Iker Beristain: Truchas combo

K-Bomb Mandala print skirt
IKER BERISTAIN VAN DUSEN photo

Mexico Huckfest at the Truchas section of the Alseseca, Iker Beristain and crew, ventured to stout heaven. English translation for Truchas is ‘Trout’. Located at the take-out to this stretch is a trout farm (fun fact).

After hiking in the jungle through thick vegetation and rappelling a 100 ft. cliff, you’re in paradise.  In the video Iker is wearing his K-Bomb sprayskirt as he runs the Truchas “combo”. Truchas is known for its beautiful 60 ft waterfall right into a deep pool, yet the upper rapid isn’t as popular as the drop itself. The combo consists of running both the upper rapid straight into the drop. The direct line is tricky and super stout!

Check out his video here:

Read Iker’s blog on his adventure click here.

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The Road to 2012 OR: Testing and the Next Generation

I’m now back in the USA, and I cannot describe the joy of being with my family. The heart-warming, sunshine of a smile of my daughter as she gleams at me; the uncontrolled passion of my son as he holds his kayaking line, and the comforting companionship of my wife’s embrace were a welcomed feeling after a month of detachment.

I got a lot accomplished in Thailand and now it is time for the testing phase. I love the period in the process where my art is transformed into a product; merging design, functionality and style with an emphasis on durability. And then, the true test:  how does it all work in the water?

This phase in the year also happens to correspond with the events season when the paddling community comes together to celebrate our rivers and our sport.  I learn a lot during this time, watching the next generation of paddlers and making note of their habits and preferences.  Kayaking is a sport that has changed relatively quickly over the past decade.   By spending quality time with the paddling community during this time, I am able to predict future trends and preferences, keeping Bomber Gear on the cutting edge every year.

Product testing and traveling to paddling events during this phase is not only a great time for me to learn more about my products and the paddling community, but it is also an ideal time to share the river with a next generation paddler, my son, Kai. One of the greatest joys in life is being on the water with my boy. Now a solid class IV paddler, he learned to roll at age six, and for the past four years he has been pushing the envelope of what a kid his age and size can paddle.  He is the youngest by far to paddle most of the rivers we have done. Paddling with my son is both rewarding and extremely stressful.  My own life is no longer the greatest consideration at hand.  When I think of my memories between the ages of 6 and 10 years old, I find myself recalling very little. I wonder how much he will remember and how this will impact his life. I have pondered on that often.

Week one of testing begins with five laps on the Nantahala River’s Cascades, and I was very encouraged by how well the pieces performed.  Sure, a few small changes are required, as usual. All my designs are a work in progress, as I can’t help but to constantly contemplate ways to make them better – it’s in my nature.  I am a paddler at heart, and getting to test the product I have created gives my soul fulfillment.  This is one of the core reasons I got into designing.  I get to experience firsthand the design application of my art.  It’s truly an expression of function in extreme sports.

An uneventful day of testing on a class IV run turned to class V stress quickly as Kai decided to take the lead and call the lines on the last two laps.  Thankfully, cheers of gratification follow clean lines, and while I have yet to see my son make a serious mistake on the river, I continually reassure him that we paddlers are all between swims. He looks at me in disbelief.

Week two of testing takes us down to Alabama for the Alabama Mountain Games. This is a unique event that not only includes freestyle, but also includes a “hucking” competition where paddlers do tricks off a 25 foot waterfall, including cartwheels, barrel rolls and loops. In my 20 years of experience at paddling events, this is the only one I know of to host a competition quite like this. My son and I look forward to this event all year.

Kai ran the waterfall many times that day, but the run that will stick with me for the rest of my life was truly unforgettable. We lined up to run the drop together – I wanted a picture of both us in the air together. As Kai and I charged side by side off the edge of the waterfall, I saw out of the corner of my eye that he had flipped completely over at the top of the lip. He threw his body over and pulled off a complete air screw coming down the face of the drop.  I was astounded, as he had only watched other paddlers do this trick but had never been taught how or attempted it himself.  I can’t help but be proud of him.

As the founder and designer of Bomber Gear, I don’t just create the product.  I test the product as work and I test the product in play.  And I am inspired by the next generation of paddlers, boats and equipment. What is possible now was just not merely ten years ago. If I am going to create the best product in the industry, I have to keep up with the paddling trends and preferences of the next generation of paddlers.  Lucky for me, I have one living in my house who is more than willing to travel to events and help me test products, too.  At the core of it all, I am just a paddler with a passion for design. And now I am honored to pass that on to my son.

