Seven Days of Demshitz

Kayaking's hardest-playing posse is transforming media while keeping the party train on the tracks

By Kyle Dickman

Fred Norquist throwing the Brown Claw on Rio Turbio

FRESH OFF THE 12-HOUR BUS TRIP from Santiago, I met a group of 10 Demshitz in Mamas and Tapas. It’s the only bar the Demshitz visit after bombing waterfalls on one of the dozen Class V rivers near Pucon: classics with names like Palguin, Puesco and Nevados. The town is surrounded by beech forests and sits on a lake beneath a conical volcano. Vendors sell locally grown cherries and empanadas beside shops with Patagonia puffs in display windows. That night it was raining, and six street dogs were curled up under the bar’s awning.

The Garcia brothers, Ian and Evan, were propped up against the bar talking to Anton Immler, a notoriously rowdy Swede whose Facebook profile picture is him naked in a field, chasing a giraffe. Fred Norquist, Erik Johnson, and Graham Seiler—Jared’s brother—were there. And L.J. was back. The part-time Pucon resident and NRS pro, L.J. Groth, had rolled into town that night, six months after he left for a job in the States. Celebration was in order. I sat at a corner table with Jared Seiler, Fusilli, and his girlfriend, Nicole Mansfield. They told me the story of the Demshitz.

It begins in 2006, when Pyranha’s Hager gave Fusilli and Seiler the keys to the company van, a nominal paycheck, and the loose direction to be seen kayaking. The list of classics they paddled would make any kayaker envious: the Little White, the Green, Upper Cherry, Yule Creek, the Moose. A boater named David George coined the term that summer in Montana. Sitting on a porch with Fusilli, watching the same guy drive back and forth in front of them, George said, “Demshitz loves us.” The crew was officially christened when Fusilli made a bumper sticker and slapped it on the back of Pyrhana’s van. That November, they flew to Austria to compete in the Sickline championships—cancelled due to high water—and in January, they made their first pilgrimage to South America.

Fusilli, tall and lean with a frock of curly hair, grew up digging graves for his father, who owns a cemetery in Clarion, Pennsylvania. At 29, he’s the oldest of the Demshitz and seems more serious about making a profession in the kayaking industry than the others. He and Mansfield, a Dartmouth graduate, paddled 26 out of the 30 days they were in Chile and would leave the next morning for Utah, where they spend their winters working at Alta Ski Area and planning Pyrhana’s summer kayaking tour, which starts in April.

Since the Demshitz arrived on the scene in 2006, Seiler and Fusilli have taken eight trips to South America, released Demshitz: The Movie, put 130,000 miles on Pyranha’s van, and were arrested in Salida, Colorado for being blackout drunk (Fusilli says he remembers the whole incident; Seiler makes no such claim). They also developed the Brown Claw, which is basically a gang sign that looks like a hand palming a baseball. The sign, along with the term, is co-opted from Sasha Baron Cohen’s character Borat, who uses it to signify a need to shit. The Demshitz throw it at all occasions deemed worthy of celebration: big rapids, booty beers, greetings. Their Brown Claw Facebook page has more than 1,000 friends.

“Skiers and snowboarders are throwing it now,” Seiler said, not a little proud. He has black hair and at 5-foot-4 and 150 pounds, is built like a can of tuna. Quiet and thoughtful when sober, in Pucon he’s known as Diablito—the little devil—after his fourth or fifth rum and coke.

Last year, Fusilli and Seiler produced and starred in Demshitz Made, a play on MTV’s Made. The Demshitz taught a new kayaker to paddle with the goal of getting him to surf British Columbia’s Skookumchuck, a 15-foot standing wave, in 20 days. In the opening sequence, a cool female voice—Mansfield—sets up the rookie’s chances of success. Then a shot of two seals having sex flashes, and she asks, “Or will he be buggered by a seal?” It’s the type of media they plan to use as the foundation for Demshitz TV: fun, irreverent toward all who take whitewater too seriously, and produced, seemingly, without ambitions outside of kayaking.

“Everybody on tour always says we’re having the most fun out there,” Fusilli said. “We want Demshitz TV to show the same thing.”

Demshitz TV may be Seiler’s last effort to live the kayak-bum lifestyle at its purest. He’s seriously considering moving back to Pennsylvania full-time, where he has a girlfriend and a job offer to install solar panels for good money. “Like $40,000 a year. And, I’ll have a bed to sleep on.” Fusilli is more inclined to stick it out. He does double duty at Pyranha as the team manager, and Mansfield is on the team. The key to getting Demshitz TV to work, they suppose, is enlisting some of their 1,500 Facebook friends to post their videos. Then again, the idea may amount to nothing.

“I mean, we’re dealing with kayakers here,” Fusilli said. NEXT PAGE >>

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