“Salus means safety”
Boating Industry Magazine
Four years ago, when Steve Wagner developed the thinking behind Salus Marine Wear, it was to ensure that people wore their personal flotation devices (PFDs). Steve looked at conventional PFDs for all areas of boating; kayaks, canoes, power and sail. He videotaped the users of the jackets and then talked with them about what they liked and didn’t like about their current flotation devices.
Wagner is a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Industrial Design. After designing PFDs and hockey equipment, Steve saw an opportunity for an innovative product. He launched Salus at the 2001 Toronto International Boat Show and his staff has grown to over a dozen.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Wagner was questioned about setting up in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. His response was that the closing of many companies in the so-called needle trade (Greb boots, Kaufman footwear and Arrow shirts) left a large experienced labour pool there to draw from.
Boating Industry Canada had the oppontunity to meet with Steve at the annual Canadian Safe Boating Awards (CASBA) dinner in January where Salus was presented with the Marine Manufacturer’s Award for a technological development improving boating safety or the environment.
A story told at dinner about how Salus names all of its PFDs highlighted one name in particular as having great significance. While conducting a photo shoot for the kayaking vest, Steve had to clamber down an embankment and cross a stream to get to the area where the kayakers were being photographed. With the stack of PFDs stacked neatly on his back, Steve stepped into a deep area of the stream and completely disappeared! Only the bundle of PFDs was visible.
Everyone knows that a PFD will float you safely when properly worn. A half dozen PFDs strapped to your back should not be considered “appropriate” and will not do what a single vest is intended to do. Fortunately for all of us, Steve extricated himself and continued on, albeit a little wet, to complete the photo shoot. The new PFD is now aptly known as the Darwin, after the award named in honour of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution.
The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of the human genome by honouring those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it. Steve is definitely not a candidate.
Salus Marine Wear offers eight lines of flotation devices, from the Nimbus for children, through the Abacus – adopted by the Canadian Yachting Association as the offical vest of the CYA high performance sailing team and their coaches – to the Antigua, an offshore pullover and jacket.
Safety, comfort, design and looks all add up to a product that has made an impact on the Canadian boating scene in only four short years. Steve’s tireless support of his retailers at all of the major shows is his personal trademark. We look forward to watching the hard work pay off for Salus Marine Wear.