Kevin Shaw: Family Is More Than Blood

For those who’ve known me long enough know that I’ll be the first to admit that my initial project watercraft – an ill-fated Kawasaki Ultra 250X named “Copperhead” – was more or less a “no-go showboat.” The endeavor of my first year as Editor of Personal Watercraft Illustrated, I wanted to convert the pre-production demo unit into a real attention-grabbing offshore/enduro machine as well as a test mule for all of the new aftermarket goodies that the industry was cranking out in 2007.

Unfortunately, one hydrolocked engine and a woefully scattered supercharger later, Copperhead was destined for the scrapper. Despite a fantastic custom paint job by John Dady and his crew of artists at Blowsion, a beautiful set of custom seat covers and mats from HT Moto, a bunch of dedicated time from Greg Beaver of Circuit Jet Sports and a whole lot of performance parts from R&D Performance and RIVA Racing, Copperhead devoured a few pistons during the first lap of the 2008 Mark Hahn Memorial 300 and blew a pair of cooling hoses during the Long Beach to Catalina enduro five months later.

There’s no denying that Copperhead was a good looking ski, it’s just too bad I couldn’t keep motors from blowing up. I won’t lie, the idea of making Copperhead 2 out of a new 300R has crossed my mind.

In light of its miserable track record, I still have people asking me about the ski. While I shrug off its lowly top speed of 71.4 mph or its long list of broken parts, people still look back at the project fondly. Although I only have a handful of pictures to remember the ski by, what I cherish more are the friends I made in the process.

This is the heart-wrenching demise of Copperhead. Kawasaki’s Jon Baynes is the executioner with the Sawzall.

Being my first foray into offshore racing,’s Mark Gerner and crew immediately enveloped me, inviting me to train time and time again, stopping by the offices and providing plenty of welcomed input. A couple years later, on the day I learned that Personal Watercraft Illustrated was to fold, Gerner drove out to the office just to be there as I packed up my office.

As I struggled to gain an authorial voice at PWI, I was almost never without a standing invitation by Yamaha-racer and Mark Hahn Memorial 300 organizer Mike Follmer to join him for lunch. When my wife and I brought our first daughter home from the hospital, Mike had a massive Costco-sized box of diapers waiting on my desk. Even when I attempted to compete against him and his 80mph FZR, Mike was always cordial and free with advice (most of which I really should’ve listened to).

Fast forwarding to this year, the day after Watercraft Performance and I forcibly parted ways, I was never more humbled to receive emails, texts and phone calls from friends, acquaintances, manufacturers – including all three OE manufacturers (and a long-time friend and representative of Honda) – encouraging me to pick myself up, dust myself off and keep at it.

If I could figure out a way to weasel former PWI Associate Editor Justin Stannard away from his new-found love of breeding Whippets, I’d bring him back too.

When things got their bleakest,’s Jerry Gaddis – who has been a friend for a long time – came to my defense, coaching me through the development of The Watercraft Journal and even assisting in the framing of the soon-to-be-released Watercraft Outfitters, for no gain or benefit of his own.

Even the freelancers and contributors who joined me at WCP have equally followed me into this new venture. Enthusiasts, club and team owners, racers and aftermarket companies alike rallied my spirits within days of the news getting out. Never before have I felt so much of a part of a community.

It is this sentiment that was instrumental in the underlying tone of The Watercraft Journal. In the spirit of gratitude and seeing that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I felt obliged to express how deeply grateful I am to be a part of this industry, this community, this family. It’s rare when you work in a sport where upon the announcement of the birth of your second child the first two people to “Like” your midnight Facebook post are Chris and Rachel MacClugage, as just one example. It’s even more rare when you can thank those who’ve freely given of their time and talents for no better reason than to help another help the sport grow.

And that ultimately is the cause of The Watercraft Journal as well as so much of what all of us do. May we all take a moment to thank those friends and family we have in and out of this sport, as their presence in our lives have helped to craft who we all are (whether you like it or not).

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.


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