The best, most popular boat designers

Who do you think have been the best or most popular paddle-craft designers in various categories? J. Henry Rushton surely dominated for canoes in America in the last part of the 19th century through the beginning of the 20th, and there were many wood-canvas craftsmen in Ontario and Maine in the first part of the 20th. Whoever designed Grumman canoes surely had a lot of boats sold. But since then?

I’ll just create some obvious categories. Feel free to add others.

Flat water recreational canoes. Dave Yost surely dominates this category. John Winters designed more asymmetrically sophisticated canoes. Solo pioneers such as Bart Hauthaway, Pat Moore and Mike Galt.

Flat water racing canoes. Gene Jensen comes to my mind, but I’m not a racer so don’t really keep up with all the designers.

Whitewater racing open canoes. The Millbrook boats of John Berry and John Kazimierczyk have been strong in this category for almost 50 years. Kaz has probably designed more canoes than John by this time.

Whitewater river cruising open canoes. The Millbrook boats are used as cruisers. Jim Henry of Mad River canoes. Steve Scarborough designed a lot of popular canoes for Dagger. Whoever designed for Old Town canoes such as the Tripper and Penobscot.

Whitewater decked canoes. Not many of these ever around. John Berry and John Sweet had their versions of the European Hahn in the 60’s and 70’s. Jon Lugbill and Davey Hearn designed the various Max C-1’s in the 80’s and 90’s. Have no idea about this century.

Whitewater kayaks. Prijon in Europe. Tom Johnson for Hollowform in the 70’s. Whoever was designing for Perception from the late 70’s to 90’s (I forget – Bill Masters?). Eric Jackson the past 20 years. Many others, but I don’t know the names.

Seakayaks. So many. I’ll pass to the kayakers.

Rec kayaks. Pass.

Pack canoes. Peter Hornbeck seems to have been the prime mover re-establishing this market. Yost is a presence via Placid Boatworks and maybe Swift.

Then there are surf skis, outrigger canoes, historical recreations, and other niches I’m probably forgetting.

Although passed…Ken Taylor, Valley Kayak. There really were no sea kayaks till Valley started them 1964.

Nick Shade of Guillimont Kayaks. Of course he designs and builds wood composite boats. Which is what I’m interested in.

However Joey Schott of Turning Point Boat Works has crafted an excellent carbon fiber Petrel Play, one of Nick’s designs.

@Overstreet said:
Although passed…Ken Taylor, Valley Kayak. There really were no sea kayaks till Valley started them 1964.

Interesting take on kayak history…1964???

{BTW Ken Taylor didn’t design kayaks, He brought one back from Greenland that was made for him}

I have to give Barry Buchanan a shout out for a loved boat that has a bit of a cult following.
The original Current Designs Caribou…

On the canoe side it’s hard to argue with Dave Yost being the most popular designer. “Best” is highly subjective and I could make several arguments. I could argue Dave Yost is best because in my experience his designs are so effective…they get the job done with no drama but they may not have the most character or generate the most passion. I have 5 solos and 3 are Yost and 2 are John Winters designs (Osprey and Shearwater). Osprey and Shearwater are the only designs I’ve ever bought twice…I replaced both of them after downsizing. I think Osprey is my all time favorite solo and I enjoyed the heck out of mine again today. I’ve paddled all the current Swift solos and have zero interest in any except the two John Winters boats. Phil Sigglekow’s Blackhawks also have just tons of character as well as excellent performance (some, not all). I’ve never met a Blackhawk that didn’t excite me. Pic shows the Shadow SS Special that I recently sold to a young man that is interested in canoe history but also likes boats that perform. Even though the Shadow is not the hottest Blackhawk solo I had to work hard in a hot new Northstar Trillium to keep up. Shadows were Phil’s economy line and note the fitted handles and thwarts and mahogany outwales. For years I paddled a Zephyr and there was nothing on the market as hot and even now Blackhawks have a strong appeal to canoe enthusiasts.

Sea kayaks? Brian Schulz’s remarkable F1 and LPB skin on frame designs. And Nigel Dennis, of NDK kayaks, who came up with the legendary Romany. Also Frank Goodman who designed the Valley Nordkapp. Also Nick and Christopher Crowhurst’s Shrike.

agree with the above:

@willowleaf said:
And Nigel Dennis, of NDK kayaks, who came up with the legendary Romany. Also Frank Goodman who designed the Valley Nordkapp.
I learned most aspects of seakayaking in the Nordkapp (ocean cockpit) on Lake Superior, the rest (surf, tides) in a Paul Caffyn knock off of the Nordkapp (still ocean cockpit) in the ozzy waters between Sydney & Cape York.
Became ‘comfortable’ in heavy seas in the Romany & Romany-Stretch (ie Explorer) - besides being very sea-worthy, it has a true keyhole cockpit (not a couple of ‘flanges’). I’ve been in some ‘interesting’ conditions in it without worry about being ‘sucked’ out.

In more recent years, I’ve enjoyed the lighter weight materials.
Tahe, Sterlings, Epic, and soon to be:

@Overstreet
However Joey Schott of Turning Point Boat Works has crafted an excellent carbon fiber Petrel Play, one of Nick’s designs.

after reading the entries, I think the title should read. People responsible for the introduction or proliferation of favorite kayaks. Not Designers.

