Created in the Corridor: Styrigger

A kayak outfitted with a Styrigger stabilizing device, distributed by Crane Creek Kayaks of Denver, Iowa. Photo by Scott Sanborn

We're now into boating season when canoes and kayaks are a common sight on Iowa's rivers and lakes. We all know accidents can and do happen but to make water recreation safer, a local entrepreneur is floating a new product Created in the Corridor.

Brian Mauer recently delivered two Styriggers to Camp Courageous in Monticello. The founder of Crane Creek Kayaks wanted to demonstrate his invention on the camp's new lake. What's a Styrigger? "It's a combination of the two words, safety and outrigger," explains Mauer, describing the name.

It's actually an easy-to-install stabilizer that keeps canoes and kayaks from capsizing. Mauer hatched the idea six years ago, built a prototype and put a video on Youtube to fish for a manufacturer. He reeled in more interest than he expected. "We had people contacting me from Australia, across Europe, Canada. (People asked,) "Where can I get these?"

Jeanne Muellerleile, Director of Camp Courageous, wondered the same when she recently received a link to a Styrigger video from a fellow camp employee. "I get this email saying, 'Hey Jeanne, check this out.' So I click on that link and I think, aah, this is something to explore."

K&M Manufacturing in West Branch helped Mauer refine his prototype and now produces the floatation devices. "We took a look at (the prototype) and decided what we wanted to do for the float itself and we had to design that," explains Norm Novak, K&M's Engineering Manager in the Plastics Division. "But then when it came to the frame work we had to take his initial design and try to design something that was actually cost-effective to manufacture."

In two short years, they've made more than 400 Styriggers and now Mauer ships to order. "I sent several to Florida already, some went to Texas. Several of them went to Michigan."

During the demonstration at Camp Courageous, Mauer showed me that it only takes a minute to attach a Styrigger. There are two separate products, one for canoes and one for kayaks. "The frame adjusts itself so if you have a different width boat you can extend the floats out where they fit that boat," explained Mauer.

And as I found out during my first experience with a kayak, you don't even have to get your feet wet. "You start off with the kayak on dry land and you have the seat and everything back in the water. So you step in, sit down in the seat, bump yourself back, slide in the water and then at that point you can raise the floats up to where they're out of the water and you can paddle and get to where you want to go."

I purposely rocked my kayak back and forth but the Styrigger kept it upright, making it perfect for older folks who want security on the water. Camp Courageous bought two for canoeing, seeing the benefits for young campers like Dylan. "We have campers who are hesitant about canoeing and I think when they see what the Styrigger does to provide that safety and stability, they won't be so doubtful," says Muellerleile.

Missouri's Camp Hope near St. Louis provides outdoor adventures for combat-wounded veterans and they now have two Styriggers. The response, Mauer says, has been very rewarding. "And to know that I'm helping people out there, that they can safely get out and do this."

"You know," says Muellerleile, "that's what Camp Courageous is all about. It's not what you can't do, it's what you can do."

You can see more of Brian Mauer's story, watch demonstration videos and even order a Styrigger at Crane Creek Kayaks. We have a link to the website HERE.

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