About Our Team

a passion for water and play
The RivrStyx team is an eclectic collection of paddlers who share my passion for water and play.  They don’t always have time to email me what they are up to- but I don’t require that of them.  They are invited to be on the team- so no requests will be entertained- sorry.   If you are ever doing something really cool on the water-  keep your eyes open- they may be near. I’ll fill you in on their details as they are revealed…stay tuned~  for harmony’s sake.

Brian Jennings

Working the Riot Styk

Wildwater Styk

About Brian
NOTE:  Brian passed away July 14,2014 from aggressive testicular cancer.  I’ve always been proud to sponsor him and appreciative of his friendship and endorsement.  I am leaving him on the team out of respect for his spirit and his family, friends, and friendship and as a remembrance of all our friends who have passed to the wild blue yonder. Hometown: Fayetteville, WV Also Supported by: Pyranha, Kokatat, Smith Optics, Skirtworks RivrStyx I use: RiotStyk, Wildwater, Single Blade I grew up in southern West Virginia’s commercial rafting industry, but didn’t seriously start boating until age 22. I raft guided and duckied for several years, but after watching Falling Down and The Wet Ones more times than I could count, I decided to finally spend some time focusing on kayaking. Several years and angry ex-girlfriends later, I found myself competing at big events and surfing big waves. I spent several years with Wave Sport as Team Athlete, testing new designs, and eventually Brand Manager. I made the US Freestyle Team in 2009 and placed 7th at Worlds in Mens Squirt. I’ve started competing at fewer events, but you can usually find me at the New River Dries, Mill or Manns Creek, in the back of my raft or Shredder, somewhere underwater at the Halls of Karma,  and always with my RivrStyx in my hand. The term “functional art” has been used many times to describe Jim’s paddles, which I’ve always found to be extremely accurate. The RiotStyk is perfect for playboating…small enough to maneuver easily, but plenty of bite for a big snappy airblunt, and easily manipulated while doing mystery moves. The Wildwater gets me lots of purchase for those “must-make” moves in hard whitewater, but is easy on the shoulders. The single blade is powerful enough to push a 16’ raft down the New and Gauley, but sporty enough for me to use in my Shredder.

Jason Westley Craig

About Jason
Paddling is one of those rare things in my life that makes me truly happy. I have been paddling my whole life long and have spent the best and worst moments of my life from the seat of my kayak. I live next to the Sierra Nevada mountain range and all the rivers that flow here are my backyard playground. While I live in a kayakers paradise one of my favorite aspects of paddling is traveling to a new river in a foreign place. I have been lucky enough to paddle on some amazing rivers around the world and hope to keep experiencing new places and waters. Now I am studying Geology at University of Nevada, Reno. I also run a permaculture farm with my family where we are experimenting with sustainable living and growing our own food. Three years ago I had a massive spine injury that left me paralyzed, but I have had an amazing recovery and now can live life to the fullest! The moment I have free time I blitz to the mountains or river to paddle! I still have the dream to be the World Champion in freestyle and you can find me on any given day tumbling in the closest playspot having fun. I would say the reason I love paddling the most is the incredible experiences it bring to my life and the good friends I have made. I am incredibly grateful to Jim Snyder for bringing me on the team and letting me use his incredible paddles. It is a true honor and every time I paddle with a river styk it feels like an extension of my will interacting with the water. Truly masterful design and craftsmanship goes into each paddle.

Kevin Colburn

About Kevin
National Stewardship Director / American Whitewater Throughout my life I’ve been drawn to nature, to adventure, and perhaps most powerfully to the beauty and energy of moving water. I discovered paddling in junior high and became a dedicated student of the river arts. I hand paddled, I explored creeks, I squirt boated – anything to narrow the gap between the river and myself. I co-founded a paddling club shortly after starting undergrad at UNC Asheville and shared my paddling zeal as a kayak instructor. I studied ecology and environmental science and UNCA, and then at the University of Montana for my masters. In Montana my appreciation for wild landscapes and rivers found a new and vivid depth, and in 2001 I was hired by American Whitewater to protect and restore rivers on behalf of paddlers. I’ve been fortunate enough to play a large role in restoring flows on numerous rivers like North Carolina’s Cheoah and Idaho’s Bear, negotiating several dam removals, and protecting rivers with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Working for AW I strive to focus the knowledge and passion of the paddling community into tangible conservation outcomes. My own paddling adventures continue to inform and inspire my conservation work. Lately I’ve been documenting the wildest rivers in the Northern Rockies with pack rafts and kayaks as part of an ambitious Wild and Scenic Rivers campaign. For me the river holds as much magic as it ever did, and every day on the water is gift.

Stewart Caldwell

Middle Fork Kings River

Meadow River WV

Stikine River The Wall

Mann's Creek WV

Stikine River Tanzilla Slot

Stikine River not out of the woods yet....