Many entry’s here are not designers, but have been instrumental in the proliferation of a design. {certainly a notable achievement in itself}

@roym said:
after reading the entries, I think the title should read. People responsible for the introduction or proliferation of favorite kayaks. Not Designers.

Many entry’s here are not designers, but have been instrumental in the proliferation of a design. {certainly a notable achievement in itself}

sorry, in mine, I was leaving the designer to the reader to look up (you know the old days in school ‘the proof is left as your homework’)

from my list (and a comment about a design feature I liked, not necessarily a crucial design point):

Nordkapp (designer - see previous) [seaworthy, tracked well (HM)]
Arctic Raider - Paul Caffyn [‘pod’ designed seat (limited water in cockpit)]
Romany (designer - see previous) [again - the very functional keyhole cockpit]
Tahe Greenland - Johan Wirsen (now with Rebel Kayak) [easiest boat in the world (ok, from my standpoint) to roll]
Sterling - Reg Lake [lightweight, is there another (non WW boat) with more rocker?]
Epic 18X - Greg Barton (I think) [just because I need variety]
Petrel Play - (designer - see previous) [not sure yet]

Several kayaks were designed and later sold to manufacturers for mass production.
The Outer Island by Jay Babina first built as a stripper and then produced by Impex was a kayak that drew a lot of attention. Somewhat of a niche boat but loved by many.

For sea kayaks, I think we have to add Matt and Cam Broze of Mariner Kayaks. Starting in the 80s, they designed a range of early sea kayaks that have well-thought-out, effective and (unfortunately) uncommon design features. Brian Schulz’ Cape Falcon F-1 (truly a great boat) is in many ways a refined design continuation of the legendary Mariner Coaster.

http://www.marinerkayaks.com/history.htm

I was told that Doug Searls designed the Novus Composites (NC) boats. I think it was Doug who told me. Anyway, of all the sea kayaks I have paddled, the Expedition is my favorite.

Raisins… Nick designed the Petrel Play as a “play” version of the Petrel.

@Overstreet said:
Nick Shade of Guillimont Kayaks. Of course he designs and builds wood composite boats. Which is what I’m interested in.

However Joey Schott of Turning Point Boat Works has crafted an excellent carbon fiber Petrel Play, one of Nick’s designs.

When it comes to the latest generation of short, slngle-layer, rotomolded polyethylene whitewater canoes, Jeremy Laucks would have to be considered the most successful designer. His designs include the original Blackfly playboat, the Ion, Option, Octane 85, Octane 91 and 92 and the Condor.

Another whitewater open boat designer of fame is the late Frankie Hubbard whose designs included the Edge, the Viper, the Ocoee, the Savage Skeeter and Savage SuperFly, the Robson CU-Fly, and the Pyranha Spanish Fly.

@grayhawk said:
I have to give Barry Buchanan a shout out for a loved boat that has a bit of a cult following.
The original Current Designs Caribou…

Which was a wooden boat and not like the current one… Built in Bass Harbor I keep a lookout for one in a yard when I go there.

@kayamedic said:

@grayhawk said:
I have to give Barry Buchanan a shout out for a loved boat that has a bit of a cult following.
The original Current Designs Caribou…

Which was a wooden boat and not like the current one… Built in Bass Harbor I keep a lookout for one in a yard when I go there.

I had contacted someone that had a wooden one thinking that it might be lighter.
I was told no way… forget it.

Regarding recreational C-1s, in the nineties, Dagger brought the Cascade and Atom to market. Steve Scarborough was still with Dagger then, so I have to think he was the main designer, but I don’t know that for a fact. Jon Lugbill was intimately involved in the development of these, but I can’t say in what precise capacity.

add Nolan Whitesell to the ww canoe designers, don’t know who designed for mohawk but they were popular for a while

A ww kayaker, Vladimir Vanha’s contributions were huge and often overlooked- shorter length, rounded ends- he described boats very passionately in terms of being male or female- he advocated the soft curves of the female form (Noah Jeti, AQ) when the norm was long pointed boats (phoenix, perception, holloform inspired designs), Most ww kayaks are now female, check out the link below, and photos with the article
https://www.dbpmagazineonline.com/2014/12/25/spotlight-on-an-original-dirtbag-the-mad-czech-and-the-jeti-bykevin-taz-riggs/

squirt boats certainly deserve a mention as well

I personally would like to thank whoever designed the drain plug, bigger cockpits, and racheting backbands!

@Paleolith54 said:
Regarding recreational C-1s, in the nineties, Dagger brought the Cascade and Atom to market. Steve Scarborough was still with Dagger then, so I have to think he was the main designer, but I don’t know that for a fact. Jon Lugbill was intimately involved in the development of these, but I can’t say in what precise capacity.

Jon Lugbill is said to have designed the Cascade. The Atom was designed by Andy Bridge. Scarborough may have had some input on both. The design of the ealier roto-molded polyethylene C1, the Gyra Max, is usually attributed to Davey Hearn.