Today’s Pro Kayaker Image

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Leif Anderson dropping into Vallacito Creek, CO. Leif is a big imposing guy, but he is probably one of the friendliest and smartest people you’ll ever meet. He also happens to be a very talented paddler.

Bitches, spliffs, bootie beers, 40’s, shots, gang signs, guns, big injuries and general disrespect. Is this really what it means to be a pro boater? The guys at the forefront of WW kayaking have always been hardened souls and for the most part the hardest partiers. I think the mentality required to charge that hard on difficult WW day in and day out is probably very similar to taking risks day in and day out with drugs and alcohol. It seems that a large majority of pro kayakers these days charge hard both on and off the river while a small percentage of our sport’s elite keep the big risk taking to the river.

An example of this party animal portrayal of our sport is the recent movie release of “Pleasure Stokes” (Not Safe for Work!) by Balls Deep Productions. I can’t endorse the movie because I belive that it does not shine a positive light on our sport or provide healthy aspirations for our sport’s youth. On the other hand, there is no disputing the big cojones and skills that these paddlers demonstrate by running some of the hardest rapids and biggest drops on the planet. I know and have paddled with a number of paddlers in the film and can honestly say that these are good people out there having a good time. I fully respect the right for everyone to follow their own path and find happiness in their own way. I know that a lot of times I wish I could find a way to party and charge as hard as these guys.

Todd and Sam attempt the highest ever Topo Duo waterfall descent, Metlako Falls, OR.

I do believe that there are still role models out there that are pushing boundaries while making a positive impact on the history and future of our sport. Paddlers like Stephen Wright, Jason Craig, Clair O’Hara, Spencer Cook, Joey Hall, Kim Russel, Pat Keller, Jason Beaks and many many others are all amazing athletes who know how to have a good time and can still be admired by the youth in our sport for the right reasons.

Kim Becker (Russel) charges down Trout Creek, WA. She is a strong athlete and always has an infectious smile.

Media attention will always be drawn to the biggest characters doing the craziest things, this is just the way of the world. I hope that the sport of WW kayaking can find a balance between these big personalities and the more relatable athletes in our sport. I think the future growth of the sport relies on a healthier and less extreme public perception of what it means to be a WW kayaker.

(This will be a big talking point at the 2012 WW Symposium and I know they would love to hear your voice. Attend and join the discussion.)

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]I POSE THE QUESTION: Why do drugs, alcohol and disrespect for women tend to be the public image portrayed by pro athletes in nich sports?[/pullquote]

I’ve always wanted to be a professional athlete, and for the past 13 yrs that desire has been focused at WW kayaking. I have wanted the freedom to travel the world, experience amazing places only kayakers are able to access, make my mark on the industry, quench my competitive thirst and make a living doing what makes me happy. Sadly my natural abilities, or lack there of, and some injuries have not allowed me to reach the top of the sport.  I have however still strived to fill my life with all the things that I wanted to get out of being a pro WW kayaker. I have built and/or run a number of businesses in the WW paddling industry with varying degrees of success, thus trying to achieve the goals of getting paid doing what I love and making an impact on the industry. I currently live in a van full of adventure sports gear exploring the world. While traveling I compete in a lot of kayaking events and have focused lately on rising to the top of the Surf Kayaking ranks. I’m still working on the “making a living” part, but I’m confident that I’ll find my way and get to live life the way I want. Life is WAY to short and my body isn’t getting any younger or less beat up. I’ve had way too many friends die in the past few years to waste my life in a cubicle!

Me staring down some monsters at the 2012 Santa Cruz Paddle Surf Festival.

Please find your own balance of risk and reward and know that adventure sports are supposed to be fun. Get out there, explore and push what ever personal boundaries make you feel alive.

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  1. Balls Deep Productions (BDP) A Disgrace to Humanity

    1. BDP is an illustration of both the cost and value of free speech. I have been on the river with some of the boys in the film “pleasure strokes,” they are imperfect humans just like us all. They choose to use their american right of free speech to highlight the dark side of humanity. This choice can lead to much more than the loss of athletic sponsorships of some of the kayakers in the film. “Pleasure Strokes” cast a inaccurate shadow of what we paddlers truly are. Unfortunately, both the mainstream people and paddlers see the negative qualities of the shadow. That is what I will speak to below.

    2. In regards to your published contempt for the female person and paddler. Fuck off you (BDP) are wrong. Women are just as capable as any male or other human for that matter. In the scale of human life we all have the same value. The ethics that BDP illustrates in their films and web media are same level of thinking as the anti semitism leaders that sparked the genocide of 6 million jews in the early part of the last century. Thus, when you insult women in your films you are also spitting in the face of anyone that has ever been treated with inequity. You insult the immigrant worker that pounds nails for the a living. You insult any minority that has been treated inferior due to their race. You insult anyone that has not been given an opportunity because they are gay. You insult anyone with a disability that has been told or treated like they can not do something because they don’t fit the mold of the main stream. The same ideas you promote in your films have sparked civil wars and world wars. That’s right, history shows that when people treat each other with inequity, they start killing each other until they get tired and both stop.

    3. Next time we find ourselves on a river together I am sure you will be filming yourselves with the new go pro 3’s strapped to your heads. I will be walking stout drops like the scrappy paddler I am. And if you should fail…I will still throw you a rope.

    • Holy shit man! You don’t even get BDP do you? They are 100% sarcastic! You take things too literal. One of the most popular Presidents in the United States got his dick sucked in the oval office and lied to all of our faces. This man is very much responsible for helping get Obama re-elected. There is no position of power greater than this and you wanna tell me this was not poor treatment of a woman? What about his wife! My point is that all over society this is happening and YOU are supporting it! But when it happens a little closer to home you speak out of what an outrage it is? I grew up listening to a rapper that said, “bitches an’t shit but hoes and tricks.” Perhaps you are a bible thumping christian? I bet not. Take a look at the music you listen to and follow every trail of where you spend your money and you will see that in fact you support a lot of poeple that do not respect women. Open your eyes!

  2. Hey everyone. I’m chiming in on this a little late, but as both a filmmaker and a kayaker, I find this topic truly fascinating. Although I’m not sponsored, or “professional” so to speak, I am beginning to get involved in the media of this industry, especially surrounding some of the pro-boaters in a project I’m putting together. This topic absolutely sparks a huge discussion in my mind and I’m really looking forward to diving into this debate on Friday in Husum with you all. I’m also really looking forward to paddling with you!!!

