[Project: Made In America]

October 21th, 2021

Manifesto:

From here on out, Verus Kayaks will be manufactured solely in the United States of America. In the coming months we will establish production, rigorously test our process, and produce a new set of designs to further push the limits of our sport. While this will take time and patience, we can’t be more excited for what is to come. For the moment, no new plastic kayaks will be available until June 2022. In bringing our production home, we plan to work tirelessly to surpass the quality and performance of anything currently on the market today. We intend to be stewards to the land and water that inspires us, and the boating communities that bring us together. So if you believed in us before, believe in us again now. We are about to blow the doors off anything you’ve seen so far.

Welcome to the future.

Welcome to [Project: Made In America].

 

We’ve divided this article into three sections; the past, the present and the future. With full candor, we want to explain how this all got started, and where it’s about to go. It’s not often that you have the luxury of knowing that a decision has the potential to change everything, but we feel quite certain that 10 years from now, we’ll look back and know this is our moment.

The Past:

At the end of a long, perfectly level table stands a boy. He’s staring intently at the sleek body of a miniature Formula 1 race car, with a recently dried coat of paint that’s so smooth he can’t make out a single imperfection in the gleaming surface. He positions the car in the slotted gates that mark the entrance to the simple gauntlet. This being a 20 meter long one-lane track used to gauge the raw engineering capacity of a team presented with a simple task: go fast. A CO2 cartridge is delicately loaded into the rear compartment, and the trigger mechanism set gingerly in place. He closes his eyes briefly and allows himself to take a deep breath. Then he pulls the trigger. 

That boy was Josh Pecaric. At the time, a small-for-his-age but scrappy kid who took part in his school’s hockey and Model F1 engineering teams. I opened with that antidote because if you stand far enough back, the natural evolution that brought us here starts to take form. Josh has always had a knack for design and a tenacity for perfection. Once he started boating, that scrappy-as-hell kid started ticking through some of the Southeast’s biggest and baddest. By the time he graduated highschool, he would boast an impressive boating and design resume that developed rather fluidly through the passions that surrounded his youth. The idea for Verus began in earnest in 2015. In his Sophmore Year at VCU, he shaped the first Volant prototype, and began dreaming of the OG Gladiator. However, shapes and ideas are just the beginning in this business. In order to make a boat, what you really need is infrastructure. 

To be perfectly honest, looking at a project like this is daunting. He would need molds, an oven to bake them in, a production team, storage facilities, and the myriad of components required in making a whitewater kayak. After looking over his options, Josh realized that he couldn’t possibly do this alone. 

There are a limited number of factories with the capacity to mold kayaks, so he started asking around. As you might guess, he couldn’t find much help stateside. With the inherent conflict of interest to other manufacturers bringing in a new brand and the high cost of molds for a fledgling company, our options seemed limited. 

China was a natural place to start, although here we ran into new challenges. While there are plenty of kayak manufacturers, most of them are not of the sort qualified for whitewater production. These are the high-volume, low-quality operations responsible for the inventory you see at your local Walmart. Throughout 2016 and 2017 we corresponded with a number of factories before we found what we were looking for. With the right partners and the right facility, we felt confident we could build our boats and bring them out to the river. While our partner’s experience was primarily in molding sea kayaks, they were excited to work with us on creating whitewater boats and building our company. If it weren’t for that option, none of this would have come to be. 

George had been studying Mandarin at Bates College, so when Josh asked if he would come along to visit the factory, he jumped right in. A stack of vocabulary cards and a long plane ride later, we were sitting across from our new partners, sipping fresh green tea and discussing what components we would need to make these boats. We looked over samples and prototypes, enjoyed local meals, and worked to create the first Gladiator.

Over the coming years we learned a lot about what works, and what doesn’t. We continued to work on improving our quality, and sourcing better materials for our kayaks. With the help of Adam Baggett’s CAD work and tireless revisions, we developed the shape that would shortly become the Hellbender. The last time we were able to visit our partner factory in China was in November, 2019. At that time, we looked over the first Hellbender prototypes and worked on improvements for the Gladiator 2.0. It should also be noted here, that Andrew Hawkins was responsible for a hefty portion of the initial groundwork and motivation to launch this thing in earnest. His push for a full-slice design has defined our company and the ethos surrounding our boats. 

