Industry Mourns Loss of Innova Kayaks Founder Tim Rosenhan; IK pioneer leaves long-lasting legacy

Many people’s goal in paddlesports is to sell more products; Tim’s was all about making the industry better.


One of many happy Innova customers paddling an Innova boat...
Industry Mourns Loss of Innova Kayaks Founder Tim Rosenhan; IK pioneer leaves long-lasting legacy

The close-knit paddlesports community lost one of its most passionate members when Innova founder Tim Rosenhan unexpectedly passed away Oct. 24 at age 68 in Twisp, Washington.

“Tim was truly passionate about getting people on the water at an affordable price by importing a quality European-made inflatable,” says Larry Laba, owner of SOAR Inflatables. "Because of his passion, Innova was successful in North America, and that success alllowed Tim to also focus on bringing elements of the professional side of our industry together."

Rosenhan had gone to Twisp to help clean up the remains of a friend’s home lost to last summer’s Methow Valley fires and had been working with a chain saw before collapsing on a break for a glass of water.

Located between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., near the San Juan Islands and the Salish Sea, Innova Kayaks was owned by Rosenhan and partne Paul Neutz, who introduced Czech Republic-made high-end inflatable touring kayaks to the North American market in the early ‘90s. The Innovas were made in Neutz’s hometown of Prague (at the time, the communist government demanded all IKs to be made out of bright materials so escapees could be spotted on the river).

The two later partnered with the Czech manufacturing facility, which has been building such boats since 1950.

At Innova, Rosenhan, a popular member of the paddling industry with a previous board position on the Professional Paddlesports Association, helped spearhead such IK designs as the Swing I, Swing II, Safari, Seaker and popular Helios I and II models, spurring the growth of IKs for touring. All are made of easily recyclable and durable rubber (on Earth Day 2010, Innova rolled out the industry’s first inflatable kayak and canoe recycling program).

His integrity and commitment to paddlesports was noticed by everyone he did business with.

“I first met Tim when Innova was still in its infancy,” says AIRE sales manager Chris Callanan. “I went into our first meeting to sell him advertising for C&K magazine, thinking inflatables were only for whitewater, and I left realizing the value of portable boats for all kinds of flat water paddling.

“I also realized he had a depth of knowledge on a variety of topics,” he adds. “Over time our annual meeting turned into an annual three-hour lunch where we discussed sales challenges, the paddlesports industry, sailing and even motorcycles. He was passionate and opinionated about many things, but he was also a listener. Many people’s goal in paddlesports is to sell more products; Tim’s was all about making the industry better. He was a gem and he leaves a void that won’t be filled.”

Adds Mark Hall, of Riot Kayaks: “He was simply a standard one only hopes to follow -- you couldn’t find a nicer guy to be around and learn from.”

Rosenhan graduated with a degree in Engineering from Dartmouth, and later joined the Marines where he learned to fly. He became a Marine flight instructor for the F-4, which later led to working with Seattle’s Reid Middleton Inc. as an airport planner. Amongother things, he was responsible for revamping the sea kayaking hotbed of Friday Harbor’s runway and terminal. Later earning a Masters in architecture from the University of Oregon, he returned to Washington’s Skagit Valley where he developed an affordable farmhouse design for Skagit Self-Help Housing.

He was also an avid sailor -- cruising the San Juans in his 41-foot Choey Lee-built sloop Glory with his family – as well as kayaker, scuba diver and mountain climber. An ardent activist, he also served on the Guemes Island Environmental Trust, petitioning the Skagit County Board of County Commissioners to adopt a seawater intrusion policy protecting senior water right holders from losing potable water.

Rosehan is survived by lifemate Cheryl Willis of Bow, Wash., as well as family members Rich and Kari Rosenhan, Maia and Max Hanson, Rosalyn Francis, Nicholas Osborne, Janet, Dave, Joel and Jeff Maxwell, Loalinda Bird, Russell Perkinson and Iovanna Reeves. Donations can be given in his name to the Heritage Flight Museum, Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland and Samish Island Community Garden at P.O. Box 334, Bow, WA 98232.

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