    What is a “professional kayaker”? I ask simply because I think the current definition of a pro kayaker can get muddled these days with all the social media that’s currently available, and the way that some sponsors are often portrayed in some kayaking videos (does a kayaker who got a free sponge plug his sponsor on his videos? Probably. Does this mean he’s sponsored? Unsure). I think all sides of this equation have valid points – without sounding like too much of a hippie, it’s the yin and the yang of the sport. We both need each other to survive, which is part of the reason why I think this topic is so fascinating. The industry peeps need the pro athletes out there to be pushing the limits and bringing exposure to the sport, and the athletes (at least not the rich ones) need the support of the industry to go out there and do what it is they do best. Again, I come back to “what is a professional kayaker” and who defines this???

    In most sports, it takes more than just hucking/charging to be a pro athlete. There’s a business side to it, and managers who handle that part of the business. Take a professional football player for example. What does he have to do to “make it” and be recognized as “professional??” He has to:
    — be able to work and manage relationships with sponsors (ok maybe his manager does some of this),
    — care (slightly) about your public image
    — care (lots) about your athletic abilities and continue pushing yourself
    — take competitions (somewhat) seriously but not get lost in all the industry bullshit (super important to have as much fun as possible while doing this so you can stay in love with your passion)
    — understand you’re a role model to many people and yet not change because of that
    — and in the specific case of the pro kayaker – live on a meager, modest, below-the-poverty-line budget, out of a van by the river (if you’re even sponsored).

    That’s a pretty tall order for the average whitewater kayaker. It’s a pretty tall order for anyone!

    In my opinion, any boater who is paid to do what they love (not just given some gear), and can (somewhat) manage all of the above, are the people who should be considered “professional” kayakers. They work directly with sponsors, they are innovators in the sport, they are pushing the boundaries of what’s truly possible, and they are living their dream to the fullest, while understanding that the spotlight has *some* (minor) requirements. They party their asses off, but don’t sleep in. They charge hard but they aren’t stupid. These are the boaters who should be given the privilege of putting sponsors logos on their videos.

    I think it’s really important to discern the difference between sponsored boaters and professional kayakers, because the ones who are doing it for a living, because they love it, DO take the business element seriously, and should, in my opinion, be rewarded for that. They put in the work on and off the water. This doesn’t mean they’re nerds or not hucking huge brown or not partying, they’re just doing the work required, despite their hangovers.

    I suggest we open up the discussion on Friday trying to define what exactly a “PRO KAYAKER” really is. If that can be established across the board, then it’s easy to pinpoint the ones who should be focused on and supported – because they ARE out there, and they do need the help of both the industry, and the sponsors that support their livelihoods. The industry isn’t large enough for these athletes to have managers and PR specialists helping them to create relationships with new sponsors, creating consistent content for their audiences, etc. These guys have to do everything themselves.

    If people would like to see a different image of professional kayaking, it needs supported, guided, sponsored. Find the ones who are doing it right and get behind them. Part of this responsibility, in my mind, falls on the sponsors themselves, to help the athletes understand what they need to be doing. I think it’s a great topic for discussion – whose responsibility is it to help define what the pro kayaker really is? It’s a great topic. Great.

    OK enough of my ramblings, thanks so much to everyone commenting on this topic, I think it’s a great one!! Looking forward to more debate in Husum.

    — erin

    • Erin, It was great to meet you in person at the WW Symposium. Thanks so much for this quality response. You bring up a ton of good points and a few specific topics that I’ll be writing more about soon. Best of luck with your project with the Demshitz, looking forward to the media you come up with. Peace-Bryon

  3. If you want to change the “Image of Pro Kayaking”, go buy a video camera, huck some s#!t, and put out a video that dosent suck. Don’t spend your time writing articles about your superior rectitude as a paddler. I’m going to forget about your article in the next five minutes but I’m going to remember how awesome that video was all the way ’till next season.

    • I agree with almost everything you just said. I encourage everyone to get out there and share their experiences with others. I will say that I’ll continue to write quality articles that create great debate and highlight topics that I think can better our sport and the industry behind it. Your very right that this article will be forgetten by most quickly and that the Pleasure Strokes film will stay in the mind of most much longer, as it should be really. Peace- Bryon

  4. Bryon, you seem to confuse ‘good paddlers’ with ‘pro paddlers’ they are not one and the same. The Jacksons are ‘pros’ but they don’t do any of the things you describe. none of the BDP kids have sponsors – you just assume they do because they get lots of exposure…. for being good. why do you care what they do for fun? Maybe because its more interesting than playboating with the jacksons???

    • Geoff,
      You have a good point. What really makes a good/sponsored/pro kayaker/paddler??? I think this is a great topic for a future discussion. The point of this article is really the impression that media from our sport is giving to outsiders and new entrants to the sport.
      I’m not sure why people seem to think the BDP guys don’t have sponsors??? I know that most of them get free gear and are connected with companies in the industry.
      In the end I don’t care if they are sponsored or what they do for fun. I also think they are “good paddlers.” I do care about the health of our industry and the image that our sport projects.
      For the record I am not drinking the Jackson koolaid, and never have. I do think that movies like Pleasure Strokes are much more entertaining than watching “playboating with the Jacksons.” I also know that many at Jackson Kayak do many of the things I described in this post, but they do not video themselves doing it and promote that behavior.
      You charge hard and party even harder Geoff, and you should keep it up. I’ve enjoyed the times we’ve gotten to paddle together or just hang out and shoot the shit over a cold beverage. Keep on keepin’ on!


      From basic mainstream kayak films I know that Tyler Bradt team paddler for Dagger, Anton Immler is team Kokatat, Brenden Wells is team Bomber Gear…

      • Thanks for pointing this out. I don’t know specific sponsors of each athelete in the BDP crew, but I do know that most of them have sponsors. Meaning they at least get free gear and are “sponsored athletes.” I will also agree with many of the comments that this does not necissarily make them “pro kayakers,” but this is a topic that I will write more about in the near future. -Bryon

  5. You guys and gals should go KAYAKING!

  6. Erin Savage says:

    Hey Katie, wouldn’t it be awesome if there were more girls actually KAYAKING in these videos? That would be cool. I don’t think we’d even need to show our boobs (I sure wouldn’t, anyway). Just sayin’.

