when Ray ran it, offering guests a wonderful, quality, safe trip at a reasonable price.” The paddling world has lost one of its finest. Ray McLain, former national marathon and whitewater canoe champion, American Canoe Association Instructor Trainer, and team manager and coach to many top-class young boaters, died January 23, 2003, after being diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. He was 65.
2001 - Charlie Walbridge
Charlie Walbridge is a nationally-known whitewater safety expert with almost 40 years of river running experience. He learned to canoe at summer camp in the early 60's and began paddling whitewater seriously while attending college in 1967. He has paddled rivers throughout the US and Canada and made several first descents. He was an A-ranked C-1 slalom and wildwater racer in the mid-70's and worked part-time as a river guide until the mid-eighties. He has collected and published reports of U.S. whitewater fatalities for over 30 years. He is a well-known writer on whitewater safety issues and has written books and magazine articles on the subject. He's served as an expert witness in many wrongful death cases and is quoted often in newspapers and magazines.
Charlie has been active in both the American Canoe Association (ACA) and American Whitewater (AW). He held the position of Safety Chairman for both organizations and now serves on the AW Board of Directors. As a member of the ACA Instruction Committee he helped develop programs in whitewater canoeing and swiftwater rescue. He is a swiftwater rescue instructor-trainer-educator and trains students and instructors.
2000 - Kay Henry
She and her first husband, Jim Henry, founded Mad River Canoe in 1970. Henry ran the company continuously until 1998, when she retired from the business and turned her attention to the river. Since then, Henry has been working to create and maintain part of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, a 740-mile water trail that connects Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Quebec, and New York state—including this stretch of the Missisquoi—by using historic Native American trading and transport routes. Henry and her second husband, Rob Center, adopted the Trail project and have transformed it from what it had been—scribbled pages of research in the imaginations of a handful of paddlers—to a 700-member nonprofit organization with two paid staff members and a $250,000 budget, all aimed at creating a contiguously mapped waterway complete with campsites, portage routes, trail signs, and access points.
1999 - Bill Havens
William "Bill” Havens, Jr. is considered one of the most outstanding canoeists ever produced in the United States. He was a "natural” in the sport. He is the son of the famous canoeist Bill Havens, Sr., nephew of Olympian Charles Havens, and brother of Frank Havens, an equally famous canoeist and Gold Medal Olympian.
Bill Havens, Jr. was born January 29, 1919. He grew up in Arlington, Virginia and graduated from Washington-Lee H.S. (1937). He became an Arlington elementary school teacher and served for many years in the Arlington County system as an elementary school principal.
He was an outstanding athlete in high school and in college at George Washington University. He excelled in several sports (football, boxing, track, swimming, and wrestling) and gained national prominence in canoeing at the tender age of 16, winning his first National Canoe Tilting title and finishing third in the Olympic Trials. He was named to his first of four Olympic teams. Bill was an alternated on the 1936 U.S. Olympic Canoe Team and was named to the three following Olympic teams as a member in 1940, 1944, and 1948.
Bill Havens, Jr. went on to win 19 more National Championships. Beginning in 1936, when he was a high school junior, through 1953, Bill dominated the sport of Canoe Tilting. No one was better in this event. He was the undisputed champion and defended his title over 500 times. Over a 27 year span, He was dethroned only once, and that by his brother Frank in 1947, at the American Canoe Association regatta held at Sugar Island on the St. Lawrence River. He regained the title, defeating Frank the very next day.
In 1940, Bill Havens, Jr. won three races at the National Championships and was named to the Olympic Team. He was also named to the 1944 Olympic Team. However, neither the 1940 or 1944 Olympic Games were held because of WWII. In 1948, Bill Havens, Jr. again made the Olympic Team, finishing 5th in the single-man canoe race at the Games held in London. Following the 1948 Olympics, Bill and his brother Frank set as their goal winning the two-man canoe race at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. To achieve their goal, they followed an intense training regimen and based on their competitive race results and times (having bested the world record time) leading up to the 1952 Olympics, they were favored to win the two-man event. However, fate denied Bill the almost sure chance to make the 1952 team and the opportunity to win an Olympic Gold Medal. In a freak accident, he severed the tendons in his hand attempting to help one of his fellow teachers free her car which was stuck in snow. His brother Frank went on to win a Gold Medal and set a World Record in the single-man event at the 1952 Olympic Games.
Despite the serious injury, Bill was far from finished as a competitive canoeist. After regaining most of the use of his injured hand, he continued competing in many more national and international regattas, setting records and winning many more gold, silver, and bronze medals racing in Senior Olympic and World Masters canoeing and kayaking events.
1999 - Frank Havens
Frank Havens, an Arlington, Virginia native, has the rare distinction of being a four time Olympian. He was destined to become an Olympian the day he was born, August 1, 1924, four days after the Olympics competition that his father was scheduled to compete in, but did not for fear of missing his son's debut into the world. Many years later in the 1952 Olympic Games at Helsinki, Finland, Havens won the grueling 10,000-meter Canadian single-blade race in 57 minutes and 41 seconds. He broke the world record set by Czechoslovakia's Frantisek Capek.
