COMPANY HISTORY - The story behind

Canadier, developed by canoeists - The history of GATZ-KANUS

GATZ: A tradition of master craftsmen and boat designers

GATZ-KANUS manufactures authentic Canadier designs, optimised for today's areas of use. High-tech materials from all over the world, state-of-the-art production processes, creativity and perfect craftsmanship. All of this combines to create a perfect symbiosis of the boat shape that originated in the forests of North America and the demands that are rightly placed on a product "Made in Germany" today.

Take a look back with us, into the history of the company that was and is significantly involved in the development of canoeing in Germany and Europe.


In the company founded this year in Cologne-Dellbrück by Arno and Sighild Gatz as a master carpenter's business, the development of canoes begins. Craftsmanship, the experience of many active years in the boat and the need for a functional piece of sports equipment beyond the delicate folding boats come together. Arno's self-built folding kayaks were simply too small for his wife, children and dogs, and for a long time he had been studying the boats of the indigenous peoples of North America and the Inuit. To this day, he collects historical literature and drawings, from which he repeatedly draws insights into the areas of application of special boat shapes and accompanies them via models until they are ready for series production (e.g. most recently with the Beothuk). 

In 1962, the world's first mass-produced touring canoe made of glass-fibre reinforced plastics was built in his workshop (today it would be called a start-up in a garage with a wink of the eye). At the time, this was a largely unknown material in the leisure sector and one of many pioneering achievements that established the reputation of the outstanding quality of GATZ-KANUS at an early stage. Since then, all moulds and models have been made in the company's own workshops in Cologne. Arno Gatz subsequently also develops the unique, mottled colours that so harmoniously match the canoe. Many more models follow, single and crew canoes round off the programme. New materials are continuously tested and incorporated into production.


The first Gatz-YUKON is launched, the canoe that can be seen in the picture with the young Gatz family of 4 plus a dog. Because few people knew what to do with the name Yukon at the time, the boat was renamed Colorado a short time later, 25 years before a Gatz canoe with Olaf Gatz was to sail the Grand Canyon on this river. The boat in the photo is still operational today, after almost 6 decades, and can be seen in the Gatz canoe shop in Cologne next to an original Indian birch bark canoe. At that time, it already had a functional tarpaulin and seats that could be tilted for paddling in a sitting or kneeling position.


The Alkonkin, with its distinctive bow horns, is the first team canoe to come onto the market. The Algonkin found its friends and buyers not only for clubs and large families in recreational use. Soon the first races were held with this type of boat. Most of the Algonkins produced in the following years are still in use today. At the end of the 1960s, the first Gatz tipi tents were also sewn, made of sturdy cotton fabrics with a centre pole and fireplace, and long before this type of tent became popular in the tent market in a variety of ways. For fans, tipis are still produced in our sewing shop today.


The catalogue at that time already shows a Gatz canoe in Canada, on board Elmar Engel, who became known as a writer not only with his Canada books. The boat types in the catalogue show Mohawk, Colorado, Ottawa, Algonkin and with the Nordlicht also the first Gatz Eskimo kayak, led by Ernst Kaeufer, one of the great kayak pioneers and close friend of Arno Gatz  was co-developed and which was based on his self-constructed folding ski.


In the summer of 1972, a first series of Gatz canoes goes to Elmar Engel's wilderness camp in Labrador, Canada. On site, Arno Gatz assembles the canoes sent as a kit. Many Germans experience their own personal Canadian dream at the log cabin camp while fishing, hiking and (Gatz) canoeing and bring this feeling back to Germany. New models are the smaller team canoe Cree, the Ohio (still made with 2 large eiluccas), the first Cherokee, the Greenlander as a safer and more voluminous variant to the successful Northern Lights and the children's Eski Alaska developed by Arno for his children (the predecessor of today's Gatz-Kobold, which still has the same hull).


The catalog is adorned with a picture of Ernst Becher, one of the most famous wilderness paddlers of his time, who sailed the Nahanni with his canoe (with the Cologne coat of arms) and covered the Virginia Falls with a total of 60km through impassable wilderness. The constant exchange between friends Arno Gatz, Ernst Kaeufer and Ernst Becher and many other expedition and touring paddlers has always contributed to the further development of the Gatz canoe fleet and construction details. New models include the Kiowa, an agile whitewater canoe, and the Kodiak Eskimo kayak, ideal for lighter adults.


From now on the boat lettering will be done in the Rodeo font. With the Labrador, another sleek kayak is added to the range. This year also began the success story of the team canoe Gatz-Ontario, which continues to this day and is probably the best-selling team canoe in the world due to its diverse areas of application and long market presence. 


Mohawk 470x90, Cherokee 500x100 and the Yukon, now renamed Mohawk 520, are also on the market. For a short time, a new concept of single-shell canoes caused a sensation with the Uff, a model that was also available in several parts for easy transport by train.