    I know we girls are still few and far between in the sport, but we are out there. I bet we could get more young women in the sport if they knew they had good crews out there to go with. Thanks to those of you who have/take the time to get girls in videos (in kayaks) — LVM, Femme45, etc.

    • Katie Dean says:

      I think the only way girls can tolerate hanging with that crew is if they’re wasted. See ya sooner than you think 😀

  7. I think most elite-level slalom paddlers make good role models. Their sport is extreme enough, camera-friendly, and these paddlers are generally true athletes who don’t exude the Dave Spicoli image.

  8. The image of pro kayakers is down to magazines and that the kayak gear manufacturers like to perpetuate a certain image in order to help sell more stuff.

    Big personalities sell magazines, and the “yoof” image of kayakers running ever increasingly hard white water serves the so called aspirational purposes of kayak gear marketing. It’s all wrong of course. Why? Because the reality is that the majority of kayakers are older and don’t give a crap about that stuff. Pretty funny too because targeting the marketing at the youngsters is targeting the market with the least amount of money. Irony at work.

    I haven’t been kayaking long, but what has stood out for me more than anything about white water kayaking is the enormous gulf between the image the magazines and manufacturers portray and that of reality.

    Fact is that most paddlers are of the club kind, or at that sort of level, and are mostly paddling class 3. Thing is though, class 3 doesn’t sell magazines and products. Or at least that’s the perception.

    It’s good to have inspirational paddlers pushing boundaries etc. But the simple fact remains that what is out there as the public image of ww kayaking is not the reality, and it can have a negative effect. I know a number of people who won’t even entertain the idea of kayaking purely because of the overtly extreme perception that they have of the sport.

    This is also probably why kayaking has an issue attracting women to take part. If the image was more like that of Skip Armstrongs Seasons: Autumn rather than of the prepubescent testosterone style of most other stuff out there it might go some way to help things along. But then it probably wouldn’t sell as many magazines or gear.

  9. Those who truly love to kayak hard whitewater will forever continue to live out of their rigs, eat gas station food, sleep as close to the next river as possible (or 7 deep in a 2brm house) and do whatever it takes to follow their passion; Sponsors, outside support, or not. It is a sport that weeds out the weak and only the people who have a connection with the water will consistently paddle year after year. For years I have given up everything just to paddle, explore and document as much whitewater as I could get to with people I love to paddle with because that is my passion in life.
    The members of BDP truly love to paddle. I’ve seen these guys in action and they are very talented athletes, but with every athlete comes an ego. This can be small to large, kind to mean, and everything in-between. This is the turning point on liking or not liking an athlete or what they create. Because once you put yourself out there, it’s game on and you are in the spotlight to be liked or not.
    I have always respected Rush Sturges as an athlete and a creator because of his professional attitude when it needs to be there. Given that he is aware of his own alter-ego (which every paddler has) and keeps a professional side to his creating makes him an approachable person and what he creates has more compelling content than just partying and running tha shit. If he was Rudy Rampage all the time then it would be a different story…when you see paddlers with a “I don’t give a F@#& attitude” then you either love them, you hate them, or you just don’t care. I personally haven’t seen Pleasure Strokes, but based on the Trailer it has whitewater and partying…a video mix that has a very short shelf life these days. And given that you guys are the youth of the pro kayaking spotlight at the moment, it will be interesting to see the changes in the next few years.
    Bryon, thanks for posting. Thanks BDP for following your passion. I love to see new creations in the kayaking community whether I like them or not, others are open to their own opinions and may see something positive or take inspiration away that I did not. Keep living your dreams.

  10. Bill Kirby says:

    I credit whitewater sport with saving me from the dangers of substance abuse and bad lifestyle decisions that took the lives of a number of my friends. This was more than 40 years ago, when alcohol was very unfashionable in the sport and the leaders of the sport were grown-ups. The infusion into t he sport of the skater boy/frat rat sensibility has been very unfortunate and must be at least partly responsible for the crash in participation we’ve seen over the last ten years, as well as the passing of the brief pro boater era. It’s ironic that while the public perception of the sport has devolved to a teenage level, the average age of whitewater paddlers has moved into the 40s. Simultaneously, while the opportunities for women in the sport have multiplied the culture has become alarmingly hostile toward women, and female paddlers face much more serious obstacles now than in the paternalistic past. I’m confident that these trends will be self correcting but it can’t come too soon. Everyone has the right to go to hell in their own way, but drugs, alcohol, and misogyny have no place in whitewater sport.

    • Bill, Much respect for what you’ve done for the sport.Thanks for airing your comments. I enjoyed your comment: “everyone has the right to go to hell in their own way.” I know I’m finding my own path to that destination:) I am sure though that there will always be a “place in whitewater sport” for “drugs, alcohol, and misogyny”. That is something that no one can control and will always be an element in nich adventure/extreme sports. I do hope that we can move away from those things dominaing the media attention of the sport. I look forward to the day when we see much increased growth in the sport of WW kayaking and competitons and events are run more professionally. There are people pushing for this now and events that are setting new standards, like Sickline & TEVA Mtn Games, and I hope this trend continues. Thanks, Bryon

    • z'old guy says:

      Dunno about you, Bill, but I remember a lot of drinking and drug use going on in Ohiopyle back in the day. Those of us who were serious racers didn’t do drugs (for the most part), though I have a few memories of recreational trips that were chemically enhanced. For some, a river trip couldn’t start without getting stoned. Misogyny? Probably heard a bit of that as well.
      Kids will be kids, though nowadays one can video childishness and present it as art. I’m really not sure a lot has changed.

  11. Rush Sturges says:

    I laughed out loud at Pleasure Strokes. It represents a care free attitude in kayaking that is often times absent from our overly sensitive industry. Of course the irony is that this article is fueling the fire, and more than likely boosting BDP’s popularity. Regardless of if you like it or not, this image is prevalent in ALL action sports on one level or another. You will never be able to change that.

    Bryon raises the idea that the youth needs pro kayakers to look up to for “the right reasons.” What are those reasons? That’s the real question. The reality remains that teenage years, college years, and growing up often involves some form of rebellion and irrevrance. I personally believe the industry has space for both. The Stephen Wrights and the BDP’s of this world are both important to the growth of kayaking.

