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Daniel DeLaVergne: 1977-2006; Remembering a Paddling Pioneer

On March 8 the whitewater paddling community mourned the loss of Asheville’s Daniel DeLaVergne, one of the world’s most adventurous boaters and one of the industry’s most innovative multi-media creators. DeLaVergne was killed after being hit by a train while camping in the High Ridge Tunnel near Ridgecrest, N.C., just three days after his 29th birthday. He was scouting a location for an upcoming video shoot.

Although he had taken part in paddling expeditions all over the world, DeLaVergne earned his greatest attention last year when National Geographic Adventure magazine named him a 2005 adventurer of the year for paddling the 50-mile run of the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River in British Columbia with three other kayakers: Tommy Hilleke, John Grace, and Tobin MacDermott. The group finished what is usually done in three days in just under 10 hours.

He was also one of six kayakers to complete the first descent of British Columbia’s Mosley Creek, and he took part in the well-known Seven Rivers Expedition in California, which earned Paddler magazine’s Expedition of the Year award.

DeLaVergne was not only a world-class athlete, but also as an industry innovator. He incorporated paddling into a day job when he started Penstock Productions, which produces Lunch Video Magazine-the world’s first whitewater video magazine. Unlike a regular magazine, the quarterly outfit sends its subscribers both a print pub and a 60-minute DVD featuring wild whitewater video footage of the latest tricks, trips, river reports, and expeditions.

“We started traveling around and filming a lot, but we didn’t want to make the standard kayak porn,” DeLaVergne said in his last interview with BRO back in August. “This job keeps me in the water a lot. It’s the ultimate junket.”

More than 700 people from all over the world-including friends, admirers, and paddling expedition companions from California, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and Costa Rica-showed up at a memorial at the Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company a few days after his death.

“Daniel was much more than your ordinary kayaker,” says Woody Callaway of Liquidlogic kayaks, based in Flat Rock, N.C. “He was a visionary, expedition leader, and entrepreneur. He lived by three family rules set down by his father: be courteous, be kind, and if you start something don’t stop until you are finished.”

DeLaVergne was a member of Liquidlogic’s paddling team and helped the young company’s marketing effort since its inception.

“We called Daniel the ‘idea man,’ because he would often come in and just spew out the ideas one after the other,” says Callaway. “There is a huge hole left here at Liquidlogic, one that’s going to take years to fill, but I know that Daniel would want us to continue forward and not look back.”

Roger Loughney of the Pennsylvania-based paddling gear outfit Immersion Research-another one of DeLaVergne’s sponsors-echoes sentiments of his everlasting influence on his sport.

“It is difficult to be such a creative mind and have the direction he had in such a capricious industry like paddlesports,” he says. “It’s always what’s ‘in’ or ‘hot.’ Daniel’s work transcended such fickleness. His presence will be sorely missed, because he set the trends, and wasn’t afraid to do his own thing. We all ended up following his lead.”

DeLaVergne’s family has asked that donations be made to:

Green River Access Fund;
765 Crest Rd, Flat Rock, NC 28773

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