What Heretical Ideas Are You Willing to Embrace?

re-posted with permission from the author

I love motorcycles. I’ve spoken at the Motorcycle Industry Council, I’ve met with the majority of the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and have visited with over 100 dealers in recent years. But the motorcycle industry is one of many that’s battling a stagnant or shrinking market, and the only solution is for it to quit one or more commonly-accepted practices.

Industry experts and veterans hate to hear advice like this. Try telling a scratch golfer that you think one way to make that sport grow again is to double the size of golf holes. “Outrageous!” s/he is likely to exclaim, without suggesting an alternative solution to shrinking year after year after year.

The problem with these industries is that existing players like things the way they are. Sure, they’d prefer more growth, but not at the price of changing long standing practices.

For example, the only thing keeping the ski industry afloat is the rise of snowboarding. This was not the result of innovative practices on the part of ski industry OEMs, but rather the disruptive influence of upstarts like Burton, which popularized snowboards.

To put it another way, the practice Burton “quit” was to stop making sliding devices in two pieces. Creating a single board—which sounds like a simple innovation—had tremendous ripple effects. It provided more of a surfing experience, completely changed the athlete’s stance, which changed their clothing needs, and also shifted the age and mindset of new participants. Plus, to be brutally honest, it probably kept numerous resorts from dying.

My problem with such industries is that they’d rather iterate than innovate. Instead of disrupting their own traditions, they tinker around with modest, almost negligible changes. Engines get a little more powerful or efficient. Tires get a little larger. Nothing much changes from one year to the next, and such industries continue to stagnate.

For example, I have friends and clients who have stopped attending certain trade shows because the amount of innovation from one year to the next is virtually zero. In some industries, like technology, you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball for even three weeks; in stagnant industries, you can coast for a year or two, and it doesn’t really matter.

If this sounds familiar, forget about all that nonsense at the edges and ask yourself two questions:

  1. What long standing practices are we willing to quit?
  2. What heretical ideas are we willing to embrace?

Without bold answers to these questions, your future will look very much like your recent past. For example, in 2007 the motorcycle industry sold about one million new bikes. This past year, I think the number was somewhere south of 400,000. Do the math… that’s simply not a sustainable trend.

David Nour helps leaders connect with their teams by using the right strategy, pictures, and words. His tenth book is Co-Create: How Your Business Will Profit from Innovative and Strategic Collaboration. He is also a popular speaker.

Why I love the Play 35

I just love it, so no more stupid questions


The reason I love the Play 35 is the same reason Bill Wunderlich, 2 time Tennessee State heavy weight wrestling champion loves the Play 45:  it just fits. When I first cruised on a Bellyak I made it down the Class 4 waters we were paddling with a huge smile on my face. I’m sure that was the only pretty thing that day because I had only a taste of what was possible. Now, 2 years later, my bellyak and I  have been getting down right nasty. While the barrier to entry is low on a bellyak, the level that you can take it athletically seems to be limitless at this point. Taking my game past the point of river running and basic belly surfing required me to tap into my friends named agility, strength and finesse.


Let’s Talk About Feelings

This is what I really love. I love how agile the Play 35 is. If you give it a little nudge you can go places together. The boat is designed to be stable enough to inspire confidence but with an agility derived from the advances in hull design of modern freestyle kayaks. The ample rocker allows the boat to spin and pivot with ease. I knew it had potential because on my first ride it spun me and took me places I never intended on going.  Once I made the commitment to work together with my Play 35, I was hooked.

Bellyaking on the Nantahala River

sorry for the clarity, it was taken with a flip phone

Confidence and communion with the river is something I have been able to achieve in a greater way than I ever could in my kayak. Perhaps it’s because my body covers more surface area on the water. Perhaps it’s how I”m able to respond to the river rather than just reacting to every single current that comes at me.

Going Fast Sitting Still

Nothing says New-Age spiritual like surfing a wave in a bellyak. One of my favorite pastimes is surfing at staging eddy on the Ocoee, watching creekers in full faces practice their roll in the eddy next to me. And as I write this I can’t help but laugh a little because in a few years our experience today will seem so underwhelming by the standards of what will be created tomorrow.

Like jumping curbs back in your huffy bike glory days thinking you were all that therewas in the world only to learn that mountain biking was already a thing and you were living a lie.



I have to admit I used to be a little bit of a freak about getting a workout in and I’ve always dreamt of legitimately having fun and being fit at the same time. I like ball sports but they still hurt when I’m tired, but have you heard of Bellyak Fitness? My idea of Bellyak Fitness is taking my bellyak whitewatering and playing as hard as I can only to find out when I am done that I am completely exhausted, my hip flexors are more open than that can of worms you opened when you asked your grandma how she was today, and my arms and abs feel like I’ve been on that crossfit diet. All the while I was just having fun.



Better than the local public pool

Really there’s not much I love more than river running on the bellyak which is something almost all of us can do whether it’s on class II or Class IV. I love many water sports, but the one that makes me giggle the most at the same time challenge me is bellyak. Aside from swimming, it’s the closest I have been to really being a part of the water.

