Aluminum Canoe Guru Bill Hoffman

Ever wonder what Rosie the Riveter did in her time off? Photo courtesy Grumman archives.

Ever wonder what Rosie the Riveter did in her time off? Photo courtesy Grumman archives.

By Jeff Moag

In the months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. expanded at a feverish pace. The company built most of the dive bombers and fighters that helped win the great naval battles of the Pacific war, and when the Marines went ashore at Iwo Jima, Grumman Hellcats and Avengers were overhead. But Bill Hoffman knew that when the fight was won, the U.S. Navy wouldn't continue buying 2,000 planes a month. In the spring of 1944 the Grumman production engineer found himself portaging a wood and canvas canoe between Adirondack lakes, and was inspired to build an aluminum canoe--something that would have been impossible without Grumman's wartime advances in production technology. War-weary Americans couldn't get enough of them; in 1946 Grumman had orders for 10,000 canoes on the books. The Grumman canoe jump-started recreational paddling in this country. We owe it all--the sleek carbon canoes, sea kayaks, whitewater boats--to those gray metal craft and the innovators who first learned to paddle in them.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 2009 edition of Canoe & Kayak, as part of our feature The Innovators.

Canoe & Kayak Innovators: 14 Visionaries Who Changed Our Sport Forever
innovators-link-blockFun Brothers Jim and Jeff Snyder // Paddling Provocateur Corran Addison // The Prophet of Polyethylene // Warriors of the Self-bailing Revolution // Aluminum Canoe Guru Bill Hoffman // Sit-on-Top Visionary Tim Niemier // Open Boat Bomber Nolan Whitesell // Sea Kayak Savant Frank Goodman // The Bublik // Air Bag Revolutionary // The Royalex Miracle // Videographer Wayne Gentry