Steve O’Meara started Kokatat – then Blue Puma – in 1971 to help encourage people to recreate on Humboldt County’s (California) trails and waterways. On one day, some friends asked him if he could design and build them better paddling apparel for an expedition, they were planning on the Alsek River in British Columbia.
Fifty years later, Kokatat is recognized as a global leader in performance paddle sports apparel and gear.
“I’m so proud and humbled by our team who has helped us build our business, brand, and our gear right here in Arcata, [California],” O’Meara said. “If it hadn’t been for that Alsek first descent, I’m not sure we would have pursued the paddle sports category. I’m excited to see where we go from here.”
Much of Kokatat’s success has come from its dry suit business. In the late ‘80s, Kokatat introduced its first drysuit for paddling and the company was an early adopter of GORE-TEX waterproof and breathable fabrics. To this day, Kokatat is the only paddle sports company using GORE-TEX.
“W.L. Gore and Associates is one of our oldest vendor partners,” O’Meara said. “Paddlers depend on our gear to keep them dry in some of the world’s harshest water environments where it is literally a case of life and death, and our designs paired with GORE-TEX or proprietary Hydrus fabrics deliver.”
Kokatat’s 50th anniversary coincides with the introduction of a new GORE-TEX PRO fabric, which is being integrated into Kokatat’s complete line of GORE-TEX dry suits, dry tops and pants, including its Meridian dry suit for Spring 2021. Each piece will use the rugged and durable version of the GORE-TEX PRO fabric.
“We tested the GORE-TEX PRO fabric for over two years with our athletes and product development team and the response was unanimous – this was the best performing and most comfortable gear we’d made to date,” said Matt Porter, Kokatat product manager. “Not only that, between using recycled nylon, solution dying, a new durable water-resistant coating, and other improvements, W.L. Gore has been able to reduce the fabric’s environmental impact significantly.”
The new GORE-TEX PRO fabric uses 47.2 percent less water in production and its carbon footprint has been reduced by 1.6 percent. These and other factors resulted in the PRO fabric becoming bluesign approved and meeting the OEKO-TEX Standard 100.
The Legacy dry suit is the new foundation of Kokatat’s drysuit collection with GORE-TEX PRO. The front-entry design suit has an adjustable bungee drawstring waist, nylon waterproof zippers, latex gaskets with neoprene punch through the neck, neoprene-lined adjustable wrist cuffs and a streamlined leg pattern. The men’s features a relief zipper flap as does the drop seat of the women’s whose wraparound routing reduces interference with boat outfitting.
In addition to adding the GORE-TEX PRO fabric to its line-up, Kokatat is releasing the 5-decades Limited Edition Collection in celebration of the anniversary. Each piece in the collection features a special dew (teal) and mantis (yellow) colorway with a 5-decades wave graphic treatment. Each wave signifies a decade. The collection includes limited-edition versions of the HustleR rescue vest, the new ŌM dry top, which pays homage to O’Meara, and a new paddling short the company developed in collaboration with dewerstone of Devon, England.
The Kokatat X dewerstone Life Short 2.0 and ŌM dry top are offered in men’s and women’s specific styles.
Kokatat also plans celebratory events throughout the year and a film chronicling the company’s history.