    That said, Bryon brings up good points in this article. I think it is important to question what’s important in life. I think even BDP recognizes that it’s not about getting wasted ALL the time. Generally too much of anything is never a good thing. These kids aren’t idiots, despite how they may come across.

    There is not a right or wrong way. There are many ways and it is ultimately up to YOU to make the decisions that will help YOU find the most suitable path. Everyone has their own church. To each his own.

    • Spot on! Very well said.

    • Rush, Thanks for sharing and putting together a high quality response. I think your spot on. “To each his own.” I do think it is a good discussion to have, at least for the industry. Keep on doing what you do Rush, always enjoy your flicks and even watching the antics of Rudy Rampage;) -Bryon

    • z'old guy says:

      I don’t worry as much about the industry or impressionable youth as I do about the participants who go down the road of paddling hard and partying harder, especially when much of it is done for the attention. My observation over four decades of doing thrill sports is that eventually the audience abandons the present-day attention-seekers for younger talent and crazier antics, and those that remain behind can become pretty bitter. Of course, for many this is just a phase that is both healthy and constructive (in an odd way, and forgiving the insults, intended or otherwise, to fellow participants), and life eventually moves on.

      This phenotype has been around the river at least as long as I have, and adds immensely to the color of the sport. I am happy for that. Along with technical climbing, paddling contains a very diverse group of people who converge around a shared passion–even more true now that it is possible to make a living at paddling. Where else can doctors, multi-millionaires, college professors, carpenters, bus drivers, and menial laborers gather around and become the best of friends?

    • Hey Rush,
      The kayak community does not “need” the apres river footage for the sport to grow. And to be frank, most creekers that are in it for life don’t care if it grows at all from here. Party all you want and get the footy of that to those who care. For the rest of us average paddlers… We don’t need any more heat from the cops, or trouble with landowners, or negative perceptions from people who can’t figure out where y’alls humor ends and the reality begins… (and there are plenty of them) The fact is that this type of shit reflects on the kayak community, not just the individuals, and a lot of us are over it. It’s really only that funny to a pretty small circle inside a very small circle in an industry that only exists for rich folks with free time and those who can creatively suck off the same rich folks while pretending to be broke and hard-up. But don’t let all this hatin’ stop you from providing actual great kayak footage…. Your work has been worth watching and then some. I am pretty sure everyone can agree on that. – Dave

  12. johnny ott says:

    Well bdp can paddle but they party like children. That video needed some more party scenes to convince me bdp can party proper:)

  13. If your worried about the growth of the sport, the recent release of this film is what made me get in a kayak for the first time the other day, not some quar on a poster in an REI

    • Squirrel, Stoked you got in a kayak! Welcome to the sport. Please do support your local specialty retailer and not necissarily large chains like REI. See you on the river- Bryon

  14. Davis Gove @ The Church of BDP says:

    Ok to start off, I haven’t even read all the comments on this, even those from other BDP members but I’d like to chime in because I think a lot of the time our responses, which have you, come from nearly a dozen different people, can come off very dickheadish, which I love and hate hahaha. Also I didn’t mind the article Bryon, I thought it was pretty good and at least you said we were good people, which may change from comment to comment Anyways…

    I think there is a growing epidemic in action sports, especially kayaking. This epidemic I will call the Epidemic of Seriousness. I too was once stricken with this terrible disease (spanning from about 6 to 4 years ago) as many young paddlers are when they are in the unhealthy and rather fruitless search for sponsorships (word to the wise for young groms, don’t look for sponsors, they will come to you and if they don’t then good because who needs to deal with all that bullshit anyways). I’ll admit, during this time all that I wanted was to be a sponsored kayaker. Throughout the years and a few good back breaks, I realized that life is way to short to worry about any of that shit. Instead of worrying about why Nate Garcia was getting sponsored and I wasn’t (a common worry in my mind) I began to think about all the shit that I loved. I love to go kayaking, I love watching and making kayak videos, I love to have good times and most of all I love to be a sarcastic fuckass.
    So I began to think.. why the hell am I caring so much about what everyone else is always thinking about me and how can get into this cool kid group . I’d rather take my passion for kayaking and making movies/blog updates/hilarity/etc and combine them into the type of media that I wanted to see. I figured, Hell I’m already doing what I love to do and that’s kayaking, I don’t really need to worry about any of the other superficial bull shit, I’d rather go out and have a good time, video tape it, put some videos up and hopefully other people will see it and realize that they too can have good time not worrying about what some evil corporate sponorshits think about them. On the note of role models, sure, I may not be the best one. But I’m having fun doing what I’m doing. Sometimes that may involve guns and booze, I’m from Idaho it’s in my blood. Really what this lengthy ramblings is trying to say is sure we’re not the best role models and we’re definitely not the best kayakers but we’re having fun doing what we’re doing, if I die tomorrow I want my legacy to be “Davis Gove, man he wasn’t the best kayaker, but fuck he sure had a good time before he died.”

    sorry for rambling

    • Davis, I appreciate your thoughts. As I said in the article I respect your paddling skills and do think those of you that I’ve met are good people. I fully hear you on things getting too serious and agree in many ways. This industry is VERY poor when it comes to sponsoring and cultivating top athletes, especially in the USA. There are only a handful of top boaters that make a living at this sport, and they for the most part barely scrape by and work many side jobs. Keep on having fun doing what your doing. I know that my article never said to do anything else. Please keep following your passions and living life to the fullest. -Bryon

  15. sam freihofer says:

    Hey, A few things,

    one, this movie has absolutely nothing to do with you bryon, but it WAS a great way for you to get some exposure to your blog. good work,

    two, dont watch the fucking movie if you dont want to watch the fucking movie or dont like the fucking movie.

    three, we are not proffessional. there are no sponsors of the video.

    four, we lived 7 people deep in a 2 bedroom house without heat for the entire winter during the creation of this video, and worked up at Mt hood meadows to make money during the night shift. This isn’t us trying to get rich.

    5. NOW TUNE IN EVERYONE. So, this has been a topic of discussion for a while. The main reason i personally really started HATING jackson passionately, was after davis gove sent them a letter during my sophmore year of high school. The letter was in the wake of max lentz drowning, and addressed the fact that maxs grab loop tore off immediately during the z drage procedure, and that they SHOULD drill through their plastic and have “safety features” on their kayaks. Jackson never responded to the e-mail! shits WEAK.

    that said, glad that the movie could stir up so much, go kayaking and stop bitching about the video we didnt make you watch. eat my pooooooopppppppp eat my poooooooop.