The Yoho 1-80 is the founder of the successful YOHO series of Gatz canoes. For the first time, Gatz Canadians set out on the Bowron Lakes in British Columbia, an insider tip back then, but now an often over-visited paradise. Gatz Mohawk-type Canadians are being displayed and raffled off in stores nationwide as prizes in a large-scale advertising campaign by Palmolive. Hundreds of yellow Mohawks find enthusiastic friends. Highly tear-resistant Kevlar(TM) fabrics from DuPont (today's general technical name Aramid can be found in our material descriptions) find their way from the aerospace industry into the series production of Gatz-Canadians as reinforcement fabrics.


Hans Memminger, known for his whitewater expeditions and films, is making "Canada in the Canoe", a highly acclaimed 16mm film with Gatz Canadians in Canada. Among other things, the Big Salmon was sailed long before professional outfitters discovered and marketed this river as a gem of the Canadian wilderness. A river that is still worthwhile today and to which Arno Gatz has often returned. Also in the film on Big Salmon, Yukon and Kicking Horse River are the new Yoho 2, the Mohawk 470 and the Labrador.


In addition to many pictures of Canada, the catalog that is now being published shows the Yoho 2, the completely new Yoho 1-70, the traditional Ojibwa and, with a length of 9m and a weight of 250kg, the largest Canadian Huron made by Gatz canoes.


Gatz-Kanus looks back on 20 years in which it has succeeded in making the Canadier known as a family and touring boat and looks positively into the future. The moose logo appears in a more graphic, modern form. The GRP seat brackets, which have enabled the seats to be removed and tilted since the first Canadians, are being replaced by functional injection-molded elements. The model range is growing to include the Yoho 3 and Athabasca series and is constantly being refined.


New to the range are the models from the Dakota series and the Nunivak 1 and Nunivak 2 kayaks. The Inuit is the first 3-seater kayak to be introduced on the market and, thanks to its multifunctionality, finds many friends as a canoe and kayak.


Gatz-Kanus is celebrating 25 years with a new, extensive catalog and a coherent overall concept.


Olaf Gatz and Arno Wiedenmann drive the entire Grand Canyon of the Colorado River in the Yoho 1-70 and Yoho 2. A special endurance test, and not just for the material. Spectacular images of overturns in enormous water force and of Gatz canoes in impressive landscapes are created. The film "Over the Edge" by Jochen Schweizer and Oliver Riesenberger documents this trip and also shows pictures of the Yoho 2 in the Schwarzbachfall and becomes a kayak film classic. The Yoho 470PE is launched and quickly proves to be a favorite for rental companies and tour operators. Initially constructed in solid PE with a hollow keel, the series was soon converted to 3-layer sandwich polyethylene and later manufactured without a hollow keel.


As a result of the Grand Canyon Tour, Olaf Gatz developed the Yaqui, an excellent, fast touring boat that can handle even more powerful whitewater well. The fast track is also coming onto the market.


The great success of the Yoho 470PE led to the development of the Cherokee 527PE. Based on the popular Cherokee series, one of the largest polyethylene canoes manufactured worldwide to date is being created. Its robustness, reliability and performance combined with the unique appearance ensure the ongoing and unbroken popularity of this type.


A small revolution in boat manufacturing. Under the Gatz-Royal trademark, the first Canadian canoe manufactured in Germany and Europe is made from the material Royalex in Olaf Gatz's newly built deep-drawing facility. From the very beginning, Gatz-Royal's goal has been to construct the Canadians made of Royalex as dimensionally stable and robust as the material allows. A concept that is constantly confirmed by the long lifespan of the Canadians. Many details in construction and conception, e.g. the possibilities of the many seat variants, wooden edges, tarpaulins, etc., distance the Gatz Royal Canadians from the competition. One of the first customers was a company from Japan that is building a complete outdoor line around Gatz-Royal Canadier. Further proof of the correct concept of “quality made in Germany”. With the Bending Branches paddles introduced by Gatz-Royal as general importer for Europe, a new era of wooden paddles is starting in the German Canadian canoe market. Only a few wooden paddle models have been able to stand up to plastic paddles so far. Bending Branches showed the market that wooden paddles can be robust, light, stylish and excellent to paddle. The range continues to expand today and also extends to kayak paddles.


The Mohawk 490PE complements the PE model range, and the Racoon and Kookaburra are added to the Gatz Royalex series. The first carbon ultralight canoes leave composite production. Here the great possibilities of composite materials are shown once again when used correctly and they prove that canoeing is not only easy to learn but that Gatz canoes are also very easy to carry.


The Tucan in Royalex and the Chattooga PE (polyethylene) complement both lines.


The Canoki in Royalex follows a completely new concept for Canadians. Actually quite short for a two-seater, its carefully constructed lines ensure that this small and handy canoe runs well. Within a short time it became one of the most popular canoes in Japan and also in Europe the excellent acceptance led to the further developments Canoki 400 wooden edge and Canoki 400 in a classic line.


