It brings me back to my own humble beginnings in the sport, when I purchased a Dagger Crossfire and a Perception Dancer for 200 apiece. Designed to run whitewater, my 18 year old self and my long suffering girlfriend loaded those things down for sea kayaking trips, extended river tours, surfing, fishing. No, they weren't the optimal craft for steep class V creeking, but they did everything else good enough for our broke college student asses to have a lot of fun together.
I'm fortunate in my job to meet a lot of different people, and recently I was chatting with a old school whitewater pioneer and an ex-olympic C1 slalom racer. Conversation ranged to the oldest fiberglass whitewater kayaks, and their polyethylene offspring, and I found myself missing the ol' Crossfire, and starting re-think my notions of skin-on-frame not being suitable for whitewater paddling. I mean, these first boats were far more fragile than a skin boat, and they charged some pretty serious water. No, you're not going to go rock bashing on a low-volume creek in a skin-on-frame, but medium volume class III with a heavyweight cloth? Why not?
In two days I had a prototype finished, and in 3 I had it saran wrapped and taped up for a float test.
I instantly remembered the freedom of a boat that tracks only from your paddling motions, paddling straight at a pretty good clip, then spinning on a dime whenever I chose. It was playful, but not doggy like in a modern short whitewater boat. It was fun! I put my girlfriend in the cockpit and she instantly agreed, grinning the whole time.
Cutting off the wrap I already knew this was going to be a fun-as-heck river touring boat, and I was dying to see how it would do in surf so I could start the process of knocking out prototypes to get it right. But alas, paying work beckoned, so I left the frame as a sculpture and left the boat in my shop while I drove away to teach yet another class. There is a whitewater saying that says "we are all in between swims" Me? I'm just always in between classes.
No honest designer really knows where anything will lead. I scrap four design themes for every one that ends up in production, but even when things fizzle out the process is still a thrill. Heck, I got the best wave of my life in a skin-on-frame ten-foot surf boat that ultimately went nowhere. Sticking the rail on a wicked air-drop into a lurching 14 footer I was cheered on by a flotilla of shortboarders, something I'm sure has never happened to any surf kayaker before or since. Who knows, maybe in two months some river runners swirling in an eddy somewhere will be saying, "Did you see THAT?"