No one really knows when whitewater kayaking was first practiced. Running rapids in kayaks or canoes was probably done in isolated cases since the very first kayaks were used thousands of years ago. However, since about the middle of the 20th Century whitewater kayaking has been an activity that has increased in popularity with each passing decade. The growth of the sport of whitewater kayaking is in large part due to the invention of new materials and manufacturing processes being used to make the kayaks. With the advent of plastic mass-produced boats now on the scene, many whitewater kayak brands also sprang up.
Plastic whitewater kayaks now account for over 95% of the kayaks being paddled in rapids on rivers. Each year the major companies come out with new designs and features that affect both boat performance and boater comfort while on the river. When choosing a kayak it should be noted that the difference between the brands of kayaks is mainly one of preference. Here are the most popular whitewater kayak brands to choose from.
In 1988 the Dagger Canoe Company was started in small workroom in Tennessee with a few friends. This was right at the beginning of the surge in popularity that whitewater kayaking beginning to see and Dagger Kayaks was right there
in the whitewater scene leading the charge. They have been a major player in the whitewater kayaking market ever since. In 1998 Dagger Kayaks was bought by Confluence Holdings. In 2001 Dagger moved its location to Confluence Holdings in South Carolina.
Wave Sport Kayaks started their company in the late 1990s. This company featured the likes of world class whitewater boater Eric Jackson, now owner of Jackson Kayaks, paddling their boats. Wave Sport really made its name for their superior and adjustable outfitting at a time when most kayaks just had a plain seat in their boats. Wave Sport was eventually bought by Confluence Holdings, the parent company to rival Dagger Kayaks, which I’m sure provides for some interesting company meetings.
In 2003 Eric Jackson, known as “EJ” in kayaking circles, left Wave Sport kayaks to start his own company with friend Tony Lunt. Together they created the Jackson Kayak company. Located in Sparta, TN, Jackson Kayak has a 100,000 square foot manufacturing facility and employ 120 workers in this town of 8000. Jackson Kayak boasts that the vast majority of the components for their kayaks are manufactured on site in Sparta and that every year they increase their ability in that regard.
With the famed Green River Narrows as their playground, Liquidlogic was born in 1999 in the town of Flat Rock, North Carolina. Owned and staffed by an eclectic group of individuals all who share a passion for whitewater boating and the outdoors. In deed many of their designs and prototypes are tested out on the Class V Green River and all the danger and technical ability that the Green entails.
Officially named Pyranha Mouldings, Pyranha was founded in 1971 and in 2011 they celebrated their 40th years of being in the kayaking business. Located in Great Britain, Pyranha is Europe’s largest specialty manufacturer of canoes and kayaks. Pyranha was to Europe what Perception was to the U.S.
, really revolutionizing the kayaking industry with the invention of plastic kayaks. Pyranha has sold whitewater kayaks in the U.S. for many years but it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s when they really began to become popular her.
Bliss Stick Designs are made in New Zealand and are known all over the world. Bliss-Stick U.S. is owned by John Gordon and Sam Fulbright and are located in Clover, South Carolina. Still sort of a niche brand of whitewater kayak, Bliss-Stick prides itself on growing their kayak business in the U.S. through grass roots efforts, whitewater festivals, and word of mouth.
Riot kayaks began in 1996 and has since created whitewater kayaks that push the envelop with such innovations as installing skegs on some models of their whitewater boats. Based out of Canada, Riot Kayaks is located in Saint-Hubert, Quebec.
Prijon Kayaks is a German based kayaking company. While rare in the U.S. compared to the other brands, Prijon kayaks can still be found on our rivers and streams and are can be found in a limited number of kayaking outfitters across America.