The Miracle Material, Royalex

In Royalex, canoeists found a material equal to any hare-brained scheme they could dream up. Photo courtest Nolan Whitesell.


By Eugene Buchanan

Before 1960, canoes came either in wood, aluminum or fiberglass. Then Uniroyal sandwiched an ABS foam core between thin layers of plastic. The tire maker called the new material Royalex and used it to produce generic canoes sold under a variety of brand names. Paddlers called them "Warsaw Rockets," after the Indiana town where they were produced, and praised their durability but not their performance.

The material was ripe for innovation. As many as four early canoe companies tinkered with the manufacturing process, including Thompson Boats, Rivers and Gillman, Old Town Canoe Co., and Blue Hole. Founded by Roy Guinn and Bob Lantz in 1972, Blue Hole became the first company to bring a high-performance Royalex canoe to market, the 17-foot OCA. The versatile tripper proved to be one of the most durable canoes on the market. "At first, Bob just wanted a canoe for himself," says Guinn. "It was kind of self-serving."

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