Stewart Caldwell


I was born and raised in WV and leaned how to paddle here. I started kayaking 20 years ago because my dad wanted to learn how and thought it would be a good father/son bonding experience. I had no idea it would become one of the greatest driving forces in my life. I fell in love with paddling because of the sense of freedom and endless exploration that goes along with it. It’s by far the most unique and most amazing method of transportation that I have ever discovered. Kayaking has taken me all over the world and allowed me to see some truly awe inspiring places, but I do most of my paddling in and around Fayetteville, WV. I typically spend more days on the Meadow River than anywhere else, and have more runs on it than any other river I have ever paddled.

About a decade ago, I came to a cross roads. I used to get over use injuries, particularly in my wrists and elbows, on a regular basis. It was frustrating to have something that I loved so much cause me so much pain. I knew that I was over torqueing my joints, but I didn’t know how to lessen the strain on my body. I didn’t want to paddle less, but I knew that something had to give. The path I was on was not sustainable. I wanted to find a way to be easier on my body without sacrificing performance or sacrificing any days on the water. Fortunately, I discovered Jim’s paddles. The first time I dipped the blades of my Rivrstyx Flo into the water, I had one of those “ah ha!” moments. The paddle was so smooth and effortless and seemed so natural. Everything just clicked right away, and I knew that I would never use another brand of paddle again. Within a few months, all of my overuse injuries disappeared. Nine years later, I’m paddling just as much as I ever have and feel stronger and healthier than ever. I still use my original medium sized Flo all the time and have also added a large Flo and a Riot Styk to the rotation. And I still can’t imagine ever using another brand of paddle again. I keep paddling because water is such a dynamic and variable entity that never stops fascinating me. It can be soft and yielding, or abrasive and destructive. It can be calming and relaxing, or exciting and adrenaline producing. It can be clean and pure, or dirty and abused. But no matter what properties water has, it can bring out the best in you. To quote Doug Ammons, “If we’re lucky, sometime in our lives we find places or people who bring the very best out of us, and finally show what we are truly capable of. I believe strongly that is true of everybody, and that is what the Stikine means to me.” That is what rivers in general and kayaking in particular means to me. Kayaking has shown me what I am truly capable of and brings out the very best of me. Jim’s paddles do the same thing. They allow me to perform at my best so I can see exactly what I am capable of. The bland, minimalistic shape of the Flo allows it to disappear into my hands and morph into an extra appendage of my body. It functions as a giant conducting rod, transmitting the energy of the river into my body and allowing me to effortlessly transmit my own power back to the river. I’ve never felt a stronger, more powerful connection with the water than when a Rivrstyk is in my hands. And because of Jim’s paddles, I can paddle as much as I want for the rest of my life without having to make any compromises.

Shimmy Shimrock

Shimmy Shimrock

In 1981 my parents spaceship crashed full speed into a small town called Friendsville. Upon the landing I was rapidly ejected from within my mother’s belly and such started my life in the Youghiogheny River Valley. My mother was the first spirited whitewater enthusiast in the family. She bought her very own Army Surplus raft and guided herself down the Lower Yough prior to the commercial boom in the area. Throughout my childhood there was clearly something stirring inside me. I was wild and unsettled, so they did what any frustrated parents would do and put me in a wrestling singlet and turned me loose. I spent the bulk of my early years on the wrestling mat, until high school. My high school wrestling coach was Scott Stough, a long time whitewater kayaker from Pennsylvania, he was the one responsible for my water breaking. Coach Stough knew I needed something more than a wrestling mat to keep me out of the clink and so he furnished me with my first whitewater kayak, a Perception Corsica S. From that moment on my life had changed as does so many people who feel their first splash of whitewater in the face. I started cutting the teeth on the lower Yough and shortly moved on to the upper Yough where I found a new home. My high school days from then on were a blur of reading American Whitewater in class mixed with chasing the river tail after school. My adolescent claim to fame was an AW story called “Coach Can I Skip Practice, The North Fork Is Running”, written about the time I “borrowed” my Wrestling Coaches creek boat in the middle of the season to run the North Fork of the Blackwater for my first time…he wasn’t as impressed as you may think.

When I decided to put faith in my kayak to produce income I went on to become a member of Team Wavesport Kayaks competing in many of the infamous “Rodeos” of the golden era as well as competing on the forefront of extreme racing as the sport began to take form. Kayaking from then on was my modus for travel. Through competitions, guiding and exploration I have been lucky enough to view many remote stretches of the world with my kayak in tow.