This takes us to January, 2020. Everything is ready, and we’re looking forward to a year of festival tours and spreading the word. Of course you know that didn’t happen. While nothing went according to plan that year, we did learn one thing. People believed in us. Social media helped connect us to a wider audience, and the support of the boating community helped us push for a pre-order to fund a new batch of boats. With the help of new retail partners, we’ve made our way to new rivers across the country. However unlikely, enough people have believed in us to keep making this dream come true against the worst of odds. We are forever grateful for everyone who’s helped support us in getting here, and it is for all of you that we’ve planned our next move.

The Present:

So here we are, looking back at where we’ve been and plotting what comes next. With the world still reeling from the Pandemic, macroeconomic conditions have changed. Tariffs, shipping prices and material costs have shifted out of our favor. In short, the original advantages of making boats in China no longer exist, while the challenges that outsourced manufacturing presents are now amplified. Just when we thought we had our creative solution figured out, the rules of the game changed on us completely. As we came to understand this new truth, there appeared to be two options for us here at Verus Kayaks: shut the doors, or learn to adapt as we always have. 

We’re choosing to do the latter.

 

The Future:

In a way, we’re back at square one, but we’re not starting from scratch this time. Our concept has proof, and we believe in the community we’ve built. In the coming months, our goal is to establish our manufacturing here in the USA. We’ve partnered with Roto12 (a C12 Technology company), based in Anderson, SC, to help us produce these designs as we continue to build and grow Verus Kayaks. While this may take some time, we promise you that the wait will be worth it. Our new team, led by Oliver Wainwright, has years of kayak manufacturing experience and the capacity for advanced materials engineering. Here, we’ll be working with the best in the business to bring our kayaks home, and further improve on our designs as they stand. There’s plenty of work to be done, but soon you’ll be seeing what we’re truly capable of.

As of today, 10/21/21, this is no longer abstract. Verus Kayaks and Roto12 have collaboratively invested in a rotomolding oven and will be working to install the oven in our new facility shortly. This winter, we’ll be working on sourcing components and getting things set up at the new factory. We’ll keep you updated through the coming months as we get Verus Kayaks established permanently here for the future. With a project of this magnitude, we anticipate the earliest production beginning by June, 2022. Unfortunately this will leave us out of stock on plastic kayaks until that time. 

In this hiatus, we’ve got a few surprises up our sleeve. We wouldn’t want to ruin the grand reveal, so for now, all I’ll say is be sure to mark December 1st, 2021 in your calendar…

In a way, this has been the plan all along. We’re now more motivated than ever to improve on what we started these last few years. Bringing our production home helps us lean into our ethics and stand behind what we’re building. Not only will this move shorten our supply chain and reduce our impact on the earth, but also removes the bottleneck of international shipping and allows us to scale our production to meet the demands of the industry. Further, we can better invest in RnD with the expanded capacity of our new team and push our designs past anything we’ve released so far. Most exciting is the opportunity to provide training and jobs across the scope of this project; from manufacturing and assembly to deliveries and sales. If you’re interested in working with us, keep your eyes peeled and your resume sharp this Winter, cause we’ll need the best and brightest. 

To keep the stoke alive in the meantime, we’ll be cooking up some limited-edition goodies in the Merch Laboratory. Not only is this a chance to upgrade your wardrobe, but you can personally help us fund this project through your support. For October 2021, check out the “Shred Till I’m Dead” Series. Rep your favorite kayak brand this spooky season with holographic stickers, iron-on patches and a certifiably radical hoodie. Perfect for cold shuttle rides, whisky bonfires, graveyard shenanigans and wholesome witchcraft. Guaranteed comfort and 100% hex resistant.

Look out in the coming months for more unique items! Products may include but not be limited to beanies, changing robes, rolling papers and more. 

This is a massive shift for our company and we’ll need everyone’s help to make this happen. So get out and scream it into the streets; Verus Kayaks are about to be 100% designed and built in the US of A. As a perpetual underdog, we’ve played a good show so far, but we’re officially done with the minor leagues. I want every boater to know that we’ll be the ones working harder, digging deeper, and pushing for kayaks that support and make possible the pursuit of our shared dreams on the river. The lines we draw between passion and obsession are thin here at Verus, and we’ll finally have the chance to manifest our vision for the future. 

The best way you can support us now is to buy some merch, and spread the good word! At the grassroots level is always where we’ve found our base, and we know that won’t change now. We’ll use these funds to purchase and move our oven to Anderson, SC, buy new molds for our designs, invest in RnD, and help cover the costs of making these new boats. Thank you for taking the time here to read what we’ve got to say, and I look forward to hearing what y’all think about this. 

Cheers,

Verus Team

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