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Gavin Jostad

Myself and Rachel Fly wanted to share our experiences with Gavin together. I will start with my own thoughts and experiences with this amazing young paddler.

About 4 years ago, I sat down for dinner with the young, and very eager Gavin Jostad and his father Trevor.   At this time, Gavin is about 13 years old.   He’s paddling almost every day and wants to sit down with me to figure out what it takes to become part of Team Pyranha.   This is really hard to write about at the moment, but I want to share my experience with one of the most motivated, talented, and incredibly nice humans that we lost 4 days ago. So with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I will continue.  

Gavin sits there, eyes wide open, taking in every single detail that I explain to him about my job and what I believe it takes to be a good ambassador for the Team.  At the same time, Gavin is very calm and has an overall peaceful demeanor that he shares with his Father, Trevor, sitting next to him.  I go on explaining pretty much how Pyranha works in the US.  I tell him about our production, distribution, and media. I broke it all down for this little dude.   I wouldn’t expect this from a 13-year-old, but anything he doesn’t understand, he asks me about.  He doesn’t want to just hear what I’m saying; Gavin wants to fully understand so he can help to the best of his ability.  This opens my eyes and makes me realize this kid is about to go off in this sport and really life in general.  Now here’s my problem.  We typically don’t sponsor such a young kayaker.  Also, I need to make him work a little just to make sure I’m correct in my feeling about this kid.  I ended up making a bit of a team sponsorship with Pyranha and Next Adventure.  Next Adventure is the closest paddle shop to Gavin, a White Salmon local. After about an hour of conversation, we shake hands, and Gavin is off to the races. 

About a year later, Gavin has posted videos and photos, helped me with demos, and unloaded several containers of kayaks with me.  He also reaches out to paddle a lot or help promote new models we are coming out with.  Gavin is doing exactly what I had asked of him, but to another level.  Gavin is paddling almost every day.  He’s improving at a ridiculous rate, so we move him to a full team status at Pyranha.  He is now working with myself and now Rachel Fleischut (Fly), who has taken over responsibilities as the Pyranha Team Manager.   Gavin’s passion and growth continue on for the next several years to the point that he is running the Little White with more style and grace than some of his mentors who have been on this section for 10-15 years.  In a very short time, Gavin is paddling with literally some of the best kayakers in the world.  Growing up in White Salmon is a unique experience for a young dude, no doubt.  The interesting thing about this is myself, and many other pro or extremely good kayakers want to paddle with this kid.  He is so skilled, and smooth, but more so a wonderful person to be on the water with.  He’s very grateful every time he paddles with me, and he’s just so excited every day he is on the water.  I remember this feeling, and seeing it in Gavin is really refreshing.   I could go on and on about how wonderful of a person Gavin was.  

Less than 2 weeks ago, Gavin stopped by the house to pick up a new kayak and head to California.  Before his arrival, we talked about moving him up again on Team Pyranha.  For Rachel and I, this was a no-brainer.  Gavin has been promoting and doing more for the team than 90% of our paddlers.  We came up with a plan to have Gavin work on some Pyranha-specific videos on his travels for the next month.  Gavin’s camera was not working, so I gave him mine to use on his trip.  This kid is 17 years old, and I didn’t even think twice about lending him my $2,000 camera for a road trip.  How often do you think that happens?  Sadly, just a few days into Gavin’s trip, he became pinned in a sieve on the South Yuba River and moved on from this world.  I can’t get Gavin’s smile out of my mind.  That might be because every time I saw him, he was smiling ear to ear.  He was such a lovely person to be around, with an infectious energy that no one could forget.  In such a short time, Gavin made an incredible mark on us all.  He made a goal and charged after it with so much style and grace.  He lived a life full of love and energy.  The only thing I can take from this is a reminder to push your petty shit to the side.  Life is special and sometimes shorter than we like, and we never know when it’s our time to move on.  Tell your people you love them, hug them when you can and appreciate every time that boat touches the water.  I think myself and many other paddlers in our community helped Gavin live his dreams.   For that, I’m thankful.  I will miss and think about this very special person forever.  In the end, I don’t know any other kid that lived so large, was so positive and friendly at such a young age.   

With Love,
Dave Fusilli

Words from Rachel

I’ve been reflecting on a conversation Gavin & I shared about 2 weeks ago. It began with talking about Team Pyranha things, fresh boats for this season, and raving about the LW lap he had earlier that day. It evolved into a chat about how far he’s grown in this sport, especially in recent years, and the many dreams he was well on his way toward, on & off the water… His excitement for pursuing these goals was contagious. His gratitude for the community support he received along the way was something he kept coming back to in our conversation.

About a dozen ‘thank you’s later, in typical Gavin fashion, we ended that call saying we’d get a lap soon. Wiser than his 17 years here. He carried so much passion, yet was always humble, kind, and generous. It was a gift to know him as a kayaker on the gorge rivers, a student in the halls of CHS, and as a friend. He was a gift to our community. You will be so unbelievably missed, Gavin.  Big hugs & much love to those feeling this loss.


 – Rachel Fly 

Thank you, John Webster, for the photos.