Havens competed in four Olympics, 1948 at London, 1952 at Helsinki, Finland, 1956 at Melbourne, Australia, and 1960 at Rome, Italy. He was a leading candidate to be the United States' flag–bearer in the opening ceremonies at Rome, but at the last minute the honor went to decathlete Rafer Johnson. In Havens' first shot in the 1948 Olympic Games, he finished second to Capek by 35.4 seconds in a canoe he borrowed from the Czechs. In 1952, his world record was set in a canoe he and his brother, Bill, imported from Sweden for about $160.00.
Havens, whose many accomplishments include the National Paddling Single Blade championships in 1950, 1951, 1952, 1956, 1957, and 1961 refused to rest. In the 1985 World Masters Games in Toronto, at the age of 61, he paddled his way to seven first-place medals in seven races. The former Olympian continued his extraordinary victory streak in the 1989 World Games in Denmark.
In his book, "100 Greatest Moments in Olympic History," Emmy Award winning film maker Bud Greenspan describes how American Bill Havens Sr., undefeated and untied, would have been one of the favorites for a gold medal in canoeing at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. After several days of soul-searching, though, he decided not to make the two-week overseas boat trip to Paris; his wife was due to give birth to their child around that time, and he wanted to be at her bedside.
Their son, Frank, was born four days after the Olympics ended, so Havens certainly would have missed the birth had he competed.
"It would take almost three decades before he realized he made the correct decision," Greenspan writes, "for in the summer of 1952 he received a telegram from Helsinki, Finland, the scene of the Olympics. The telegram read:
" 'Dear Dad, Thanks for waiting around for me to get born in 1924. I'm coming home with the gold medal you should have won.' It was signed, 'Your loving son, Frank.' Frank Havens had just won the gold medal in the singles 10,000 meters canoeing event."
Frank Havens remains the only American Olympic gold medal winner in a singles canoeing event.
1998 - Jon Lugbill
Jon Lugbill is generally recognized as the best paddler to ever compete in whitewater canoeing. He's a five-time World Champion in C-1, a one-time silver medal winner, a seven-time member of a gold medal winning team and is the only athlete in history to have won 12 golds in the Whitewater World Championships. "He was the group leader," says his former coach, Bill Endicott. "He was surprisingly selfless and was always thinking about the team. Yet he always wanted to be the best." Lugbill is also the only paddler ever to have his picture on a Wheaties Box. It hangs on the wall in his office of Richmond Sports Backers in Richmond, Va. Jon started canoeing in the 1970s in the Washington, D.C. area. He often trained daily in his C-1 using slalom gates set up on a feeder canal next to the Potomac River near Great Falls. During the winter, Jon and his fellow paddlers also trained in the David Taylor Model Basin. He and some other fellow racers (notably David Hearn) developed new designs of low volume decked canoes, using nylon, kevlar and fiberglass cloths mixed with epoxy resin. Born in Wauseon, Ohio, Jon Lugbill now serves as the Executive Director of Richmond Sports Backers, and resides in Richmond, Virginia.
1998 - Jim Snyder
For forty years, Jim Snyder has never hesitated to create his own "charc,” building boats and paddles that barely resemble whatever the rest of the whitewater world is currently using. They were quickly imitated by those eager to learn from his innovative creative forays. Much of what is recognized as modern playboat design and concepts is descended from early Snyder squirt boats. Designer and builder of custom wooden canoe and kayak paddles (1975 to present). Designer and builder of more than 60 kayak designs (1979 to present). Inventor of the short boat revolution of squirtboating including an entire line of squirt kayaks (1981 to present). Inventor of countless squirt maneuvers and their names (1981 to present) including the "mystery move” and the first to perform a cartwheel tossing over a dozen ends (1983). Slalom competitor: Middle States Junior Champion (1970). Extreme race competitor: Upper Yough Race. Steep creek explorer with two first descents (Quarry and Elzey Runs in WV).
1997 - Verlen Kruger
"Happy are they who dream dreams and have the courage to make them come true.
Verlen Kruger is the world record holder for long distance paddling, with an excess of 88,000 miles and more than 40 million paddle strokes under his belt. That, of course, includes his 21,000-mile, three-year, top-to-bottom world canoe paddle at the age of 64, and a 28,000-mile paddle across North America. With those kinds of numbers you might expect a paddling prodigy, but Kruger didn't even set foot in a canoe until he was 41. "It was a 17-foot Grumman," says Kruger, on pace to log 100,000 miles in a canoe by the time he turns 80. "And it just grabbed me. From that point on my lifelong passion was canoeing." Today, the Lansing, Mich.-based paddling legend spends most of his time building custom canoes and on shorter trips–including a relatively recent 400-mile paddle in Alaska. He has also paddled more miles (100,000 plus) than anyone else in the history of the sport; competed in every major canoe race in North America; and earned 11 Guinness World Records for long-distance canoe travel.
