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The Origins of designer Corran Addison

Many have wondered how our designer, Corran Addison, became a designer. The truth is that he never had a choice.

In 1970's Apartheid South Africa, where he grew up, the country was separated from the rest of the world through sanctions. As such, very little about what was happening in the USA and Europe was getting into the country. And this included paddlesports.

His father, Graeme Addison, in about 1975 on one of their first expeditions, portaging "unrunable rapids"

His father, Graeme Addison, in about 1975 portaging what was considered "unrunable rapids"

So when his father decided he wanted to learn to kayak, there was no question about walking into a kayak shop, buying a kayak, taking a class and going out to paddle. You had to design your own kayak, build your own gear, and just figure it all out off the cuff. So at the ripe age of 6, when Corran was first exposed to kayaking by his father, "going paddling" and "inventing paddling gear" were one and the same. You could not go kayaking unless you invented the necessary gear to do it.


Left: Corran with the first kayak he "designed" with his father in about 1978. Right: Corran with the newly "invented" spray skirt, and a life jacket that rolled the swimmer onto his back.

This early exposure to the concept that creating gear was the same thing as using it, lead to a lifelong synthesis of the two ideas. They have never been separate things and this is why we see such a profuse amount of ideas and inventions coming from him.

Of course, in those early days it was simple things, like realizing that adding feather to a paddle made paddling into head winds easier, or putting a cover over the cockpit kept water out. Later inventions like replacing the rope that held that cover on with a bungee or bicycle tube increased safety.

About 1978, Corrans first "solo kayak" whitewater rapids at 9yrs old

Paddling at the time was an expedition affair, and as such the designs evolved to meet these needs. As boats were cut and lengthened for increased load caring capacity, so it became clear that longer was faster, and shorter was more maneuverable. As mistakes were made in repairing damaged boats, and rocker was added or removed erroneously, so maneuverability was increased or decreased accordingly. While these were all lessons leaned by generations of paddlers decades before in Europe and the USA, it was rare for one person, or one small group of people, to experience so much in the way of development in such a short period of time. Such was the effect of complete isolation.

Heating and modifying a plastic kayak in the field in about 1984 to change its performance and improve surfing ability.

Corran entered kayaking through a time warp. In just two decades, he experienced kayaking as it had been just after the replacement of the world war II 5m canvas kayak, to sub 2m planing hulled freestyle kayaks. Few sportsmen have experienced such a rapid evolution in their perception of a sport.

This is why, today, 35 years later, Corran Addison is still at the cutting edge of kayak design.


About 1978, three days of driving just to get to the river.


About 1978, Corrans first "solo kayak" whitewater rapids at 9yrs old


Circa 1982 and the first attempts to commercialize kayaking expeditions to the public.


The arrival of the first "plastic kayaks" from the UK changed everything as hitting rocks became posible without major repairs.


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