Obituary: Chan Zwanzig
December 12, 1948 – July 24, 2020
Chan Zwanzig died peacefully with his wife of 44 years, Kate, at his side in their Steamboat Springs, Co. home in Blacktail on July 24. They moved to Steamboat in 1972. Chan was an avid motorcyclist and outdoorsman. He was an accomplished cross-country and downhill skier and snowboarder but his true passion was kayaking. He was an experienced expedition kayaker and participated in many well-documented first descents throughout the world, most notably the Rio Urubamba in Peru in 1980, including the Machu Picchu Gorge, with Tim Biggs of South Africa. In 1983, he was the first to kayak the Paucartambo River also in Peru. In 1986 he participated in the British expedition to the Dudh Kosi river in Nepal, which was made into a National Geographic documentary “Himalayan River Run.”
Chan started kayak manufacturer Wave Sports in 1986, with a factory located in Oak Creek, Colorado.
Through Wave Sports, he sponsored many competitive kayaking teams, often redesigning kayaks to team members’ specifications so they could maneuver better in whitewater. Chan and his Wave Sports crew were constantly searching for rivers and creeks in Colorado to kayak for the first time. Rock Creek, Grizzly Creek and the upper White River were a few of his favorite destinations. For Chan, the more remote and harder to reach the better. In 1989, he founded the Gore Canyon Class V River Race, which is still being held to this day.
Chan and Kate were world travelers. In 1986, they spent five months kayaking around Europe, enjoying rivers in England, France, Austria, Germany and Scandinavia. If there wasn’t a river nearby, there was always the ocean or a fiord to paddle. More recently, they spent time touring the rivers and beaches of New Zealand and Costa Rica. While living in Spain for a month in 2015, they hopped over to Morocco and rode a camel, to fulfill a life-long ambition to visit all five inhabited continents.
Chan was a fighter, battling through a heart attack and cancer over the last 13 years. With Kate constantly at his side, he tried a battery of new and traditional treatments that prolonged his life. When his legs started to fail him, he used ski poles fitted with corks from his favorite wines, to get around his house and when visiting some of his many friends. Chan was 71 years old. A celebration of his life is planned for the future.
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