The Watercraft Journal: Kevin, we’re glad we can finally get a chance to talk. You’re quite the globetrotter. Last we heard you were living on a sailboat in Oceanside, right? Before that, weren’t you living in Australia?
Kevin Rickon: The last few years I have been living a very nomadic lifestyle. Other than a handful of items and clothing (enough to fill up a single suitcase), I do not own much anything else. My current life on a boat in San Diego has been great. I’ve always been around boats and living on one has just made my life a living dream. Joey Kenney lives on his 36-foot Chris Craft next to me and we share stories of sailing adventures, surfing, the freeride lifestyle and how important it is to do what you love. He has been a great friend to me this last year and has made my time at the marina much more enjoyable.
I really enjoyed my time in Australia. For 9 months I was the manager at Worx Racing Components. And oh man! Was that an experience! It was at Worx Racing that I really took my first role at managing a small business. On top of that, I managed the company through the exchange of new owners, which entails a lot. Because of the exchange of hands, the business moved several hundred kilometers south into a different state. I moved from Queensland to New South Whales. Before the shop was fully moved out, I drove across the border to the old Queensland office three times a week to hand make the sponsons for the new orders. I was relieved when the equipment finally moved to the new shop!
WCJ: So what brought you home to the States? And don’t tell me it was the Mexican food.
KR: The lack of Mexican food was definitely a challenge. Thankfully, the Aussie meat pie was a great substitute. I was in Australia for just a year and I was really missing home. There will always be a place in my heart for Down Under but home is where my family is. I don’t believe my time in Australia is over, I know I’ll go back.
WCJ: You’ve been tied to jet skiing for much of your life. Tell us a little about what/who drew you to freeriding? What is it about freeride that’s so unique to jetskiing?
KR: My father told me I could never buy a jet ski. So I did the most logical thing and bought one anyways. Jon Hall, one of my closest friends and I went for a casual ride together on our FX1’s in Oceanside. That was my first time riding a stand up independently and the first time seeing anyone do a backflip. I thought to myself, “Oh no he didn’t!” With new found interest, I wobble over to the best of my ability on my knees to take a closer look. It was then that I met Ross Champion for the first time.
The O-Side Crew took me in as one of their own and I became part of a brotherhood. Not for a moment did I ever consider myself to be as talented as many of the other individuals but I felt part of a family and everyone looked out for one another. I believe there are just a few and far between sports that really emphasize on taking care of the guy next to him. In all of my troubles in and out of the water, I would turn to any one of the boys for guidance and help in any of my endeavors.
In addition, riding jet skis in any condition, especially the surf is quite unique as opposed to other sports that support the phrase, “freeride.” First off, water is an element that wants nothing more than to swallow whatever is on top of it. The jet ski for example must be in 100-percent condition to be above water and move through it. As simple as it sounds, it takes a lot of preparation, skilled work and strong/reliable parts to do that. Jet ski freeride is unique in that it takes all those things as well as your buddies to perform through the most unknown element in the world.
Cuong Son said it best, “The wave is the canvas and we are the brush stroke.”
WCJ: Great words to live by. Is that what prompted you to create KR Lines? Tell us about your company and what you guys do.
KR: I am all about “buying things once.” Other than something like a Rolex Submariner, I’m not sure anything lasts forever. I wanted to create something so simple and so long lasting that it would never cross any ones minds of possibly failing. I have snapped several “limiting ropes” and I found it to be silly to ever buy one the way that they were made.
I come from a heavy background in the nautical community. I am a United States Coast Guard Licensed Captain and have been sailing my entire life. KR Lines is different from the others because I am able to take my unique background and bring it to the jet ski market. Anything that uses the term “rope” is incomplete. Incomplete meaning the rope is just by itself. I take a rope and splice it into a line. This is why KR Lines has the strongest product. I use 12 strand Dyneema, the same rope on all Americas Cup boats. I count each individual strand and split them perfectly for each hand splice. Anyone can learn to splice rope but to be able to do it perfectly the same each time takes years of practice. In addition, they must all be able to handle the same load.
Did you know if you tie a bowline knot the strength is reduced by 40%? And did you know that if you properly splice a line the strength can increase by 10%? I’ve completed several strengths test at random and have come within -1% to +7% of a 5400lbs Dyneema line that I use on all of my products. Those are very good numbers by anyones professional rigging standards.
I have sold a number of lines all over the world and have yet to have a single person notify me of a failed product that is put out from my product line. And if anyone’s were to fail, I would cover them at my cost.
WCJ: That’s got to keep you pretty busy. With such a frenetic schedule do you still find time to ride? Where are your “regular spots?”
KR: Since coming back from Australia I have yet to have found time for myself to ride. I am juggling several jobs on the water as well as other entrepreneurial endeavors related to KR Lines. In the upcoming future, I will build another ski and will ride my favorite spot, Oceanside.
WCJ: Got any big rides/events you’re planning on attending?
KR: I am going to make it a priority to make it to Blowsion Surf Slam this year as I have never been part of that event. Blowsion has done a great job promoting their events and have drawn riders from around the world. Just being there would be an incredible experience.
WCJ: Just for fun – if time and money weren’t an issue, where would be your “dream session” to go freeriding?
KR: You know, I have been surfing since I was a little grom and this question comes about to me all the time. I would say the most fun I have ever had, and looking to the future of dreams and possibility, the only place I would want to ride freeride is wherever my friends are. That being said, Oceanside and Gold Coast.
WCJ: OK, here’s your chance for some shameless plugs. Who would you like to thank?
KR: Oh man, where to begin? Generally speaking, the boys at Oceanside for always being there for me. Jono Hall for being my “P-I-C.” Ross and Joey for people to look up to. Luke Rotolone for being my save and grace. Corin Williams for the best advice anyone could ever as for. Brodie Copp for being my friend through the thick and thin. Jack Shelley and Gary Watson from Worx for the incredible teachings and experiences and the rest of the boys Down Under.