“One word, just one word. Are you listening?
That career advice-turned-movie-catchphrase debuted with The Graduate in 1967, the same year a 49-year-old L.A. firefighter named Tom Johnson became the U.S. national wildwater kayak champion. In real life, Johnson was already well ahead of Dustin Hoffman’s fictional Benjamin Braddock.
“Twenty years earlier, I’d predicted that someday there’d be a material we could smear inside a mold to create a one-piece boat,” says Johnson, now 91 and living in Kernville, Calif. By 1972 that material—cross-linked polyethylene—had become a reality, and the rotationally (“roto-“) molded plastic kayak that Johnson designed turned paddling on its head as surely as Mrs. Robinson did poor Benjamin.