Tucan PE and Canoki PE are created as a millennium edition for an importer and will also be offered in Germany for a short time.


Composite canoes are far from dead or an integral part of the market. This was impressively demonstrated by the launch of the CANADIAN series. Designed by Arno Gatz, classic lines are reinterpreted here and lightweight canoes with a V-bottom and excellent performance are manufactured in Cologne in the proven, long-lasting Gatz quality. The first is the Canadian 475, followed by the larger models Canadian 545, 500 and Big Canadian.


The Pacific Canoe 6 will be released in May. The first team outrigger developed and manufactured in Germany. An outrigger canoe for 6 people, consistently developed to meet the requirements of groups and incentive organizers and at the same time designed for local waters and vehicles. An outrigger that runs easily, offers maneuverability and in which beginners and people who initially have a lot of respect for water sports will feel right at home. A new series of Gatz canoes is hereby launched.


44 years of Gatz, a typical Cologne anniversary and a number that stands for a long tradition of handcrafted Canadians that are constantly being further developed and always produced using state-of-the-art technology. These boats proudly bear two quality seals, the Elk and “made in Germany”.


A young, dedicated team of developers from the agencies Onesandzeros™ and Sirius23 has taken on the task of relaunching the Gatz Canoe website and building an online canoe shop that is convenient for our customers. We at Gatz-Kanus are enthusiastic and hope that you, our valued customers and canoeists, will be too.


The new GATZ website wins competitions. In the last selection of the best .info domains, is among the top 10. Then the website is voted for "Best e-Commerce Website in NRW".

In March, Gatz-Kanus received the award for the  “Best e-Commerce Website in Germany”, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economics, from Parliamentary State Secretary Schauerte.  A great honor and, above all, excellent advertising for canoeing.


Gatz builds the Prospector, the canoe that Bill Mason paddles in the book "The Art of Canoeing The Canadier". The Gatz-Rospector 488, which largely corresponds to the original, is available in all composite material versions with a wooden edge and in a Royalex version with a wooden or vinyl edge. 

The Canoki wooden edge will be presented at Boat Dubai in the new “Take off” version. This split version allows you to take it with you as flight luggage on many airlines, as well as transport it on the rear rack of a mobile home or store it in small basement rooms.


Arno Gatz, who is almost 75 years old and still enjoys canoes and being on the water, did a lot of drawing and modeling in his workshop in the winter months and in spring the Ojibwa S, a smaller and very agile version of the Ojibwa, which has been successful for decades, will be released the market. A Canadian for lovers of original lines. From January 2010 we also changed the tarpaulin strip and tarpaulin fastening on our composite canoes with tarpaulin strip. The bar comes in a new design and without slots, the tarpaulin loops that have been tried and tested 100,000 times for hanging into the bar are replaced by practical clips. The attractive wood grain as an additional color design will be presented at BOOT Düsseldorf and is met with great approval. The same applies to the new slate and oak colors.


At BOOT Düsseldorf, the Ojibwa S will be presented in a manufactured version with a glued wooden edge and cover panels and a new multi-colored birch design based on the original birch bark Canadians. The high-quality workmanship and elegant look are impressive.


In November 2011, Arno Gatz celebrates 50 years of master craftsmanship from Cologne. In 1961, as a master carpenter, he founded the building and furniture joinery, from which the first original Gatz Canadians soon came.


The year gets off to a good start with boot Düsseldorf. The river in the World of Paddling (realized based on an idea by Olaf Gatz) inspires thousands of trade fair visitors and the press alike. At boot there will be celebrations at the Gatz canoe stand. In 2012, Gatz-Canadier with the elk logo from Cologne celebrates its 50th anniversary. Gatz-Kanus has been exhibiting non-stop at boot for 40 years. The director of boot Mr. Götz Ulf Jungmichel presents a huge birthday cake. The official DPA trade fair photo with the boot director in the new GATZ-CAYUGA was taken almost as an afterthought, presented as a world and trade fair innovation at boot and an immediate visitor magnet.


With the CANYAK, model Beothuk, a new series and category in the Gatz canoe series starts again. The CANYAK's can be ridden with both single paddles and double paddles, without the paddlers having to feel that the other paddle category would be better suited to this type of boat. It is also possible, for example, to use a double paddle at the front and a single paddle at the back as propulsion and control paddle. Everything works and looks good too!


The YAQUI-WOOD RAND celebrates its premiere at boot Düsseldorf. We were happy to take on board the diverse suggestions from our customers and our employees and constructed a wooden edge version of the YAQUI solo canoe, which has been tried and tested and very popular for decades. The underwater hull and therefore the driving characteristics have remained absolutely identical. In the widest hull areas of the YAQUI, the side wall of the wooden edge version now continues straight upwards. Combined with a larger freeboard, which means a higher seating position and more volume, the Yaqui wooden edge also becomes an attractive solo boat.