3 Questions with Steve Fisher

When Riot's parent company, Voodoo Technologies, filed for bankruptcy, the rumors started flying. Mismanagement, underhanded business tactics, credit dodging – just a few of the colorful adjectives used to describe Riot's fall. So we had to do what we do: find the real story. While former Voodoo owner Jeff Rivest has respectfully, and repeatedly, denied our requests for an interview, we did the next best thing and sought out Riot's marquee athlete – Steve Fisher. Fisher laid out Rivest's side of the story to Canoe and Kayak as only the confident South African could: with sincerity and opinionated grit refreshing in today's packaged athletic world. – Joe Carberry

The rumor mills (online forums) are spatting that Jeff Rivest used Voodoo to shield Riot against creditors? Do you know if this is true?

Although [the bankruptcy] came as a shock, it wasn’t a complete surprise as Riot’s been under strain for a long time with the strengthening of the Canadian dollar, rising manufacturing costs in Canada and a general downturn in sales due to a weak sales force. But through last year the solution to those problems was to move production to China, renew the sales force and setup a number of distributionwarehouses. This obviously required a great deal of new financing etc. Production got up and running, but enter the economic crisis… The last I heard was that plastic suppliers in the U.S. wanted money up front instead of providing terms and the banks were clamping down on loans for production (despite us having good pre-season orders), all while kayak retailers expect six months to pay.

That’s pretty much all that I know on the business side, but I do also have this to say: Make sure that your info isn’t coming from guys like Corran [Addison] or the rest of thelosersputting stuff up on forums. I assure you that they don’t know what they’re talking about.

What does this mean for Riot, a company you’ve put your heart and soul into?

Although I’m hugelydisappointedwith this situation I certainly don’t blame Jeff in any way. I’ve watched him work harder than I’ve ever seen anyone work in the last two years, to the point that he’s been physically ill from stress. He’s a smart businessman and operates by the book. Even though I lose ten’s of thousands of dollars here, I would still entrust him completely with my money or business. Despite this failure he would remain in my top picks for a business partner. He somehow survived two terrible business partners – Corran Addison and Guy Fortin – but it seems that on the back of that he wasn’t able to survive a move to China during a credit crunch coupled with a struggling kayak industry. I assure you he didn’t go bankrupt for fun, and that the last pennies in the account went to creditors.

Where will you go now?

It’s a massive bummer. I lose a large chunk of budget for my missions but for the time being I have boats to float me for a while. Yes I have put a lot of heart and soul into Riot and that’s mostly for the quality of boats and the people there. I got to paddle the best boats and when I called the factory I talked directly to the owner (who himself is a paddler), unlike the pro-paddlers of pretty much every other manufacturer. The best way to hear shit talking about kayak manufacturers is to stand in a parking lot full of pro-paddlers and listen to them grumble about how they’re mistreated and taken advantage of. That was never the case for me so I cringe at the thought of having to make a move. I will have to have my circumstances matched before joining another company and would rather not have a boat sponsor than have the piss taken out of me.

Have a good one. Just heading out for a session in my Astro!