From the Shop: We’re still here.

I don’t think i need to say it, but I’m going to say it anyway:

Things have been tough lately.

Pretty much across the planet, things have been tough, and at Blackfly World Headquarters, it’s been no exception. But as we- hopefully- are close to getting back to ‘normal’ life, I just want to say we’re still here, still making canoes, and plan to keep doing that. My inventory of boats got pretty thin over the past year, but I’ve got more coming in over the next few weeks, and I’m taking order for all the new colors now.

Actually, the struggles I’ve been having pre-date Covid, but the pandemic has made them harder to resolve. Beginning in 2019, I noticed some of the hulls I was receiving from my molder weren’t up to my standards, and the problems seemed to be getting worse as time went by. But I had enough good hulls in stock to make it through the slow times of Winter, and figured we could work it out in the spring when I was ready to re-stock. And then, you know… March 2020 hit. I was still “ok” on inventory, and since no one really knew if society was on the verge of collapse or not, we’ll let it ride. Spring turned to summer, summer to fall, and I was getting pretty low on boats, and we learned a bit about how to live with this virus, so it was time to figure this out. It took a while going around and around with the molder and the material supplier to come up with a solution- a slightly different plastic formulation that’s a bit easier to mold. We ran some test boats, and everything looked good… but I decided that since I was looking at buying what amounts to a year’s worth of plastic, it would be a good idea to actually test it on the water before pulling the trigger. That’s a tough thing to do mid-winter, but we got it done. I sent a few boats out to the team, and also beat on one myself. (including paddling as hard as I could into a sharp bridge piling over and over. My friends enjoyed watching it more than I enjoyed doing it.) The consensus was it was good to go. Of course, everything moves more slowly than you’d like, and this past year has slowed things down even more, so here we are at the end of April, and expecting boats back in stock shortly. It’s been a long road, but we’re almost back to normal.

While I’m laying it all out, I’ll admit that at the same time I was struggling through the business side of things, I’ve also been struggling through personal motivation issues with paddling. Let me say I’ve been paddling for 25 years, and have no plans of stopping. But I’ve also been pretty competitive with it during that time, and that’s been a big part of my motivation- whether it was freestyle, racing, or just pushing my own personal limits, it’s been first and foremost an athletic pursuit. But throughout most of 2019 and into the beginning of 2020, I was fighting some pretty bad tendonitis in my elbow. Anyone who has been through that knows it’s tough to get rid of, and makes paddling significantly less enjoyable. It made it really hard for me to get out and “train” or at least paddle hard. I finally ended up working through most of it with physical therapist, and now only occasionally bothers me. On top of that, I had a few swims in the fall of 2019 in some pretty bad spots. The swims weren’t nearly as bad as they could have been, but I don’t like “getting lucky” in those situations because luck eventually runs out. It took a lot of wind out of my sails for running hard whitewater in a canoe. Part of it may have been the compounded by not having been in shape for it because of the elbow tendonitis, but it really made me question my motivations. I’m coming to terms with the idea that what drives me needs to change over time.

And to be honest, I’m still questioning where I go from here. I love what I do. Over the past year, I’ve desperately missed the places this project takes me and the people I meet along the way. I’ve missed paddling with my friends from across North America and pushing each other. I still really enjoy getting out on the rivers close to home and not yet planning on traveling this year. I think returning that that will help the stoke levels a lot- and I’ve got some other ideas to get myself fired up again, but I’ll save those for another time.

In the meantime, I’m still here and still cranking out boats.