The Whitewater Community mourns the loss of two great kayakers and good friends, Rick Hayes and Kay Denfeld.

Both Kay and Rick were longtime boaters, inspiration and encouragement to many and made important contributions to kayaking in the Northwest.

They will be missed greatly and remembered by all.

Rick 'Purple' Hayes Paddles On

On Thursday, May 31st, Purple Hayes died while kayaking on the Chilliwack River. Our hearts are with his wife Shelly, his family and Squirty. Rick was a well-known whitewater pioneer and kayaking instructor. He will be missed greatly by all in the whitewater community.

It seems too long ago for anyone to remember the time when Rick started paddling. He loved boating and took advantage of the changing styles: from large fiberglass torpedos, over squirt boats to tiny plastic playboats. Of course, he preferred the boats, his gear and his truck to be purple. Needless to say that Rick was a fan of Jimi Hendrix!

During the early eighties Rick had been president of the Vancouver Kayak Club. He also was a member of the executive of the Whitewater Kayaking Association of BC as vice president/coordinator for special needs paddlers. In this role he enabled people with physical challenges to experience rivers and kayaking.

Rick started his own kayaking school 'Purple Hayes School of Kayaking' on his home river, the Chilliwack. As a patient and encouraging teacher, he introduced many of BC's new paddlers to whitewater. 'Safety first' was his motto. 'He was very good in taking you down the river'; said Jim Sibley in an interview with the Vancouver Sun, 'he had a spirit of enjoyment that was fairly contagious'. He also worked as a special needs teacher at Chilliwack Middle School and organized kayaking projects with his students.

Despite being well known in the paddling community, Rick was a quiet and laid-back guy. He enjoyed the evenings on his patio with Shelly and his friends; talking river stories or getting Squirty (his dog) to show off the latest tricks he had taught her.

The minister at Rick's memorial service estimated that over 400 people came to say 'Good-bye'. Latecomers had to stand in the back. There were old-time paddlers, hot rodeo-boaters, friends from Chilliwack and colleagues and students from his school. 'Too bad Rick can't be here, he would have had a blast!' someone said. Rick really loved a good party with all his friends.

It doesn't seem right when they say you can't take anything with you. Rick took along a piece of our hearts. But he left us a new world, a world of calm streams in green secluded valleys and of roaring rapids that make the heart pound, he left friendships grown on rivers and good memories of exciting kayaking days, great road trips and long nights by the camp fire. If there is water in heaven, I'm sure Rick is already checking out the runs and playholes to tell us about Good, clean fun!

From the June/July 2001 Paddlepost, by C. Schwab

Kay Denfeld: a heart as big as all outdoors


Former Washington Kayak Club President and devoted WKC member, beloved friend, she owned the biggest purple wardrobe (how she managed to get all purple boating gear remains a mystery) in the state of Washington, University of Washington Librarian.

She was small with a heart as big as all outdoors.


....I didn't sleep well last night, now I think I know why. Morning brought a call early from Jock. When he said it was bad news, my mind immediately went where all paddlers minds do upon hearing those words. As friend's names started scrolling through my head, Jock told me that Kay drowned yesterday on the North Fork Sauk. The scroll never would have gone there; I was prepared to hear any number of names before hers.

Kay, I can't say I'm glad you died doing something you love. I've always thought that was a load of is much better to have lived to boat many more years. I can say I'm glad you were doing something you loved on Sunday, paddling a beautiful Northwest river with friends. Of course it was no surprise that you were out enjoying life, your energy and enthusiasm for paddling, and life in general, was renowned throughout the Sound. And as is too often the case among us still here, I realize I never put into words how much inspiration you were.... you showed all of us that age is nothing but an attitude, and that passion can grow for decades without any sign of slowing down.

Memories of many days spent with you and other friends on the river have been on constant replay, their starting to run over and into one another. The day on the Farmlands with Steve Exe's trip is still one of my all-time favourite days. We all hiked back up to the top of Lava Dam at least twice! And there was that Matheny trip, hardly enough water one day and flooding the next.... you had the brightest face of all the second day when we were standing in the rain (Peninsula rain... you don't find its equal in miserableness anywhere.) And so many other runs.... we never planned to paddle together, but found each other on the same trip many times anyway, and it was always a pleasure to pull up to the put-in and find you there. You were small, but your spirit was enormous, and that's the size of the hole you have left among us.

Kay, good sailings, we miss you.

by Matt Hudgens, WKC message board

Please check the following sites for more information on Kay's memorial