1996 - Marge "River Mom" Cline
A master of canoe and kayak, Marge Cline was one of the top paddling instructors in the country. A stickler for safety and proper technique in her classes, she thrived on the exhilaration of taking on a wild river. Her signature move was a headstand in the bow as her canoe shot through white water. A family rafting trip to West Virginia in the late 1970s hooked Mrs. Cline on river sports. She was teaching within a few years and became certified by the American Canoe Association as an instructor trainer educator, meaning she could instruct others how to teach paddling, said Tom Lindblade, a longtime paddling instructor. Mrs. Cline edited the Chicago Whitewater Association newsletter for more than 25 years. She also subscribed to similar newsletters around the country and gathered pertinent news for a publication called Confluence, which connected canoeists and kayakers, her son said. In the early 1990s, Mrs. Cline organized a Paddling in the Park event in Palatine, which later drew hundreds. In 2000, Mrs. Cline was named one of 100 Paddlers of the 20th Century by Paddler Magazine, one of many honors she received over the years for her dedication to the sport.
1996 - Harry Roberts
In between stints as editor of Wilderness Camping, Canoesport Journal and Paddler, Harry Roberts served as marketing head for Hyperform and Sawyer. He held his editorships as a community trust, nurturing many new writers, including Cliff Jacobson. Roberts was a renaissance man in a time of specialists: an athlete, a man of letters, a builder and salesman, a family man and a community man. A spellbinding speaker and fixture at paddlesports events nationwide, he promoted a marathon-based paddling style he termed Touring Technique. The industry lost a leader with his untimely death in 1992.
1995 - Bunny Johns
"Paddling takes me to wonderful places, beautiful places. It demands that I be totally there. It's a most fascinating thing for an active mind. To allow me to just focus on the river, how can I play in this moment?”
Bunny Johns is something of the grande dame of paddling in WNC. Originally from Atlanta, GA, she was part of the early Bryson City paddling community, first coming to the area as a camp counselor at Camp Merrie-Woode in Sapphire, NC, a valid outdoor camp for girls, in the early 1960s. In fact, that was her introduction to paddling. She taught swimming at camp, and her students, in turn, taught her to paddle the lake in a canoe. She quickly turned her attention to canoeing, graduating from paddling lakes to whitewater, at that time section 3 of the Chattooga River. Eventually, as she became part of the early community of Nantahala Outdoor Center she took the plunge and moved full-time to Bryson City, working as a manager in the kayak school. "At that time, the philosophy was, everybody did everything; clean rooms, kayak and raft guide, cook. After I burned the trout that got me out of the kitchen.” As a group of serious paddlers, she began racing Open Boat Canoeing at the national level. In 1981, she and Mike Hipsher earned the Gold Medal in "a perfect run” at the 1981 Wildwater Championships at Bala, Wales. She became president (after serving as VP for years) of NOC from 1991-2000. She was on the Olympic Committee, working to bring the Summer Olymics to Atlanta in 1996, even serving as an Olympic official. Bunny has PhD in Plant Physiology from NC State University, and worked as a Research Associate at NCSU while obtaining the degree. Today she runs BunRab Enterprises, primarily working with Duke Energy to rebalance its use of resources. "I do what you need me to do, that I can do,” she says. She also serves on the boards of The Rotary Club of Bryson City (as president), WCQS, West Care Health System and Harris Regional Hospital, and MedWest Health System. She also works with the Little Tennessee Land Trust, helping to conserve the landscape of the upper Little Tennessee and Hiwassee River valleys by protecting private lands from inappropriate development.
1995 - Greg Barton
What can we say about sprint kayaker Greg Barton, the most successful Olympic paddler in U.S. history? We'll let his accomplishments do the talking. A member of four consecutive Olympic teams, Barton won the bronze in K-1 1,000 in 1984 and 1992. It was at the 1988 Games, however, that he stole the show, winning the gold in K-1 1,000 and then coming back 90 minutes later to team with Norm Bellingham to win the gold in K-2 1,000. No other athlete has won both 1,000-meter titles in a single Olympics, and no American paddler has won two Olympic golds in an Olympic Games at all. "Greg Barton's the best paddler in the world," maintains long-time adversary Lee McGregor of South Africa. The Barton Cup for the United States Canoe Association is named in his honor. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife, the former Justine Smith, and their two daughters and co-owns Epic Kayaks.
1994 - Ralph Frese
A blacksmith who loves paddling, Ralph Frese operates a smithy and a specialty canoe shop in Chicago, just a few hundred yards from where Joliet must have passed on his way down the Mississippi in 1673. Frese also manufactures composite re-creations of Voyageur canoes and has designed a series of modern tripping canoes. He is a serious historian of his sport, with 4,000 book titles and a collection of over 100 canoes. His ambition is to live long enough to read all his books. Frese says he will donate his accumulations to the Chicago Maritime Museum to initiate a national canoe and kayak collection. Frese ushered in the new canoeing millennium leading a New Year's Day paddle on the upper Chicago River. He is the founder and the spirit of Chicagoland Canoe Base and an inductee into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame.