3 Questions with Corran Addison

As many in the paddlesports world already know, Riot Kayaks' parent company, Voodoo Technologies Inc. has declared bankruptcy, signaling an end to the Riot era (for now). Canoe and Kayak has conducted a series of interviews with those involved in the company at the time of the bankruptcy, and those who are part of its past. Following the controversial Steve Fisher interview, we talked with Corran Addison, the often brash, always provocative, former Riot partner. He sheds light on his recent online comments regarding the company's failure. Stay tuned. We'll continue our interview series in the coming days as more sources from within the company come forward to speak with us. – Joe Carberry

Following the Riot announcement, you stated in an online forum: “Jeff [Rivest] has…um… pulled a
fast one…on his creditors.” This statement seems a bit libelous. Can you clarify?

The comment really sounds worse than was intended. After reading it again later I realized I could have better phrased what I wanted to say. Really, what I meant by it was something more like “The National Bank of Canada has pulled the plug on Riot and the parent company Voodoo has been forced to declare bankruptcy. However, there are several people “in the know” who talked to me afterwards who have suggested that all may not be lost, and even though it is unlikely the creditors (other than the BNC) will see a dime from Voodoo, its possible that we will continue to see “Riot” in one form or another. So perhaps due to no fault of his own, Jeff will be relieved of debt, yet still be able to continue as “Riot”. However this was all speculation based on how I know the company(s) WERE structured, and what I was told by people who should know what was going on in the days after the news broke.

I did go on to clarify this point on the same website soon afterwards to say quite clearly that I doubt Jeff is doing anything illegal or immoral.

However, since then more information has come to light and it seems that both Voodoo/Riot are gone, and that Jeff (and his creditors) have been left out to dry. With Jeff himself refusing to make an official statement, and this being big news, there is a lot of conjecture going on, fueled by the “out of work” employees and “out of pocket” creditors making statements.

.You have a history with Riot, of course. Was there left over angst after your departure?

Well, my departure was hardly friendly. A combination of things which I am neither at liberty, not really willing to discuss, which only Jeff and I know about (not even his new partner was supposed to know the details) lead to my leaving the company that I had poured my heart and soul into. I really gave Riot, and the whole team there, everything I had. It was my brainchild, my designs, my marketing, and my name and reputation that built that company. Jeff was just the “glorified accountant with the means to get bank loans”. So I felt a little like it was “Piccasso leaving the direction and future development of his art to his accountant”. But that being said, when I did leave, I was happy to be out, even if I would have preferred different circumstances. Life had become unbearable, and decisions were being taken that I felt were going to lead to an inevitable end. But because I was at this point no longer convinced in the companies viability given its current direction, I was happy to be out, happy to branch off and start Imagine Surfboards and Dragorossi and so I really had no ill feelings or angst towards either Jeff, or the others who remained on board.

You have done some impressive design work. It's been said, however, that some of these designs may have been difficult for the everyman to paddle. Do you think this could have lead to a decline in sales for your former company?

This was the common thread at Riot. However, these so called “Difficult to paddle” designs were also Riots biggest sellers. The Glide for example sold more boats in one year than any one other Riot model. Even the Disco was considered “difficult to paddle” at the time of is release because it was so radically different from the current trend, though this perception changed and it became Riots biggest overall seller – and the boat that revolutionized paddling (again). The bottom line is that while I was in charge of design and development of kayaks, Riots growth was amazing… it was a steep explosion. As soon as I stopped and left, and they moved to the concept of “user friendly designs” the decline in sales began. Make of that what you will.

I think many don’t give paddlers the credit they are due. Most paddlers are both able and willing to accept a challenge in learning to paddle a new kayak – if the rewards are there in return. A boat that’s just hard to paddle for the sake of it, no, but if the paddler is convinced that there is a reward for learning his new boat, he/she will go for it. So while I was there and in charge of designs, sales rocketed, and the decline in sales corresponds almost exactly with the change in focus to “easy” or “mainstream”. However, as you can imagine, it’s never quite this simple, and there are of course other mitigating circumstances at play too that lead to Riots steep decline in sales.

For more than three questions with Corran Addison, click here.