I’m a big fan of Kenny Mutton’s kayak designs. For a number of years I paddled Prijon kayaks. Kenny is the man behind some of my favourites – the Delirious, Delirium and the Release. Kenny has a wealth of experience paddling, coaching, competing and designing kayaks. It’s fantastic that Kenny has kindly agreed to take part in the Unsponsored 2012 Q&A series.
Tell us a little a bit about you accomplishments in the kayaking world…
I used to be into freestyle paddling and way back in 1997 I placed 3rd at the Worlds. I also won the European Cup in 2000. Since 2005, freestyle in NZ has died away and now I’m into creek boats and extreme races. Sometimes I can still win the local NZ races and I’m keen to make it to some international races in the future. I’ve always been into designing kayaks. I designed a few freestyle boats for Prijon & Bliss-Stick, but in the last few years I’ve put a few freestyle ideas into creek boats/extreme racing boats. One of my latest designs has been the Bliss-stick Tuna, which in its first outing was paddled by Sam Sutton taking out first place at the Sickline World Champs. I have just finished shaping a smaller one, also for Bliss-Stick, which will be out before Christmas in New Zealand.
When and how did you first start paddling?
I started paddling with my brothers in the surf in a craft we called the TUB. It was not too dissimilar to a bath tub. My brothers, who were older than me, used to put me in the front holding on while they paddled into waves that seemed enormous at the time. It always ending with a trashing. I still have the tub boat at home but never found that it had any design features worth recreating. However it definitely still has some attraction because quite regularly people want to take it down the Kaituna.
What is your current location?
Wanaka for the ski season but normally Okere Falls, beside the Kaituna River, NZ
What scares you the most?
Being injured and not being able to paddle.
What was your biggest hurdle in kayaking when you started out – finding people to paddle with, nailing the third end, lack of rivers etc?
At the time there didn’t seem to be any hurdles. I thought I had it nailed but in hindsight I needed a bit of tuition at times.
What has kept you in the sport?
I have always used kayaking for a job, so the need for an income has kept me paddling. Its also been an incredibly fun way to keep fit and healthy.
Who is your biggest source of inspiration within the paddling world (and why)?
When I started paddling it was for a rafting photography company. My work mates were from a slalom background and they inspired my paddling at first. When freestyle became popular its was mates that I paddled with like Charles Sage & Flemming Schmit. We were always pushing each other along.
Given the choice where would want to paddle?
Anywhere that you don’t need to drive to and has fun whitewater. At home on the Kaituna is awesome but when I had more time and could travel, California, Idaho, Zambezi and Norway were some of the best times.
Do you all consider yourself to be the craziest designer, coming up with the wildest designs; do you see yourself as pushing the design envelope?
I have just tried to develop kayaks to suit an ever changing sport. 3.5m Dancers needed a few modifications to surf waves and cartwheel better and round hulled creek boats needed to be faster for races & more manoeuverable for dodging gnarly places. So not crazy just making thing better hopefully.
What was your biggest blunder?
Once I tryed to paint a polystyrene plug to seal it before covering it with epoxy. It didn’t seal properly and the plug shrivelled up.
Biggest success – personal, and commercial?
Well managing to get three kids past the nappy stage and paddling at a level we can all have fun together.
What made you get in to designing kayak equipment? When did it all start?
I just wanted a kayak that would paddle the way I thought is should. About 1997?
Do you all know each other? Can Robert Peerson ring up Celliers Kruger and pick his brain?
Who are they?
Do you wish boaters would treat your gear better? Or is it that you just have to make tougher stuff to put up with abusive paddlers?
No, they just need to know when to admit when gear failure is user error not manufacturer fault. I’m not in favour of making boats so heavy to make them indestructible and then becoming no fun to paddle. The paddler is also more likely to make mistakes causing boat damage.
How are materials and design process technology progressing our gear and our sport?
I think that materials are becoming available that will make boats lighter and stronger very soon, so the future looks pretty cool.
What do you consider to be the biggest game changer in the kayaking world so far? Plastic Kayaks, Planning hulls, breathable fabrics….
Planing hulls. I think people still need to come to grips with what the benefits are though.
Let us know what’s going on in the world of RnD. What is the next big thing?
My son’s new kayak. He keeps growing out of the old ones, so trying new designs on him first works well.
What kit are you currently using?
I just got some new Sweet gear. The best dry top I have ever worn!
Many Thanks Kenny!