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Douglas Tompkins: North Face Founder Tragically Dies In Kayak Accident At 72

Wed, December 9, 2015 8:16am EDT by Add first Comment
Douglas Tompkins Dead
Courtesy of PDAEntertainment

So tragic. Douglas Tompkins, who helped create the brands North Face and Esprit, had a scary accident while partaking in one of his favorite outdoor activities in Chile. He was pronounced dead on Dec. 8 at the age of 72.

Douglas Tompkins loved adventure his entire life, and, tragically, it was an everyday excursion in Chile that killed him. The businessman was in a brutal kayak accident on General Carrera Lake, and sadly died in the ICU on Dec. 8. He was 72 years old.

The North Face founder was paddling on the lake with five friends when he capsized due to strong waves and currents. He was rushed to the hospital, but succumbed to hypothermia. General Carrera is known for unpredictable conditions, and when the boat tipped, Douglas had spent a “considerable amount of time in waters under 4 degrees Celsius,” according to the local prosecutor. (For those unfamiliar, that’s less than 40 degrees Farenheit. BRRRR!)

“He flew airplanes, he climbed to the top of mountains all over the world,” the 72-year-old’s daughter, Summer, said. “To have lost his life in a lake and just have nature just sort of gobble him up is just shocking.” None of Douglas’ friends were seriously injured in the brutal accident.

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Douglas and his first wife, Susie, founded The North Face in 1964, and focused on creating rock climbing and camping equipment. They sold the company in 1969, as the outdoorsman wanted to focus on making films of his wild adventures. After returning from a six-month road trip in 1968, he and Susie, along with a friend, started selling dresses out of the back of a bus, and it eventually became the company ESPRIT.

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Douglas left the business world in the 1980s and focused on a life in the outdoors and work on major land conservation projects. He divorced Susie in 1989, but remarried Kris Tompkins in 1993, and they became partners in conservation and environmental activism. Our thoughts remain with his wife, two kids and loved ones during this difficult time.