Stay fluid,

Rick Franken

A Story of Survival

Bomber Gear’s passion for adventure is shown by our thoughtfully engineered pieces. We thrive to set the bar high and obtain quality satisfaction.  When you choose Bomber Gear you know you’re getting the very best in outdoor apparel. This story demonstrates the standard of our products:

“Thank God…and Thank God for Bomber Gear”

 …I guess it started badly on Friday the 24th, the first day of my nine day vacation. After getting set up in our campsite, my wife and I set out to meet up with some friends and do some fishing. First stop was Frank and Frans for bait. I picked out some bunker and set it up on the scales. Then I went over to the refrigerator for some bloodworms so I could try to accumulate some sea mullet heads for the bait stash. When I swung open the fridge door the bottom of the door caught my big toenail and pulled it completely off. Ouch and bloody hell! Literally! Blood flew all over the place and you can imagine the pain. What a start to the vacation! The guy behind the counter asked my wife if I was accident prone and she said, not usually. Little were we to know.

Of course, the top of my big toe was very tender and wearing any shoes but flip-flops made it painful to walk. How was I ever going to make the hike to the point? Along about Monday things were starting to get a little better so I decided that I’d get up early on Tuesday morning, make the hike and fish the last of the ebb and the first of the flood tide.

I made it out to the point about 3:30, stuck my rod in a little, plastic sand spike I had brought along, then I pulled on my Bomber Gear dry-top over my waders. I had purchased the dry-top back in February for a couple of reasons. First, it keeps you absolutely dry. It has latex seals at the neck and wrists and a neoprene seal at the waist. You can stand on a bar or rock in crashing waves and stay comfortable. Second, it adds a huge safety factor to deep wading. If you get knocked down or step off deep the trapped air floats you. Little was I to know just how long it floats you but I was about to find out. 

So, I finish gearing up and walk out on the bar. I was alone. Was the point ever weird that night. Very little breaking waves. Hardly anything was breaking on the south side. In addition it was a very dark night. No moon whatsoever. It was so calm that when you waded out to cast there were no breakers in front of you. Then when you turned around to walk back on the bar you could only tell where it was by the slick water. The waves breaking on the bar were not big enough to throw spray. No waves breaking, no other fishermen silhouetted against the sky, so dark I couldn’t see shore and could hardly make out the bar. I was having a pretty tough time keeping my bearings straight.

I made about four casts with nothing but a doggie to show for it. Then it happened. I waded out waist deep and made my cast. Then instead of walking straight back to where I was standing on the bar I suppose I veered to the west a little bit. In two steps I went from waist deep to arm-pit deep. Another step and I was floating! Somehow I had walked into a hole or slough instead of back into shallow water.There I was, probably a couple hundred yards off the beach, all alone, darker than pitch, swimming in water over my head. In addition when I stepped off I immediately lost all perspective of where I was at. Let me tell you when you’re chin level to the water in a black ocean on a black night you can’t see squat!

My first thought was, Man I’m in a bad situation. My second was to pray. The prayers of a desperate man are pretty simple. Lord help me! And Help me Lord was about it. But let me tell you it was fervent! My third thought was, I can’t die and leave my wife a widow, alone in North Carolina.

At first I tried to hold onto my rod and swim back to where I thought the bar was located. I guess I swam for maybe five minutes and never touched a toe to the bottom. The lifeguard style one-armed sidestroke was getting me nowhere but tired quickly.

I can’t do this, I thought. I’ll never make it. I’ve got to find a better way to swim. So I collected myself and weighed things out. I knew I was drifting to the southwest away from the point. An odd current for the south side of the point but I could tell from my earlier casts that was the way it was running. Thank God it was! I also knew from earlier things I had read that with a life-preserver, swimming on your back was the most efficient method. So I lined up the lighthouse to my right and ahead, the Frisco lights to my left and behind, flipped over on my back, lined up some stars so I could keep my bearings, tucked my rod under my wader belt and started swimming. I also noted the direction of the waves knowing that they would run towards shore. 

I stroked along at a slow steady pace, keeping my feet aligned with a cluster of stars I had picked out and my head pointing in the same direction as the waves. I felt my strength returning. It’s amazing what a good shot of adrenaline can do for the vitality of a 54 year old desk jockey. All the while I was being kept afloat by the air trapped inside my waders and sealed dry-top. I kept praying my simple prayer and kept up the slow, steady swimming stroke. If I don’t tire out and if the air in my jacket holds up I might get through this, I thought. Not long after I started the back-stroke I felt my Fusion Magnum slip out of my belt. My favorite rod was gone. At the time it wasn’t a priority. 

