‘Freak accident’: Idaho paddleboard company co-founder drowns in Payette River
Ian Max Stevenson, Idaho Statesman
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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) — The co-founder of an Idaho standup paddleboarding manufacturer died in an accident on Monday on the Payette River, according to the Boise County Sheriff’s Office.
At around 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Nicholas Zawadzki, a co-founder of Hydrus Board Tech, an Eagle-based company that specializes in whitewater paddleboards, “went through some rapids and got kicked” off his board not far from Idaho 55 a couple of miles south of Banks, Sheriff Scott Turner told the Idaho Statesman by phone.
“We don’t know if he got hung up or just got pulled under,” Turner said.
The 36-year-old’s helmet and life jacket surfaced, but his body has yet to be found. The sheriff said Zawadzki is presumed to have drowned.
Zawadzki’s brother, Jason, whom he co-founded Hydrus with in 2013, was also on the river Monday when the accident occurred near the “Go left or you’re fired” rapid, as it’s known. He said that his brother was known as one of the best whitewater paddleboarders around.
“It was just a complete freak and unexpected accident on a section that Nick had rode standing up on his paddleboard hundreds of times,” Jason told the Idaho Statesman by phone. He said there was “no real explanation for it.”
“Just one-in-a-billion chance bad luck,” Jason said. “It was his time to go.”
Search teams have been on the river every day this week, Turner said, with crews from Garden Valley Fire, Horseshoe Bend Fire, Mountain West Commercial Diving and local rafting companies assisting in the search. A volunteer with a private helicopter has also been involved in the effort.
According to the sheriff, search teams suspended their efforts on Wednesday afternoon “until we can come up with some other plans and resources to do some different types of searching.”
Jason Zawadzki said that he is currently “trying to get the dam operators to lower the water level” for a day to help rescuers locate his brother’s body.