America Outdoors 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.
Industry Achievement Awards
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.
Photo: Beth and Gary Harper accepting the Industry Achievement Award
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.
Beth Harper shared some thoughts from the stage, "They say when you love what you do you never work. I say that, and yet I think we've worked pretty hard. My association with America Outdoors has been nothing short of phenomenal..."
Photo: Gaylord and Joy Staveley
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.
Cameron Staveley, Gaylord's son, accepted the award on his behalf and read some words from his father, "This award was completely unexpected. In a way it completes a full circle for me. In 1992 AO asked me to testify on their behalf in river use hearings held by Arkansas Senator Dale Bumpers. AO was then about 2 years old. What AO has become and what they have done for responsible river running and outfitting in the ensuing years is just incredible..."
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. At the awards ceremony, Dave commented, "it's been a really good ride. I'd like to thank you all. Keep up the good work!"
Dave & Mimi Demaree accept the Innovator Award
Watch the Award Ceremony