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Remembering O. K. Goodwin, Long-Time AW Safety Chair

Posted: 03/16/2012
by Charlie Walbridge


American Whitewater recently learned that O.K. Goodwin, founder of The Coastal Canoeists (1965) and AW safety chair from 1970 to 1987, died on December 3, 2011. He was 90 years old. A lifelong resident of Newport News, VA, he was a designer of merchant ships (and the occasional canoe) for almost four decades. A canoe instructor and Boy Scout leader, he was also a serious whitewater competitor, both in C-1 and in C-2 with his wife, Glenna. They were married for 64 years and their daughter Cyndi, was a top-ranked K-1W racer. He was well known on the race circuit, there with his coiled rope at the toughest part of the course. As Safety Chair he wrote about the inevitable conflicts between river-savvy paddlers and the wider, less knowledgeable society in which we all live. He pioneered outreach to state and local government and encouraged others to do the same. In later years he owned and operated World of Whitewater, a kayak school and raft outfitter in Big Flat, California.

Eric Evans, ten-time national kayak champion, said, "O.K. gave much more back to the sport of whitewater paddling than he ever took. He was a fixture at all the major races in the late 60s and early 70s. I can see him now on a prominent rock half way down the course practicing his throw with the safety line. Never got his pipe wet that I can remember. A real Southern Gentlemen in all the best senses of the term."

Cathy Hearn, three time world champion K-1W, remembers:" Seeing OK at any river run or race always made me feel safe & secure when I was young. Knowing he was there on the shore with pipe & throw rope helped my confidence every time. As I got older, I would seek out the smell of his pipe along the course & do my best to deliver great paddling in that section. Lots of warm memories & a strong model for us youngsters."

The Coastal Canoeists Web Site gives the origins of their logo:

O.K. Goodwin also designed Coastal Canoeists logo. Because he worked for the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, his design drew on a bit of maritime history: Sam Plimsoll (1824-1898) was a British politician and reformer who hit at "coffin ships" - unseaworthy, overloaded vessels, often heavily insured, on which unscrupulous owners risked the lives of their crews. Following the publication of "Our Seamen" the public outcry forced amendment of the Merchant Shipping Act. The mark that indicates the limit to which a ship may be safely loaded is now known as the "Plimsoll mark."

The circle with the line through it was as far as the mark got in Plimsoll's day. British ships would have "L" and "L" at opposite ends of the line, meaning the mark's location had the approval of Lloyds of London. American ships would bear an "A" and "B", American Bureau. Our "C" and "C" just means Coastals.

The other lines show the limits for ships in tropical fresh water (TF), fresh water (F), salt water (S) and in winter (W). These are latter day refinements. "DEW" stands for dew - about all the water a canoe requires!

The bluebird of happiness on the emblem is the great blue heron, club mascot and native to most of the area over which we range. On many Coastal trips the mascot is often found out in front leading us downstream.

For more about OK Goodwin and the Coastal Canoeist's logo, use this link:


Ambrose Tuscano
Soda Springs, CA