I swam for a long time. It seemed like hours Every few minutes I would try to touch. Finally, after I’m guessing twenty minutes I struck bottom. You can’t imagine the relief that swept over me. I waded about twenty yards and I was on the shore. The current had carried me down just short of the bird closure on south beach. I’d say it was about 4:40 when I stepped over my head. It was false dawn when I hit the shore, or somewhere around 5:10. I figure I swam for about a half-hour. 

I stripped off my waders and dry-top. There may have been a quart of water in the legs of my waders and just a little in the sleeves of my jacket. Thank God for that jacket! It saved my life! 

In the end I lost my Fusion Mag. That saddens me because for me $400 rods don’t grow on trees and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to replace it. But I’m alive! My grandchildren still have their Pop-Pop, my children their Dad, and most of all, I didn’t leave my wife a widow, alone in North Carolina.

Sorry for the long tale but it was a horrific experience. There’s a lot I can learn and I’m still thinking about that. I guess for everyone else my only words would be if you deep wade get a sealed dry top or wear an inflatable pfd. The fact that I stayed afloat is what kept me alive. That and the answer of a simple prayer by my good, sweet Lord.


Tallulah Fest Paddle Wagon Photo Contest

The Bomb Dry Top

This year Dagger is a proud sponsor of Tallulah Fest 2012 and we’re giving away our top of the line Bomb Dry Top!!!

To win this sick dry top all you have to do is send your best “paddle wagon” photo to tallulahfest@gmail.com.

First place, of course, gets the Bomb Dry Top, while second and third place are not forgotten! Keen, Smith Optics, Mountain Khakis, and Immersion Research prizes will be awarded!

Watch the video for more details: 

Like” Tallulah Fest on Facebook!

Tallulah Fest celebrates the release of the Tallulah Gorge, and donates money to American Whitewater. A weekend of being outside on the water, listening to handmade music, and having a good time is what this event is all about!

Come out and see us!

The Road to 2012 OR: Culture in the Design Process

I wake up early and commute through the complex order of traffic that makes up the Chang Mai streets. Motorcycles, trucks and street venders line the morning road as I wind through, enjoying the lawlessness of driving in Thailand. It is here, submersed in such a seemingly chaotic culture that I find beauty and inspiration that doesn’t just move me; it moves through me, and thus the Bomber Gear brand as well.   As I move along the ever changing (and sometimes somewhat treacherous) road to 2012 Outdoor Retailer, I’m often fascinated by the inspiration and metaphors that strike me on so many levels in the design process.

I have been here two weeks submersed deep in design and Thai culture. I work closely with the operators, adjusting and experimenting to perfect a vision of the finished design.
I create the patterns in the US and bring them here. They are nothing but blue prints, lines on paper. It is when I am at the factory working with the team that the lines of paper evolve into a finished good. There are always challenges – things that don’t quite work, mistakes that happen – but when the idea grows into a product that I can be proud of, a sense of accomplishment swells inside of me.

The days are long, but the workers are dedicated as we push through development. I have found working with Thai people is emotionally rewarding and inspiring. They are a passionate culture that is focused on hard work and perfection. They are willing push long hours, and assist in every way to ensure high-end quality product. I have been working with this factory since 1999.

Because Thailand has a monarchy, there is a subdued class system. The concept of being born into a class is very foreign to Americans, but is a way of life here. I find if I break through that precursor and work with them at their level, sew with them, help them seam rip mistakes, and spend time getting to know them as coworkers, a dedication emerges that I am proud to witness. I manage the workers by not being above them, but by working at their level, facing the challenges with them. Bomber Gear’s products and production processes are very complex. It takes skilled workers with a passion to do quality work and to create a high-end product line.

Spending time on the factory floor is a must, but it’s mentally exhausting. At the end of an eleven hour shift that has evolved into a seven day work week, I find little time to unwind. I have not had a day to my self in two weeks. But after this long day, I wanted to do something different. I had enough of picking up street food for supper on my way back to the hotel, then falling a sleep to Thai TV.

I wanted to learn how to drive a took-took. I had seen them on the streets of Thailand my whole life, and have used them for transportation many times. A took-took is a kind of 3 wheeled Taxi motorcycle hybrid that runs on propane. Took-took drivers are a breed of their own; they are considered a lower class people and they are always hustling for a fare. When you walk by them, they all call out to you, “Took-took Sir?” in their broken English, “Where you go?”