After many years of seeing the walls of mountains from the river banks, my curiosity led me deeper into the adventure world as rock climbing and mountain climbing became a strong second focus. As my knees started to show signs of wear from descending down from the natural behemoths I took on the sport of paragliding to expedite the process. Seeing the rivers from above changed my entire perspective on paddling. I no longer became fixated on chasing a section of rapids, or a particular wave, I began to see the bigger picture and have been fascinated with following the path’s that the rivers have carved ever since. In a effort to deepen my new perspective I organized and carried out the “Summit 2 Sea Expedition” in which I was the first recorded person to successfully climb Denali, the largest mountain in North America, and navigate the river that it berths from its source to the sea in one continuous push.

Connecting with the natural world has always been my deepest passion, whether it be clinging to the rocks, flying with the birds, or paddling within the river. The moment I laid my hands on my first wooden paddle from Jim, that connection became significantly deeper. I woodn’t have it any other way.

Christine Boush

Cheoah River

Christine Boush
Christine hails from Asheville, NC and loves to paddle the steeps as well as SUP (on occasion).  She also loves her RivrStyx!  In her own words:   “I didn’t discover kayaking until I was 24, and then went full throttle, determined to make up for lost time and more than a little obsessed with both the serenity and adrenaline of paddling. I was paddling the Green Narrows (or rather, being paddled by it) within 5 months, partially because of the drought and non-availability of natural flow. I had dislocated my right shoulder (roller-blading, please don’t tell) at 17 and re-injured it kayaking. Before long I was experiencing what I thought it was just subluxation (partial dislocation) because the shoulder would slide forward and back in with very little pain. Then it started happening while I was sleeping, or opening a door and I went in for evaluation. The MRI wasn’t good, and the surgeon explained that I had been fully dislocating each time and had completely torn my labrum. The head of my humorous (the ball that inserts into the joint) was flat from scraping against the saucer lip, which was also severely chipped away. The surgeons did a fantastic job repairing the shoulder and I had a great physical therapist but when I resumed paddling I had chronic pain in my right shoulder. Every time I paddle it would ache deeply. This continued for several years until my friend Stephen Hughes told me I should try a wooden paddle. I did a lot of research and believed Jim Snyder’s science and logic on paddle design was solid. I sent him an email explaining my issues and was so excited when he wrote back and told me he would help me. With my first paddle, I was at first worried about the smaller size of the blades, the lack of a bent shaft— it was very different from my AT carbon fiber creeking paddle — but within minutes, it felt totally natural and moreover — I had no more shoulder pain! I thought I would have to trade performance for a lack of pain with a wooden paddle but quickly found I was pain free and performing better. The one time I tried to revert to my AT and it’s larger blades for a race it felt like I was tripping over myself and incredibly awkward. I was so sold on Jim’s concepts that for my second paddle, I told him to make it as he thought it should be — which meant even smaller blades and no powerface on the paddle. Again, I liked it even more — by applying Jim’s stroke techniques I found that I could move quickly and efficiently through the water without straining my shoulders — and despite the small blade size and a very short boat (sub 8 feet) had no problem keeping up with other paddlers. I didn’t even hesitate when Jim suggested an even smaller blade this time – with a slightly different shape that would allow me to get an aggressive boof stroke and strong forward stroke with more bite at the begininning and less at the end. It felt magic in the water — I had lots of power when and where I wanted it but no resistance in completing and resetting my stroke. My boofs were better and bigger. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole way down the Green Narrows.

The Trik Style Smithy is my favorite paddle to date — high performance, power just when and where I need it.  My lines in Go Left have been super clean as it seems my boof across the log carries more precision and power.”

Malcolm Lee Smith

Malcolm Lee Smith




Malcolm lives in Franklin, NC with his parents, his Devonshire dairy cow Bessie and his puppy Lilly. He started paddling the summer he was 4 when his brother Shaun came to visit with his kayak. By mid winter, he was paddling a tiny cut down slalom boat (that he is still growing into today). But being so young meant that he was too small for most ready-made gear. His mom and dad, along with “uncles” Gary and Allen, got a bit crafty and made or customized gear to keep Malcolm’s paddling safe, fun and progressive. Skirts, pfd’s, boats and even paddles had to be tweaked or made to fit his tiny frame. That is how Malcolm and Jim first became friends.

Malcolm’s mom got this idea that Malcolm needed a custom sized, handmade wooden paddle. She learned that Jim was still making them. The two exchanged a few emails regarding some rather involved instructions. Then Jim made the most generous gesture of offering to make Malcolm’s paddles and be his exclusive paddle maker. A few rounds of meticulous measurements and several wise words about water lead to Malcolm and Jim becoming great friends, 2 beautiful tiny paddles, and possibly the world’s smallest squirt boat ever!!!

