The whitewater community worldwide, especially open canoeists, lost a beloved and influential friend this spring. Frankie Hubbard, paddler, competitor, and boat designer, died May 4, 2003, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from lung cancer. He was 41. Hubbard pioneered many revolutionary high-performance whitewater canoe designs, including the Mohawk Edge, Mohawk Viper series, Dagger Ocoee, Savage Superfly, and most recently, Robson’s CU-Fly. Hubbard’s phenomenally skilled, smooth paddling style, modesty, and positive attitude were legendary. In addition to designing canoes he competed at the top levels in open canoe slalom and rodeo.
“Frankie was way ahead of his time. He was also a very kind, positive person,” said Mark Saxon, one of Hubbard’s best friends. “He did a lot for boating.”
“Frankie was amazing,” added World Champion Open Canoe Rodeo paddler Eli Helbert, who paddles Hubbard’s designs and calls him a mentor. “He didn’t really like to get his hair wet. He would sit on the side of the river, watching the current and knowing what the water was going to do. He would drink a few espressos, never take a practice ride, and finish top three almost every time … slalom or rodeo. Frankie’s form was so smooth, he wouldn’t look fast. Frankie could easily have gone Olympic with his canoeing … but he preferred to enjoy the company of his friends on the banks of the river. His death leaves a gaping hole in the lives of many canoers around the world.”