Keeping Afloat with TrueRec
All In OneSeptember 2015
By Jon Lewis
Photos: Thomas Shedd
Chris Peterson and Glenn Gippner have a lot in common. They grew up together in Grass Valley, they both served in the Marine Corps, they both ended up in Redding, they both enjoy being outdoors and they both love the water.
It’s that final element that launched both men on a five-year quest to design, manufacture and distribute the best possible all-in-one recreational kayak.
Peterson, an avid diver, was constantly on the lookout for a versatile kayak that could accommodate his scuba gear and provide a stable platform for his abalone diving passion. Gippner, an avid angler, wanted a kayak that would match up with his favorite kinds of fishing, which range from lake trolling and fly fishing to deep-sea adventures and bow fishing.
Neither could find a kayak that met their needs, so they started working on one that
would. “We couldn’t find anything that suited us, as far as getting on the water and doing what we wanted to do, so we had to make it,” says Peterson.
The two formed TrueRec, set up shop in Redding and headed to the drawing board. The result, after years of engineering, tinkering, refining, field work and good ol’ trial and error, is a molded plastic kayak they’re calling the DFP in honor of its three
primary functions: dive, float and paddle.
The distinguishing feature of the DFP is its patent-pending pontoon system. A pair of buoyant paddle-shaped wings can easily be deployed and locked into place to give the DFP exceptional stability and makes it easier for divers to get on and off the boat while out on the water.
A sturdy, flat deck allows boaters to confidently stand and cast flies and lures, fish with a bow or simply engage in a little standup paddling. Meticulously designed hatches provide waterproof storage for cameras, wallets and phones, along with spaces for fishing tackle, scuba tanks, coolers and other equipment.
The kayak is designed to accommodate a host of optional features, including a live well, fish finder, adjustable seat, duck blind, trolling motor and LED lighting system.
The DFP measures 13 feet long and has a capacity of 450 pounds. With its pontoons retracted, it is 32 inches wide—narrow enough to be smoothly paddled like a conventional kayak. With the pontoons in place, the DFP is eight feet wide.
As a longtime mechanical engineering student with a background in aviation, personal watercraft and computer-aided design (CAD), Peterson did the bulk of the design work on the DFP. “I can’t even calculate the number of hours he spent on this,” says Gippner, who refers to his partner as a “very smart guy” and a veritable jack of all trades.
Gippner brings his managerial expertise to the team, with the bulk of his experience coming from the construction industry, where he served as project manager on large infrastructure jobs.
The first hurdle to clear was building a prototype that met all of their needs. With that in hand, the next step was to have sturdy aluminum molds made. The molds were then delivered to a rotational molding plant in Madera, where the first DFPs came to life.
While that process was underway, Gippner and Peterson were busy marketing their creation, lining up distributors—their goal is to focus on mom-and-pop kayak shops rather than fight for space in big-box retailers—and securing enough funding to keep things running until they had boats to sell.
Both men credit the Shasta County Economic Development Corporation with offering crucial help during a tough stretch, citing both Mark Lascelles, the organization’s president, and Hope Seth, the marketing and entrepreneurial development director, for their assistance. “They had a project that was moving very slowly and they were trying to get it off the ground, so we helped them through the initial stages, helped with their business plan and gave them the tools for going out and pitching for money,” says Lascelles.
With a solid plan in place and a compelling vision for TrueRec as a player in the North State’s expanding outdoor recreation industry, Gippner and Peterson were able to secure funding from the Shasta Angel Group for Entrepreneurs (SAGE). (TrueRec became the fourth startup funded by SAGE since its inception in 2011.)
“I’m excited about it. I think it’s a great little company and it fits right in with the recreational manufacturing sector that we look to develop,” Lascelles says.
“It has been quite the journey. It was not an easy path,” says Peterson. “We did it by the book as far as entrepreneurs go. We borrowed money, spent all we owned, I lived in the shop for two years … it’s been a battle to keep this thing afloat, no pun intended, but we’re here.
“I think that’s partially why our investors chose us. SAGE has Redding people and they know we’re trying to grow the economy here. The investors see a potential. We’re just a couple of guys trying to make our dream come true. We’re both very passionate and very driven. Maybe too much so,” Peterson says with a laugh.