C&K Staff and contributors remember key moments that changed the course of paddling's last four decades.

Critical Mass

Forty years ago, the last American combat troops were leaving Vietnam, and the Watergate scandal was gaining momentum.

The Invention that changed Everything

In the early 1970s, paddlesports met the Space Age. Kevlar and carbon fiber allowed us to build boats that were incredibly light and rigid. Royalex gave us tough, mass-produced canoes. Hollowform and its roto-molding technology did the same for kayaks.

Nordkapp Sea Kayak

Valley Canoe Products produces the first Nordkapp sea kayaks for a Norwegian expedition led by Colin Mortlock. “We were determined to make a boat that was good for expeditions,” says designer Frank Goodman. “It’s amazing that 35 years later it’s still selling. That’s perhaps the greatest compliment.”

Mad River Malecite

Mad River Canoe founder Jim Henry tweaks his 16.5-foot Malecite to create the workhorse Explorer, a perennial bestseller.

The Man in the Red Canoe

It’s a summer day in the mid-1970s, and a lone man with a mop of white hair and a shaggy beard paddles a red Chestnut canoe on the crystalline waters of Lake Superior. Bill Mason handles his craft deftly, heeling it on edge with the waterline tickling the gunwale, making graceful turns around house-sized rocks at the base of soaring 600-foot cliffs.

First Descent of Dudh Kosi

Mick Hopkinson, Mike Jones and four others complete the first descent of Nepal’s Dudh Kosi. “We spent a year putting the trip together, and then we drove there from England, 7,526 miles,” Hopkinson told C&K in 2010. “We got a free van and free kayaks and we were driving through Afghanistan, Iran, and it was dirt-cheap. Then we walked for three weeks and went kayaking.” The BBC documentary about the expedition, Canoeing Down Everest, remains the most-viewed paddling film in history.

New Zealand Circumnaviation

Paul Caffyn completes the first circumnavigation of the South Island of New Zealand

Walt Blackader

Whitewater kayak pioneer Walt Blackadar dies on a routine run down Idaho’s South Fork of the Payette at age 55

First Descent of Bio Bio

Bill and OARS founder George Wendt, along with Mike Cobbold, Richard Bangs and two other Sobek guides, make the first descent of Chile’s Bio Bio.

First Descent of Indus River

A Sobek Expeditions team ends the first descent of Pakistan’s Indus River at the entrance to the final gorge. In the harder sections, they’d portaged two of every three rapids, though the ones they ran were memorable. “As he arabesques toward the rapid's end, jaws drop along the shore: John Kramer is wearing no clothes, save his life jacket,” Richard Bangs later writes. “He slides between the sharp rocks at the end of the run, and pulls in with a worthy swagger and grin.”

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