2014 marks his second year with Team Dagger. Malcolm paddles the small Axiom, a boat shaped for classic styled paddling and a perfect vehicle for Jim’s fine tuned instruments. With Jim’s encouragement, Malcolm’s paddling focus is form, technique, fun and flow. When not paddling gates on his pond at home, or refining his surf at Rose Creek down the road, Malcolm can be found working on Nantahala gates or the eddy lines at the Island Park on the Tuckaseegee.  When the river is up, and his brave is high, he can be found running Lesser Wesser Falls, or punching the free style feature at the NOC (when the river is not so high). This past winter was spent experimenting with his squirt boat and wooden hand paddles at local pool sessions.

Malcolm was the 2012 Junior National Trials Motorcycle Champion (7+under) the summer he was 5 yo, and got on the podium for 2nd place in 2013 (9+under) the summer he was 6 yo. This year, he has competed in a couple of 2014 GNCC off road dirt bike races (65cc 7-9 yo) where he churned some serious mud. He has competed in one trials bicycle event so far, and a few local youth slalom boat races where he podiumed once for 3rd place (12+under) when he was 6 yo.

Currently, Malcolm thinks that he will grow up to be a rocket scientist and design rocket ships, “but not an astronaut because it’s too lonely out in space”. Back up options for future careers include barn storming, driving a bulldozer and delivering babies. Malcolm thinks that this last option “could really help somebody”. Malcolm started playing the piano when the he started kayaking, and loved to dance since the day he could walk. A scrambled egg is his one cooking specialty; he is learning the art of making pop corn as we speak. He hopes to have his one cow dairy up and running soon.

In the meanwhile, Malcolm stays pretty busy as a 7 year old. He is homeschooled year round and spends a few hours most days studying the 3 R’s (his parents still subscribe to old school academia), the basics of “rocket math” (times tables and simple running equations), history +culture, and natural sciences (he can now differentiate between rhododendron and mountain laurel, white pine and yellow pines, and collects every shiny specimen of quartz, mica and pyrite that he can spot). Malcolm has also developed a knack for making bows and arrows out of twigs and twine, flying paper airplanes and fashioning clothes pins into triggers for various rubber band loaded artillery. The little creek bedside his house is where he spends his free day light hours with his toy boats playing with eddy lines, holes, boofs and currents. Recently, Malcolm has started to make his own little paddling “edits”, but no dub step yet, we’re sticking to Suzuki Piano vol. 1 for now. Bad weather days are spent up in the barn, figuring up new trials tricks or making it a few more feet on his unicycle (yes, Malcolm and Uncle Jeff were immediate friends!!!).

Malcolm thanks Rivr Styx, Uncle Jeff, Team Dagger and Sandboxland helmets for making it possible to have fun forever. Malcolm is especially blessed to have the Professor of Fun supporting him in all of his incredible adventures on and off the river! Thank you Jim!!!

Dustin Urban

Family time...

Dustin Urban
I love the natural world and interacting with it through adventure sports. Kayaking, rock climbing, surfing/ SUPing, mountain biking and snowboarding all allow me to do epic things in epic places. Whether at the bottom of the topography — floating a remote desert canyon — or at the top — climbing a tower or biking a ridge line — these pursuits make me feel alive and connected to the earth, my friends and family. Physically and athletically I love the health, happiness and challenge they provide. To stay focused and graceful under pressure in an epic setting is a sublime pursuit. I’ve had the special opportunity to use Jimi’s RivrStyx since 2000, and it’s always been an honor to use such a pure work of art. Jimi’s paddles are incredibly durable (I’ve broken 2 in 14 years), but they give and flex in the right ways at the right times (and even break at the right time – it would have been my thumb instead had my paddle not broken the one time). At the same time that RivrStyx’ wood construction makes them durable, it is also easier on the body, providing natural give and flex and moving effortlessly and smoothly through the water. Jimi’s flat blade shapes (no dihedral curve) make for incredibly smooth interaction with the water, eliminating the flutter of a dihedral blade on sculling and sliding strokes and generally allowing me maximum fluidity on the water. I have never once felt I would prefer a composite paddle, and I’m honored to use Rivrstyx. I’m also honored to have two of my favorite young guys using RivrStyx along side me now — my son Heron and my good buddy and freestyle ninja Jason Craig. Thanks, Jimi, for all the support over the years and for believing in a young whipper snapper from a young age. Career Highlights: 5 time winner of Vail Mountain Games Freestyle Kayak Event 9 time member of US Freestyle Kayak Team 2005 Squirt Boating World Champion, Penrith, Australia 2001 Junior World Silver Medalist, Sort, Spain 2008 World Cup Bronze Medalist, Augsburg Germany 2011 World Championships- 7th place Recent Freestyle Highlights: 1st Place 2014 FIBArk, Salida, CO 2nd Place 2014 GoPro Mountain Games 2nd Place 2013 FIBArk 1st Place 2012 FIBArk 3rd Place 2012 Teva Mountain Games 1st Place 2011 Teva Mountain Games

Mike Mitchell