This time was different. I looked him right in the eyes, and spoke back to him in perfect Thai. “I want to learn to drive a took-took. Can you teach me?” Taken back, he did not know what to make of me. “I will pay you 500 bhat, for 1 hour of lessons and driving.” This changed the tune; 500 bhat was more than he was going to make in a week. One American dollar is equal to about 30 baht. “OK” he said in his broken English.I climbed into the cockpit to find myself sitting in a confusing array of levers, petals and a gear box. The left foot petal is the clutch; the right foot is the back break. The left hand lever is the front break the right hand is the throttle. And to make it very interesting, the gear box shifter is between the legs. Driving this machine was one of the most ambidextrous experiences of my life. The took-took driver, Aum, sat behind me leaning over my shoulder, giving directions as I began to maneuver this strange vehicle.

The first 10 minutes was sheer madness. I popped the clutch, the front end lifted up in a wheelie, and we were off, ripping through traffic. Thai’s were either diving out of the way or pointing there fingers at the crazy white man. It was pure fun! After about 30 minutes of driving, I really started to get the hang of it. It was a choreographed dance between my hands and feet as we motored through the streets. At this point I was ready for my first fare, and Aum was completely into the joke of it all. We rolled up to a tourist hot spot, I lean my head out and in my best broken English accent, “Hello sir, where you go? Took-took 50 baht?” Everyone laughed; it sure was a fun night. I bought Aum a bottle of cheap Thai whiskey as a tip and thanked him for an incredible experience.

It is hard to be away from my family but it is also a rewarding experience to be here.   I compare my took-took experience to my relationship with the workers at the factory. By relating to them at their level and not succumbing to the hierarchy of a class system, I am able to achieve and experience amazing things within this culture and within the Bomber Gear brand by simply digging deeper.  Into the culture, into the things that inspire me, and  into the processes and materials that will make up the future Bomber Gear line.  Stay tuned to find out more about the products I discover in the process.

Stay fluid,

Rick Franken

The Road to 2012 OR: Travels of a Global Brand

Hello everyone,

Rick Franken, founder and designer of Bomber Gear here. Bomber Gear is a global brand on the rise, which makes me a global traveler in the off-season, searching the globe for the best products and practices out there to keep my products on the cutting edge. This is the first in a series of journal entries that will take you through the Bomber Gear journey to 2012 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. It’s going to be a good one. First stop, my homeland: The Kingdom of Thailand.

I landed in the Bangkok airport Friday morning, and on my way to where I was going, I witnessed a unique site that I choose to believe is a sign of the things to come in the 2012 Bomber Gear journey. I drove by forty monks walking barefoot in a line along the motorway. Having grown up here and spent a lot of time traveling the country, I was delighted to witness such a thing. I admittedly pulled over and took a few pictures. As I did, I noticed the people around me giving the first monk in the line a bit of money (for good luck, they say). I felt obligated, as monks live off donations, to follow suit. And after all, believing in a little luck can’t hurt, right? I proceeded to pull out a 100 bhat and stuffed it into the leading monk’s bag as I had seen others do. He then reached out and touched me. It took me off guard – monks rarely touch people; particularly head monks leading a migrating group of 40 other monks. A sign of good things to come? I would have to say so. Four solid weeks of submersed designing begins.

I will be spending the next four weeks at a factory in Thailand creating the product line for the 2012 Outdoor Retailer Summer Show. I have been working with this factory for fifteen years now, and it has been an amazing relationship. As founder and designer of Bomber Gear, I choose to involve myself in every step of the process, from design to production systems. When creating durable, quality products, strict guidelines from the design to the production procedures are in order. By being here and working with the factory this closely, I am able to control much of the environment to ensure quality products that I’m proud to call mine. I speak the language, I work directly with the operators, and I am able to personally take my ideas from concept to prototypes.

This is always an interesting time for me in the grand routine of events that cycle through my life and thus through the brand every year. This is the creation stage. The part of my design process when my art takes form; when my ideas become reality. I would imagine it’s how an artist feels just before he touches paint to a canvas. Better yet, it’s the rush I feel just before the last stroke off of a waterfall. I am excited and ready to make it all happen.

More to come on the Bomber Gear journey to 2012 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market…

Stay fluid,

Rick Franken

K-Bomb Sprayskirt Review on Mountain Buzz

Check out the latest Mountain Buzz review on the K-Bomb sprayskirt!

…I’ve use 3 different sprayskirts since 2009, KBomb from Bomber Gear is the best I’ve used and most likely the best skirts around. They are super strong, made out of very high quality materials and put together right.I’ve been hit by huge waves in the ocean while playboating and no implosion occurred as well as in whitewater. Getting out 2-3/week in decent weather, I’ve abused the KBomb and it’s still going strong. Other skirts before I bought the Kbomb either tore and or imploded quite regularly. I would highly recommend you check out bomber gear to see their line of skirts. You won’t be disappointed. 10/10 rating…”  Click here to read the whole thread.