    Sam Freihofer

    • Sam,
      I hope you’ll note that I never said anything about the movie having anything to do about me. I also hope you’ll note that you guys and your film are getting a TON of exposure from my post as well. I highlight many of the latest films and trends in paddle sports on this website. If you’ll check out my comments below I have said I enjoyed watching the movie. I understand the hardships of trying to center your life around kayaking, I’ve done it for many years now and can barely aford to live in an old van at this point. I appreciate that your not pushing sponsors and that your doing things your own way, but your quality boating skills and perception by the outside world is that you are top athletes in our sport, which I believe is true. I have zero affiliation with Jackson kayak and can not disagree with your thoughts on the company. I do believe however that that issue is totally off topic to this post and should maybe be brought up later.
      In the end I’m not sure what your upset about? I highlighted a tend that I noticed in the industry that is being discussed by many people. I got you a ton of exposure for your film through the post and I never once called any of you names, besides hard pariters and skilled boaters. I’ve also met you and said in the post that I thought you were “good dudes.”
      I hope to see you on the river and go for a paddle soon,

      • sam freihofer says:

        we are the youth god dam it!

        my biggest role model is my dad, a kayaker who hates BDP, who ive drank beer and shoot guns with. I hope we are an example of people having fun, but if anyone goes out and gets drunk and shoots their friend while they run pallouse and yells “i did it because pleasure strokes” they are idiots… and ill be damned …. , if anyone dies due to gun mishaps as a result of this video the human race is better off without that person.

        We still are the youth of kayaking! dont get it twisted…

        • Sam, Stoked you look up to your dad. My father is my biggest role model as well. I don’t think, and never hinted in that direction, that anyone would get hurt by emulating anything they viewed in your film. I think that it is clear to see in the film that you guys are just partying hard, living life to the fullest and doing what you do. You are the youth of our sport and I hope to see more of you guys charging hard as well as new generations behind you doing the same. -Bryon
          PS- I very much believe in natural selection, so agree with you on that point.

  16. Bryon you said, “I POSE THE QUESTION: Why do drugs, alcohol and disrespect for women tend to be the public image portrayed by pro athletes in nich sports?”

    I dont think they do. That might be the perception among some in ww kayakng but its certainly not true of all professional niche sports. I came to ww kayaking from a big wave and soul surfing background, and my contemporaries were certainly not into that lifestyle and were the world leaders of the sport. Guys like Tom Curren and Kelly Slater.

    The difference is we dont have a comparable world tour with a sponsor driven professional economy within the sport. We dont have sponsors holding their signed sponsored athletes to a particular standard of conduct or pulling their contracts. For better or worse, as a sport we havent matured to the point of the cutting edge professionals needing to worry about morality clauses or public perception and PR firms. Right now its just guys trying to make money as best they can, again for better or worse.

    • Doug,
      I agree that not ALL nich sports have this perception, but I do think more than just ww kaykeing does. For instance you mentioned big wave surfing. There is a large element of that sport that promotes the hard charging party lifestyle, as seen by the Maverick crew. Sports like skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX, FMX etc… have all gone through phases were way more than half the public image of the sport was top athletes doing drugs, drinking to excess and generally causing mayhem. I posed the question to open the discussion and hopefully help get WW kayaking through this phase a bit so that we can continue to grow as a sport and industry.

  17. It sounds like there are those that want to sensor others right of free speech. I apprecieate all the videos out there and I LOVE the silly BS these guys put out. Some of it is getting a little old but I still enjoy. Keep it up BDP, take it to another level. If I have to watch kaykers being all serious and one with nature on videos I am going to puke. I want to see some actual puke from benge drinking and running the shit! So I say don’t stop, don’t slow down, amp it up another nothch!

    • Katie Dean says:

      I have yet to see where anyone has tried to sensor any free speech. Examples?
      People are simply expressing their opinions and exercising said right to free speech.

    • Joe, Agree with you on most of your points. For sure not trying to sensor anyone or any group. In fact I’m very much saying lets open discussions and keep doing and putting out there what we want and what we love. i enjoyed the film by BDP and do think they are pushing boundaries on and off the river. I hope they keep pushing what ever boundaries make them happy and excited to be alive. I don’t want to watch a bunch of “serious kayakers” in my kayak porn either, but I have to admit that I could do without the actual puke and the pissing on the camera. Thanks for sharing your opinoin.

  18. Christie Eastman says:

    I’m not sure BDP is a fair example of the universal image of pro kayakers. These guys are a pretty extreme case: mostly college freshman paddling and partying their asses off. They have as much of a right to make a movie as anyone.

    If people think there are other role models out there that would be good at representing the sport, make a movie and put it out there! The image of kayaking will never be just one variety of athletes. The sport draws a great mix of colorful characters and it’s not productive to sit around and judge each other when we should all be out kayaking.

    • Christie,
      Agreed! We do need to make sure that we have a healthy and vibrant future for our sport though, and this has been a discussion for some time within the industry. It is hard enough to get new entrants into our sport, as there is a relatively high cost of entry and instruction is pretty much required up front. Now lets go kayaking:)

      • Christie Eastman says:

        Yes, this has been a subject of discussion for a long time, but while some people are talking, others are out doing things and that is what creates an image. Criticizing those people for their lifestyle will not make the sport more appealing to outsiders. Creating something to demonstrate your point would be more effective. Happy hr paddle tomorrow if you can make it!

    • sam freihofer says:

      amen christie

      • Christie,
        I’m all for those out there doing it. I actually don’t think I overly critical of anyone, but rather brought up the point that the lifestyle portrayed by the BDP crew could bring a negative view to our sport, especially from outsiders. I think discussion is good, but agree that action is better. I’m trying hard to build quility media that supports my beliefs that kayaking is about fun and exploration. I hope that people will tune in to my view of the sport, but also realize that the extreme partying and rapids portrayed in films like Pleasure Strokes will always attract more attention, and rightfully so in many ways. I love watching all media that comes out of our sport, especially young paddlers charging hard and pushing our sport on the water.
        Thanks for the invite tomorrow. Proabably won’t be able to make that, but hopefully will get out to the gorge next week for some paddling. Hope to catch up with you soon.

