The American Made Outdoor Gear Awards, a contest sponsored by Kokatat which annually celebrates outdoor companies with a commitment to American manufacturing and sourcing, has announced the finalists for its 2016 awards and three paddlesports companies – Jackson Kayaks, Werner Paddles and Wenonah Canoe – have made the cut. Werner and Wenonah made the list in the 50-100 employee category, and Jackson in the 100+ employee division.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony on Friday, January 8, 2016, in Salt Lake City during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. The Grand Prize winner, selected from category finalists, receives one-year ownership of ‘Sassy,’ a hand-carved, 2-foot-tall, redwood Sasquatch from Humboldt County, Calif. Category winners receive miniature versions of the award, and all entrants receive a certificate of participation. Judged by a group of outdoor industry peers, the application includes more than 30 questions regarding the size, scope and success stories of domestic production. Past grand prize winners included Liberty Bottleworks in 2013, Benchmade Knife Company in 2014, and Sterling Ropes last year.
“This is the fourth season we’ve honored the great stories of domestic manufacturing in our industry and we were amazed once again by the inspiring stories of the applicants,” says Kokatat sales manager Jeff Turner, whose company — known for its longstanding commitment to American manufacturing — founded the award in 2013.
Adds Kokatat president Steve O’Meara: “I began Kokatat when there was no such thing as domestic manufacturing; all manufacturing was domestic. In today’s global economy, companies have many choices for suppliers and manufacturers and it’s fantastic to see so many of them choosing American first and keeping manufacturing from becoming a myth like our friend Sassy.”
Jackson Kayak: Jackson Kayak was founded in 2003 by four-time World Freestyle Kayak Champion and Olympian Eric Jackson and Tony Lunt. Located in Sparta, Tenn., near its hometown Caney Fork River, the family-run company designs, builds and manufactures leading whitewater, fishing and exploration paddlesports products. Operating under the motto “Build it like it’s your own,” all of its products are made in the USA, supporting support the local Tennessee economy. Market leaders in both the whitewater and kayak fishing, kayak manufacturing and strong in the exploration sector, Jackson Kayak continues to introduce new product lines each year; this year including a new cooler line, Orion Coolers. Jackson Kayak’s success is due to its passion for paddling and delivering high quality products, supported by an all-star cast of team members. And, oh yeah, Jackson’s kids, Emily and Dane, are total rippers: Dane won the World Freestyle Kayak Championships this year on the Ottawa, and Grand Prix of Whitewater last year; and Emily, who’s married to former World Freestyle Kayak Champion Nick Troutman, has topped the podium two times.
Werner Paddles: 2015 marks Werner Paddles’ 50th anniversary of making handcrafted paddles, with the same attention to detail as when it was founded five decades ago by Werner Furrer. The family-run company makes paddles for kayaking, canoeing, sea kayaking, SUP and any other paddling application under the sun, all adhering to its mission statement of creating Ultimate Paddle Performance. Based in Sultan, Wash., the company also gives back to the paddling community every chance it gets through sponsorships of events and protecting the waterways its products are used on.
Wenonah Canoe: Wenonah Canoe is a small, independent, family-owned designer and manufacturer of high-performance canoes and kayaks, sold and paddled around the world. Measuring its success by the success of its dealers and satisfaction of its customers, its mission is to fit people into the best boats for their chosen use, reflecting the values and the passion of founder Mike Cichanowski, who founded the company 42 years ago. Priding himself on producing the fastest, lightest, most efficient canoes around, Cichanowski, a longtime canoe racer, has since received numerous awards, from the prestigious Composite Fabricators Association Community Commitment Award and, most recently, the Boy Scouts of America’s Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, joining the likes of Neil Armstrong, Steven Spielberg, President Gerald R. Ford, Bill Gates and more.
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