America Outdoors, the nation’s one-stop resource for outdoor recreation providers, is proud to announce the 2023 winners of the George and Pamela Wendt Industry Achievement Award and its inaugural Innovator Award. The award recipients were recognized and celebrated on December 7 at the annual America Outdoors Conference.
“This year’s award process proved to be full of worthy recipients of both honors,” says Aaron Bannon, Executive Director of America Outdoors. “This is a testament to the amazing people who make the outdoor industry the special place it is.”
The George and Pamela Wendt Industry Achievement Award, which is given to individuals who’ve shown exceptional achievement and commitment to outdoor recreation throughout a long career, recognizes Beth and Gary Harper of Man of Rubber River Gear and Gaylord Staveley of Canyoneers as this year’s winners.
The Harpers started their illustrious careers in the 1970s as outfitters, handling all that accompanied that rigorous path. By the early 1980s, they transitioned to manufacturing gear and launched their company, Man of Rubber River Gear. 2023 marks the 40th anniversary of owning and operating MoR. The Harpers are best known for inventing the waterproof drybags known as Watershed and they also are cited for naming many of the rapids on the infamous ‘Middle’ Ocoee. The Harpers were inducted into the Southern Appalachian Whitewater Hall of Fame in 2021.
Gaylord Staveley was a professional outfitter and guide for more than 60 years and made his first river trips down the San Juan and Grand Canyon in 1956 as a guest passenger with Mexican Hat Expeditions. The following year he was offered a partnership in the business and in 1958 he acquired full ownership. For the next two decades, Staveley ran wooden cataract boats down the Grand Canyon until he converted to motorized boats in 1970 and incorporated as Canyoneers, Inc. Today, Staveley is recognized as a river expedition expert and has authored multiple works on the sport.
The Innovator Award, which was designed to honor an individual or company dedicated to creative initiatives in the outfitter industry, was awarded to Dave Demaree of Demaree Inflatable Boats.
Dave Demaree has been a supplier and friend of the industry since rafting was born on the East Coast. Starting his company in 1982 with his wife Mimi, Demaree has been a leading figure in custom solutions for the whitewater industry throughout the United States and beyond. A look at his customer list over the years is a testament to his innovation, development, support, and friendship with the industry.
About America Outdoors
America Outdoors is a community of outdoor adventure businesses and organizations who have joined together to promote and support the outdoor recreation industry through advocacy, education, and collaboration. AO has been working on behalf of the outdoor industry for over 30 years. For more information, please visit our website www.americaoutdoors.org.