  19. Good article. They’ll grow up eventually- a ton of people go through the same phase in life. I see a lot of myself 6 years ago in some of these guys. I just hope that they are lucky and no one gets hurt- unfortunately, it doesn’t usually work out that way. To the Church- keep charging. Some people find your language annoying- I don’t care, I can understand that they’re inside jokes. If you’re enjoying life then great, but please remember to look back on your videos when you’re 28/30. It’ll show you more about yourself than you can realize now.

    What most people tend to forget is that a ton of paddlers are doctors, lawyers, engineers, PhD’s, etc… its not all about paddling and partying. You can easily manage to get some Class V in your weekday schedule if you live nearby, regardless of if you dirtbag it or not. And it’s not the worst thing in the world to have health insurance when you have to revert to plan B.

    To ALL- keep charging, keep progressing. Those guys have their way of progression, and I have mine.

  20. I think the guys from Holy Church Of BDP should stick to paddling and skip movie making. Certainly they should avoid writing or perhaps not smoke so much pot before writing (or maybe it was the other way around and they should have toked up before writing their rambling defensive dribble). I believe that the comment they made just highlights their ignorance. They come across as vapid arrogant children. First they claim that, “Our motivation was simple: make a movie about how we live and share it with people who are into seeing such things.” In the next sentence they contradict themselves by saying, ” If there is any hope for you to absorb what we are attempting to express, you must first realize that whitewater kayaking has grown.” So, which is it? They just wanted to document “how they live” or they have a message they “are attempting to express.” I’ll tell you which, neither! They just want to show off. To get their rocks off with self aggrandizing video that fulfills their narcissistic fantasies. “During these rapidly changing times here on planet earth we at the Holy Church of BDP are not focused on winning over the public with our amazingly agile attributes.” Bullshit! The only reason to make the movie and then put it on the internet is because they are very interested in “winning over the public.” These rude little boys seem to think very highly of themselves. They also seem to imagine that they are like big tough gangsters, rastas, or perhaps rap stars? Ha, pathetic! Something they can aspire to but will never be able to achieve. And that is the good news! The world has enough hate, violence, and anger without adding more.

    • Jim, Thanks for sharing your opinion. I don’t agree though that they should stop doing anything that they are doing. BDP should keep charging hard and partying harder, if that is what makes them happy and feel alive. I do agree that the responses from them have been a little off. I thought they’d love the exposure and compliments on thier paddling and hard partying. -Bryon

  21. Larry David says:

    I’m the furthest thing from a “Johnny do good”. The only aspect of the films out now that is ridiculous is the boozing around guns. I come from a gun family, was taught properly,and have built, shot, and cleaned firearms safely and properly since I was a boy. I love to party as well. The two don’t mix. Do what you want but hopefully one of you doesn’t end up like the many others that have shot off their friend’s head by showing off their sweet toy at a party. And the lingo and gang signs make me laugh. Church? Square up with Jah? Really? Did you go with that since it’s in style now or have you always been middle class white Rastas? What’s the next big word coming out this fall? I want to be ahead of the public


    • Larry David says:

      Love the video though. You do not suck at kayaking.

    • Davis Gove @ The Church of BDP says:

      I see where you’re coming from, with the trustafari. But I don’t understand why everyone is always hating on lingo and gang signs? We’re not really in a gang as you obviously know, and we’re not really rastafari. We just like to through up the b for our crew and puff on some devil’s lettuce. It may come off as child like but hey I’m sure you had cool handshakes and silly lingo once in your life. Why not get back to the good ole days before the seriousness took over? And why I’m really replying to this… Is your name really Larry David, or do you just like Curb Your Enthusiasm.

    • Larry, Well stated and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I also laugh a lot at the lingo:) -Bryon

  22. z'old guy says:

    Been at this sport a long time–a really long time–and was one of the best in the world at one point, back when the paddling world was a bit smaller. Here’s what hasn’t changed: the tendency of some who skillfully embrace nature’s extremes to wax voluminous with inarticulate philosophies, as if all that verticality somehow added intellectual height as well.

    There are these same people in all the thrill sports I have done. They have an audience for a few years, so they work their images hard. Drugs, partying, outrageous acts and comments. It’s all part of the narcissism of a certain population who are not happy simply doing their sports, they need everyone to be watching.

    Age has a way of dealing with this. Sometimes it’s not pretty; sometimes it is very pretty.

    • Old Guy, Great share. I know age and injuries have mellowed me out more than I want to admit As I said in the article, sometimes I wish I could charge as hard on and off the river as these guys! -Bryon

    • Mark Jones says:

      I couldn’t help but notice that you called yourself “one of the best in the world” & then proceeded to call somebody else “narcissistic”, all in in one paragraph….. GTFO!!!

  23. Matt Phillips says:

    It’s pouring rain in NC and I am waiting for it to get light outside, so naturally I was on Boatertalk and came across this post about the “perceicved image of ww kayakers” by my good friend Katie. Now I haven’t watched a lot of paddle porn these days and I haven’t seen “Pleasure Strokes,” but I am not sure I want to. From what I’ve gathered their is kayaking along with a liberal dose of shots of people partying/drinking/smoking and possibly being offensive towards women? Hmmmn…no thanks. I don’t understand the need to show these “lifestyle” scenes to the general public. I mean, who are you guys trying to impress? We all know that this is not the standard and that most professional kayakers are just that – professional, both on and off the water. That doeasnt mean that partying doesnt go on (look at Gauley Fest), but what the BDP crew needs to understand is that whether they intended for it or not – their video WILL be seen by a wide audience and it WILL create an image or label on WW kayakers as a whole. End of rant…I’m going kayaking!

    • Matt, Go get some of that rain! Sadly dry here in the PNW right now. Appreciate your thoughts. -Bryon

    • sam freihofer says:

      we are the youth. we are not pro. so you are god dam JAMOKE eat a shit “We all know that this is not the standard and that most professional kayakers are just that – professional, both on and off the water”

      this is what happens when 7 good friends between the ages of 18-20 who work at the ski hill live in a 3 bedroom house with a go pro

      • Sam,
        Why are you so offended that some folks don’t like your video? A bit insecure ey? If you’re going to dish it out, which you clearly can, you gotta be able to take it. Quit whining.
        “We are the youth!!!” wah!
        You guys were the ones who expressed your lifestyle for all the world to see, and now you can’t take the heat. It seems as the though the only opinion that is allowable, according the BDP/ BombFlow standards, is that you guys are all just so cool, and you run the shit, and you’re great people. If you have an opinion that differs, then you have a stick up your ass?

