Owning It: A Letter to Our Customers


Last month we celebrated our one-year anniversary as a 100% employee-owned company, an occasion that honestly came and went without a lot of to-do. No special announcement, no awards, no steak lunch. Hey, we’re business owners, we’ve got work to do! Still, it’s worth taking a moment to  reflect on where we’re at, how we got here and where we’re headed next.

But first, let us take the time to say thanks. Thanks for your support over the past year, and the previous 42. Thanks for believing in us, our gear and our customer service. Thanks for letting us be a part of your adventures on the water. Thanks for your phone calls, emails, instant chats, comments, likes, and all the other ways you keep in touch. Thanks for subscribing to our e-Newsletter and catalog. Thanks for reading this blog. Thanks for your positive—and negative—feedback. And thanks, of course, for helping us keep the lights on around this place.


Becoming owners has been both exciting and a little scary for the NRS crew. Exciting because the link between our work and our well-being, between our performance and the company’s success, has never seemed more real. Scary because in taking ownership of the company, we also take ownership of its success or failure over time. [Insert tired analogy about rowing a boat down the river here.] But that’s the kind of scary we can handle.

Twelve months later, we’re a little less scared and even more excited. In 2014 we introduced the H2Core layering system, redesigned our HydroSkin line, and built our best drysuits and drytops ever. To better serve our international customers, we opened a distribution center in the Netherlands and will soon open another in British Columbia, Canada. We continued our endless efforts to make nrs.com the best online experience possible, while bringing you great films, photos, stories and educational resources. We also celebrated the 80th birthday of the man who made all this possible, our founder and President, Bill Parks.

But enough looking back. Here’s what’s coming in 2015.

New Gear


Since we manufactured our first dry bags in 1977 out of surplus truck tarp material, we’ve been committed to building gear that’s functional, durable and reliable—and that will never change. But as our sports have progressed, so have the design and construction of our products. Our focus today isn’t just on functional reliability, it’s on a concept we call ultimate utility. Ultimate utility is about more than just getting the job done, it’s about creating gear and apparel that enhances your experiences with performance, comfort, convenience and—even though the truck tarp worked great—style. Some of this year’s headliners include an adventure creeking boot called the Velocity, a river-pub shoe called the Crush, two new paddling suits for sea kayakers, a lightweight boat cart, and two new SUPs. And, let’s not forget, some sweet hats. Stay tuned: the complete New Gear Guide coming soon.

More Stoke

Mixing daydream-inducing photos and gear, the NRS catalog has long provided inspiration for boaters eddied out at home (and in the bathroom), wishing they were on the water. We’ll not only uphold that tradition this year with several bathroom-worthy catalogs, but we’ll serve up more stoke than ever on the web. After kicking off 2015 with The Coast, maybe our most inspiring film to date, we’ll bring you several more shorts at nrsfilms.com, plus a continuous feed of fresh images and original stories. In March we’ll launch Expedition Q, a creative documentary that follows four friends’ journey by traditional kayak across southern Baffin Island. In early May we’ll share The Important Places, filmmaker Forest Woodward’s story of a father and son reconnecting while rafting the Grand Canyon. And, throughout the spring and summer, we’ll celebrate the lives and lore of the working pros on our rivers, lakes and oceans with an interactive, multi-media project titled #guidelife.


Solid Info


As a gear company with a focus on customer service, we’ve always been here to answer your questions about gear choice, safety, repairs, trip logistics and other boating topics. As we see it, providing information is a key part of our job—as important as providing equipment and apparel. When we redesigned our website in 2013, we added a Learn Center to organize all our written resources in one place, and our YouTube channel features hundreds of films on nearly as many subjects, from patching a raft to rolling a kayak. This April we’ll premier an instructional series on Whitewater SUP from ACA instructor and river queen Nikki Gregg. We’ll also add several more pieces to our Quick Tips series, sharing helpful tricks the pros know but your Intro to Paddling class didn’t teach you.

Good Times


One of our 2015 resolutions is to get to know you better—not just online or on the phone, but out in the world and on the water. Whether at major festivals or the dozens of local events we attend, we work to connect with real people and add value to communities. In June we’ll host the Melt Awards at the North Fork Championship, a grassroots event quickly becoming North America’s premier celebration of river culture—right in our backyard on Idaho’s North Fork Payette. For the second year running, we’ll help stage PuescoFest in Chile’s Puesco Valley, nicknamed the Whitewater Woodstock, a celebration of free-flowing rivers, music and indigenous culture. We’ll also partner with 5Point Film Festival in its mission to inspire adventure of all kinds, to connect generations through shared experience, to engage passion with a conscience, and to educate through film.

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We’re employee-owners now, but we’ll never forget who we work for—you. We look forward to delivering the gear, service, inspiration and information you rely on us for, and getting to know you in the process. Stay stoked and stay tuned as we head downstream in 2015 and beyond!

The NRS Team