Racing in the 2017 Ocoee River Rac



Being straight silly because that’s what life and sport is about








Kyle Morgan led an active lifestyle — he pushed a skateboard, kayaked and rode motorcycles competitively. There was no action sport he wouldn’t try. But a bad decision in 2010 left him with a spinal cord injury, paralyzed from the shoulders down, with some movement in his arms but no fine motor control of his hands. Now considered a quadriplegic, his life was altered forever. He spent three years in a power chair, assessing and reassessing his life. One day, the chair broke down, stranding him in one place, helpless. For Kyle, that was rock bottom. He decided then that even if he was a challenged athlete, he was still an athlete.

A Challenged Athlete

He’d always exercised, but hadn’t done much of anything since the accident. When his chair got stuck, it reignited his desire for independence. Kyle talks about those early days: “I started pushing myself manually around my house in an old busted-up, raggedy hospital wheelchair.”Exercise drove him forward. Kyle regained so much strength that he competed in 5k races with a slightlyassisted manual chair. Now, he says, “I’m into fitness. I believe no matter what state you’re in, you can always be better.”

Bellyak and Adaptive Kayaking

Despite the success, he still missed the excitement of kayaking. As he tells it, “I thought my days of being on the river were over. I had a kayak, but couldn’t use it because… I couldn’t keep my balance or even grip the paddle.” He’d never heard of adaptive kayaking, and frankly, adaptive sports — active activities for challenged athletes — didn’t get much press coverage.A friend helped connect Kyle to Bellyak. Kyle remembers, “A kayaking buddy of mine found Bellyak’s Facebook page and shared it with me. From the moment I saw it, I knew I could use it.” Kyle reached out to Bellyak and built a friendship with owner Adam Masters. Adam was so intrigued by Kyle’s attitude that he lent him a Bellyak to try out. And just like that, adaptive kayaking in a Bellyak became a reality.

Prone Kayaking for Challenged Athletes

“It felt so good to get back on the water,” Kyle says. “The first time, in a pool, was incredible. The thing I liked about the experience was that no one could tell I was paralyzed. I paddled around just like anyone else would. I was having such a good time paddling around, I didn’t even realize the workout I was getting. After just 30 minutes, I could barely push myself back to my van.” Kyle loved the experience so much that he wants to share it. He’s been trying to organize a Bellyak group of others with spinal cord injuries. He tells them, “I get such a freeing feeling when I’m paddling around — it’s a feeling I thought I’d never experience again, so now I appreciate it all the more.”

In Training for a Real Adventure

Kyle gets to the pool as often as he can, but due to his injury, he still needs help getting in and out of his Bellyak. “One day, I want to feel comfortable hitting up a river,” he says. “That’s my overall goal. But for right now, I’ll stay in a pool and keep my wife’s anxiety level down. I’ve put her through enough with my adrenaline-fueled lifestyle.”

Adaptive sports, including adaptive kayaking, has helped revitalize Kyle’s attitude on life. It’s something he brings to his everyday life as well. “Just because I’m paralyzed doesn’t mean I’m going to live life differently,” he says. He’s learned to embrace his new life, appreciating each day and trying get as much as he can out of each moment.

Kyle’s new motto: “I may not have 100 percent, but I use 100 percent of what I have.”

Kyle Morgan is on Team Bellyak as an adaptive athlete and an active ambassador to help the differently-abled get on the water. Kyle is also “Chief Motivator.”

See Kyle’s story on video here.


That Actually Looks Fun!

We hear that all the time…and we understand. New concepts are hard to grasp, generally resisted and often ridiculed. I know…I’ve experienced it first hand. When I first launched Bellyak in late 2012 I thought that the world would embrace my new idea for the self evident truth of it’s own awesomeness. I thought that I’d be rich by now and not driving a 10 year old minivan with over 200,000 miles. All the advice I got early on was that it takes time…give it five years…everything will cost twice as much and take three times as long. But I was fired up and passionate, and thought I could do it quicker. At that time the world was rapidly getting into SUP, and kayaking was still grabbing the headlines and the imaginations of the masses.


hey…that actually looks fun!

Kayaking is cool. It’s where I came from. It’s amazing what people are able to do. And, at the same time, sprayskirts are archaic, and probably the biggest reason more people don’t get into paddlesports. We didn’t set out to replace kayaking, or create something better, or do something for the sake of being different, or create something for people “who can’t kayak.” We created the Bellyak. It stands on it’s own. You can’t compare it to anything, because there is nothing like it. It’s like swimming, but enhanced. It’s like kayaking, in that you are in your own boat and can carve, surf and catch eddies. To feel the water with your hands, to see the currents at face level, to feel the currents along your entire body as opposed to your butt or just your feet…there is nothing like it in the world.


That’s right!

We like to think of ourselves as disruptors…disrupting the way paddlesports has always been done not for the sake of disruption, but purely in the pursuit of fun. That’s it. If it wasn’t fun, exhilarating and engaging, I would have never taken the time to refine my ideas and take the risk of putting it out there.  We’ve been around long enough, and trained enough people, to know that most everyone who tries it has a 180 degree shift in perception between what they think it is…and what it actually is. We’ve seen people with no whitewater skill crush Class III within minutes…we’ve seen Class V kayakers get worked on Class II in the Bellyak.  The learning curve is quick, but there is a curve. It comes down to humility…working with and not against the water. Will you join us? It actually IS fun:)