CARL VOPAL, FOUNDER
ACA Level 2: Coastal Kayaking
ACA Level 1: Instructor
Adaptive Paddling Endorsement
In 2004, Carl Vopal was tremendously excited to use his new 19-foot kayak on its first lengthy excursion, a 15-mile voyage on Lake Michigan. He bought the kayak for its speed, leg room and the adventure that undoubtedly awaited.
He found adventure alright. Along with tremendous fright. In fact, he was petrified because he couldn’t control the kayak. “It was like wild bronco trying to buck its rider.” He somehow managed to stay upright, but it was a white knuckle experience, and he was never so grateful to reach the shoreline.
After just two weeks, Carl was ready to sell his gleaming, barely-used kayak since he didn’t feel he could control it. He had tried all the standard ballast options: sandbags, lead shot bags, dromedary bags. None worked - they all shifted when the boat leaned.
He knew there had to be a better way, so he began the challenge of creating a new system. After much trial and error, he developed a viable design and had it fabricated at a local machine shop. The result was so successful he founded a company, Balance Solutions, LLC, and began manufacturing the product under the brand name Paddling Partner. The first Paddling Partner was sold five years after that harrowing day on Lake Michigan.
Carl never did sell the long boat; its lively hull has been sufficiently tamed by the Paddling Partner. Apparently, even being scared out of your wits can have a happy ending.