Mike Yee’s Airbag Revolution

From The Innovators: 14 Visionaries Who Changed Our Sport Forever

Canoeing legend Bill Mason on the cutting edge, circa 1970.


By Conor Mihell

In the 1980s, early whitewater canoeists stuffed their oversized, creased and mangled Blue Holes and Mad Rivers with salvaged tractor-trailer inner tubes and the like (Nolan Whitesell used an old waterbed bladder) to provide floatation for running Class IV drops. Then along came Mike Yee, a Toronto-based playboater who, along with U.S. whitewater canoeing pioneers Bob Foote and Frankie Hubbard, revolutionized whitewater outfitting. Yee's end cages, D-rings and thigh straps began as a backyard business and are now standard factory outfitting for many manufacturers. Combined with shorter, more advanced canoe designs, these innovations opened the door to a new world of big-water open boating.

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
Fun 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