Saturday, June 16, 2012

Questions for Shane Benedict, Kayaker and Kayak Designer

Shane Benedict learned to kayak more than three decades ago and has long been recognized as a world-class paddler.  A 10-year US Freestyle Team Member and a two-time World Freestyle medalist, he continues to gain acclaim as a kayak designer and one of the founders of Liquidlogic.

How would you describe what you do?

I would describe what I do as someone who designs, produces, markets, sells, and paddles kayaks. Pretty much what I do is make things to play around in the water, which is one of the things that I love to do more than anything around in water.

Is this different than what other people think you do?
I think that other people know all the things that I do but I think they see the glittery floating down the river side much more prominently than the day to day gritty details.  The cliched term "gritty details" is very relevant. 
How do you know if you’re on the right track with a project?

I know when I am on the right track in a project if I feel excited about it.  It is a very giddy unsettled feeling like something very cool is coming.  "the ice cream truck might be coming down our street!"  I think I am on course if I wake up at night thinking about it.  I start talking faster.  My brain goes faster than I can communicate.

How do you go about making choices?
Making choices is difficult for me, to a point.  I have to take in a lot of information.  I like to hear everyones thoughts.  I try to bring in as much information on the project as possible.  I pace back and forth.  And then suddenly I settle on an obvious choice.  It feels right, but sometimes it takes a long time to get there.

How do you know when you’re done?
I am never done.  There are two points that feel really incredible and doneish..  The moment when we put the model in a crate and put that crate on a truck feels like done but its not even a boat yet.  The mold has to be made and then boats made from the mold.  The other moment that feels done is when I see the first new boat out on a river being paddled by someone I don't know but those are very fleeting moments because it is not long after that I am already moving on to the next thing.  I see things that I would change immediately after I am "done" so it always feels like I am designing.

What’s your workspace like?

My work spaces are many but they start completely clean.  If I were a writer I would have the pencils and paper all lined up, the desk completely clean, and the computer lined up square with the desk. By the end of the project my work space is a total disaster with beer bottles, food scraps, wrappers, instruments askew, and the smell of sweat.  I am a visual person. I need to see what I am working on.  So that lends itself to lots of stuff lying around so I can see it.  

What are your essential tools?
There are so many tools and offices for me I am getting confused.  There is an old rule... You must have the 5.  Helmet, Lifejacket, Paddle, Sprayskirt, and Boat to successfully kayak whitewater (you would be nude but you could do it).  The obvious answer is my brain.  When I am paddling whitewater the most challenging thing is to see through the chaos of whitewater to see the line, and to see through my confidence, fear, ego, and understanding of what I can do to paddle through the rapids.  In the office my essential tools are simliar to anyone else in an office but my new favorite is a giant whiteboard.  I am very visual.  I like to see what is on my board to be done.  It feels good to write it up there and wipe it off.

What’s the most surprising tool you use?
The tool that others are the most surprised by is my chainsaw.  I love to rough cut some of my models with a chainsaw.  It's fast and messy and the boat shows itself quickly from the block of foam.  The tool I am most surprised by is my eye for design.  I had no idea I could be a designer it just happened.  For some reason I looked right past the fact that my dad was an architect and designer, my mother an artist.  I just thought it was normal for people to see the shapes, colors, and patterns that make things the way they are.

What was your biggest mistake or the one you learned the most from?

My biggest mistake was making something that I didn't think was cool in some way or another.  I only made it because I was supposed to at the time.   I didn't throw myself into it.  I didn't paddle it very much and thought it looked ok at the time.  I let others tell me it was good and didn't really check it out myself.  It was terrible.  What I learned was that I can find something about every boat that is interesting.  In fact I can find any project completely exciting because i really do love to design stuff but I can also get a little complacent.   That is my biggest mistake... just letting it ride and not diving into it.

A few of the models Shane has designed being put to use on the Chattooga River.

Shane's Blog:  Shane's Logic

No comments:

Post a Comment