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A Tribute to Rick Franken

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2013

As so many of you know by now, Rick Franken, founder and designer of Bomber Gear passed away this past weekend.  Because some of you have asked, we wanted to let you know that Rick’s family has confirmed that he died in his sleep due to respiratory failure while at the Alabama Mountain Games.  His family is planning a celebration of life that will take place at the Animas River Days in Durango in June. More details are sure to follow, and we will pass those along as we get them.  They have also established the Franken Children’s Education Fund—please see how you can contribute at the end of this post.  For now, we wanted to take a minute to remember the man that we all loved and valued.

Rick, or Tao, as he’s known to family and friends, can’t be summed up in just one word. His dynamic personality and free spirit gave him so many enviable qualities that allowed him to create a beautiful life full of love, success, adventure, and passion, and we at Confluence Watersports feel so fortunate to have worked and paddled alongside him.

When Rick was 15, he first got out on the river, and the kayaking world was never the same. Not only was he a talented paddler who loved to push the limits on the water, but his vision and determination eventually led to the creation one of the first and most innovative paddling apparel brands. Bomber Gear was founded 1995 in Durango, Colo., and as his line of technical whitewater gear began to take shape, it was clear that a new standard had been set for the industry.

In December 2010, we were lucky enough to bring Bomber Gear into the Confluence family. Since that time, the brand has flourished and grown under Rick’s leadership, and his design talent, textile knowledge, understanding of paddlers’ needs, and shrewd eye for aesthetics brought to life products that transformed the way paddlers outfit themselves for a day on the water.

Rick touched the lives of so many, whether as a husband, father, designer, paddler, friend, or colleague, and we count ourselves blessed to have been in his path, even if it was for just a few years.  Rick’s impact at Confluence will live on in our memories, in his infectious passion, and in Bomber Gear.  In that spirit, we asked a few of our team to share a few thoughts about their time spent with him here.


Lila Menzies, Sales and Marketing Manager

“It has been a great honor to work with Rick Franken over these past several years.  His passion, enthusiasm and creativity were infectious.  We rarely had a conversation where there was not laughter and silliness. Good nature and kindness came easily to him.

After hearing the news of his passing this past weekend I decided to go kayaking for the first time in a long while.  It was very cold and a mix of rain and snow was falling.  As I suited up in Rick’s Halo, Hydrobomb, Pogies and K-Bomb skirt, I couldn’t help but feel connected to him though his designs.  The river was cold and wet but I was comfortable, dry and warm all day long.

Rick’s clean, functional and innovative design style set a new industry standard.  And I believe Rick will continue to live on in the Bomber Gear brand, in our hearts and in our memories for a long, long time to come.”

Chris Pageau, General Manager – Accessories Division

“I am honored and lucky to have worked so closely with Rick while at Confluence.  I enjoyed the time we spent together debating product strategy, traveling to trade shows, and sharing old stories over a couple beers.  Rick:  What a team we made.  You are more than just a co-worker to me. You are a friend. I’ll miss you dearly.”

Jessica Prescott, Marketing Communications Manager

“Rick had a light about him that truly made you feel special to share your time with him. He absolutely lived his life to the fullest, and was such an inspiration to us all. Thoughts and prayers are going up for his family and friends. Miss you, Rick. See you on the other side.”

Cheri McKenzie, Chief Marketing Officer

“Rick had this unforgettable spirit--a combination of intensity and calm, passion and kindness.  He was absolutely kinetic and was obvious in his devotions—to his work, to paddling, to his family.  Rick was always on a mission that made his eyes sparkle with energy and a heart that that made them sparkle with kindness.  One of those special people that truly touch your life.”


Hans Nutz, Designer

“When Rick and I first met, we immediately connected as friends.  He had an optimistic madness about him that was unconventional, and we spent much of our time together working on new ideas.  Ricks’ energy was endless; he was committed to squeezing the most out of every day.  I always looked forward to going paddling with Rick or hanging out at festivals.  He was truly inspiring to be around, and I miss his energy already.  He was a good friend and it seemed that we would be friends for a very long time.   He will be missed very much.”

Deanna Knox, Strategic Sourcing Manager

“My words cannot express my thoughts of such a tremendous loss as Rick Franken was an unbelievable person. While I had known him for a very short time, he was full of life and always pushing the limits to the point it spilled over to his co-workers and friends, including myself. He took his life, work, paddling, and Bomber Gear passionately.

Memories of my trip to Thailand have gone through my head a lot since his passing and I wish I could have expressed my gratitude to his passion and learning experience I received from him. Rick, you will be missed and always in hearts and minds.”


Shannon Christy, Marketing Communications Associate

"We've said goodbye to an innovative thinker and a passionate individual, but the spirit of Rick will live on. Both a joy in the office and on the water, Rick's energy was contagious and smile infectious. I'll miss getting caught up in kayaking conversations and hearing about your wild adventures while on the clock. You are missed. Catch you in the next eddy."

If you’re looking for a way to honor Rick and his legacy, Rick’s family has started the Franken Children’s Education Fund for his kids Kai and Trina. To join us in contributing, you can make a deposit at any Wells Fargo location or send a check to the address below:

Send checks, marked “Franken Children’s Education Fund”, to:

Jonas Reed
Personal Banker
Wells Fargo
5820 CALHOUN MEMORIAL HWY
EASLEY, SC, 29640
864-306-7274