By Jodi Lee
With a passion for water and adventure, Larry Zuk left his mark on the history of canoeing and kayaking. In fact, he was one of the founding members of Colorado Whitewater. Larry died in Colorado on December 11, 2015, at the age of 92.
As a youth, Larry was active in Boy Scouts and was a counselor at summer camps in Maine, where he gained his life-long interests of canoeing, falconry, and Indian lore. He and his family members were early and active members of the American Canoe Association (ACA) and attended ACA’s Sugar Island Camp in Canada starting in the 1920s. The entire family raced as canoe paddlers and sailors, and won many trophies. Larry’s father, Thomas Zuk, was commodore of the ACA in 1957, and Larry Zuk was commodore of the ACA in 1976.
After college and serving in the Navy during WWII, Larry moved to Colorado in 1949 to fly and hunt with falcons, even donating one of his falcons to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. In the early 1950s, he met a group of boaters who ran whitewater in kayaks and canoes. He started the Colorado Whitewater Association in 1954 and served as the organization’s first president. He also founded ACA’s Rocky Mountain Division and was a member of the Board of the International Canoe Federation, which invited European kayak and canoe racers to American whitewater for the first time. He was a pioneer racer, instructor, and boat designer. In fact, he made 64 wooden kayaks and canoes in his garage with the help from CWWA members.
Larry moved in 1970 to Concord, Massachusetts, for his career. At that time, he returned to sailing, designing and racing canoes, and designed the ACA Class sail and rig, which has been adopted as the standard in the United States and in Finland, and he made the plans available to anyone wishing to build it worldwide. Larry also wrote a book, A Century of Canoeing in the ACA, which is still available for sale here. Larry’s original canoes have been donated to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York.
In 2012 he moved back to Colorado, where he continued to sort his collection of ACA papers and wrote his whitewater memoirs, which will be published posthumously. Larry was inducted into the ACA Paddlesport Hall of Fame in 2012 and received the lifetime achievement award, the Legend of Paddling Award. He was also inducted into the FIBArk White Water Hall of Fame in 2013, “In honor of their pioneering & community!”
Article Sponsored by:
“He has prepared, inspired, and empowered paddlers everywhere.”
–American Canoe Association
Larry’s ashes will be spread in the spring of 2016 in the Arkansas River in Colorado, where he won his first whitewater slalom national championship.
Read more about the historical impact Larry Zuk had on Colorado Whitewater.