        It’s not like you guys are doing anything spectacular… you’re following your dream, yahoo! living dirt poor to make ends meet so you have free time to go kayaking, and you can give the finger to society… it’s been done before, and it will continue to be done long after your time to shine. Oh, and you party hard while you do it. Again, it’s all so just incredibly impressive… I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it… you guys are innovators!!!

        It’s amusing how riled up you guys are over the fact that some folks don’t dig that aspect of the culture. It’s there, it exists, so what… to each their own, but the only reason I am commenting here is because you seem to be rather riled up, and it’s funny to watch you guys get your panties all in a wad over people criticizing what you do. You guys were the ones who put yourselves in the spotlight, and now you’re all whining and bitching because some folks criticize the flick.

        There isn’t anything different going on in the world, just different folks are doing it. You guys aren’t as special or unique as you clearly think you are.

        why do you care so much what other people think?

    • Hey matt, maybe us partying boaters don’t want you stick up the ass, no fun boaters making the public think that’s how WE are!! ever thing of that? you do your thing, we’ll do ours! you don’t see us blowing up the internet about how you’re a stick in the mud….

  24. don’t like? don’t watch! & stop tryin to cast your persona on to others! as said earlier, “be exellent to each other, and…… PARTY ON DUDE’S!!!!”.

  25. Holy Church Of BDP- says:

    The Holy Church of BDP would now like to take time out of our substantially busy schedule to address the concerns brought up by Mr. Dorr on his recent post ” today’s pro kayaker image.” The Holy Church of BDP reminds readers that our intentions during the making of “PLEASURE STROKES ” were never to, as Mr. Dorr says , ” shine a positive light on our sport or provide healthy aspirations for our sport’s youth.” He is welcome to undertake such a challenge if he feels himself qualified. we have no interest in such an absurd notion. Our motivation was simple: make a movie about how we live and share it with people who are into seeing such things. If there is any hope for you to absorb what we are attempting to express, you must first realize that whitewater kayaking has grown. These days with so many people enjoying paddle sports, and in particular Whitewater kayaking, the community as a whole has naturally divided into different groups. In fact, the reality is that these types of separation occur everywhere in human society. Take our first world high school education as an example. Think about different groups in school that were made up of individuals spending time with others who are more like them as opposed to spending their time with individuals who they do not have as much in common with. We here at the Holy Church of BDP urge you to think deeply about what you are currently reading. We are not like you. You are not like us. Just being a kayaker does not make us the same. Just being kayakers doesn’t give any of us the right to speak for kayaking as a whole. We never pretend to fit into some “box” that is whitewater kayaking. You do what you do and we will do what we do. Furthermore let everyone else do what ever they do. It is all good in the you hear what we say? While you seem to focus on the growth of the kayak industry in popular culture, writing things like, “I think the future growth of the sport relies on a healthier and less extreme public perception of what it means to be a WW kayaker.” We focus on things like getting into remote canyons and “smoking the weed and running the shit.” We are light years apart you and us. Look, we realize some of our content has rattled your cage a little. This is ‘MERICA dude, you are free to just turn the channel. No one is forcing you to watch us or to be the watchdog over what we put out. During these rapidly changing times here on planet earth we at the Holy Church of BDP are not focused on winning over the public with our amazingly agile attributes. We really do not care about stupid competitions or being sponsored or being the best ‘lil competitive race winning poster boys. We are too full of DA TRUE STOKE to waste time trying to do that or to tell others how to live. We simply made a little flick about what we are into and now we read this on Byron Darr’s page. Hey everyone, please be yourselves and take everything with a grain of salt. There is a lot more to worry about these days than the f’in kayak industry anyway. Some kayakers have a tendency to take themselves and this “industry” too seriously. The Holy Church of BDP by its nature blows all that fake ass self righteous temporary attitude a whiff of something new. A generation of shredz that focuses more on the never ending substantially meaningful FLOW itself. We are rowdy and wild sometimes there is no doubt. But in reality we are humble and we aren’t trippin on all this hype. We named it ” Pleasure Strokes” for goofy ass sake!! C’mon, lighten up. If any thing the kids will only look up to us because everywhere else there are a bunch of over achieving competitive johnny do goods that spend their whole life avoiding the ONE thing u gotta do while here on this planet. SQUARE UP WITH JAH!!! NOW GO TO CHURRRRCCCCHHHHH AND GET RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!! or not, just don’t judge us and we won’t judge you.

    ps. while we are at it, if you are a woman and are offended by our “sexist” footage featuring the women in the video, we want to remind you that we are young men and the energy we feel on the river, even though it is tough to say and maybe not all will agree, doesn’t compare to the magnetic beauty found in the female form. We love all you ladies and life wouldn’t even be worth liven if you and those hot curves didn’t exist. WE LOVE YOU ALL———->>>>>>>>>>>>

    oh and we’ve seen Paddlers like Stephen Wright, Jason Craig, Clair O’Hara, Spencer Cook, Joey Hall, Kim Russel, , Jason Beaks,, all be rude and insensitive to the needs of cute furry little puppies on several occasions… Thought you’d all be better off if you knew….. THE TRUTH —- ” be excellent to each other” —– sincerely- The Holy Church of BDP

    • Dear Holy Church of BDP,
      I’m stoked you guys are following your passion and sharing your escapades with the world. There will always be a place for that and it is what makes ‘MERICA great. Please note that I’m not criticizing, just opening a dialouge about the view the general public is getting about WW kayakers and the paddle sports industry. Your film, which I enjoyed watching, highlights one image of our sport. Your right in that we are not alike in many ways, but we are both passionate about WW kayaking and in the scheme of things we as WW kayakers are a small group. I do care about our industry and want to make sure that there is quality gear, instruction and role models for future huckers. I know that others care about this as well, as demonstrated by the yearly gathering at the WW Symposium. I am against using drugs myself, but fully respect the freedom of others to enjoy what they wish. Go ahead and “SQUARE UP WITH JAH”, but I hope people are able to see past that behavior and enjoy the quality cinematography and sick boating skills that you guys obviously have.
      See you on the river,
      PS- I think I’ll pass on Church and “CHURRRRCCCCHHHH” and just go paddling this weekend:)

      • Kim Becker (Russell) says:

        Well said Bryon! Love this article! By the way, thanks BDP for “sharing the truth” about kind, positive people such as Stephen Wright, Jason Craig, and myself. You guys sure are really doing some good (sarcasm).

