When Traditional Culture Meets High-Tech Construction, The People Can Qayaq Forward
By Ralph Richardson
Today, kayaking is one of the fastest growing sports in North America, with nearly 8 million active participants in the U.S. alone, up from 3.5 million just 10 years ago, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.
With its rising popularity, David Michael Karabelnikoff (Aleut/Athabaskan) noticed kayaking equipment was primarily being mass-produced. So, in August 2012, Karabelnikoff established Qayaq Co-Op with co-founders Julian Jacobes and Martin Leonard III.
The Co-Op’s mission is twofold, Karabelnikoff explains: To inspire a movement in Southeast Alaska to revitalize canoe building and paddling, while encouraging youth to learn science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and to produce top quality kayaks that elite athletes would seek for their own use on the water. While the nonprofit embraces traditional Native craftsmanship, it also updates the kayaks, canoes, and skin boats with digital manufacturing and fabrication technology.