by Ken Kastorff
The advent of the Noah Jetti revolutionized not just creek boating, but boating in general in the very early 80’s. I looked at the Jeti as being the first generation creek boat ever designed. Prior to the Jeti most paddlers were still paddling 12 to 13″ kayaks. Having a “short” 10″ boat gave paddlers a craft that turned much easier, still had plenty of volume and yet still had some boat speed to make moves on tight creek runs in the south east.
Vladamir came up with the Jeti because I had been giving him so much grief about coming up with a boat that was a) more comfortable than what we were paddling and b) spread your knees out further because all the boats at the time had your legs almost straight in the boat so they were not so stable. We were paddling boats like the Phoenix or the Dancer at the time. Next thing you know Vladamir came out with this goofy 10″ boat. I did not want to paddle it – no one did. But finally he brow beat me into taking it out. So I did, but rather than get it in myself I put my then-student in it out on the lake. This guy had been having a hard time rolling. He tipped over and came back up like it was magic. I could not believe it. We went to the Nantahala and he jumped out on the wave at Surfing Rapid and was surfing like a pro. When he finally did flip he rolled right up, doing his first white water roll. It was like night and day the way he paddled after that. Later he ended up paddling the Grand Canyon of the Colorado in a Jeti. I paddled the Canyon several times in a Jeti. No other boat was as comfortable and handled as easily as the Jeti did in those days
Not only did the Jeti really change our approach to creek boating (which had been conservative to say the least since we were all in glass boats), but when paddlers like Arnie Kleinrath cut down the stern of the boat you began to see the advent of play boating. I remember Arnie putting rocks in the back of a cut down Jeti and blasting holes like Devils Dip on the Tuckaseege and Jaws on the Nolichucky. [Arnie actually won what might be the very first “rodeo” of all times out in Colorado in a Jeti!] This also started people thinking about stern squirting in boats other than Slalom Kayaks or Squirt Boats. The Jeti was one of the true catalysts sparking major change in boat design.
What happened to the Jeti? Perception was one of the main boat distributors at the time and suddenly the Jeti began stealing the limelight. Alas, Vladamir – one of the greatest boat designers/visionaries ever, was not a good business man. He lost the rights to the Jeti to Perception, who shipped the mold off to New Zealand so that it would never again be seen in the United States. And except for those lucky enough to have one, it never was again manufactured in the States.
After Vladamir Vanha’s passing, Ken wrote a touching memorial about Vladamir.
And Kent Ford created a video about Vladamir in conjunction to his amazing documentaryThe Call of the River (which if you do not own a copy you should–it is an incredible documentary about the history of kayaking).