The North Face Founder, Douglas Tompkins, Dies After Kayaking Accident

The North Face Founder, Douglas Tompkins, Dies After Kayaking Accident

Douglas Tompkins, a global conservationist and the founder of The North Face and Esprit, has died after a kayaking accident in Chile. He was 72.

Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard and mountaineer and Patagonia Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Rick Ridgeway were with Tompkins and among those rescued, officials confirmed.

“We are all deeply saddened by the news of Doug Tompkins’ passing,” The North Face officials said in a statement late Tuesday. “Doug was special to many of us. He founded The North Face in 1966 as a small ski and backpacking retail and mail order operation in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. He was a passionate advocate for the environment, and his legacy of conservation is one that we hope to help continue in the work we do every day. He will be missed.”

Tompkins’ kayak capsized on General Carrera Lake in the Patagonia region of the country and he died at the Coyhaique regional hospital from severe hypothermia, according to the regional government’s health department. According to a statement from the Chilean Navy, Tompkins was out on the water with five others, including Chouinard and Ridgeway.

“We are beyond saddened to learn of Doug’s death. He was a dear mentor to our company and good friend to many in the Patagonia family,” a Patagonia spokesman said late Tuesday. “We are still working to collect information but we understand Yvon and Rick are safe following the accident.”

After retiring from the business world in the 1990s, Tompkins moved to Chile and began purchasing and preserving more than 700,000 acres of land in the Patagonia region of the country to create Pumalín Park. He continued the mission with his second wife Kris (the former CEO of Patagonia), helping create more parks and sustainable farms in Chile and Argentina.

The couple, which ran the nonprofit Tompkins Conservation, was recently working to create a Patagonia National Park.