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In Memoriam: British Paddling Legend Derek Hutchinson

Posted by on November 4, 2012

Derek C. Hutchinson, a pioneer of modern sea kayaking, lost his battle with cancer on October 10th, 2012; he was 79 years old. Mr. Hutchinson served the community for over 40 years as a British Canoe Union (BCU) Senior Coach, kayak designer, author, and explorer. He has often been credited as a driving force behind the popularization of the British style of sea kayaking in North America. The opinionated Brit will be missed by many and will remain forever legendary in the world of sea kayaking.

Mr. Hutchinson’s contributions to the sea kayaking community were both numerous and eclectic. Some of his most notable accomplishments include:

  • Designer of 18 kayaks over the years including the classic P&H Orion and the Current Designs Gulf Stream which helped to define the British style in the US.
  • Becoming the first person to cross the notoriously unpredictable North Sea (England to Belgium) in a kayak in 1976.
  • Author of “Sea Canoeing”; one of the first comprehensive textbooks to focus on the fundamentals of paddle strokes and open water rescues.
  • Author of “The Complete Book of Sea Kayaking”; considered by many to be the ultimate sea kayaking text ever written.
  • Starred in “Beyond the Cockpit”; a series of instructional videos that contains many of his trademark theories and practices of boat control

Current Designs Gulf Stream (Image Courtesy of Current Designs)

His opinions and theories on boat control have had a major influence on me as a paddler and instructor. He was a huge proponent of proper bracing, sculling, and drawing techniques as a means to control the kayak on edge. These teachings are also reflected in his philosophy on the Eskimo roll where he often commented (and I paraphrase) “once you have the skills to master the roll you have already developed beyond the point when you’d ever need to use it.” So true, wise Sage!

Bow Art by Derek Hutchinson

One aspect of Mr. Hutchinson’s life that may be lesser-known and therefore under-appreciated was that he was a talented artist. He was studied in Aleutian, Polynesian, and Viking art and completed many wonderful drawings and watercolors in these genres over the years (See the USK website for limited edition prints). Mermaids and dolphins were frequent subjects for his drawings and many of these were incorporated as bow-art on the boats that he designed. My favorite is the mermaid and dolphin pair that rides on the bow of the Current Designs Gulf Stream.

Sleep well, Derek Hutchinson, and may your memory Paddle On!

-Kayak Dave


One Response to In Memoriam: British Paddling Legend Derek Hutchinson

  1. newenglandwaterman

    The Orion is and in my mind always will be the best all around sea kayak ever built. Hell of a boat, it’s a shame to loose her creator who did so much for the sport.

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