        • Christine Broniak says:

          “Be excellent to each other?” Really? BDP were not excellent to me. I think you seem a bit hypocritical at the moment, no? Disrespect your liver all you want, it’s your liver. When you are disrespectful of other people, that’s a different story.

  26. Danny Crow says:

    Appreciated the willingness to say what you feel, chips fall where they may.

  27. I couldn’t agree more. Well said, and a much-needed perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  28. YOLO!

  29. Katie Dean says:

    Great article. As a female paddler, viewing videos such as “pleasure strokes” is rather disgusting… Nice to see someone callin’ ’em out. Someone recently on BoaterTalk said something along the lines of “those boys deserve our respect” (for what they run)… gack! thanks but no thanks.

    • Thanks Kaite. I agree that the way being a paddler is portayed in the film is rather “disgusting.” I will say though that I very much respect the level of paddling that these guys are at. To run successfully the rapids and drops those guys are tackling on a regular basis takes a ton of skill! I agree with you that they don’t necessarily “deserve our respect” when they act so ridiculous though. I take it on a one on one basis, as I know some of these guys and they really are good dudes.

      • Katie Dean says:

        Yeah, it is very apparent the difficulty of what they run is unmatched by most. It’s just not for me… Ironically we all agree on the same points of paddling, which is generally to get outside, feel alive, and have a good time with our friends. They are clearly doing just that. I do the same thing when I go paddle, just not the same way… Interesting how the intent can be so similar, and the outcome and perspectives be so different. Alas, that what makes the world go round. I thought your article was very professional, respectful and the points were spot on. Good job.

  30. I truly appreciate this entry, as I share the same view. I thought at one time that was part of what it was to be a kayaker, and I lived with the consequences of irrational behavior. I hope more posts and talk along these lines are seen in the near future as we have a large contingent of young paddlers getting involved and they need positive role models. Thanks again!

    • Chris,
      Thanks for the kind words. This theme has been discussed a bit here and there with hushed voices. Hopefully this post will help open the dialoge and help to foster a better overall image for our sport. I only hope that we can introduce more people to paddling and show it off for what it is, a great way to have fun and experience the outdoors!

  31. Jamey Moore says:

    Hey, just wondering, I just recently moved to Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I kayak a lot but have only really gotten on rivers. I have a Prijon Cyclone(not enough money for a surf kayak but it has the speed to go down the line. I’m just looking for some pointers to make it a little bit more fun and to show all the surfers that I can do just as much as them!

    • I live in KDH and have paddled (mostly racing on whitewater until I moved here w/wife and kid 4 yrs ago) for 25 years or so. I paddle an older 3.5m IC surf kayak (mega jester) on days when it’s not super-critical. Curious to be acquainted with any avid paddler on the OBX Do you live in Rodanthe or Avon or at the cape. lemme know a contact or if you ever make north of the inlet

    • Jamie,
      As long as your out there having fun! Really the best advise is to both give surfers thier space and be overly kind to them when sharing the same surf zone. A boat without edges can quickly get out of control and ruin a surfers day, so be sure not to get one between you and the beach:) Otherwise drop in late as close to the pocket as possible, run the line fast and finish with a big ender or pirouette:)

      -You can find older models of surf kayaks and wave skis for below $500 on the used market, and if the surf zone is your only use for the craft they would greatly improve your abilities and fun factor.

  32. Great blog post, amazing images.

    • You the man Tree. Always an inspiration! Keep up the good writings. I’m getting some great trip ideas from your posts for my RTW adventure:)

      • I am not employed by the kayaking industry but I have been a river guide and kayaker for years. I currently work as a massage therapist and counselor to with children.

        While I am sitting here doing my morning routine, my 3 yr old son is harassing me and hitting the keyboard to get my attention despite the fact that he will have it all day. He is wild and uncontained and a free spirit which reminds me similar to the BDP group when I see or hear about them and their wild antics.

        I really appreciate Ryan Scott’s and Johnny Ott’s not reactive comments about the BDP. Its just all fun and games.

        BDP seem to me to be searching for fame, glory, women, and fun which is not all that different from young males for eons. Perhaps that is there age and time period of their life. Many of the boater male friends in the past I know seem to have some version of this in their life. I know my son my have this wild period too. The older boater guys that I do know seem more thoughtful and philisophical with age and still retain some of that wildness but with more wisdom and less abandon. Maybe a bit of mentoring could be helpful here. (Anyway, Im not trying be sexist here. Many women are wild too including myself years ago.)

        I wonder as society becomes more tame, outlets of wildness get wilder. As the pressure builds up, it needs a place to go. I would hate to see our wildness become tame. Learning to play and not take ourselves too seriously is one of the most amazing aspects of life. When I work with suffering clients in therapy, I feel the need to escape into play and wildness and this gives me a sense of freedom outside of society. I need to see that spaciousness and be in it.

        As far as what should the industry do about the BDP image, maybe just chalk it up to boys being boys and chuckle about its ridiculusness at times. And female boaters can choose to avoid it too if they are offended and produce their own image not in response to BDP but alongside it as the more mature version. Besides, Im sure the BDP toughness is a front for their closet sensitive alternative sport nature. I have experienced real shovenism in the early rafting days in the South and its much different and harsher than BDP image.

        As far as the risks they take, its very sad to see these deaths and I dont know who should be setting the bar for attention for large stunts. However, we all make our own decisions in life and hucking a waterfall is one of many that can be hazardous to our health but invigorating too. Perhaps the BDP image is separate from kayak industry advertising and it might be helpful to see it as such…more of an idea or concept.

        We need more women out there to balance it all.

        Thank you BDP for the laughs and amazing feats you do just like I thank my son for his wild boy wonderfulness. May it live on forever.)

        • Thanks so much for the perspective Roberta. There are for sure other groups out their in our sport that represent all sides and images of what it means to be a kayaker. You can see the variety in: BDP, Bombflow, Femme45, TITS Deep, FLUX, Demshitz, etc… All have their place in our sport and I hope to see more media that represents the wholesome fun that exploring the world through WW allows. -Bryon

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