On May 3, a group of executive directors representing the major paddlesports associations held their 2nd annual summit to discuss issues relevant to the future of the paddlesport market.
Attending the meeting were PPA Executive Director Matt Menashes, outgoing American Canoe Association Executive Director Jeff Yeager, U.S. Canoe Association President Kelly Wypych, Trade Association of Paddlesports Executive Director Chris Mitchell, America Outdoors Executive Director David Brown and Canadian Recreational Canoe Association Executive Director Paul Graner. American Whitewater Executive Director Risa Shimoda could not attend, but provided a presentation in her absence.
The group’s agenda featured a number of topics aimed at increasing awareness of and participation in paddlesports. Gary LaBella of the RV Industry Association and Kirk Gillis of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation also attended the summit. Each discussed the successful media campaigns in which their organizations are currently involved and suggested ways the paddlesports industry might benefit from their experience.
Paddlesports safety issues were on everyone's mind as the directors resolved to coordinate with groups such as the National Safe Boating Council and the U.S. Coast Guard on safety issues. It was also agreed that all the attending associations would take a proactive role in discussions relating to PFD use, boat registration and safety regulations for paddlers.
A discussion of urban paddling opportunities stemmed from an earlier challenge issued to all paddle sport professionals by former Confluence Watersports CEO Bill Medlin. At the 2001 PPA Professional Paddlesports Conference, Medlin urged everyone to reach out to urban populations and demographic groups not generally included in paddling outreach and marketing.
The summit group explored topics such as greater paddlesports exposure for urban youth, better education of parents and families and focused education on women. The group also identified existing members currently working with urban paddling programs and promised to initiate discussion among those members for more focused cooperation.
"It is important for the paddlesports industry leaders to take a concerted, proactive approach to issues that affect our members, paddlesports businesses and paddlesports in general," says Menashes. "PPA hosts these summits to foster mutual effort among these organizations. We promote paddlesports most effectively when we work together."
SNEWS® View: Outreach beyond the scope of the traditional paddlesport market is a good idea, but we'll be interested to see how the associations manage to work together with the industry to pull this one off. It will require a concerted effort that begins at the community level and involves independent paddlesport dealers working in concert with the manufacturers to be sure new butts are getting in boats. We hear the discussion and like what we hear, but will be eager to see what, exactly, the associations have in mind as actionable items we can all -- including leading publications such as Canoe and Kayak -- buy in to.