Co-Founder of Paddleboard Company, 36, Dies in 'Unexpected' Paddleboarding Accident on Idaho River

Nicholas Zawadzki's brother Jason said there was "no real explanation" for the accident, calling it "one-in-a-billion chance bad luck"

Nicholas Zawadzki
Nicholas Zawadzki. Photo: Nicholas Zawadzki/instagram

The co-founder of a paddleboarding company is presumed dead following "a complete freak and unexpected accident" on an Idaho river while doing the very activity he dedicated his life to.

Nicholas Zawadzki was paddleboarding on Idaho's Payette River on Monday when he got pulled under the rocky waters, according to The Idaho Statesman and NBC affiliate KTVB.

Sheriff Scott Turner with the Boise County Sheriff's Office told the Statesman that the 36-year-old co-founder of Hydrus Board Tech, an outdoor sporting company that specializes in whitewater paddleboards, was knocked off his board just a few miles south of Banks around 6:30 p.m.

"[He] went through some rapids," Turner explained to the outlet in a phone interview. "We don't know if he got hung up or just got pulled under."

The terrifying moment was witnessed by Nicholas' brother, Jason Zawadzki, who told the Statesman that Nicholas was one of the best whitewater paddleboarders around and there was "no real explanation for" the accident.

"It was just a complete freak and unexpected accident on a section that Nick had rode standing up on his paddleboard hundreds of times," said Jason, who co-founded the paddleboarding company with Nicholas in 2013, per the outlet.

"Just one-in-a-billion chance bad luck," Jason added to the outlet. "It was his time to go."

Since he disappeared under the water, Nicholas' helmet and life jacket have both surfaced, Turner told the Statesman. However, his body has not yet been recovered, leading authorities to presume that Nicholas drowned, according to the outlet.

In the wake of the tragedy, local officials and crews from Garden Valley Fire, Horseshoe Bend Fire, Mountain West Commercial Diving and local rafting companies spent two days on the water searching for Nicholas' body, the Statesman reported.

A volunteer with a private helicopter also offered to help with search efforts but has been unsuccessful thus far, per the Statesman and KTVB.

On Wednesday, the search was halted, with Turner telling the Statesman that it would remain paused "until we can come up with some other plans and resources to do some different types of searching."

Despite that, Nicholas' family is refusing to give up as Jason attempts "to get the dam operators to lower the water level" for a day to help recover his brother's body, the outlet reported.

While they continue to search, Jason paid tribute to his little brother in a statement on Facebook and thanked his followers for their support during this heartbreaking time.

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"My brother was so loved. Going to miss him," he wrote in the post. "Thank you everyone for such a special tribute! Nick's favorite boards mean a lot to me, as we shaped every single one together just as we built Hydrus together over the course of 8 years. Nick was an incredibly special person who was loved very deeply by so many!"

"I'm going to miss my little brother dearly!" he added in a separate post.

Jeffrey Banks also shared a tribute post on the Whitewater SUP [Stand Up Paddling] Facebook group, which Nicholas was a member of.

"Nick was paddling and always paddled in a safe and deliberate manner... This was just a freak accident, not caused by anything Nick did. Nick was an incredible paddler," the post read in part. "Paddle like Nick. Play every ripple, love every second, serve others, don't be 'too cool' for anything. Get out and live and love. Life is short...Paddle Hard."

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